The argument for St. Augustine Prep is strong.
The argument for Williamstown is stronger.
Williamstown rallied in the second half Friday night to stun Lenape for the second time this season, capturing the program’s second straight South Jersey Group 5 title and earning the nod as the No. 1 team in the Inquirer’s South Jersey Top 10.
St. Augustine stayed at the No. 2 spot after arguably the best loss in program history, a 35-28 setback to North Jersey non-public superpower St. Peter’s Prep in the semifinals of the Non-Public 4 state tournament.
The Hermits’ competitive play in one of the country’s toughest state tournaments, as well as their dominant play over the second half of the season, merited strong consideration for the No. 1 spot.
Best point in St. Augustine’s favor: A 21-7 victory over Williamstown Nov. 1 as part of a six-game winning streak after a 1-3 start.
Williamstown gets the nod based on a stronger overall season, albeit in the course of a less-competitive schedule. But when it came to common opponents, the Braves had the clear edge, going 3-0 against Lenape and Shawnee, while the Hermits were 0-2 against those teams.
St. Augustine’s sluggish start before three key transfers became eligible will result in the Hermits finishing third in the West Jersey Football League’s American Division, behind Williamstown and the winner of the Lenape-Shawnee game on Thanksgiving.
Williamstown will finish its season with two titles, the division crown and the sectional title. It might have been unrealistic to expect St. Augustine to win a Non-Public 4 state crown, but the Hermits’ third-place finish in their own division weakens their claim for the top spot in South Jersey.
Here’s the new Top 10, with last week’s ranking in parentheses:
1. Williamstown (3) 11-1: Junior quarterback Dougie Brown engineered two second-half scoring drives and senior Aaron Lewis, a Michigan recruit, was a dominant force on defense as the Braves rallied for the 14-10 victory over Lenape. Williamstown, which is 23-2 since the start the of the 2018 season, will look to make amends for last year’s heartbreaking loss in the Bowl Game in the regional title game vs. Central Jersey Cherokee the weekend of Dec. 5-8.
2. St. Augustine (2) 7-4: Short of a win over top-seeded St. Peter’s Prep, there’s not much more the Hermits could have done to prove they can look the North Jersey powers in the eye. They beat Seton Hall Prep on the road in the quarterfinals, then held the lead in the fourth quarter on the road vs. St. Peter’s Prep. Sophomore Kanye Udoh ran for 138 yards and sophomore Ken Selby went 45 yards with a pick six in pushing St. Peter’s to the limit. Another feather in the Hermits’ cap: They beat both South Jersey Group 5 champion Williamstown and Central Jersey Group 5 champion Cherokee, each by double figures.
3. St. Joseph (4) 9-1: Jada Byers generated an astounding 504 yards from scrimmage in his 10-touchdown performance in the Wildcats’ 76-22 win over Morris Catholic in the Non-Public 2 state semifinals. Byers rushed 22 times for 310 yards and eight touchdowns and caught seven passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns. In a game in which they scored a school-record 76 points, the Wildcats actually trailed twice – 7-0 and 10-7. St. Joseph will seek its 20th state title since the creation of the Non-Public state tournament in 1993 in a rematch with old rival Holy Spirit in the Non-Public 2 championship game the weekend of Dec. 5-8.
4. Lenape (1) 9-2: It was the same old story for the Indians in the rematch with Williamstown on Friday night. In the combined four first-half quarters, Lenape outscored Williamstown 23-0. In the combined four second-half quarters, the Braves outscored the Indians 42-8. Junior Xavier Coleman for a touchdown Friday night for Lenape, which finishes its season Thanksgiving Day vs. school-district rival Shawnee with a chance to earn a share of the WJFL American title.
5. Penns Grove (5) 12-0: Senior Kavon Lewis passed for two touchdowns and ran for another as the Red Devils won their second straight South Jersey Group 1 title and third since 2012 with a 30-0 victory over Paulsboro. Junior Nasir Robinson added 144 rushing yards and a touchdown as Penns Grove won its 25th game in a row. The Red Devils will meet Central Jersey champion Willingboro in a rematch of last year’s Bowl Game in the renamed regional title game this weekend.
6. Willingboro (7) 11-1: The Chimeras forced seven turnovers in a 40-8 win over Salem in the Central Jersey Group 1 title game. A.J. Greene scored on a pick six and Zaire Clements ran for 158 yards and a touchdown for Willingboro, which has won 11 in a row, setting a school record for victories in a season. Senior wide receiver Chris Long, a Temple recruit, has 1,411 receiving yards. He needs 24 to break the South Jersey record of 1434 set in 2013 by Timber Creek’s Adonis Jennings, per research by sports historian Chuck Langerman.
7. Woodrow Wilson (8) 8-2: Senior Muheem McCargo, a Temple recruit, scored four touchdowns in three ways in a 54-30 win over Somerville in the South Jersey Group 3 title game. McCargo ran for one, caught a pass for another and returned interceptions for two more. Quarterback Devin Kargman threw four touchdown passes, setting the sophomore state record for both yards (3,292) and touchdowns (38), per Langerman’s research. Woodrow Wilson, which has won two straight sectional titles, plays Camden on Thanksgiving, then meets Wall Township in the Group 3 regional title game the weekend of Dec. 5-8.
8. Shawnee (9) 9-2: The Renegades captured their third straight South Jersey Group 4 title in methodical fashion, utilizing a powerful ground game and sturdy defense to beat Ocean City 28-0. Tom Rebstock ran for two touchdowns and Dalton Short broke off a 67-yard score as Shawnee generated 265 rushing yards. Shawnee meets Lenape with a chance to earn a share of the WJFL American title on Thanksgiving, then plays Hammonton in the regional title game the weekend of Dec. 5-8.
9. Hammonton (10) 10-2: Junior Jaiden Abrams ran for three touchdowns as the Blue Devils won their ninth game in a row with a 28-12 victory over Jackon Memorial in the Central Jersey Group 4 title game. Hammonton beat three Shore Conference teams en route to its first sectional title since 2009. The Blue Devils get another shot at Shawnee in the regional title game the weekend of Dec. 5-8. Shawnee handed Hammonton its last loss by a 31-8 score on Sept. 20.
10. West Deptford (6) 9-2: Kam Dixon ran for a score and Brandon Ratcliffe kicked a field goal as the Eagles built a 10-0 lead over Hillside after three-quarters of the South Jersey Group 2 title game. But the visitors rallied with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns for a 14-10 victory that ended the top-seeded Eagles’ season.