Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Football: Breaking down the tournament fields

Football: Breaking down the tournament fields

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By Phil Anastasia


Here's a closer look at the football state playoffs, which begin this weekend:

South Jersey Group 5

-- Field: 1. Eastern. 2. Cherokee. 3. Jackson. 4. Millville. 5. Williamstown. 6. Rancocas Valley. 7. Washington Twp. 8. Atlantic City.

-- Defending champion: Williamstown.

-- Darkhorse: Millville. The Thunderbolts have explosive speed in juniors Ryquell Armstead and Rob Ennis, and a top lineman in Penn State recruit Antoine White. Their only two losses were to Holy Spirit and St. Joseph, the No. 1 and No.2  teams in The Inquirer Top 25.

-- Player to watch: Eastern senior quarterback Tom Flacco. He played the best football of his career last November. If he does that again this season, the Vikings will be tough to beat.

-- Final prediction: Cherokee over Eastern. The Chiefs beat the Vikings 28-21 on Oct. 25 and are playing with supreme confidence. Their defense have been terrific all season.

South Jersey Group 4

-- Field: 1. Timber Creek. 2. Toms River South. 3. Hammonton. 4. Kingsway. 5. Lacey. 6. Shawnee. 7. Moorestown. 8. Cherry Hill West.

-- Defending champion: Timber Creek.

-- Darkhorse: Kingsway. The Dragons hit their stride in a 41-22 win over Williamstown Friday and will enter the tournament with a ton of momentum. Senior running backs Ray Lawry and Justin Morrison form an explosive 1-2 punch.

-- Darkhorse II: Shawnee. The Renegades have won their last two games by a combined score of 70-0. They have a workhorse back in senior Anthony DiiOrio. If they can win at Hammonton on Friday -- a big-time challenge but they have a shot -- they could still be playing in December.

-- Player to watch: Timber Creek senior quarterback Dan Williams. He led the Chargers to the title last season. He's put together a strong season and has a pair of dangerous targets in senior WR Adonis Jennings and sophomore WR Cameron Chambers, who just picked up an offer from Iowa.

-- Final prediction: Timber Creek over Toms River South. The Chargers have a knack for playing their best football at this time of the season.

South Jersey Group 3

-- Field: 1. Manasquan. 2. Northern Burlington. 3. Barnegat. 4. Delsea. 5. Central. 6. Pemberton. 7. Highland. 8. Wall.

-- Defending champion: Delsea.

-- Darkhorse: Northern Burlington. The Greyhounds have wins over Burlington Township and Rancocas Valley and feature an explosive back in senior Kenyatta Greene.

-- Player to watch: Delsea senior running back Isaiah Spencer. He has 10 touchdowns in the last three games and 15 for the season.

--  Final prediction: Delsea over Northern Burlington. The Crusaders have won five in a row by a combined score of 202-14. They are a team that knows how to win in November and December.

South Jersey Group 2

-- Field: 1. Camden. 2. Woodstown. 3. Cinnaminson. 4. West Deptford. 5. Haddonfield. 6. Bridgeton. 7. Sterling. 8. Cedar Creek.

-- Defending champion: West Deptford.

-- Darkhorse: Haddonfield. The Bulldogs have a loaded junior class and senior quarterback Mike McLaughlin is playing the best football of his career. He has seven touchdown passes in the last two games, and has a pair of strong WRs in senior Teddy Stavetski and junior Jake Robinson.

-- Player to watch: Camden junior quarterback Khalil Williams. He has 22 touchdown passes and also is a dangerous runner. He has top receivers in senior Sean Chandler (6 TDs catches) and sophomore Brad Hawkins (10 TD catch) as well as a solid third receiver in junior Jamir Washington.

-- Final prediction: West Deptford over Woodstown. Senior fullback Gerald Owens has scored eight touchdowns in two championship games at Rowan. Owens was banged up a bit early in the season but could be finding his stride.

South Jersey Group 1

-- Field: 1. Pennsville. 2. Penns Grove. 3. Schalick. 4. Paulsboro. 5. Glassboro. 6. Salem. 7. Woodbury. 8. Gloucester.

-- Defending champion: Penns Grove.

-- Darkhorse: Paulsboro. The Red Raiders play solid defense and have a top running back in junior De'Shaun Burgess. "He's first-and-goal every play," Haddonfield coach Frank DeLano said of Burgess.

-- Player to watch: Pennsville senior quarterback Dylan Cummings. He is South Jersey's all-time leader in career passing yards and all-purpose yards. He's coming off a monster game at Gloucester, with four rushing TDs and three passing TDs.

-- Final prediction: Pennsville over Penns Grove. The Eagles and Red Devils will play Thanksgiving eve and could meet again 10 days later. Pennsville got a big boost from the return from injury of senior RB/WR Eric Bundy. He's a difference maker for the Eagles.

Central Jersey Group 2

-- Field: 1. Rumson. 2. Weequahic. 3. Delran. 4. Rahway. 5. Spotswood. 6. Lakewood. 7. Delaware Valley. 8. Bordentown.

-- Defending champion: Carteret.

-- Darkhorse: Delran. The Bears have won seven in a row since losing to cross-town rival Holy Cross on opening day.

-- Players to watch: Delran senior backs Mark Jukic and German Mendoza. They form an inside-outside combination.

-- Final prediction: Weequahic over Rumson.

Central Jersey Group 1

-- Field: 1. Shore. 2. South Hunterdon. 3. Pt. Pleasant Beach. 4. South River. 5. Asbury Park. 6. Florence. 7. Burlington City. 8. Palmyra.

-- Defending champion: Florence.

-- Darkhorse: Florence.

-- Player to watch: Burlington City junior quarterback Ryan Daniels. He's a run-pass threat (1,198 passing yards, 384 rushing yards).

-- Final prediction: Shore over South Hunterdon.

Non-Public Group 4

-- Field: 1. Paramus Catholic. 2. St. Peter's. 3. St. Joe Metuchen. 4. Don Bosco. 5. Seton Hall. 6. St. Augustine. 7. Paul VI. 8. Notre Dame.

-- Defending champion: Paramus Catholic.

-- Darkhorse: Don Bosco.

-- Player to watch: St. Augustine senior wide receiver Austin Francisco. He has 10 touchdown catches. The Hermits have a puncher's chance in the first round against St. Joseph of Metuchen. The Falcons are 9-0 but they are not Paramus Catholic. St. Joseph of Montvale or Don Dosco Prep.

-- Player to watch II: Paul VI quarterback Alec Vignola. He has 1,606 passing yards and 17 touchdowns passes. Vignola has quietly put together a great season. PVI has won six of seven since an opening-night loss to CH West, and the Eagles' only loss was 8-7 to Timber Creek.

 -- Final prediction: Paramus Catholic over St. Peter's.

Non-Public Group 2

-- Field: 1. Holy Spirit. 2. DePaul. 3. Holy Cross. 4. Camden Catholic. 5. Bishop Eustace. 6. Hudson Catholic, 7. Gloucester Catholic. 8. Pingry.

-- Defending champion: Holy Spirit.

-- Darkhorse: None.

-- Player to watch: Holy Spirit senior defensive tackle Ray Ellis. He spends a lot of time in opposing backfields.

-- Great first round game: BE at CC on Friday night. BE won 10-6 on Oct. 18 in a hard-hitting clash of fierce rivals. They will be getting after each other again in the first round of the state tournament, looking to likely earn a trip to Holy Spirit for the second round.

-- Final prediction: Holy Spirit over DePaul. The Spartans have a history of upsetting highly touted North Jersey teams in December.

Non-Public Group 1

-- Field: 1. St. Joseph. 2-7: Everybody else.

-- Defending champion: St. Joseph.

-- Darkhorse: None.

-- Player to watch: St. Joseph sophomore all-purpose Salaam Horne. He has four punt returns for touchdowns.

-- Final prediction: St. Joseph over St. Mary. The Wildcats have outscored the Gaels, 127-0, in the last three title games.

-- Contact Phil Anastasia at panastasia@phillynews.com

-- Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter

 

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About this blog
Born and raised in South Jersey, Phil Anastasia prefers standing on the sidelines at high school football games on Friday nights to sitting in the press box at Eagles games on Sunday afternoons. He’s a graduate of Rowan University with a degree in English. Reach Phil at panastasia@phillynews.com.

Phil Anastasia Inquirer Columnist
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