Shawnee sets sights on another championship | Training camp preview

Shawnee won the S.J. 4 title last season with a 41-6 victory over Hammonton in the sectional final at Rowan University.

Here’s a look at the Renegades:

Shawnee

Last season: 8-4, won S.J. Group 4 title.

Camera icon Akira Suwa/For the Inquirer
Shawnee coach Tim Gushue (right) has 246 career wins entering his 36th season.

Coach: Tim Gushue (246-112-6 entering 36th season).

Outlook: The Renegades have their sights set on another sectional title. They won the S.J. Group 4 crown last season, their third title in the last five seasons and their seventh since 2002. And the 2017 team, while strong, wasn’t a Shawnee powerhouse. But that’s the state of veteran coach Tim Gushue’s program at this stage — the Renegades are a legitimate challenger to collect some postseason hardware late every fall. This year is no different. Although they lost several key players to graduation, including quarterback Colin Wetterau, the Renegades should be a contender in both the WJFL American and in S.J. Group 4.

Leading the way is senior all-purpose Joe Dalsey (6-3, 215), a top athlete and versatile player. Dalsey has contributed at LB, DE, TE, WR and RB and also is a top punter and kicker. This season, he could see some action at QB. The offensive line has long been a Shawnee strength, and this year’s front five should set the tone once again. Senior OL J.C. Dobis (6-4, 270) is a three-year starter. Senior OL Beau Lanzidelle (6-6, 315) and junior TE Matt Page (6-1, 190) also are returning starters. Senior RB Nazier Powell (6-1, 210) started the first four games before being sidelined with an injury. His return should give the running game a boost. Junior LB/RB Dalton Short (6-1, 190) is another top ball-carrier. Dalsey, senior WR/LB Joey Moore (6-2, 195) and junior Tom Papa (6-1, 200) are the top candidates to be the starting QB.

Shawnee’s defense should be solid. Senior DE/OL Patrick O’Hanlon (6-2, 225) made 73 tackles last season and led the squad with eight sacks. Dalsey made 50 tackles and forced two fumbles. Moore made 44 tackles. Senior WR/LB Jon Searcy made 47 tackles and lifted four interceptions. Short made 29 tackles. Senior LB Garrett Carella (6-0, 190) made 49 tackles. Senior DE Jake Stephan (6-0, 200) is another experienced player..

Schedule analysis: Shawnee is the lone Group 4 program in the WJFL American, as the rest are Group 5 or Non-Public 4 (St. Augustine). But the demands of the regular-season schedule is one reason for Shawnee’s postseason success. The regular season will open, as usual, with the annual kick-off battle with school-district rival Cherokee on Sept. 7. There are challenging roads games at St. Augustine (Sept. 21) and Woodrow Wilson (Oct. 6). One interesting cross-over is an added ninth game with North Jersey Group 5 power Union City, which will visit Medford on Oct. 12. Next season, Shawnee will travel to Union City, and play on the school’s unique roof-top field. Shawnee will host rival Lenape in the annual Thanksgiving Day game. One quirk to the schedule: Because Shawnee does not play “Zero Week” and has a Thanksgiving game, if the Renegades were to win S.J. 4 again and participate in one of the new “Bowl Games” at MetLife Stadium on the weekend of Nov. 30, they would play games in 13 consecutive weeks.

Playoff prospects: The Renegades loom as one of the preseason favorites in S.J. 4, along with former S.J. 5 power Millville, which moved down this season. Moorestown, Winslow Twp. and Pennsauken also could be teams to watch in this group, along with a Shore Conference team or two. Shawnee’s challenge is to make the field and earn a higher seed, no small task given the Renegades’ demanding schedule. But the flip side of that is that they will be battle-tested and ready to challenge for another title come November.

Player to watch: Dalsey is among the more versatile, valuable athletes in South Jersey football. He has played nearly every position since he was inserted as a guard for the Medford youth program in his first season of football in eighth grade. He has been a TE, WR and RB on offense during his time at Shawnee and an LB and a DE on defense. He could emerge as the Renegades’ starting QB this season. He also is a top kicker and punter. He has eight career FGs.