Football: Closer look at this weekend's playoff games
We're down to the final four in sectional and state tournaments involving South Jersey football teams.
Here's a closer look at this weekend's games:
No. 3 seed Millville (8-1) at No. 2 seed Rancocas Valley (8-1): Form held on this side of the bracket as the Thunderbolts edged Cherokee and the Red Devils beat Southern. RV has won four in a row since an emotional 17-13 loss to Lenape on a late touchdown. Junior all-purpose Iverson Clement is a big-time playmaker for the Red Devils -- watch video of that twisting catch in the end zone last week -- and senior RB Rob Hawkins is a player to watch as well. The return of sophomore QB Bryce Mangene, who missed the Lenape game with a knee injury, has given RV a big boost, according to coach Dan Haussman. Millville showed something in an impressive victory over Cherokee. Junior all-purpose Clayton Scott leads the Thunderbolts while juniors Marcial Ramos and Carlton Lawrence are players to watch as well. The winner is this game is likely to see defending champion and undefeated TR North in the title game at Rowan. TRN meets Howell in the other semifinal.
No. 5 Highland (8-1) at No. 1 Lenape (9-0): It's been a dream season for the Tartans under second-year coach Brian Leary. Highland is the first eight-win team in program history and the Tartans avenged their only loss with an imposing 30-8 victory over No. 4 seed CH West on Friday. This is a team built to win the old-fashioned way, with a ground game, solid special teams and sturdy defense. Funny, Lenape is built the same way. Senior RB Orlando Council and junior RB Daequan Sanders lead the Tartans ground game. Sophomore QB Brian Cooey passes just enough to keep defenses honest and is a top kicker too. Senior DE Joe Tripoli is a player to watch on defense. Lenape's defense has allowed just eight touchdowns. LBs Mike Galaida and Sam Ballard are among the players to watch for the Indians. Junior RB JoJo Kellum is a top runner and junior QB Matt Lajoie has shown a knack for making big plays late in big games. Neither team has ever been to a sectional final, so history will be made Friday in Medford.
No. 3 Shawnee (8-1) at No. 2 Timber Creek (9-0): Lots of layers to this matchup. This will mark the fifth straight year that these rivals have met in the post-season; each team has won two of the previous four games. TC won in the SJ 4 title game in 2015. Shawnee won in the SJ 4 title game in 2014 and 2013. There's another element: Shawnee is hot because the NJSIAA admitted it made a "mistake" in seeding this tournament and that Shawnee should have been the No. 2 seed. But the NJSIAA apparently has rebuffed Shawnee's request to re-seed the tournament and allow the Renegades to host the sectional semifinal. Shawnee is coming off a 35-34 overtime win over No. 6 Clearview. Junior QB Colin Wetterau scored 3 TDs and senior RB Dan Wigley and junior RB Ryan Parris led the ground game. Senior DB Shawn Levondosky is among the Shawnee defenders who will face a major challenge in the TC's offense. TC is averaging 49.6 points, which would be the second-highest average in SJ history after the 51.8 that Penns Grove put up in 2012. Junior QB Devin Leary has 36 TD passes. Senior WR Ezrah Archie has 16 TD catches. The TC offensive line has been strong all season, buying time for Leary and creating running room for an underrated ground game.
No. 3 Delsea (6-4) at No. 2 Burlington Twp. (8-1): The visiting Crusaders are the four-time defending champion in this group. They've had an odd year, starting 1-3 and sitting most of their regulars in conceding a loss to Clearview in their final regular-season game. But here they are in the semifinals after an impressive victory over No. 6 Seneca in the opening round. Senior RBs Rashaad Williams and Charles Walker lead the Delsea offense. Senior LB Jake Hallowell is a player to watch on defense. BT has been air-tight on defense since a loss to Lenape in Week 3. BT has won six in a row, allowing a total of 19 points. Senior DT Sirvon Wigglesworth is a player to watch for the Falcons. BT's offense features senior RB Drew Price and senior all-purpose Everett Wormley, a Rutgers recruit. The winner of this game likely will see top-seeded Wall in the final at Rowan. Wall meets Hamilton in the other semifinal.
No. 4 Collingswood (7-2) at No. 1 West Deptford (9-0): This is a rematch between old rivals. WD beat Collingswood 28-14 on Nov. 4. It was the 19th consecutive time the Eagles have beaten the Panthers. Collingswood got two KORs for TDs in a victory over No. 5 Cinnaminson in the opening round. DE Adam Hunt leads the Colls defense and RB Mike Taulane is a bruising ball-carrier. Two years ago, Collingswood travelled to WD for a playoff game and lost 7-0 thanks in large part to a blocked punt. West Deptford's senior class was in eighth grade when the Eagles won their last title in 2012. Senior RBs Gio Gismondi and Anthony Seas and senior LBs Kyle Garrison and Mike Oldt lead the way.
No. 3 Willingboro (7-3) at No. 2 Cedar Creek (9-1): This Saturday game matches the updstart Chimeras with the defending champion Pirates. Willingboro advance with a victory over No. 6 Haddonfield behind senior RB/LB Amir Murray and junior QB Trae Greene. The Chimeras have won seven of eight since an 0-2 start. Cedar Creek is led by senior QB Jesse Milza and senior all-purpose Bo Melton, a Rutgers recruit with 7 TDs in the last three games. Cedar Creek has won six in a row since a Week 4 loss at Camden. Senior RB/LB Isaiah Watson is another player to watch for the Pirates.
No. 4 Salem (7-2) at No. 1 Woodbury (7-2): Two red-hot teams clash in this Saturday semifinal. Salem has won six in a row, averaging 42.5 points. The Rams have been led by senior RB Jon Taylor, a Wisconsin recruit with 2,012 yards and 27 TDs. Junior RB/DB Zaire Jones scored 3 TDs in 3 ways in a big win over Haddon Heights in the opening round. Woodbury has won five in a row after a 2-2 start. Freshman QB Andre Parker and senior RB/LB Daquan Solomon lead the way for the Thundering Herd.
No. 3 Pennsville (7-2) at No. 2 Paulsboro (8-1): This is another Saturday game and a rematch of last year's semifinal game won by a Pennsville team that would go on to win title. Senior all-purpose Logan Johnston and senior two-way lineman Rob Saulin are among the players to watch for Pennsville. Paulsboro has won eight in a row since a 14-13 loss to Woodbury on opening day. Senior QB Kyle Jones, senior WR Emmanuel Simon and junior RB Dehron Holloway are players to watch for the Red Raiders.
No. 8 Immaculata (6-4) at No. 4 Holy Spirit (7-2): The host Spartans thought they would be on the road for this game but Immaculata stunned top-seeded Hudson Catholic. Immaculata has played a challenging schedule with losses to Group 5 playoff teams Westfield and Ridge and Group 4 playoff team Summit. Holy Spirit has impressive wins over Delsea and St. Joseph. The Spartans' two losses were to St. Augustine and Camden Catholic. HS rolled over Montclair Kimberley 42-6 in the opening round as senior RB Reggie Jean-Charles scored four TDs.
No. 3 St. Joseph (7-3) at No. 2 Mater Dei (10-0): This Saturday clash in Monmouth County marks the Wildcats, who have seven state titles in a row, against the upstart Seraphs. Mater Dei is averaging 40.7 points and the Seaphs have outscored their last six opponents by 258-21. But MD is a bit of a mystery because they've played a suspect schedule and also because they are something of an overnight success with an influx of transfer talent lured by coach Dino Mangiero, the former long-time coach at Brooklyn Poly Prep and former Rutgers and NFL player. QB George Pearson and RB Sincere Saunders are players to watch for MD. St. Joseph is coming off an impressive 48-0 win over Holy Cross in the opening round. Junior FB Qwahsin Townsel is the key to the Wildcats' ground game. Junior LB Sincere Tapp and senior two-way lineman Mike Mascioli are other players to watch for SJ.
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