Three seniors ran for 2,000 yards in 2012.
But 2013 could be the Year of the Running Back.
This season was good for the ground game. Glassboro senior Corey Clement ran for 2,323 yards to jack his career total to 6,245 yards - tops in South Jersey history and fifth on the state's all-time list.
Wildwood senior Wesley Hills ran for 2,106 yards and led the Warriors to their first playoff berth.
St. Augustine Prep senior Calvin Cass ran for 2,001 yards and led the Hermits to the Cape-Atlantic National Division title.
But there is an army of top running backs set to seize the spotlight next season.
Leading the way will be Kingsway junior Ray Lawry, who ran for 2,225 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in the Dragons' final four games.
Lawry's late-season surge led to a scholarship offer from Temple last week.
West Deptford junior Gerald Owens also was offered a scholarship by Temple and has drawn recruiting interest from programs such as Ohio State and Texas. He ran for 1,691 yards this past season and scored five touchdowns in the South Jersey Group 2 title game.
Gloucester junior Ben Boyer ran for 1,772 yards and led the Lions to the Tri-County Classic title as well as the No. 4 seed in the South Jersey Group 1 tournament.
Penns Grove junior Anthony Robertson ran for 1,230 yards and 28 touchdowns for the South Jersey Group 1 champions. Delsea junior Rob Hooks ran for 1,268 yards for the South Jersey Group 3 champions. Holy Spirit junior Taalib Gerald ran for 1,062 yards for the Non-Public 3 state champions.
Other top running backs slated to return include Absegami junior David Hood (976 rushing yards, 489 receiving yards, 15 touchdowns), Audubon junior Kahleil Chisolm (1,279 yards), Cumberland junior De'Han Milledge (1,179 yards) and Millville sophomore Rob Ennis (1,498 yards).
Williamstown went 12-0, won the South Jersey Group 5 title, and finished as the No. 1 team in The Inquirer Top 10, thanks in large part to a ground game that was fueled by junior fullback John Chamberlin (1,237 yards, 26 touchdowns) and junior halfback Marques Little (1,075 yards, 17 touchdowns).
These guys will be back for more in 2013.
Not every team will feature the run. Eastern will bring back junior quarterback Tom Flacco, who passed for 2,957 yards and 25 touchdowns. He will have one of his favorite receivers, junior Keshawn Segers, who caught 38 passes for 781 yards.
Pennsville junior Dylan Cummings passed for 1,839 yards this season. He'll have his favorite receiver in junior Drew Burdsall, who set the South Jersey record with 91 catches, for 1,171 yards.
Cherokee junior quarterback Trevor Osler passed for 1,259 yards and Moorestown junior quarterback Tyreek Robinson passed for 1,069 yards.
The football will be in the air in South Jersey in 2013.
But it might travel faster and farther over land.
Here is the projected preseason football top 10 for next season:
1. Timber Creek (10-2 record in 2012): Junior quarterback Dan Williams emerged in the playoffs and lit up the South Jersey Group 4 final with five touchdown passes. Three players received scholarship offers from Temple last week: Sophomore safety Kareem Ali, junior wide receiver Adonis Jennings and junior lineman Lamont Bradford. Other top returners include junior linebackers Isaiah Austin and Justice Davila and junior lineman Solomen Potter.
2. St. Joseph (10-1 ): The Wildcats will be young and will need to replace the loss of some senior leaders such as quarterback Anthony Giagunto. But there's a ton of talent, led by junior running back Cody Sampson, and sophomores C.J. LaFragola, Rocco Ordille and Ricardo Quirindongo. Watch out for freshmen twins Saleem and A'leem Horne.
3. Williamstown (12-0): The Braves bring back junior halfback/defensive back Marques Little, who took his game to another level in the state playoffs. Other key returners include junior fullback John Chamberlin, junior quarterback Doug Banks and junior two-way lineman Pete Halloran. This program is humming at a high level.
4. Holy Spirit (8-4): The Spartans bring back their entire starting defense, led by juniors such as linebacker Jeff Steeb, tackle Ray Ellis and back A.J. Dawson. They also return junior running back Taalib Gerald and junior quarterback T.J. Anderson.
5. Cherokee (6-4): The Chiefs have a loaded junior class led by quarterback Trevor Osler, running back Matt Stickney, two-way end Jake Powell, two-way back Rob Agnoni and two-way lineman Zach Madden. Junior Ken Ravel is a top kicker and freshman Evan Powell could be an impact player.
6. Eastern (7-4): The Vikings bring back junior quarterback Tom Flacco, who passed for 2,957 yards and 25 touchdowns. Other returning veterans include top juniors such as lineman Mike Montemurro, wide receiver Keshawn Segers, running back T.J. Gardner and defensive end Kingsley Ayeni.
7. Hammonton (5-5): That Thanksgiving Eve upset of then-No. 1 St. Joseph could springboard the Blue Devils into a big bounce-back season in 2013. Hammonton has a strong junior class led by all-purpose standout Alex Padovani along with linemen Bob Frederico and Brandon Alfonso and running back Dylan Rosu.
8. West Deptford (12-0): The Eagles return junior fullback Gerald Owens, one of the top recruits in the Class of 2014, along with wide receiver Shai Mumford, linebackers Isiah Worthy and Kevin DeCaesar and defensive backs Joe Diaco and Isiah Easterling.
9. Penns Grove (12-0): The Red Devils lose quarterback Nick Elmer and several other top players but bring back a lot of talent from the program's first sectional champion. Junior running back Anthony Robertson ran for 28 touchdowns. Junior ends Isaiah Coppage and RaeQuan Norman combined for 35 sacks and junior two-way back Richard Gray is a playmaker.
10. Delsea (11-1): The Crusaders bring back junior fullback Rob Hooks, who ran for 203 yards in the South Jersey Group 3 title game, as well as junior cornerback Rob Rolle, who returned an interception for a touchdown on the third play of the game. Juniors Cody Brovero and Scott Parker and sophomore Vic DeFrance are top returning linemen and junior Bryan Dobzanski is an impact player at wide receiver and safety.
Under consideration (Listed alphabetically): Haddonfield (6-4), Kingsway (8-4), Millville (6-4), Paul VI (6-4), Shawnee (6-5).
- Phil Anastasia