Reviewing the scholastic football season, ABC-style:
A is for amazing race.
Hail, Tri-County Royal.
The Royal was remarkable. Most games were decided in the closing seconds. Many were decided by one, two or three points.
This best exemplifies the Royal: If Delsea had defeated Williamstown on Thanksgiving, four teams would have shared the Royal title: Delsea, Williamstown, Gloucester Catholic and Cumberland.
But Williamstown spoiled it for the other three teams by scoring a 25-24 win on sophomore Marcus Hampton's two-point conversion run with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left.
A 50-yard Delsea field-goal attempt fell a few yards short at the final gun.
B is for breakout seasons.
Take a bow, Cumberland.
You, too, Timber Creek.
Both qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs for the first time. Cumberland (7-3) set a school record for wins in a season and finished with just its fifth winning record since the program started in 1977.
Timber Creek (6-4) had its first winning season in its seven-year history. The Chargers have come a long way since starting their program 1-19.
C is for Comparative Score Theory.
Overbrook defeated Highland, 9-7.
Highland defeated Kingsway, 18-13.
Kingsway defeated Gloucester Catholic, 14-13.
Therefore, by using our comparative score magic, we can assume that Overbrook defeated Gloucester Catholic, right?
Gloucester Catholic defeated Overbrook, 21-0, finished 8-3, and reached the state final.
Overbrook finished 2-8.
So much for our theory.
D is for defense, of course.
Glassboro had the area's stingiest defense, allowing just 5.3 points per game.
E is for explosiveness.
Say hello to Holy Spirit, which became just the second team in South Jersey history to score more than 500 points in a season. Holy Spirit scored 503 points, an average of 41.9 points per game.
Paulsboro set the record with 506 points in 2001.
F is for frantic finishes.
No team had more than Williamstown, which won four games by one point en route to its first league title (Tri-County Royal) since the varsity program started in 1959.
G is for giants.
Holy Spirit's offensive line averaged 277 pounds per player.
Times have changed. When I was in school in the 1970s, I can remember when a 200-pound lineman was considered huge.
Holy Spirit's offensive line was anchored by seniors Pat Schell (6-3, 325) and Will Martin (6-3, 280), and junior Jerome Thomas (6-1, 245). It also featured junior Alex Winks (6-3, 280) and senior Juan Herrera (6-0, 255). Schell and Martin are drawing Division I interest.
"Most of the time when you have a line that has size, they don't have the athleticism or the toughness," Holy Spirit coach Bill Walsh said. "This group had all three."
H is for humiliation.
There were too many times when teams with five- and six-touchdown leads continued to run up the score this year. The practice caught the NJSIAA's attention.
A process is underway to adopt a mercy rule. If a team has a 30-point lead in the second half, there would be a running clock the rest of the way - unless the trailing team cut the deficit under 30.
The rule could go into effect in 2008.
Here's hoping it does.
I is for improvement.
Cumberland made the most strides from last year, recording six more wins than in 2006. The Colts went from 1-9 to 7-3.
Paul VI (4-6 to 9-2), Shawnee (4-6 to 9-3) and Mainland (5-5 to 10-2) each won five more games than last year.
Six teams had four more wins this season than last year: Burlington Township (2-8 to 6-5), Camden Catholic (4-6 to 8-2), Gloucester Catholic (4-6 to 8-3), Holy Spirit (8-3 to 12-0), Moorestown (8-4 to 12-0) and St. Augustine (4-6 to 8-2).
J is for justifiable claim.
You can accurately call the Burlco/Olympic Liberty South Jersey's best big-school league, as it had four teams earn playoff berths in either Groups 3 or 4: Moorestown, Winslow Township, Shawnee and Timber Creek.
Two of those schools - Shawnee (South Jersey Group 3) and Moorestown (Central Jersey Group 3) - won sectional crowns.
The Burlco/Olympic National had five of its six teams earn playoff berths. Holy Cross, Camden Catholic, Cinnaminson, Delran and Burlington Township qualified.
K is for the kings of area football.
League titles went to Washington Township (Burlco/Olympic American); Moorestown (Burlco/Olympic Liberty); Paul VI (Burlco/Olympic Patriot); Holy Cross (Burlco/Olympic National); Florence (Burlco/Olympic Freedom); West Deptford (Colonial Liberty); Paulsboro and Woodbury (Colonial Patriot co-champs); Williamstown (Tri-County Royal); Glassboro (Tri-County Classic); Mainland (Cape-Atlantic American) and Holy Spirit (Cape National).
South Jersey championships were won by Glassboro (Group 1), West Deptford (Group 2), Shawnee (Group 3) and Toms River North (Group 4). Moorestown won Central Jersey Group 3.
Holy Cross (Non-Public 2) and Holy Spirit (Non-Public 3) captured state crowns.
Holy Spirit finished No. 1 in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings for the first time since 1990. The Spartans became the sixth Cape team to finish No. 1 in the last 12 years.
L is for the Gloucester Lions, who, in perhaps the most thrilling game of the season, scored 16 points in the final 70 seconds to jolt Penns Grove, 22-21, on Sept. 22. It was a fitting ending to an emotional day, one in which former Gloucester standout Marc Ryan - a Marine who was killed in Iraq in 2004 - had his number retired during pregame and halftime ceremonies.
M is for milestone.
Florence's Joe Frappolli became the winningest coach in South Jersey history when his Flashes defeated host Burlington, 42-0, on Sept. 21. It was his 231st win, passing Delsea's John Oberg.
Frappolli fought back tears as he was surrounded by players, fans and relatives on the field after the game. "As I've been saying all along, this is for the community," he said.
Frappolli ended the year with 236 wins.
N is for relative newcomers.
Among the most impressive: Paulsboro linebacker Zach Greenwald, Bridgeton defensive lineman Rashaun Smith, Middle Township quarterback Nolan Quinn, Williamstown running back/defensive end Marcus Hampton, Delsea running back Austin Medley and Cumberland kicker Ryan Stant. All are sophomores.
O is for one-two punch.
William Washington and Nick Hall gave Holy Spirit South Jersey's best backfield, combining for 3,458 rushing yards and 58 TDs.
Washington led South Jersey in scoring (226 points) for the second straight season. He and Paul VI's Jonathan Grimes (206) became the second duo to surpass the 200-point mark in the same season. The first: Holy Cross' Wali Lundy (216 points) and Gloucester's Mike Blankenship (200) in 2001.
P is for perfection.
Three teams - Holy Spirit, Moorestown and Glassboro - finished with 12-0 records.
Q is for the Quakers of Moorestown.
Moorestown deserves its own letter for the way it overcame the loss of starting quarterback John Eller and finished 12-0, its first undefeated season since 1957.
After Eller suffered a ruptured kidney in a 27-21 win over Winslow Township on Oct. 20, Moorestown won its final six games by dividing the quarterback duties.
"John Eller became our rallying cry," Moorestown coach Russ Horton said.
R is for resiliency.
After starting the season 2-3, Shawnee won its final seven games to capture the South Jersey Group 3 championship.
S is for "Shaka."
Shykem "Shaka" Lawrence may no longer be with us, but he will serve as an inspiration to the many lives he touched.
Lawrence, 18, died of complications from paralysis on Oct. 12. Sixteen months earlier, he was paralyzed while making a tackle for Woodrow Wilson in a scrimmage at Eastern.
His gallant, courageous battle should never be forgotten.
T is for defensive terror.
That aptly describes Holy Spirit linebacker/defensive end Marcus Witherspoon, the Michigan-bound senior who recorded a staggering 27 sacks.
U is for unusual feats.
Lindenwold's Will Wanamaker rushed for 1,000 yards for his third school. Wanamaker, who has been offered a scholarship by Toledo, also had 1,000-yard rushing seasons at Timber Creek as a sophomore and at Camden Catholic as a junior.
V is for streak-busting victories.
Holy Spirit ended St. Joseph's 37-game winning streak with a 48-7 victory on Nov. 3.
The next week, Gloucester Catholic quarterback Mike Calzonetti scored on an 8-yard run with one second left to give the Rams a 24-21 win at St. Joseph in a Non-Public 2 state semifinal, ending the Wildcats' string of eight straight state titles.
Oddity: After winning 37 straight, which was tied for the third-longest streak in South Jersey history, St. Joseph lost its last three games.
W is for welcome back.
After being on the road for three years because its stadium and field were being renovated, Woodbury finally returned to its home field on Oct. 20. The Herd defeated Audubon, 40-18.
X is for xenodochial.
Thanks to local football historian Chuck Langerman for the word, which means "friendly to strangers."
Rutgers Stadium fits. That's where three area teams - Holy Cross, Holy Spirit and Moorestown - won NJSIAA titles.
Y is for an ending that has to be viewed on YouTube.
Facing a 27-20 deficit against Camden Catholic and taking over on its own 31 with 7.1 seconds left, Paul VI needed a miracle . . . and got one.
Paul VI quarterback Glenn Hutton threw a pass that receiver Zack Gorczynski and defensive back Josh Rota, among others, tried to haul in near the Irish 40. The ball deflected directly to Paul VI's Will Campbell, who raced down the sideline for a 69-yard TD with no time left.
Shades of Franco Harris and the Immaculate Reception.
The improbable play cut Camden Catholic's lead to 27-26. But Camden Catholic's Brandon Jones stopped Hutton inches shy of the goal line on the conversion run. Camden Catholic survived.
Z is for a passing zone.
Nobody was in a better zone than Holy Cross senior Tom Reilly, who set a South Jersey record with 64 career touchdown passes - one more than Woodrow Wilson's David Goree threw in a career that ended in 1995.
Just think, only about nine months until the 2008 scholastic football season begins.