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South Jersey football rankings: Cedar Creek jumps into Top 10

The Pirates won their second sectional title since 2015, beating old nemesis Camden in the Central Jersey Group 2 final.

Cedar Creek's Malachi Melton (16), shown earlier this season in a win over Woodrow Wilson, has led the Pirates to the Central Jersey Group 2 title.
Cedar Creek's Malachi Melton (16), shown earlier this season in a win over Woodrow Wilson, has led the Pirates to the Central Jersey Group 2 title.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

Cedar Creek won another sectional title Saturday, beating a longtime nemesis. The Pirates jumped into the South Jersey Top 10, as well.

Seniors Louis Barrios and Malachi Melton led the way as Cedar Creek beat Camden, 31-23, in the Central Jersey Group 2 title game. It marked the Pirates’ second sectional title since 2015 — not bad for a program that started playing varsity football in 2011.

It also marked the team’s first victory over Camden in five tries, including a 42-41 setback on Sept. 14. The first loss in that run was by 48-0 score in the Group 2 playoffs in 2013.

That’s all history now, as Cedar Creek prepares to meet unbeaten Hillside on Sunday in the Group 2 regional title game at Rutgers.

Here’s the new Top 10, with last week’s rankings in parentheses:

1. Williamstown (1) 11-1: The Braves are 23-2 since the start of the 2018 season. In 19 of those games, they’ve allowed a touchdown or less. While the defense gets most of the shine, junior quarterback Dougie Brown has emerged this season as a clutch playmaker with 16 touchdown passes and eight rushing touchdowns. Williamstown will play Cherokee in the Group 5 regional title game Saturday at Rutgers.

2. St. Augustine (2) 7-4: The future looks bright for the Hermits, who featured several non-seniors in key roles this season. Among the top players to watch is junior offensive lineman Jake Ketschek, a road-grader who is drawing recruiting interest among FBS programs.

3. Lenape (4) 10-2: The Indians earned a share of the West Jersey Football League’s American Division title with Williamstown, courtesy of a 24-7 victory over Shawnee on Thanksgiving. Junior Xavier Coleman ran for two touchdowns and senior Connor Kennedy finished his career with another big play, snagging a scoring pass from Brady Long.

4. St. Joseph (3) 9-1: Senior Jada Byers needs 67 rushing yards and 13 points in his final game to reach a couple more milestones, according to research by sports historian Chuck Langerman. Byers has 4,923 career rushing yards, so he’s within reach of becoming the sixth player in South Jersey history with 5,000.

Byers, who has committed to Sacred Heart, also has 644 career points. He needs 13 to break the South Jersey record of 656, set in 1995 by Paulsboro’s Kevin Harvey. Sunday at Rutgers, St. Joseph will seek its 21st state title since the start of the Non-Public tournament in 1993 vs. old rival Holy Spirit.

5. Penns Grove (5) 12-0: Back-to-back 13-0 seasons? That’s never been done in South Jersey history. That’s within the Red Devils’ reach if they can repeat their 2018 Bowl Game victory over Willingboro in the Group 1 regional title game Sunday night at Rutgers. Leading the way will be senior linebacker Makhi Scott, who has 163 tackles.

6. Willingboro (6) 11-1: Senior quarterback Au-Shaun Davis has set program records with 2,269 passing yards and 33 passing touchdowns, per Langerman’s research. The Chimeras have won 11 in a row since a season-opening loss to Cedar Creek. For them, one bit of business remains: Avenging last season’s wild loss to Penns Grove at MetLife Stadium.

7. Woodrow Wilson (7) 9-2: In the last two seasons, brothers Nick and Devin Kargman have passed for a combined 7,490 yards and a combined 84 touchdowns. More significantly, they’ve led the Tigers to back-to-back sectional titles, the second and third in program history.

Devin Kargman has set sophomore state records with 3,527 yards and 43 touchdowns as Woodrow Wilson is set to meet Wall in Sunday morning’s regional title game at Rutgers.

8. Shawnee (8) 9-3: Senior linebacker Matt Papa is averaging nine tackles and leads the Renegades in sacks with five and fumble recoveries with four. Shawnee, the three-time South Jersey Group 4 champion, will meet Hammonton in the regional title game Saturday at Rutgers.

9. Hammonton (9) 10-2: Junior Jaiden Abrams has rushed for 1,753 yards and 21 touchdowns, despite missing one game. He was absent with an injury for Hammonton’s 31-8 loss to Shawnee on Sept. 20. Last season vs. Shawnee, Abrams ran for 288 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-17 win, per Langerman’s research. Abrams will lead Hammonton, which has won nine in a row, into Sunday’s rematch with the Renegades.

10. Cedar Creek (NR) 9-2: Barrios, a three-year starter at quarterback, ran for two touchdowns and passed for 92 yards in the victory over Camden. Melton, a Purdue recruit, broke off an 81-yard scoring run as the Pirates won their sixth game in a row.

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Camden (8-3), Cherokee (6-6), Clearview (7-3), Highland (7-3), Holy Spirit (7-4), Mainland (10-1), Ocean City (9-3), Pleasantville (8-3), Seneca (9-3), Timber Creek (7-4), Vineland (6-5), West Deptford (9-2).