Playoff football, finally.
Here's a closer look at tournament games involving South Jersey teams this weekend:
(All Friday games at 7; all Saturday games at 1.)
No. 8 Vineland (7-1) at No. 1 Lenape (7-1), Friday: The Indians surged into the top seed with a 4-game winning streak and a big boost on Saturday from school district rivals Cherokee and Seneca. Their reward is a tough matchup against a 7-1 No. 8 seed in Vineland, which is smarting from a 14-0 loss to St. Augustine on Friday and eager to prove it belongs in the conversation with the top teams in South Jersey. Lenape likely will try to mimic what SA did in Gittone Stadium — control the ball and clock with its running game and stacked the line of scrimmage to contain Vineland QB Isaih Pacheco. Lenape senior RB JoJo Kellum is on a big-time roll with 14 TDs in the last 4 games.
No. 5 Cherokee (6-2) at No. 4 Howell (8-1), Friday: The visiting Chiefs have a tough matchup in a Howell team with a dynamic run-pass threat at QB in senior Edwin Morales III, who has passed for 1,654 yards and 20 TDs and run for 651 yards and 7 TDs. Senior WR Naseim Brantley has 11 TD catches. Howell's lone loss was 49-28 to 9-0 Manalapan. Cherokee has been getting strong work from senior QB Jack Walters as well as sophomore RB Elijah Bard. The Chiefs are battled-tested as their two losses are to No. 1 seeds Lenape (in S.J. 5) and Timber Creek (in S.J. 3).
No. 6 Williamstown (4-4) at No. 3 Millville (8-0), Friday: The host Thunderbolts are the defending champions. They've led led all season by senior RB Clayton Scott as well as senior QB Elijah Nichols and senior WRs Marcial Ramos and Carlton Lawrence. Millville won at Williamstown 28-17 Sept. 29. The Braves have a couple of playmakers in junior QB J.C. Collins and junior all-purpose Wade Inge Jr.
No. 7 Eastern (5-4) at No. 2 Rancocas Valley (7-1), Friday: The host Red Devils are coming off a bye. They have an explosive playmaker in senior RB Iverson Clement, a Florida recruit, and top defenders in senior DE Daequan Jackson-Swoopes and senior LB Kyle Sapp. Eastern was 5-1 after a 40-21 win over S.J. 4 qualifier Pennsauken on Oct. 14. But the Vikings have lost three in a row.
No. 8 Pennsauken (3-5) at No. 1 Moorestown (8-1), Friday: The visiting Indians edged Bridgeton by a single power point, 60-59, for the last seed in this sectional. Pennsauken dropped a 13-12 decision to S.J. 3 qualifier Seneca by the margin of a couple of missed extra-points on Saturday. Moorestown is fashioning its best season since the 2007 team went 12-0. The Quakers' lone loss was 30-20 to S.J. 3 No. 2 seed Woodrow Wilson. Junior QB Brian McMonagle has 15 TD passes and senior all-purpose J'Wan Steward has been a playmaker for the Quakers.
No. 5 Absegami (4-4) at No. 4 Shawnee (5-3), Friday: These teams scrimmage every summer so there's a sense of familiarity between the players and coaching staffs. The host Renegades got a big lift with the recent return from injury of senior RB/LB Ryan Parris, who had a pick six in a 38-6 win over Hammonton on Friday. Absegami punched its ticket to the tournament with a 34-27 win over rival Mainland on Friday as senior Josh Coursey generated 3 TDs and senior AB Andrew Marcucci threw 3 TD passes.
No. 6 Hammonton (3-6) at No. 3 Central (7-2), Friday: The visiting Blue Devils have lost 5 of 6 since a 2-0 start but the post-season is a fresh start. Central has won four in a row.
No. 7 Highland (4-4) at No. 2 Burlington Twp. (6-2), Friday: The host Falcons are coming off a bye. In their last game, junior Omar Rogers had a performance for the ages: 92 KOR for TD, 15 run for TD, 55 INT return for TD, 101 INT return for TD. The Tartans made the field with a seed to spare despite losing 10-0 to Bishop Eustace on Friday. Highland's defense, led by senior LB Jared Colbert, has been solid, allowing just 23 points in the last three games.
No. 8 Seneca (3-5) at No. 1 Timber Creek (8-0), Friday: The visiting Golden Eagles earned a berth with a 13-12 win over Pennsauken on Saturday. Their reward is a trip to Erial to face a Timber Creek team that has won 24 in a row, including the last two S.J. 4 titles. TC has scored 35 or more in every game behind senior QB Devin Leary, who has 97 career TD passes, as well as senior linemen Jake Kidwell and Derryk Sellers. Seneca has a top kicker in senior Kevin Gsell, who made 2 FGs and an extra point in the win over Pennsauken.
No. 5 Ocean City (6-2) at No. 4 Delsea (6-3), Friday: The host Crusaders are not a typical 4 seed. They're 14-1 in the tournament since 2012, with four titles in this sectional. Plus, they are red-hot this season, with 42, 49, 42, 43 and 49 points in a five-game winning streak. Senior C Tommy Maxwell leads a sturdy OL for Delsea. OC has a top run-pass threat at QB in senior Harry Pfeifle and a top playmaker in senior all-purpose Isaac Robertson.
No. 7 Deptford (3-5) at No. 2 Woodrow Wilson (6-2), Saturday: The host Tigers have a top passing game led by junior QB Nick Kargman, who has 20 TD passes, and junior WR Stanley King, who has 10 TD catches. The Spartans made the field despite a tough loss at Salem on Saturday. Senior Darius Dowd is a top RB for Deptford.
No. 6 Lakewood (4-4) at No. 3 Lacey (7-2), Saturday: These teams played Oct. 7 at Lakewood, with Lacey winning 34-33.
No. 8 Pleasantville (7-1) at No. 1 West Deptford (7-1), Friday: The host Eagles are 30-2 in their last 32 and have made the last three sectional title games and 12 of the last 15. They've won seven championships in that span. WD is coming off a 49-0 win over Collingswood. Senior QB/LB Peter Orio is a player to watch for the Eagles. Pleasantville has made the tournament for the first time since 2005. Junior Mohamad Toure is a top two-way player for the Greyhounds.
No. 5 Willingboro (7-2) at No. 4 Cedar Creek (7-2), Saturday: The visiting Chimeras have won seven in a row after an 0-2 start behind senior QB Trae Greene, who has 24 TD passes, and senior WR David Green, who has 14 TD catches. Senior LB Albert Nah leads the Boro defense. CC is hot, beating Haddonfield by 24-3 on Oct. 28 and Oakcrest by 49-8 on Friday night. These teams have history, as Cedar Creek beat Willingboro 27-26 in the S.J. 2 semifinals last season.
No. 6 Haddonfield (5-3) at No. 3 Sterling (7-1), Friday: The host Silver Knights are a 1-point loss to West Deptford away from being 8-0 one season after they went 1-9. That's remarkable. Senior QB C.J. Barrett, who has 13 TD passes, has led the way for Sterling. This game is a rematch of Saturday's clash at CH West, won by Sterling by 37-19. Sterling is seeking its first playoff win since 2002. Haddonfield has lost 3 in a row after a 5-0 start as a run of injuries has caught up with the Bulldawgs but the playoffs are a new start and a chance to re-capture that early-season magic.
No. 7 Cinnaminson (6-2) at No. 2 Camden (7-1), Friday: The visiting Pirates have won 5 in a row, allowing a total of 14 points. Senior LB Kai Leibfried leads the Cinnaminson defense while junior RB Rashad Raymond and sophomore QB Shawn Ruffin are playmakers on the offensive side. Camden has won 6 in a row behind sneior RB Najyere Edwards and senior QB Premire Wilson. In the last 2 games, the Panthers have scored 66 in beating Group 5 RV and Group 4 Winslow Twp. Junior DL Tidiane Bamba has 46 tackles, 8 sacks and 11 hurries for Camden.
No. 8 Pennsville (4-4) at No. 1 Paulsboro (7-1), Saturday: The host Red Raiders are the defending champions and have won 2 of the last 3 titles. Paulsboro leads all South Jersey public schools with 18 sectional titles. Senior RB Dehron Holloway has 20 TDs for Paulsboro. Senior RB Nick Bard has 1,312 rushing yards and 16 TDs for Pennsville.
No. 5 Woodbury (6-2) at No. 4 Salem (6-2), Saturday: The visiting Thundering Herd have the same record as the Rams and beat them on the field by 14-6 on Sept. 30. But Salem earned the No. 4 seed and homefield by the margin of 1 power point, 104-103. Woodbury has won 6 of 7 since a loss to Paulsboro on opening day, and the lone setback was 42-35 to No. 1 seed Penns Grove in a game in which the Thundering Herd held the lead late. Junior RB Keyshawn Christian is coming off a 4-TD game vs. Haddon Twp. Salem has won 4 in a row, averaging 52.2 points in that span. Senior all-purpose Zaire Jones has 15 TDs in
those 4 games, and 23 for the season.
No. 6 Woodstown (4-4) at No. 3 Gateway (7-1), Friday: The Gators are hosting a playoff game for the first time in program history. They've won 5 in a row since a 21-14 loss to No. 1 seed Paulsboro. Senior LB Jared Clayton is a player to watch for Gateway. Woodstown is 4-2 since an 0-2 start, with losses to 7-1 West Deptford and 7-1 Penns Grove. Sophomore FB Jameson Taylor scored 2 TDs for Woodstown in Saturday's 40-22 loss to Penns Grove.
No. 7 Schalick (5-3) at No. 2 Penns Grove (7-1), Saturday: The visiting Cougars secured a berth by rallying to beat Gloucester Catholic 14-3 on Saturday. Senior Tyreese Snipe scored both TDs in that game to give him 15 for the season. PG has won 5 in a row. Sophomore QB Kavon Lewis leads South Jersey with 2,266 passing yards and 27 TD passes. Junior Tyreke Brown (37 catches, 959 yards, 14 TDs) and senior Josh Martin (25 catches, 715 yards, 6 TDs) are top WRs.
No. 8 Asbury Park (5-3) at No. 1 Burlington City (7-1), Friday: Senior RB Jimmy Browne leads the Blue Devils with 21 TDs.
No. 6 Florence (4-4) at No. 3 Bound Brook (7-2), Friday: The visiting Flashes are coming off an impressive win over New Egypt that clinched a playoff berth. Junior RB Jujuan Hayes ran for 4 TDs in that game for Florence. Junior RB Mason Horsburgh leads Bound Brook with 10 TDs.
No. 8 St. Augustine (5-4) at No. 1 Bergen Catholic (7-2), Saturday: This is tough duty for the Hermits, a long bus ride to face a national-caliber foe. SA is coming off an impressive 14-0 win over previously undefeated Vineland on Friday as junior RB True Robinson ran for 2 TDs and junior LB Shane Quast and senior DE/LB Garrett Dolan led the defense. BC is 7-0 against New Jersey teams. The Crusaders' losses were to Archbishop Wood (Pa.) and Mater Dei (Calif.). BC beat SA by 57-33 in this game last season.
No. 5 Camden Catholic (7-1) at No. 4 St. John Vianney (9-0), Friday: The Irish edged Red Bank Catholic 144-142 for the No. 5 seed, avoiding a trip to St. Joe of Montvale. That's the good news. But they still face a challenge in an undefeated SJV team that beat them 33-13 at Shamrock Field last season. SJV senior RB Johnny Buchanan has 1,001 yards and 14 TDs. CC is led by senior two-way standout Marcus Hillman, who has 15 TDs and 12.5 sacks.
No. 8 St. Mary (5-4) at No. 1 St. Joseph (9-0), Saturday: The host Wildcats have played this team in the past and dominated the competition. SJ is led by senior RB Qwahsin Townsel, who has scored 21 TDs. He recently picked up scholarship offers from Villanova and Fordham. SJ lost to eventual champion Mater Dei in the NP 2 semifinals last season. The Wildcats won a state title in the previous 7 seasons.
No. 6 Holy Cross (5-4) at No. 3 Mater Dei (6-1), Saturday: The visiting Lancers are led by senior RB Tim Petrucelli, who scored 4 TDs in a big win Friday over cross-town rival Delran. MD's lone loss was 28-26 to Delbarton, which is the No. 5 seed in NP 4. The Seraphs will be without coach Dino Mangiero, who can work with the team in practice but has been suspended from games by the NJSIAA for rules violations. Senior QB George Pearson is a Central Michigan recruit.
No. 7 Gloucester Catholic (5-3) at No. 2 Holy Spirit (7-1), Friday: The visiting Rams have lost three in a row, including a tough 14-3 setback to Schalick on Saturday. Holy Spirit is coming off a bye. The Spartans have a dynamic run-pass threat at QB in senior Josh Zamot, who has 10 rushing TDs and 14 passing TDs.