Quarterbacks have a tough time surrendering the spotlight.
Look at last weekend. Hammonton's Nick Crescenzo, Delsea's Chris Jackson, Cherokee's Andy Martin, and Woodbury's Brian Purnell played prominent roles in leading their teams to South Jersey championships.
Next season will be the same.
At first glance, 2010 looks like the Year of the Running Back. But the quarterbacks aren't going anywhere.
Running backs should shine. Among the top returning ballcarriers are Glassboro junior P.J. James, who rushed for 1,730 yards and scored 23 touchdowns this season, along with Paul VI junior James Kenner, who rushed for 1,239 yards and scored 16 touchdowns.
Gloucester junior Steve Kumpf scored 23 touchdowns. West Deptford junior Vaughn Scott scored 17 touchdowns. Absegami junior Ben Martin scored 14 TDs.
Seneca junior Steve Greco ran for 1,034 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. His classmate, Zac Johnson, scored seven touchdowns.
St. Joseph junior Gordon Hill and sophomore Kaheem Reynolds combined for 1,392 yards and 27 touchdowns. Haddonfield junior Chris Davis ran for 825 yards and scored 14 touchdowns. Holy Spirit sophomore Nigel Jones scored 19 touchdowns.
That's a lot of experience and accomplishment at running back.
Abundance of QB talent. This year's senior class was loaded at quarterback, with Crescenzo, Jackson and Purnell along with St. Augustine's Dustin Thomas, Haddonfield's Phil Bhaya, Egg Harbor Township's Scott Miller, Camden Catholic's Joe Brennan, and Audubon's Brandon Hill, among others.
But there will be no shortage of star power at quarterback in 2010.
Martin led Cherokee to the Group 4 championship this season as a junior. He passed for 13 touchdowns. Three of his favorite targets - wide receiver Drake Rodgers, tight end Connor Stahl and running back Mike Zeuli - will be back, too.
Winslow Township junior Bill Belton might be South Jersey's most highly recruited player next season. He passed for 2,200 yards this season and 14 touchdowns and ran for an additional 700 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Gloucester Catholic junior Cody Brown passed for 2,130 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, while Pennsville junior Ken Emmons passed for 1,744 yards and 20 scores and also ran for 13 TDs.
Washington Township junior Nick Valori completed 70 percent of his passes (157 for 224) in the Minutemen's first season in the no-huddle spread offense. He threw for 1,839 yards and 18 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Junior wide receiver Kordel McInnis (31 catches) will be back.
Paul VI junior Khaalig Burroughs passed for 1,262 yards and 15 touchdowns. He will again have all of his favorite targets, including Jakwail Bailey (seven touchdown catches) and Chris Hutton.
Holy Spirit junior Joe Callahan threw 12 touchdown passes, while Kingsway's talented junior Rondell Gilmore led the Dragons to 72 points in victories in the final two games of the season.
The Year of the Quarterback? That was supposed to be 2009.
But 2010 might well be an encore.
This is a projected top 10 in South Jersey for the 2010 football season, including some top players expected to return:
1. Holy Spirit (2009 record: 8-3): The Spartans will be loaded. They will return standout linebacker Anthony Sarao, quarterback Joe Callahan, and running backs Nigel Jones and Donte Pollack, among several other starters.
2. Seneca (8-3): The Golden Eagles were a surprise this season, beating Cherokee and Shawnee and taking Hammonton into overtime in the Group 3 playoffs. Running backs Steve Greco and Zac Johnson, quarterback Charlie Owl, lineman John Szymanek, and defensive standout Mike Southwick are among many returning starters.
3. Cherokee (11-1): The Group 4 champions lose some top players, but the Chiefs always reload. Quarterback Andy Martin returns, along with top receiver Drake Rodgers and two-way standout Mike Zeuli and other veterans.
4. Paul VI (9-1): The Eagles return a majority of their skill-position players, including quarterback Khaalig Burroughs, running backs James Kenner and Johnel Anderson, and wide receivers Jakwail Bailey and Chris Hutton. The key will be the development of both lines.
5. St. Joseph (8-3): The Wildcats were sort of back this season. They will be all the way back next season. Running backs Gordon Hill and Kaheem Reynolds lead a talented group of returning veterans that includes quarterback Darryl Smith and two-way end Pat Casey.
6. West Deptford (9-2). The Eagles had a talented bunch of junior linebackers and defensive ends led by playmaker R.J. Falls. Running backs Vaughn Scott and Rob Fearon will lead the offense.
7. Washington Township (8-2): Quarterback Nick Valori, running back Chalie Huff, and wide receiver Kordel McInnis will lead the Minutemen back into contention for division and group championships.
8. Absegami (6-4): The Braves should be the best in the Cape-Atlantic's large division next season. Running back Ben Martin and lineman Steve Schwartz will show the way.
9. Shawnee (6-4): The Renegades will feature one of South Jersey's best defensive players in linebacker Dillon Lucas. Quarterback Vince Corbi and running back Ed Royds gained valuable experience this season.
10. Timber Creek (9-3): The Chargers might have South Jersey's most explosive player in slotback Damiere Byrd. Quarterback Calvin Lowe returns, along with linebackers Quinton Alston and Quanzell Lambert.
Under consideration: Willingboro (6-4), Winslow Township (4-6), Glassboro (9-2), Haddonfield (10-2).
- Phil Anastasia