Here’s a look at the Chargers:
Last season: 10-1
Coach: Rob Hinson (108-37 overall; 103-32 entering 13th season at Timber Creek).
9/1: at Central Catholic (Toledo, Ohio)
9/7: vs. Hammonton at Highland
9/21: at Vineland
10/5: at Millville
10/13: at New Rochelle, N.Y.
10/19: St. Joseph
10/26: Atlantic City
11/22: at Winslow Twp.
It’s a new era at Timber Creek as the Chargers enter the season without quarterback Devin Leary, a three-year starter who set state records for career passing yards and career passing touchdowns. Several other key players were part of Leary’s graduating class, which went 31-4 and won two S.J. 3 titles in the last three seasons.
Setting the pace this season, especially early, is likely to be a veteran defense that includes nine players who started at some point in 2017. Leading the way is senior LB Clarence Henderson (5-foot-11, 220 pounds) along with senior two-way lineman Daeshaun Polk (6-2, 265) and senior DE Stafaun Corley (6-2, 215). Junior LB/RB Ray French (5-10, 190) and junior DB Jihad Sheard (5-11, 210) are among other key defensive players.
The offense will feature top wideouts such as senior Jayvin Little (5-10, 170), a Wagner recruit, and junior Tarheeb Still (6-0, 170), who has offers from Rutgers, Temple and Boston College, among other colleges. Little caught 36 passes for 768 yards and 7 TDs last season. Still caught 24 for 478. The offensive line should be sturdy and led by Polk as well as highly touted sophomore Curtis Miller (6-1, 270), who has a Baylor offer, and junior Cameron Sheard (5-11, 215). A newcomer to watch will be senior DB/RB Trevon Alderman (5-10, 170), a speedy transfer from Caravel High in Bear, Del.
Senior Justin Jefferson (6-1, 185), a run-pass threat, and freshman Donovan Leary (6-1, 175), Devin’s brother, are the top candidates to be the Chargers’ starting QB. Leary will don No. 13, the jersey worn by record-setting former Timber Creek QBs such as his brother and Danny Williams.
The Chargers move into the revamped WJFL Continental, which includes St. Joseph, Millville, Vineland and Atlantic City. For most of last season, four of the teams in the division were ranked in the Top 10 in South Jersey. The schedule also includes two out-of-state games, including the Sept. 1 opener at Central Catholic of Toledo, Ohio. Central Catholic, which produced former Notre Dame star DeShone Kizer, is 91-18 since 2010.
Timber Creek’s other road trip will be Oct. 13 to New Rochelle, N.Y.., to face the alma mater of former Rutgers star and NFL running back Ray Rice. After that Saturday afternoon game, the Chargers will have a short week to prepare for a Oct. 19 home battle with St. Joseph in an intriguing matchup of two of South Jersey’s top programs.
The Chargers loom as one of the favorites in what should be a loaded South Jersey Group 3, along with defending champion Delsea — which ended Timber Creek’s 25-game winning streak with a 41-30 upset in the sectional semifinals last season — and 2017 sectional finalist Woodrow Wilson. Another team to watch is Burlington Township, which also could end up in Central Jersey Group 3 under the NJSIAA’s new playoff format. Come November, Timber Creek should be battle-tested and ready to challenge for the program’s fifth title since 2011.
Player to watch
Henderson was a first-team, all-National Division choice as a junior. He made 90 tackles from his inside linebacker position. Henderson said the Chargers enter the season with a different mindset from the past. “People always thought we were going to win a championship,” Henderson said. “Now people are saying we’re not going to be as good. We want to prove them wrong and also prove to ourselves that we can be a championship team.”