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Holloway to lead Paulsboro against Salem in Group 1 final

Paulsboro junior Dehron Holloway took the opening kickoff against archrival West Deptford on Friday night, found a crease in the coverage and burst into the clear.

Paulsboro junior Dehron Holloway took the opening kickoff against archrival West Deptford on Friday night, found a crease in the coverage and burst into the clear.

"Shot out of a cannon," West Deptford coach Clyde Folsom said Holloway's acceleration. "I knew he was fast. I didn't know he was that fast."

Ninty-five yards later, Holloway was in the end zone. That's when he spotted his father, Mike Eli, flexing a muscle in salute behind the fence.

"I muscled right back," Holloway said.

Inspiration from his father has helped to turn Holloway from a promising but oft-injured young player into one of South Jersey football's most dependable and productive athletes.

A summer of double-session workouts that began with 6 a.m. lifts in the weight room played a big part, too.

"Last year, I guess you could say I was a little immature," Holloway said Monday during a break in Paulsboro's practice in advance of Saturday's South Jersey Group 1 title game against Salem at Rowan University. "I didn't always do what I needed to do.

"But my dad was on me all summer. I'm so lucky to have a father figure like that in my life, someone who believes in me, pushes me."

The 5-foot-7, 150-pound Holloway leads Paulsboro with 27 touchdowns, the second-highest total in South Jersey.

Salem senior Jon Taylor is tops with 34.

But while the 211-pound Taylor, a Wisconsin recruit, is an imposing blend of speed and power, Holloway relies more on quickness, change-of-direction and the ability to burst out of traffic and into the clear.

"He's a runner," said Salem coach Montrey Wright, who scouted Paulsboro's game with West Deptford.

Holloway was a youth-league legend in Paulsboro, with stories of "Ron-Ron" scoring six and seven touchdowns in a game making their way to high school circles.

But as a slight freshman, Holloway learned about the demands at the varsity level.

"I don't think I had ever been tackled as much in my life as I was when I was a freshman," Holloway said.

He was a backup that season, as Paulsboro followed senior star Deshaun Burgess and a veteran cast to the 2014 South Jersey Group 1 title, culminated with a 21-0 win over Salem on a rainy December day at Rowan.

Holloway scored 20 touchdowns as a sophomore but spent a lot of time on the sideline with an assortment of injuries.

"I don't think he finished one game, or maybe just one," Paulsboro coach Glenn Howard said. "He was always getting nicked up, turning an ankle, hurting his knee, getting a cramp.

"This year, he worked so much harder in the offseason. His strength conditioning, his physical conditioning, that's the difference.

"The talent was always there. But now he has the ability to stay on the field, finish plays, finish games."

Holloway said his father and Howard and all those Paulsboro old-timers who hover around the proud program inspired him to try to make the most of his talents by working harder than ever on his strength and conditioning.

He said he used to attend Paulsboro practices and games as a youngster, dreaming of leading the Red Raiders to another South Jersey title.

"In younger days, I would watch guys like Alex Silvestro and Gerald Hodges," Holloway said.

Holloway broke out in a big way against a West Deptford team that is 11-0, ranked No. 4 in the Inquirer Top 25 and headed to the South Jersey Group 2 title game.

His electrifying kickoff return was just the start. He also ran for two touchdowns and scored another one on a pass reception.

Counting returns, runs and receptions, Holloway generated nearly 300 all-purpose yards.

"I was actually a little nervous before the game," Holloway said. "But I was determined to show what I could do."