Given the stakes and caliber of competition, Woodrow Wilson junior quarterback Nick Kargman probably played his best game of the season in Saturday's South Jersey Group 3 final against Delsea.
He also set the stage for 2018.
The same goes for Rancocas Valley junior quarterback Bryce Mangene, who played later that night at Rowan in the South Jersey Group 5 final against Lenape.
And for Haddonfield junior quarterback Jay Foley on the same field the next day in the South Jersey Group 2 final against West Deptford.
There are surprises every season, but 2018 looks like another in a series of showcases for quarterbacks as the trigger men in fast-paced offenses.
"Nick played a great game," Woodrow Wilson coach Preston Brown said of Kargman's performance in the Tigers' 29-28 loss to the Crusaders.
Kargman was 25 for 39 for 319 yards and three touchdowns in rallying Woodrow Wilson from a 15-0 deficit to the brink of the program's first sectional title since 2001.
It was an impressive season finale for Kargman, who transferred to Woodrow Wilson near the end of the 2016-17 school year after spending his first two seasons at Pitman.
The 6-foot-4 Kargman, who recently picked up a scholarship offer from Rutgers, threw for 2,072 yards and 28 touchdowns this season despite missing three games with injuries.
Kargman should have plenty of weapons at his disposal in 2018 as the Tigers are projected to return 6-5 junior wide receiver Stanley King, who likely will be among the state's highest recruited players, as well as 6-5 sophomore defensive end Fadill Diggs.
Mangene passed for 221 yards on a cold night when Rancocas Valley managed just 39 rushing yards against Lenape's sturdy defense.
Mangene escaped pressure and fired a 33-yard touchdown pass to Iverson Clement to tie the score at 7-7 midway in the third quarter. He finished 13-for-26 passing, connecting seven times with senior Ethan Jackson for 140 yards, in the Red Devils' 10-7 loss to the Indians.
For the season, Mangene passed for 1,304 yards and 11 touchdowns as Rancocas Valley went 10-2, won the WJFL Capitol title and reached the sectional final for the second time in four years.
Foley barely had time to celebrate Haddonfield's 21-17 victory over West Deptford in the sectional title game before the daring and dynamic athlete turned his attention to a possible repeat performance.
"We have to cut down on the mistakes," Foley said. "We plan on coming back here again and winning it again, but we have to clean things up."
Foley, the son of former Cherry Hill East star Glenn Foley, who played several seasons in the NFL, was 7 for 11 for 161 yards and two touchdowns in the championship game. He connected with his twin, junior wide receiver John Foley, for Haddonfield's first touchdown and with junior Drew Gavranich for the winning score with less than three minutes to play.
For the season, Foley passed for 1,729 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first season as a starter.
Running backs in 2017 stole some of the spotlight that quarterbacks and receivers had commandeered in recent seasons as the sport continues to trend toward pass-happy offenses springing from the burgeoning growth of offseason 7-on-7 competition.
The signal-callers could be back in the sun in 2018.
Winslow Township junior Prince-dru Bey will look to build on a breakout season in which he passed for 2,416 yards — before this season, only 12 quarterbacks in South Jersey had ever thrown for more yards, per state sports historian Chuck Langerman — with 24 touchdowns.
Bey is projected to return his favorite target, too, in junior Isaiah Shaw, who caught 48 passes this season for 1,078 yards and seven scores.
Penns Grove sophomore Kavon Lewis led South Jersey this season with 2,934 yards and 33 touchdowns. That was the eighth-most yards in South Jersey history and tied for the fifth-most touchdowns
.Lewis also will return many of his top weapons, including junior Tyreke Brown, who has 1,125 receiving yards and 15 receiving touchdowns as well as speedy sophomores Torvone Ransome and Jamar Johnson.
Camden Catholic junior quarterback Rob McCoy Jr. passed for 1,630 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He'll be a three- year starter in the Irish' frenetically-paced offense in 2018.
Cherry Hill West junior quarterback Monte Williams, a dual-threat athlete, will look to build off the momentum from his best game of the season, as he threw for four touchdowns in a victory over cross-town rival Cherry Hill East on Thanksgiving Eve.
Williamstown junior J.C. Collins also will enter 2018 off one of the best game of 2017, as he was 11 for 15 for 208 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over Washington Township on Thanksgiving.
That same day, Woodbury sophomore quarterback Andre Parker offered another glimpse of his vast potential, passing for 109 yards and a touchdown and running for 139 yards and three scores in a victory over Gateway.
In the Thundering Herd's final two games of the season, Parker was 21-for-27 passing.
Moorestown junior quarterback Brian McMonagle is another player to watch in 2018. McMonagle passed for 1,594 yards and 16 touchdowns as the Quakers went 9-2 this season, their best mark in 10 years, with a squad heavy on junior playmakers.
Other returning quarterbacks of note include St. Augustine junior quarterback Chris Allen, who passed for 1,211 yards and six touchdowns, and Cinnaminson sophomore Shawn Ruffin, who passed for 979 yards and seven touchdowns.
Projected preseason Top 10
1. St. Joseph (12-0 in 2017): The Wildcats are projected to return sophomore all-purpose star Jada Byers, who scored 25 touchdowns, as well as four starters along the offensive line in tackle Wisdom Quarshie, guards Brad Lomax and Bobby Hyndman and center Tucker Monico. Junior defensive tackle Sean Morris, junior running back/defensive back Nate Johnson and freshman linebacker/fullback Angelo Vokolos are back along with reenforcements from a loaded freshmen team.
2. Delsea (9-3): The Crusaders bring back junior running back Aidan Borguet, who set a school record with 2,208 rushing yards and scored 31 touchdowns, along with junior linebacker Keison Fowler and junior lineman Colin Poisker. Sophomores such as running back/defensive back Shaikyi Hannah, fullback/linebacker Jake Nwosu and quarterback Damir Lomax could be
poised for big seasons.
3. Camden Catholic (8-2): The Irish should be strong up front with juniors Divine Young and Jeremy Nutt and sophomore Mehki Bryant leading the way. Junior quarterback Rob McCoy Jr. will be a three-year starter and should be surrounded by playmakers such as juniors Tyrese Ware and Dante Kiett and sophomore Rodney Vines. Sophomore Tirek Austin-Cave is a top linebacker.
4. Haddonfield (9-3): The defending South Jersey Group 2 champion Bulldawgs should be loaded in 2018, returning junior defensive end/tight end Gabe Klaus as well as junior all-purpose Davis Smith. Other returners include junior quarterback Jay Foley, junior wide receivers John Foley and Drew Gavranich, junior defensive back Lewis Evans and junior lineman Matt Pinsky. Junior running back/defensive back Chris Brown and junior fullback/linebacker Lance Forebaugh, both of whom missed
most of this season with injuries, are among the other players to watch.
5. Rancocas Valley (10-2): The Red Devils return junior quarterback Bryce Mangene and his favorite receiver, junior Danny Kondras. Junior defensive lineman Jesse Eadric was a dominant force in the South Jersey Group 5 final against Lenape. This program is humming at a high level, with two appearances in the Group 5 finals in the last four seasons.
6. Timber Creek (10-1): The Chargers have to replace the most prolific passer in state history in senior quarterback Devin Leary and several other key veterans. They will return playmakers in junior wide receive Jayvin Little and sophomore wide receiver Tarheeb Still as well as standout junior linebacker Clarence Henderson. There are lots of replacements in the pipeline as the program's junior varsity and freshman teams have been dominant in recent seasons.
7. Shawnee (8-4): The Renegades lose a seasoned senior class but should be strong up front in 2018 with junior linemen J.C. Dobis and Beau Lanzidelle showing the way. Sophomore running back/linebacker Dalton Short is a player to watch.
8. Woodrow Wilson (8-4): The Tigers return junior quarterback Nick Kargman, who threw for 28 touchdowns despite missing three games, as well as junior wide receiver Stanley King and promising sophomores in defensive end Fadill Diggs and running back Muheem McCargo. Development of the offensive line will be key.
9. St. Augustine (5-5): The Hermits return junior linebacker Joe Bonczek along with junior quarterback Chris Allen, junior running back True Robinson and junior playmakers Sincere Rhea and Jaylen DeCoteau. The key will be development of the offensive line, which is coach Pete Lancetta's specialty.
10. Williamstown (5-5): The Braves return top playmakers in junior quarterback/defensive back J.C. Collins and junior all- purpose Wade Inge Jr. along with sophomore defensive lineman Aaron Lewis.
Others to watch (listed alphabetically): Burlington Twp. (6-4), Camden (8-2), Cedar Creek (8-3), Cinnaminson (8-3), Highland (5-0), Holy Spirit (8-3), Lenape (11-1), Millville (9-2), Moorestown (9-2), Paulsboro (9-2), Penns Grove (10-2), Vineland (8-2), West Deptford (10-2), Winslow Twp. (4-6).