Sakeen Wright's inspiring story keeps getting better.
You may remember Wright. At Glassboro High, he was not cleared to play football until his junior year because doctors wanted to make sure he had no ill effects from a benign brain tumor that was removed when he was in eighth grade.
He promptly became one of the most prolific quarterbacks in South Jersey history, throwing 54 touchdown passes and leading Glassboro to a 22-1 record in two seasons.
Wright later played quarterback at Division I East Carolina, then transferred to Rowan and was converted into a wide receiver. No problem. He equaled a school record with 16 touchdown catches in 2004, then set a Rowan record with 74 receptions in 2005.
And, now, add another chapter to his feel-good tale.
Wright, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, was recently named the Arena Football League's Ironman of the Week for his outstanding offensive and defensive performance in the Austin Wranglers' 45-38 overtime win over the New Orleans VooDoo. (You have to admit, it's one of the best nicknames of all time.)
Besides catching three passes for 27 yards and a touchdown, Wright made seven tackles and forced a fumble from his linebacker spot. His forced fumble was recovered by a teammate in overtime and ended the game.
The performance came in Wright's first game for the Wranglers; he had been on the team's practice squad since the first game of the season.
By the way, the Soul will meet Wright's team in Austin, Texas, on May 27.
The NJSIAA qualifying cutoff date for baseball is May 11, and, based on the first month, here are my tournament favorites in each South Jersey section:
Group 1: This is the area's most wide-open section. Pitman looks like the favorite, but Pennsville, Maple Shade, Burlington City, Salem and Penns Grove are also in the hunt. And keep an eye on late-charging Gloucester, especially when Wayne Cummiskey (39 strikeouts in his first 232/3 innings) is on the mound. (Note: Florence should contend in Central Jersey Group 1.)
Group 2: Buena looks like the heavy favorite, but the Colonial Conference is loaded with Group 2 contenders. (See Haddonfield, Gateway, Haddon Township, Sterling, Audubon and Collingswood.) Cinnaminson also could get to the final.
Group 3: Seneca, Delsea and West Deptford lead the field, in that order. Deptford also bears watching, particularly when Sheldon Johnson is pitching. Northern Burlington is also a high-quality Group 3 team, but it is listed in the Central Jersey section.
Group 4: This is South Jersey's strongest section, one that features Cherokee and surprising Egg Harbor Township, a team that has received superb pitching most of the season. Winslow Township, Cherry Hill East, Eastern and Washington Township also will be dangerous in this extremely deep field.
Non-Public A: St. Augustine, Camden Catholic and Holy Spirit will be strong contenders in this bracket. All seem to be peaking. Right now, St. Augustine is the team to beat.
Non-Public B: No section has more high-quality teams. Three "B" teams are in The Inquirer's South Jersey top 10 - No. 1 Bishop Eustace, No. 6 Sacred Heart and No. 9 Gloucester Catholic - and they figure to battle for the crown.
The baseball tourney starts May 18.
Rancocas Valley is expected to be a South Jersey boys' basketball powerhouse next season. And to show his confidence in his team's ability, Rancocas coach Jay Flanagan has agreed to play a regular-season game against St. Anthony of Jersey City, which is likely to be among the nation's elite.
As it is every season.
The teams have tentatively agreed to face each other on Feb. 2 at Villanova.
"To get where we want to go, it only can help us playing against perhaps the top team in the country next year," Flanagan said.
The game is scheduled on the NJSIAA cutoff date, meaning a loss could hurt Rancocas' seeding. Many teams schedule patsies on the cutoff date to fatten their record and aid their seeding.
Flanagan deserves credit for going a different route and looking at the long-term picture - and how playing St. Anthony will prepare the Red Devils for the NJSIAA tourney.
"We're not worried about our record," Flanagan said. "This will be fun for the kids to play a great team at a top-notch venue like Villanova."
Rancocas will be led by 5-foot-11 Andre Byrdsong, one of the area's top point guards; sharp-shooting 6-6 Mike Bersch; athletic 6-4 Kendall White; and 6-7 Larry Awosanya, who transferred from England last fall.
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