Three repeat selections highlight this year's Inquirer all-South Jersey defensive football team.
Returning as first-team selections are Camden Catholic defensive end Sherard Cadogan, Bridgeton linebacker Rashaun Smith, and Ocean City punter Chris Curran.
At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Cadogan burst into backfields with an extraordinarily quick first step. He had 12 sacks and 80 tackles this season and finished with 36 career sacks. Wisconsin, Michigan State, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh are the schools he is considering.
Bridgeton's Smith had 143 tackles this year, including 90 solo. He also had two interceptions and 1.5 sacks. At 6-1 and 255 pounds, Smith is such a good athlete that he also returned punts. Pitt has shown the most interest in Smith, according to Bridgeton coach Dave Ellen, although junior college is also a possibility.
Curran averaged 36.1 yards on 37 punts this season and was among the most versatile players in South Jersey. He also passed for 1,567 yards and 17 touchdowns and was 7 for 9 on field goal attempts.
Besides Cadogan and Inquirer South Jersey defensive player of the year Ian Evans of Hammonton, the other first-team lineman is Seneca's Nigel Gray. This season, Gray was one of South Jersey's top run-stuffers for the Burlco/Olympic Liberty Division co-champs. Seneca coach Bill Fisher said Gray was attracting a lot of Division II interest.
Besides Bridgeton's Smith, the linebackers are Egg Harbor Township's Zach Agostino, Paul VI's Cleo Robinson, and Shawnee's Dillon Lucas.
Agostino had 44 tackles and 33 assists for an EHT team that went 11-1 and finished No. 2 in South Jersey in the final Inquirer rankings. He was also a punishing fullback who rushed for 623 yards and six touchdowns. Agostino will attend Penn, where he plans to wrestle.
Paul VI's Robinson moved from defensive end to linebacker and had 10 sacks, 44 tackles, and two blocked punts for the Burlco/Olympic Patriot Division champions. In the summer, Robinson made an oral commitment to Louisville, but after a recent coaching change at the Big East school, Robinson now has other possibilities. Among those are Temple, Villanova, and Michigan State.
Shawnee's Lucas was among the most active defensive players around. This season, he recorded 172 tackles after making 124 tackles last year as a sophomore. His ability to anticipate and react is what enables Lucas to always be around the ball.
The first-team secondary comprises seniors Tyler Powell (Cherokee), Phil Bhaya (Haddonfield), and Tejay Johnson (Egg Harbor Township), with Willingboro junior Matt Dash.
Cherokee's Powell was the defensive leader for The Inquirer's No. 1-ranked South Jersey team. Used as a safety and sometimes a linebacker, he recorded 104 tackles, five interceptions, eight pass breakups, and five forced fumbles. He also had one rushing touchdown and two more receiving, and was also an effective punter. Powell has attracted recruiting interest for football and baseball. Among the schools he is considering for football are Bloomsburg, Colgate, and James Madison.
Haddonfield's Bhaya was a big-play performer on both sides of the ball. This season, he had 55 tackles and two interceptions. On offense, he threw for 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 710 yards and 14 touchdowns. According to Haddonfield coach Frank DeLano, 23 schools have inquired about Bhaya, including Penn, James Madison, Maine, Monmouth, Bloomsburg, and Holy Cross.
EHT's Johnson is considered the fastest player in the state after winning the 100-meter Meet of Champions race (10.67 seconds) as a junior. This season, he had five interceptions, three pass breakups, and 25 solo tackles. Johnson also rushed for 973 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has visited Nebraska and Cincinnati, and is considering Rutgers among other schools.
Willingboro's Dash was one of the top ball hawks in South Jersey. This season, he recorded 11 interceptions from his free-safety position. Dash, who also played quarterback, had 49 tackles and 11 rushing touchdowns.
The all-South Jersey kick returner is Burlington Township's Will Martin. This season, Martin had four return touchdowns - three on punts and one on a 76-yard kickoff return against Camden. Coach Tom Maderia says that he has received some 1-AA inquires about Martin.