By Phil Anastasia
Donte Hardwick is the strong, silent type for the Timber Creek football team.
Solomon Potter takes a different approach.
"Ever since Little League I've always been a team leader but I think it's because I've always the loudest one," Potter said.
Hardwick can confirm that.
"He's loud," Hardwick said of his senior classmate and lineman along the defensive front for the Timber Creek football team. "We volleyball off him."
On a team with South Jersey's all-time leader in single-season passing yardage in quarterback Dan Williams as well as a pair of future Division I wide receivers in Adonis Jennings and Cameron Chambers, Hardwick and Potter are unsung heroes in both noisy and quiet ways.
"They hold us together," Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson said of Hardwick and Potter.
Hardwick and Potter likely will play key roles on Saturday night as Timber Creek meets Shawnee in the South Jersey Group 4 title game at Rowan University.
Timber Creek will count on its defense to contain Shawnee's powerful running game as the Chargers pursue their third consecutive South Jersey title.
"We're trying to make history," Hardwick said.
The 5-foot-8, 210-pound Hardwick is an undersized defensive tackle who always lines up between the opposing center and a guard. He's made 26 tackles with two sacks but his biggest contribution probably has been his ability to occupy two blockers, freeing teammates to make plays.
"He's double-teamed every play," Hinson said. "He's sacrificed himself and his stats for the team."
Hardwick said he draws satisfaction from knowing his efforts clear the way for his teammates to shine.
"As long as I know I'm doing my job I'm happy," Hardwick said.
The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Potter is a rangy defensive end. He's made 41 tackles and leads the team with seven sacks.
But Potter has made as much impact on the team with his personality as with his play, according to Hinson.
"Sol is our unquestioned leader," Hinson said.
Potter said he's drawn from his experiences during Timber Creek's three-year run as one of the state's top public-school teams. The Chargers are 32-3 since the start of the 2011 season.
"I've seen a lot," Potter said. "I was here when Quanzell (Lambert) was here. I saw how Greg (Webb) and Dajaun (Drennon) did it.
" This year, it came to me that it was my time and that this was my team now.
"I took that role (as a leader). I've always been comfortable in that role."
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org