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It's time for football awards

The one surprise at the Brooks-Irvine Memorial Football Club dinner is the announcement of the coach of the year.

Pennsauken's Manny Cortez is honored for his performance in the South Jersey Group 4 title game. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)
Pennsauken's Manny Cortez is honored for his performance in the South Jersey Group 4 title game. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)Read more

The one surprise at the Brooks-Irvine Memorial Football Club dinner is the announcement of the coach of the year.

The naming of the coach of the year will be the highlight of the 67th annual banquet, which is set for Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Cherry Hill.

The club also will honor The Inquirer's all-South Jersey team as well as college players Johnnie Troutman (Pemberton) of Penn State, Jon Grimes (Paul VI) of William & Mary, Ryan Piatek (Bishop Eustace) of Johns Hopkins, and Jay Donoghue (Seneca) of the College of New Jersey.

The club will select the coach of the year from a list of 12 candidates nominated by the coaches.

Among the top candidates are St. Joseph's Paul Sacco, Millville's Jason Durham, Pennsauken's Clinton Tabb, Camden Catholic's Gil Brooks, and Washington Township's Mark Wechter.

Other candidates are Hammonton's Pete Lancetta, Haddon Heights' Ralph Schiavo, Paulsboro's Glenn Howard, Woodrow Wilson's Chris Crowley, Triton's Pete Goetz, Woodstown's John Adams, and Pennsville's Ryan Wood.

Sacco won his 14th state title since the NJSIAA expanded the Non-Public tournament to the state championship round as St. Joseph went 10-0 and finished No. 1 in The Inquirer Top 10.

Durham led Millville to an 11-1 mark as well as the Cape-Atlantic American crown and a berth in the South Jersey Group 4 title game.

Tabb led Pennsauken to an 11-1 record and its first South Jersey Group 4 title since 1986.

Brooks, in his first year at Camden Catholic, led the Irish to a 10-1 record, the West Jersey Constitution crown and a berth in the Non-Public 2 state title game.

Wechter led a rebirth at Washington Township as the Minutemen bounced back from a 3-7 season to finish 7-4, with a Group 4 playoff victory.

Lancetta led Hammonton to a 9-3 record, the Cape National title and the South Jersey Group 3 title game.

In his first season at Haddon Heights, Schiavo guided the Garnets to an 8-3 mark and a South Jersey Group 1 playoff victory. Howard led Paulsboro to a 7-3 mark and the Colonial Patriot title.

Crowley led Woodrow Wilson to the West Jersey Independence title and a South Jersey Group 3 playoff victory. Goetz led Triton to an 8-3 mark, one season after the Mustangs went 3-7, and a South Jersey Group 4 playoff victory at Southern Regional.

Adams guided Woodstown to a share of the West Jersey Diamond title, and Wood led Pennsville to a 9-2 mark, the West Jersey Classic championship and a berth in the South Jersey Group 1 title game.

More awards. Here are a few more highlights of the season:

Best single-game performance: Manny Cortez, Pennsauken, in the Dec. 2 South Jersey Group 4 title game against Millville. Cortez accounted for eight touchdowns - five passing, three rushing - in a 55-34 victory.

Runner-up: Zaire Williams, Cherokee, in the Nov. 5 game at Cherry Hill East. The junior ran for 385 yards and six touchdowns in a 57-56 overtime loss.

Best game: Millville, 42, Washington Township 41, in the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals on Nov. 18. Millville jumped out to a 35-7 lead, Washington Township roared back, and the Minutemen went for a two-point conversion with 31 seconds on the clock. Millville's Shaq Lee intercepted the conversion pass.

Runner-up: Camden Catholic 42, Pennsauken 35, on Oct. 21. A speeding bullet of a game that featured an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play.

Best blocking: Holy Spirit's offensive line in its 51-7 victory over Camden Catholic in the Non-Public 2 title game Dec. 2. The Spartans scored 51 and didn't complete a pass.

Runner-up: Tie between Cherokee and Cherry Hill East offensive lines on the Nov. 5 afternoon when Chiefs' Williams and the Cougars' Brian Regan combined for 667 rushing yards and nine touchowns.

Best tackling: St. Joseph in its 34-7 victory over Holy Spirit. The Oct. 1 battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2 was dominated by the Wildcats defense.

Runner-up: Timber Creek in a a suffocating 23-0 victory over Lacey Township Nov. 11 in the South Jersey Group 3 tournament.

Best comeback: Down by 17-0, Washington Township ripped off 36 straight points in a 42-23 victory over Williamstown in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament on Nov. 11. Junior quarterback Tom Hildebrand was 7-for-his-last-7 passing for 181 yards and three touchdowns.

Runner-up: Down by 20-7 after one quarter, Pennsville kicked into another gear and raced to a 55-35 victory over Glassboro on Oct. 28 as senior Ryan Hawthorne scored five touchdowns.

Now what at Spirit? Chalie Roman's shocking departure from Holy Spirit raises questions about the future of one of South Jersey's top programs.

Roman said that one of the reasons he joined Mark Reardon's staff as offensive coordinator at St. Augustine Prep was concern about the stability of Holy Spirit, which has been hurt by declining enrollment.

"That's my fear," Roman said of speculation that the Diosese of Camden might considering closing Holy Spirit if the school's enrollment continues to decline.

Holy Spirit athletic director Keith Gorman disputed the notion that Holy Spirit's future is in doubt and said the school plans to form a committee to lead the search for a new football coach. Assistant coach Leo Hamlett, a former Holy Spirit and Delaware star, might be among the top candidates.

"I know we're going to get a lot of quality, quality applicants," Gorman said. "Coach Roman was a great coach, but the nature of sports is that coaches come and coaches go. The tradition of Holy Spirit remains."

Langerman file. South Jersey sports historian Chuck Langerman has uncovered several notes with regard to the just-completed football season:

With 3,098 yards passing and 967 yards rushing, Cortez led the state in total offense with 4,065 yards.

West Deptford scored 517 points to set a record for most points in a season. The old mark was 510 points by Delsea in 2009.

Holy Spirit's Donta Pollock finished his career with 4,913 rushing yards, breaking the school record of 4,793 yards set by William Washington in 2007.

Pennsville quarterback Dylan Cummings became the ninth quarterback and the only sophomore in state history to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season.

With 229 points, junior Corey Clement is the first Glassboro player to win the South Jersey individual scoring championship since Sean Redman captured it in 1984 with 200 points.