The Inquirer's all-South Jersey defensive team is headed by two members of No. 1-ranked Shawnee: defensive lineman Dashawn Cassell and linebacker Justin Miller.
Cassell is joined on the defensive line by Mainland's Lance Miller and Camden Catholic's Sherard Cadogan.
This season Cassell had six sacks, but his true value was as a run-stopper. Cassell had 52 tackles, including 24 solos. He was a key member of consecutive South Jersey Group 3 champions. He is still formulating his college plans.
Mainland's Miller was arguably the most-difficult player to block this year. At 6 feet and 305 pounds, he displayed great strength and agility. Miller recorded 74 tackles, 81/2 sacks, 10 hurries and had one pass deflection. A second-team all-South Jersey selection last season, Miller has made an oral commitment to attend Delaware.
Cadogan is among the top prospects from the junior class. He was agile enough to excel as either a defensive lineman, linebacker or tight end. This season he recorded 14 sacks, giving him 26 for his career and is among the quickest pass rushers in South Jersey. As a tight end Cadogan caught 35 passes for 481 yards and five touchdowns.
Besides Shawnee's Miller, the other linebackers are Winslow Township senior Ka'Lial Glaud, Bridgeton junior Rashaun Smith and Holy Cross senior Aaron Fant.
Few players could pack a pop like Glaud, who had 87 tackles, eight sacks, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Glaud also intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. Also a quarterback, he threw for 1,379 yards and 19 TDs. He has made visits to Iowa and West Virginia and also plans to visit Maryland. He is also considering North Carolina, Rutgers, Penn State and Tennessee.
Miller is the leading tackler in Shawnee history with 321. He set the mark during Shawnee's 28-7 win over Hammonton in the South Jersey Group 3 final. This season he had 111 tackles, including 51 solos. Miller also had two sacks. A member of the National Honor Society, he is sorting out his college options.
Bridgeton's Smith has started since his freshman year. Originally a defensive lineman, he has enough speed to make game-altering plays at linebacker. Smith had 116 tackles this season, with eight sacks and two interceptions. Despite weighing 250 pounds, he has been timed at 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Fant led Holy Cross to a second straight Non-Public Group 2 state title. In the Lancers' 7-0 title win over Hudson Catholic, he had 15 tackles. Fant averaged 13 tackles per game and forced four fumbles. He returned one interception for a touchdown. Fant is looking to play college football, but his plans are undecided.
Besides defensive player of the year Logan Ryan of Eastern, the other defensive backs are Paulsboro's Gerald Hodges, Seneca's Sean Carroll and Palmyra's Quron Pratt.
Hodges is a repeat first-team selection. As a safety, he had 38 solo tackles, 23 assists, one tackle for loss, and one interception. Also the quarterback, 10 of his 38 completions went for touchdowns. He rushed for 705 yards and 13 touchdowns. Hodges originally made an oral commitment to Rutgers, but said Friday that he is going to Penn State.
Seneca's Carroll was one of the area's top playmakers on defense. A second-team choice last season, Carroll had 92 tackles, six interceptions, three fumble recoveries, three blocked kicks, and a blocked punt. He also rushed for 1,078 yards and 11 touchdowns, and caught three TD passes. Carroll finished with 19 career interceptions. Hofstra, Bloomsburg and Shippensburg are among the schools he is looking at closely.
Pratt is Palmyra's all-time leading interceptor with 20. He picked off four passes this season as Palmyra won the Burlco/Olympic Freedom Division title. Pratt allowed just one touchdown in four years - none in the last three seasons. He also had 28 receptions, 10 of which went for TDs. Pratt has already visited Delaware and is at Pitt this weekend. Boston College, West Virginia and William and Mary are among the other schools he is considering.
The punter is Ocean City junior Chris Curran, who is among the most versatile football players in South Jersey. Curran averaged 35.2 yards on 37 punts, kicked four field goals and threw for 388 yards and four touchdowns.
The first-team return man is senior Bill Giberson of St. Augustine. Giberson returned four punts for touchdowns, including a 50-yard return for a score in a 21-17 playoff win over Notre Dame. Giberson also caught 24 passes for 484 yards and eight touchdowns. Monmouth, Towson and Maine are among the schools that have been in contact.