Cherokee has ended where it started the season, as The Inquirer's No. 1 ranked South Jersey football team.

Actually, the Chiefs ended up where they ended last year, which is a rare occurrence.

Since 1978, it's only the second time that a team has ended No. 1 in consecutive football seasons.

The other school to achieve that feat?

That would be Cherokee in 1982 and 1983.

The Chiefs have finished No. 1 six times since 1978, the most of any school. In fact no other school as been No. 1 more than three times.

Difficult to predict. Football may be the most difficult sport to predict when it comes to the top teams each year. That's because injuries often play such a vital role in whether a team can sustain success.

It's interesting that only four of the final Top 10 teams, were also there in The Inquirer's preseason rankings. Those happened to be the top four teams in this final ranking.

Here is the final Top 10: 1. Cherokee, 2. Holy Spirit, 3. St. Joseph, 4. Paul VI, 5. Haddonfield, 6. Delsea, 7. Hammonton, 8. Oakcrest, 9. West Deptford, 10. Willingboro.

Compare that to the preseason Top 10: 1. Cherokee, 2. Holy Spirit, 3. Seneca, 4. Shawnee, 5. Paul VI, 6. Timber Creek, 7. St. Joseph, 8. Washington Township, 9. Bishop Eustace, 10. Absegami.

There is one other factor to look at in picking preseason Top 10 teams. Maybe the person doing the selecting (i.e. this reporter) needs to step up his game.

What about Spirit? No doubt the Holy Spirit fans will argue that their team should be No. 1.

And our response?

You have a good point.

For the second time in three years, there were two 12-0 teams that finished No. 1 and No. 2. In 2008, Shawnee was No. 1 and Mainland No. 2.

There is no doubt that a game between 2008 Shawnee and Mainland would have been a highly anticipated affair. Just as this year, a game between Cherokee and Spirit would be.

Does Holy Spirit have a good argument?

Absolutely.

The Spartans played a strong schedule and won all but two by two touchdowns or more.

Yet Cherokee doesn't have to apologize to anoyone. The Chiefs had to withstand as many key injuries as any team, had the pressure of defending the No. 1 spot and won the South Jersey Group 4 title for the second consecutive year.

How rare is that feat?

Since the advent of NJSIAA playoffs in 1974, Cherokee is the first team from the seven-county South Jersey area to win consecutive South Jersey Group 4 titles.

Two other teams from Ocean County have achieved the feat. Jackson won Group 4 titles in 2000 and 2001, and Brick Township was the champion from 1981-1983.

The bottom line is that both Spirit and Cherokee were great teams this year, and either would be capable of beating the other.

Yet there can only be one No. 1 team and the team that started on top deserves to finish there after Cherokee achieved the first 12-0 season in school history.

The Langerman file. South Jersey historian Chuck Langerman has a lengthy list of facts, with another high school season completed. Special thanks to Langerman, whose passion for South Jersey sports and its history have been greatly appreciated by the readers.

Among this week's notes:

Years from now Delsea may be called the "Night Crusaders" Delsea was 10-2 this season, 10-0 under the lights and 0-2 in day games.

For the last 25 years there has been at least one Gloucester County representative in the South Jersey Group 1 final. This year there were two as Glassboro defeated Paulsboro, 36-0. The last time Gloucester County wasn't represented was in 1985 when Florence beat Burlington Township, 19-18, in a battle of Burlington County teams.

There are 342 high schools in the state playing football and of those, Penns Grove was the only team to average more points-per-game than the total number of points it gave up. The Red Devils averaged 48.2 points and allowed a total of 26 points, half which came in an opening 13-12 loss to Glassboro.

St. Joseph led the area with seven shutouts. The Wildcats gave up only 67 points and more than half of them came in a 35-0 loss to Holy Spirit.

The dynamic duo of Holy Spirit junior running backs Nigel Jones and Donta Pollock have combined to score 88 touchdowns so far in their careers.

Pennsville quarterback Ken Emmons finished his career with 4,989 passing yards, which is 10th on the all-time South Jersey career passing list behind Audubon's Joe Flacco, who threw for 5,101 yards.

Haddonfield (11-1) set a single-season school record for victories.

National power Don Bosco Prep holds the state's longest active win streak at 35. Cherokee and Holy Spirit both currently lead South Jersey with 13 consecutive wins.

And finally. Don't look now but The Inquirer's South Jersey girls' and boys' basketball preview will appear on Dec. 16, one day before the opening of the season.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com