By Phil Anastasia
Here's the new Top 25 ranking in South Jersey football as of Sunday, Nov. 10:
(previous ranking in parentheses)
1. Holy Spirit (1) 8-0
The Spartans have won 14 of their last 15. Senior RB Taalib Gerald has 13 touchdowns. The Spartans' loaded senior class has reached the pivotal point of their time with the program: November of their final season. If they can win four more -- no sure thing, with a tough Thanksgiving Day game with rival Atlantic City and North Jersey power DePaul, which owns a win over Don Bosco Prep, likely waiting at the end of the NP 2 tournament -- they will go down as one of the most accomplished classes in SJ football history, with four consecutive state titles. Next: Home vs. Pingry (4-5) Friday at 7.
2. St. Joseph (2) 7-1
The Wildcats have scored 247 points in their last five games. They've won six in a row overall. Sophomore all-purpose star Salaam Horne has four punt returns for touchdowns this season. That's a Kevin Harvey stat. They should cruise in NP 1 but they have a difficult game ahead in the Thanksgiving battle with cross-town rival Hammonton. Next: Home vs. Marist (4-5) Saturday at noon.
3. Cherokee (3) 7-1
The Chiefs have allowed just 62 points this season. They enter the SJ 5 tournament as the No. 2 seed but as the team to beat, based on their 28-21 win over Eastern on Oct. 25. Cherokee scored three TDs on returns in a 54-0 win over Cherry Hill East on Saturday. The SJ 5 opener is a little tricky because Cherokee beat Washington Twp. by 45-0 in the regular season. The Chiefs have to be careful not to assume this game will go the same way. Next: Home vs. No. 20 Washington Twp. (6-2) Friday at 7.
4. Eastern (4) 8-1
The Vikings won their only sectional title 10 years ago, as a No. 8 seed in 2003. It was quite a run -- a one-point win at No. 1 seed Mainland in the opener, a wild, overtime victory in a shootout with Cherokee in the second round and then a victory over a Washington Township team that had beaten Eastern by the odd score of 7-2 on Thanksgiving weekend. This year's team enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed and with plenty of confidence from an outstanding regular season. If form holds (and it rarely does) Eastern would play a pair of Cape Atlantic teams in the first two round (Atlantic City, Millville), then get a rematch with Cherokee in the final. Next: Home vs. Atlantic City (4-4) Friday at 7.
5. Timber Creek (5) 7-1
The Chargers are 29-3 in their last 32 games. They are the top seed and clear favorite in SJ 4. Quarterback Dan Williams led TC to the SJ 4 title last season and has put together a strong senior season. He has top targets in senior WR Adonis Jennings and sophomore WR Cameron Chambers. Junior all-purpose Kareem Ali is a playmaker. This team has a knack for playing its best football at this time of the season. Next: Home vs. CH West (4-4) Friday at 7.
6. West Deptford (6) 8-0
The Eagles are 25-5 in SJ 2 play since 2002. There aren't many programs that can go 25-5 in 30 regular-season games, much less 30 playoff games. WD has won 29 in a row overall. Senior RB Gerald Owens became the program's all-time leader in career TDs with 66. He has a habit of scoring at Rowan, too -- he has eight in two title-game victories there in 2011 and 2012. It's odd to see an 8-0 defending champion as the No. 4 seed, but that's because of the power-point system. WD didn't gain many points for wins over Group 1 programs Gateway, Lindenwold and Haddon Twp., which have a combined three victories. Folks on both side of that divide are wondering about the possibility of the Colonial merging with the WJFL and the Cape to create some more sensible cross-over games. Next: Home vs. No. 18 Haddonfield (6-2) Friday at 7.
7. Millville (8) 6-2
The Thunderbolts have scored 125 points in their last three games. This is the darkhorse in SJ 5. Millville's two losses were to No. 1 Holy Spirit and No. 2 St. Joe, and both games were highly competitive. This team has speed to burn in juniors Ryquell Armstead and Rob Ennis and a big-time lineman in Penn State recruit Antoine White. Next: Home vs. No. 14 Williamstown (5-3) Friday at 7.
8. Camden (9) 8-0
The Panthers have scored between 28 and 42 points in every game. Junior Khalif Williams ran for four touchdowns in a 37-7 win over Bishop Eustace on Friday. His running ability sometimes gets overshadowed by Camden's potent passing game. But the Panthers can move the ball on the ground. Camden edged Woodstown for the No. 1 seed in SJ 2 which sounds like a good thing. Actually, that side of the bracket is the tough one, as the Panthers likely will see West Deptford (assuming the Eagles beat their fiercest rivals on Friday night) in the second round instead of Cinnaminson or Bridgeton. But the bright side of that is that the semifinal would be at Farnham Park, which would be an advantage for Camden. But that's two weeks down the road. Next: Home vs. Cedar Creek (7-1) Saturday at 1.
9. Hammonton (10) 6-2
The Blue Devils move up despite losing 28-21 to Millville as they showed they could compete with a legitimate SJ 5 power. Hammonton has an interesting first-round SJ 4 game with Shawnee this week. The Blue Devils and Renegades could be in the same division in the WJFL next season. It makes sense -- both Group 4 schools with strong programs, and the geography works as they are only about a 20-minute ride through the pines on scenic Rt. 206 away from each other. Next: Home vs. Shawnee (5-3) Friday at 7.
10. Kingsway (12) 6-2
The Dragons enter the playoffs on a high note, having handled rival Williamstown by a 41-22 score on Friday night. Senior Ray Lawry might be rounding into 2012 form as he scored three TDs. Kingsway handled Lacey Twp. by a 42-28 score in the SJ 4 playoffs last season as Lawry scored three TDs. This team just has to be careful not to get caught looking ahead to a second-round shot at Timber Creek. Next: Home vs. Lacey Twp. (5-4) Friday at 7.
11. St. Augustine (11) 7-1
The Hermits and their fans know the drill by now: Take a long ride to face a powerful North Jersey foe in the first round of the NP 4 tournament. It will be tough duty, but St. Joseph of Metuchen is not Paramus Catholic or Don Bosco Prep. The Falcons don't play the same kind of schedule. Next: At St. Joseph of Metuchen (9-0) Saturday at 1.
12. Delsea (13) 7-2
The Crusaders have won five in a row by a combined score of 202-14. Senior Isaiah Spencer, a transfer from Vineland, has found his stride in recent weeks, scoring 10 touchdowns in Delsea's last three games. The defending champions are a bit of as darkhorse as a No. 4 seed but this group is wide open and this team -- and coaching staff -- knows how to win in the tournament. Next: Home vs. Central (5-3) Friday at 7.
13. Paul VI (14) 6-2
See St. Augustine note above. The Eagles' reward for a 6-2 season is a road trip to powerful St.Peter's Prep. PVI has won six of seven and the only loss was by 8-7 to Timber Creek by the margin of a safety. Next: At St. Peter's Prep (8-1), TBD.
14. Williamstown (7) 5-3
The Braves enter the post-season under the radar after a tough loss to Kingsway. Next: At No. 7 Milville (6-2) Friday at 7.
15. Shawnee (15) 5-3
The Renegades have outscored their last two opponents by 70-0. This is a darkhorse in SJ 4 with top running back in senior Anthony DiOrio. Next: at No. 9 Hammonton (6-2) Friday at 7.
16. Sterling (16) 7-1
The Silver Knights have their best record since 1993. Now they are looking for their first playoff win since 2002. Next: At No. 17 Woodstown (8-0) Friday at 7.
17. Woodstown (17) 8-0
Nobody from Woodstown would say this out loud. But getting the No. 2 seed instead of the No. 1 might not have been a bad thing. It puts Camden and West Deptford on the other side of the bracket. Next: Home vs. No. 16 Sterling (7-1) Friday at 7.
18. Haddonfield (18) 6-2
Haddonfield will play West Deptford for the ninth time since 2009. WD has won three in a row but Haddonfield won three of five before that -- including two in the playoffs. This team will show up Friday. The Bulldogs have a loaded junior class that will not feel any do-or-die pressure, and senior QB Mike McLaughlin has been playing the best football of his career. Next: at No. 6 West Deptford (8-0) Friday at 7.
19. Cinnaminson (19) 7-1
The Pirates quietly took care of business this season and snared the No. 3 seed in SJ 2. That win over NBC looks better every week. Next: Home vs. No. 21 Bridgeton (7-2) Friday at 7.
20. Washington Twp. (20) 6-2
The Minutemen scored 63 in a win over Clearview Friday night. They allowed 63 in a loss to Eastern opening night. Any team ever done that? Next: At No. 3 Cherokee (7-1) Friday at 7.
21. Bridgeton (21) 7-2
The Bulldogs are a dangerous No. 6 seed in SJ 2. The bracket is set up pretty well for them. Next: At No. 19 Cinnaminson (7-1) Friday at 7.
22. Northern Burlington (23) 6-2
The Greyhounds got hot in November last season. They could do it again. Next: Home vs. Highland (4-5) Friday at 7.
23. Rancocas Valley (NR) 5-3
The Red Devils have been up and down this season. They are averaging 38.2 points in their five wins. Next: At Jackson (6-2) Friday at 7.
24. Delran (NR) 7-1
The Bears have won seven in a row. They rose up to grab the No. 3 seed in CJ 2. Next: Home vs. Lakewood (5-3) Friday at 7.
25. Paulsboro (25) 7-1
The Red Raiders are a darkhorse in SJ 1. They play solid defense and have a top running back in junior De'Shaun Burgess. Next: Home vs. Glassboro (3-5) Saturday at 1.
Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Atlantic City (4-4), Cedar Creek (7-1), Pennsville (7-1).
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