Donte Hardwick is the strong, silent type for the Timber Creek football team.
Solomon Potter takes a different approach.
"Ever since Little League I've always been a team leader, but I think it's because I've always been the loudest one," Potter said.
Hardwick can confirm that.
"He's loud," Hardwick said of his senior classmate and lineman along the defensive front for the Timber Creek football team. "We volleyball off him."
On a team with South Jersey's all-time leader in single-season passing yardage in quarterback Dan Williams and future Division I wide receivers in Adonis Jennings and Cameron Chambers, Hardwick and Potter are unsung heroes in both noisy and quiet ways.
"They hold us together," Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson said of the pair.
Hardwick and Potter likely will play key roles Saturday night when Timber Creek faces Shawnee in the South Jersey Group 4 final at Rowan University.
Timber Creek will count on its defense to contain Shawnee's powerful running game as the Chargers pursue their third consecutive South Jersey title.
"We're trying to make history," Hardwick said.
The 5-foot-8, 210-pound Hardwick is an undersized defensive tackle who always lines up between the opposing center and a guard. He has made 26 tackles with two sacks, but his biggest contribution probably has been his ability to occupy two blockers, freeing teammates to make plays.
"He's double-teamed every play," Hinson said. "He's sacrificed himself and his stats for the team."
Hardwick said he draws satisfaction from knowing his efforts clear the way for his teammates to shine.
"As long as I know I'm doing my job, I'm happy," Hardwick said.
The 6-2, 235-pound Potter is a rangy defensive end. He has made 41 tackles and leads the team with seven sacks.
But Potter has made as much impact on the team with his personality as with his play, according to Hinson.
"Sol is our unquestioned leader," Hinson said.
Potter said he has drawn from his experiences during Timber Creek's three-year run as one of the state's top public-school teams. The Chargers are 32-3 since the start of the 2011 season.
"I've seen a lot," Potter said. "I was here when Quanzell [Lambert] was here. I saw how Greg [Webb] and Dajaun [Drennon] did it. This year, it came to me that it was my time and that this was my team now.
"I took that role [as a leader]. I've always been comfortable in that role."
Shawnee vs. Timber Creek
Saturday, 7 p.m. at Rowan
Previous titles: Shawnee, 4 (2007, 2008 in S.J. Group 3; 2002 and 2004 in S.J. Group 4); Timber Creek, 2 (2011 in S.J. Group 3, 2012 in S.J. Group 4).
Coaches: Shawnee, Tim Gushue (31st season, 209-100-6; Timber Creek, Rob Hinson (ninth season, 66-31; 61-26 at Timber Creek, 5-5 at Salem).
How Shawnee can win: Control the clock and the football with a power running game behind senior Anthony DiOrio (199 carries, 1,198 yards, 17 TDs) and a strong offensive line.
Win big on special teams behind kicker Joe Lynn and punter Mike Caffrey. Force a turnover or three on defense behind junior linebacker Curtis Corley.
How Timber Creek can win: Spread the field on offense and take advantage of the talents of senior QB Dan Williams (193-for-312 passing, 3,197 yards, 29 TDs), senior WR Adonis Jennings (72 catches, 1,264 yards, 14 TDs) and sophomore WR Cameron Chambers (46 catches, 1,066 yards, 10 TDs). Limit turnovers.
Fast fact: Timber Creek is looking to become the first large school (Group 3 and above) from the traditional South Jersey area to win three sectional titles in a row since the creation of the playoff system in 1974.
- Phil Anastasia