By Phil Anastasia
Hammonton and St. Joseph would like to keep alive a 51-year-old football rivalry.
Timber Creek would like to raise its regional profile.
The result could be a unique arrangement that would impact the division alignments and schedules for the West Jersey Football League and the Cape Atlantic League, starting in the 2014 season.
"We've got our fingers crossed," Hammonton athletic director Marni Parks said Wednesday of a proposal that would directly impact three of the best football programs in South Jersey.
The plan, presented to the WJFL by Timber Creek with Hammonton's blessing, is for the Chargers and Blue Devils to be placed in adjacent divisions of the league, to be scheduled to play each other in cross-over games in 2014 and 2015 and to mutally agree to opt out of the games.
That would enable Hammonton, which is leaving the Cape Atlantic League at the end of this school year and joining the Tri-County Conference -- and thus becoming a member of the WJFL -- in September, to maintain its series with cross-town rival St. Joseph.
St. Joseph and Hammonton have played every year since 1962.
The teams are scheduled to meet for the 52d time on the Wildcats' field on Nov. 30.
"There's so much tradition and we respect that tradition," Parks said. "This is a town that's built on tradition and family values and we want to preserve that."
The arrangement also would allow Timber Creek, which has developed into a state power in the last few seasons under coach Rob Hinson, to schedule a game against an out-of-state opponent, probably in the first week of the season.
Several North Jersey non-public powers such as Don Bosco Prep, Paramus Catholic and St. Joseph of Montvale, play out-of-state opponents in games that serve to raise the visibility of their programs while showcasing their athletes for college scouts.
Under Hinson, Timber Creek has won 28 of its last 31 games, captured two consecutive South Jersey titles and developed into a program that consistently produces players who earn college scholarships.
CAL president Mike Gatley, the athletic director at Mainland, said the CAL would accomodate St. Joseph's desire to maintain its rivalry with Hammonton if Hammonton is able to make arrangements with the WJFL.
"The league respects the Thanksgiving game," Gatley said.
West Jersey Football League president Bud Kowal, the athletic director at Ewing, indicated that league officials will look at the possibility of placing Hammonton and Timber Creek in adjacent divisions and scheduling them to play a cross-over game.
Kowal said the WJFL will not create its new division alignments for the 2014-15 scheduling cycle until the state department of education releases enrollment figures for schools, which might not be until December.
"We're going to start eye-balling this but we really can't do anything until we get the enrollment figures," Kowal said.
Kowal said the WJFL considers group size, geography and strength of program in creating division alignment. He said the Hammonton and Timber Creek potentially could be placed in the same division, as both are Group 4 programs in relative proximity with successful teams.
Kowal said that if Hammonton and Timber Creek were in the same division, the league would not allow the teams to opt out of a division game.
Timber Creek currently is a member of the WJFL Constitution Division with Moorestown, Paul VI, Camden Catholic, Seneca and Cherry Hill West.
Hammonton would be a fit with many of those schools. The same is true of the schools in the WJFL National Division, which are Shawnee, Kingsway, Clearview, Triton, Pennsauken and Winslow Township.
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