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Rematches galore, plus six picks | Phil Anastasia

Holy Spirit vs. Mater Dei, West Deptford vs. Cedar Creek, Millville vs. Rancocas Valley and Salem vs. Paulsboro are rematches to watch this weekend in state semifinal action.

Coach Glenn Howard and Paulsboro celebrated after beating Salem 29-26 in last year’s South Jersey Group 1 title game.
Coach Glenn Howard and Paulsboro celebrated after beating Salem 29-26 in last year’s South Jersey Group 1 title game.Read moreCharles Fox/Staff photographer


That's the theme of this weekend's semifinal round in state tournament action for South Jersey football teams.

Holy Spirit's football players began working out last December under a sign in the weight room that read: "26-20" as a reminder of the score of the stunning loss to Mater Dei in the previous weekend's Non-Public 2 state title game.

Mater Dei won the game at Kean University on a 50-yard, hook-and-lateral on the final play, leaving distraught Holy Spirit players sprawled on the turf in disbelief.

On Friday night, Holy Spirit (8-1) hosts Mater Dei (7-1) in the Non-Public 2 semifinals.


West Deptford (8-1) and Cedar Creek (8-2) have played in the last two South Jersey Group 2 title games and three of the last five. All three games have been highly competitive, especially the last two, with the Eagles winning 19-13 in 2016 and the Pirates prevailing 28-27 in 2015.

The teams meet again Friday night in the South Jersey Group 2 semifinals. They used to play at Rowan, now they meet for the right to advance there for the title game Dec. 3.


Paulsboro and Salem met in last year's South Jersey Group 1 title game, won by the Red Raiders by a 29-26 score.

The teams also met in the 2014 championship game, with the Red Raiders taking the title by a 21-0 score on a rainy afternoon at Rowan.

On Saturday, the teams meet in the South Jersey Group 1 semifinals at Paulsboro.


Millville beat Rancocas Valley, 32-15, in last year's South Jersey Group 5 semifinals.

Rancocas Valley beat Millville, 52-29, in the 2014 playoff opener.

The teams meet again in Friday night's South Jersey Group 5 semifinals at Rancocas Valley, with a berth in the sectional final Dec. 2 at Rowan on the line.

Here's a closer look at six games this weekend with predictions:

(Friday games at 7 p.m.; Saturday games at 1 p.m.)

No. 3 Millville (9-0) at No. 2 Rancocas Valley (8-1) in South Jersey Group 5, Friday: The visiting Thunderbolts are the defending champions and have won 17 of their last 18 behind senior two-way standout Clayton Scott. Rancocas Valley has a top two-way player in senior Iverson Clement, who has scored 18 touchdowns. Pick: Millville, 27-24

No. 4 Shawnee (6-3) at No. 1 Moorestown (9-1) in South Jersey Group 4, Friday: The visiting Renegades have won three in a row and shut out Absegami 41-0 in the playoff opener. The return of senior running back/linebacker Ryan Parris from injury has been a big boost for Shawnee. Moorestown escaped a tough challenge from No. 8 Pennsauken in the opener, prevailing, 16-13, on junior Josh Pearcy's late touchdown. Pick: Shawnee, 27-17.

No. 7 Highland (5-4) at No. 6 Hammonton (4-6) in South Jersey Group 4, Friday: Raise your hand if you saw this semifinal coming. Highland stunned No. 2 Burlington Township, 41-0, as senior DaeJuan Sanders ran for 191 yards and two touchdowns and senior Jared Colbert made 12 tackles. Hammonton beat No. 3 Central after entering the playoffs with six losses in the previous seven games. The Blue Devils got touchdown runs from Peyton LeMunyan and Jake Cooper and strong work from its defense, which yielded only a late touchdown. Pick: Highland, 17-14.

No. 4 Salem (7-2) at No. 1 Paulsboro (8-1) in South Jersey Group 1, Saturday: The host Red Raiders are the defending champions and have won two of the last three crowns as well as a South Jersey public school-best 18 since the creation of the playoff system in 1974. This game matches two of South Jersey's top senior running backs in Salem's Zaire Jones, who has 26 touchdowns, and Paulsboro's Dehron Holloway, who has 24. Pick: Paulsboro, 24-20.

No. 3 Gateway (8-1) at No. 2 Penns Grove (8-1) in South Jersey Group 1, Saturday: Something has to given in a clash of the visiting Gators' defense and the Red Devils' offense. Gateway's first-team defense, led by senior linebacker Jared Clayton, has allowed just six touchdowns this season. Penns Grove sometimes scores that much in a half. The Red Devils have averaged 50.8 points in a six-game winning streak behind junior all-purpose Tyreke Brown, who has scored 26 touchdowns. Pick: Penns Grove, 26-22.

No. 7 Cinnaminson (7-2) vs. No. 6 Haddonfield (6-3) in South Jersey Group 2, Saturday at Cherry Hill West: This is a rare 7-6 matchup as both teams sprung upsets in the first round. Junior Rashad Raymond ran for two touchdowns as Cinnaminson beat No. 2 seed Camden 28-12. The red-hot Pirates have beaten No. 1 seed West Deptford and Camden in the last two weeks. Haddonfield entered the playoffs on a three-game losing streak but turned the tables on No. 3 Sterling with a 17-7 victory as senior running back Nick Patrizi scored two touchdowns. Patrizi's uncle Mario is the head coach at Cinnaminson. Pick: Cinnaminson, 20-17.

Last week: 5-2.

Year to date: 50-20.

Championship weekend schedule

At Rowan University

Saturday, Dec. 2

South Jersey Group 3 final, 11 a.m.

South Jersey Group 1 final, 2:30 p.m.

South Jersey Group 5 final, 6 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 3

South Jersey Group 2 final, 11 a.m.

Non-Public 2 state finals, 2:30 p.m.

South Jersey Group 4 final, 6 p.m.