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Phil talks turkey about S.J. Thanksgiving weekend games

We interrupt this playoff run for Thanksgiving weekend football, which is both a great tradition and a strange interlude in the state tournament -- somehow at the same time.

But for a lot of teams that were either eliminated from the playoffs or didn't qualify, it's a meaningful final game of the season and the last act of a lot of dedicated seniors' careers.

Here's a closer look at several games this weekend:

Wednesday night

Burlington Twp (8-2) at Rancocas Valley (8-2): This is a battle of rivals, top 15 teams and squads looking to bounce back from disappointing losses in sectional semifinals on Friday night. Both teams had the lead in the semifinals but couldn't close the deal. Both teams get back on the horse in a hurry.

Delran (3-6) at Cinnaminson (6-3): This clash of old rivals has extra significance for the host Pirates as they can clinch the WJFL Liberty Division title with a victory. That also would give the Pirates 32 wins in the last four seasons, an impressive number.

Camden Catholic (8-1) at Paul VI (3-6): The Irish are looking for their 22d straight win against South Jersey opponents and their third in a row in the spirited series with the Eagles. PVI is still reeling a bit from a mid-season coaching change but the Eagles are coming off a win over Bishop Eustace and never fail to play hard against the Irish.

Cherry Hill East (0-9) at Cherry Hill West (7-2): An 8-2 season would be pretty special for the Lions, although they were disappointed with back-to-back losses to Camden Catholic and Highland after a 7-0 start. They still can stamp this as the program's best season since 1967 with a win. CHE has lost 17 in a row since starting the 2015 season with a 2-0 mark. The Cougars have not beaten the Lions since 2012 but would like nothing better than to spring the ultimate upset.

Thanksgiving Day

Williamstown (2-7) at Washington Twp. (4-5): The host Minutemen look to finish at .500, which is a whole lot better than 4-6. The Braves have a lot of younger players already set on reversing the team's fortunes in 2017. They'd like to start that process in this clash of Gloucester County neighbors.

Gloucester (5-4) at Gloucester Catholic (5-4): The "at" in the intro is a misnomer. The game will be played at Gloucester High's John Lynch Field. But it's officially the Rams' home game. The shared field is a sign of the depth of this rivalry. And with both teams with identical records against similar schedules, this has a chance to be a highly competitive game.

Millville (9-1) at Vineland (7-2): The Granddaddy of them all in terms of SJ rivalries, this one started in 1893. They played a lot more than once a season in the early years, so Vineland leads the series, 63-62-19. This one could be strange, as Millville coach Dennis Thomas said he is leaning toward holding out his starters because the Thunderbolts have the SJ 5 title game vs. TR North Dec. 3 at Rowan.

Woodstown (6-3) at Salem (8-2): The host Rams have won seven in a row as senior RB Jon Taylor has closed within 135 yards of breaking Glassboro 2012 star Corey Clement's SJ single-season record of 2,510 yards. This is a rich old rivalry that started in 1911.

Pennsville (7-3) at Penns Grove (4-5): The host Red Devils have won seven of nine in this series, which started in 1957. An Eagles victory would mark the fourth straight year that Pennsville has won eight or more games. That would be impressive. PG is a young team looking to get to .500 and set the stage for a surge in 2017.

Absegami (6-3) at Oakcrest (6-3): School district rivals clash with identical winning records. That's a formula for a good game.

Gateway (4-5) at Woodbury (7-3): The Gators try to get to .500 while the host Thundering Herd looks to bounce back from a tough playoff loss to Salem. Woodbury has incentive: The Herd can clinch the WJFL Memorial Division with a win.

Triton (3-6) at Highland (8-2): The Mustangs won this game last season by a 2-0 score in a monsoon. But that was in October 2015. This game was switched back to Thanksgiving in WJFL re-alignment for 2016-17, a smart move. The host Tartans are looking to cap the best season in program history with their ninth win, which would clinch the WJFL Royal division title.

Atlantic City (4-5) at Holy Spirit (8-2): HS coach AJ Russo said his team has "two state title games" ahead of them, a hat tip to the importance of this game to people around the Spartans program. AC has been inconsistent but the Vikings put a serious scare in TR North in the first round of the SJ 5 playoffs and have a chance to get to .500. They'll be ready to play in a renewal of a rivalry that started in 1926, when Holy Spirit was located in Atlantic City.

Lenape (10-0) at Shawnee (8-2): This clash of school district rivals mirrors the game two years ago. Then, Shawnee was 10-0 and Lenape was coming off a disappointing playoff loss. Lenape sprung the upset by a 10-7 score. The Indians already have fashioned the best season in school history and they are in the midst of an exciting run: They beat Highland Friday to make their first sectional final, have a date with 10-0 Timber Creek in the SJ 4 final Dec. 4, and now must deal with their archrivals on Thanksgiving morning. Shawnee will look to bounce back from a tough loss to Timber Creek on Thursday night.

Kingsway (3-6) at Clearview (6-3): The host Pioneers are looking to get to seven wins for the first time since 2007. That would be a big deal. The Dragons started 0-5 but have won three of four. To win four of their last five in their first season under new coach Mark Hendricks also would be a big deal.

Haddon Heights (6-3) at Haddonfield (5-4): This rivalry began in 1902 and the Bulldawgs have dominated in recent years, winning 12 of 13. The Garnets would love to get to 7-3 and knock off their archrivals in the process. The Bulldawgs know there's a big difference between 6-4 and 5-5. A subplot: Up until last year, Haddonfield assistant coach Ralph Schaivo was the head coach at Haddon Heights.

Timber Creek (10-0) at Winslow Twp. (2-7): This is a new rivalry that seems like a natural given the proximity of these schools, familiarity of the athletes and battles the schools have waged in other sports, most recently with some fierce competitions in boys' basketball. TC has a couple of players with their sights set on SJ records. Junior QB Devin Leary has 2,987 passing yards and 40 passing touchdowns. The SJ record for passing yards is 3,545, set by Timber Creek's Danny Williams in 2013. The state and SJ record for TD passes in a season is 43, set by Somerville's Ryan Carty in 2001 and tied by Pennsauken's Manny Cortez in 2011. Timber Creek WR Ezrah Archie has 17 TD catches. The SJ record is 22 by Florence's Dion Bernardini in 1992.

Woodrow Wilson (5-4) at Camden (3-6): The visiting Tigers will look to get to 6-4 for the second year in a row and also to knock off their cross-town foes for the first time since 2011. This series that started in 1933 is one of South Jersey's richest rivalries. Tigers coach Preston Brown is a former assistant at Camden under Panthers coach Dwayne Savage.

Bishop Eustace (2-7) at Pennsauken (5-4): The host Indians get the chance to finish with a winning record for the first time since they won the SJ 4 title in 2011. And RB Martin Booker Jr., who scored eight touchdowns in Pennsauken's last game, takes Vince McAneney Field for the last time along with the rest of the Indians' seniors. BE has played some close games recently -- 7-0 win over Glassboro, 16-14 loss to PVI, 7-3 loss to Moorestown. The Crusaders won this game in a 29-28 thriller last season.

Friday night

Paulsboro (9-1) at West Deptford (10-0): This is the only game in town Friday night and should be great theater. Two years ago, Paulsboro won this game 36-33 in OT as QB Carlton Aiken threw 54 passes. Current Red Raiders QB Kyle Jones could take a run at that mark since WD's run defense is so sturdy the visitors might just take to the air and stay there, depending on the weather. Not sure the Eagles would mind that since it might serve as good preparation for Cedar Creek in the SJ 2 title game. Paulsboro has won nine in a row. WD has won 10 in a row. Both are in the same boat: Forced by the schedule to interrupt that drive to a championship game to play a fierce old rival on Thanksgiving weekend. That's a little strange but that's South Jersey football.

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