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Breaking down every South Jersey football playoff game

Top seeds Williamstown, Millville, Burlington Twp., Haddonfield, Penns Grove, Pleasantville and St. Joseph will host second-round games as teams move closer to championship finals.

J.C. Collins (No. 7) and Williamstown are top seeds in South Jersey Group 5.
J.C. Collins (No. 7) and Williamstown are top seeds in South Jersey Group 5.Read moreAkira Suwa/For the Inquirer

Two things so far about the state tournament in football:

One, maybe the new seeding system isn't so bad after all. The first round was almost all chalk.

In South 5, the four remaining seeds are Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4. In South 4, they are 1, 2, 3 and 4. In South 3, they are 1, 2, 3, and 5. In South 2, they are 1, 2, 3 and 4. In South 1, they are 1, 2, 3 and 4.

And in Non-Public 2, the only non-public group to go by the United Power Ranking numbers and not a seeding system, the four remaining seeds are 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Which brings us to our second point, namely: The second round is usually where all the action is.

Here goes for what often is the most entertaining weekend of the season:

South 5

Vineland (4-5) at Williamstown (10-0), Friday at 7: This is a rematch of the Aug. 31 opener, won by the visiting Braves, 24-7.

Williamstown has put together a perfect season thanks in large part to the Braves' overall team speed, which might be tops in South Jersey. In another imposing win over Washington Twp. on Saturday night, senior quarterback J.C. Collins ran for three touchdowns and the defense was shut-down good again.

Vineland on Friday night notched the first playoff victory in program history, beating Toms River North, 33-0. The Clan are battle-tested and better than their record. They've won two in a row by a combined 64-7, and their five losses were all to Top 25 teams.

Lenape (5-4) at Rancocas Valley (7-2), Friday at 7: This is the fourth time these teams will have met in the last 13 months, and the previous three games were each decided by three points: 10-7 and 19-16 in favor of Rancocas Valley and 10-7 in favor of Lenape.

The 19-16 Rancocas Valley win was on Oct. 20. It's fresh in everybody's mind. The 10-7 Lenape win was in the 2017 South Jersey Group 5 final. Ditto.

This time, the teams are meeting in the sectional semifinals, but expect another fierce, physical battle. Lenape is coming off a 3-0 win over Kingsway, thanks to a terrific defensive performance featuring strong work by senior linebacker Ryan Erlanger and a 48-yard field goal by Steve Mulville.

Rancocas Valley remembers Mulville. He made a 33-yarder with 0:05 on the clock to win last year's sectional final at Rowan University.

Rancocas Valley is coming off a thrilling OT win over Eastern. The Red Devils rallied from a 15-0 halftime deficit behind senior quarterback Byrce Mangene and senior wideout Danny Kondras, who combined for two scoring passes.

South 4

Shawnee (3-6) at Millville (6-3), Friday at 7: Shawnee is the defending sectional champion, but the Renegades are road underdogs in this game.

Shawnee snapped a four-game losing streak with an impressive win over Mainland in the playoff opener as quarterback Matt Wesley was 11-for-15 passing for 118 yards and Joe Dalsey, the former signal-caller who has moved to running back, generated 178 rushing yards.

Millville has won six in a row since an 0-3 start. The Thunderbolts rallied in the second half to beat Winslow Twp. in the playoff opener as Tex Thompson ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns.

Clearview (6-2) at Highland (8-1), Saturday at 5: This is a rematch of the Sept. 8 game won, 14-6, by the Tartans. This could be another tight, defensive battle with history at stake for Highland: The host team is trying to make the sectional finals for the first time.

The visiting Pioneers have won four in a row, including a 23-7 victory over Hammonton in a first-round clash Friday night. That marked the program's second postseason victory, first at home and first since 1986, when Clearview was a Group 2 school.

Highland has been rolling all season behind sophomore running back Johnny Martin and a strong defense. The Tartans' lone loss was by 14-13 to undefeated Burlington Twp.

In Friday night's win over Ocean City, Martin ran for 319 yards and two touchdowns.

South 3

Woodrow Wilson (7-2) at Delsea (6-3), Friday at 7: This might be the Game of the Week. This will mark the fourth time these teams have met in the last 13 months, with the Crusaders winning the previous three.

That included a 56-14 victory at Mike Rozier Stadium on Oct. 13 that changed the trajectory of both teams' seasons. Up until that stunning afternoon in East Camden, the Tigers looked like the prohibitive favorite in this group and the Crusaders looked like a young, inexperienced, wait-till-next-year kind of squad.

The Tigers and Crusaders also met in the South Jersey Group 3 final last season, with Delsea scoring a 29-28 victory at Rowan University.

"I wouldn't call it a rivalry because we haven't beaten them," Woodrow Wilson quarterback Nick Kargman said.

Kargman passed for 272 yards and two touchdowns and Stanley King caught six passes for 165 yards and a score as Woodrow Wilson snapped a two-game winning streak with a 41-6 win over Triton in Saturday's postseason opener.

Delsea has won five in a row since a 1-3 start, a familiar scenario for the Crusaders, who always seem to get stronger as the season gets longer. Senior linebacker/running back Keison Fowler has led the way for Delsea, which is coming off a dominant defensive performance in a 20-0 win over Deptford on Friday night as the visiting Spartans didn't manage a first down until the fourth quarter.

Timber Creek (4-5) at Burlington Twp. (9-0), Saturday at 7: The visiting Chargers have won two in a row and are a dangerous No. 5 seed.

Timber Creek beat No. 4 Wall, 33-28, Friday (the lone "upset" among the five South Jersey public groups in the first round) as Jayvin Little caught a pair of touchdown passes and Vance Carr rushed for 81 yards. Playoff success is nothing new for the Chargers, who made six straight sectional finals from 2011-16, winning four crowns.

Burlington Twp. put 68 on the board Saturday night in a first-round win over Oakcrest. Versatile senior Omar Rogers scored on a pick-six and a kickoff return and also threw a touchdown pass, and Isaiah Pae caught a pair of touchdown passes, giving him 11 this season.

South 2

Pleasantville (7-2) at Haddonfield (9-0), Friday at 7: This is a rematch of an Aug. 31 opener, won by the visiting Bulldawgs, 20-7.

Pleasantville played Haddonfield evenly in the second half that summer night, which should give the Greyhounds some confidence when they visit the top seed on their home turf. Pleasantville is coming off an impressive win over Cedar Creek in the playoff opener, the program's first postseason victory since 2003, per research by South Jersey sports historian Chuck Langerman.

Haddonfield has rolled through a perfect season. Jay Foley threw four more touchdown passes in Friday night's playoff opener vs. Sterling, with fellow senior Davis Smith grabbing a pair of scoring tosses.

West Deptford (7-2) at Camden (8-1), Saturday at 3: This is another strong candidate for Game of the Week. These teams have never played in a varsity game, although they met three years ago in a freshman game when the current seniors were in the ninth grade.

The visiting Eagles have won four in a row since a 27-21 loss to No. 1 Haddonfield and have a rich recent history of playoff success. Their Wing-T offense, with its counters, traps and misdirection, can be tricky for teams that don't often see that kind of attack.

West Deptford beat Barnegat, 53-7, Friday as senior Kenny Lim scored four touchdowns. The Eagles are averaging 43.5 points in their four-game winning streak.

That means something has to give in this game because Camden's defense has been nothing short of sensational. The Panthers have allowed just 27 points in an eight-game winning streak (3.4 points per game), with four shutouts in the last five games.

Junior linebacker Tirek Austin-Cave, who has a Baylor offer, leads Camden's defense along with cornerback Donald Williams and tackle Tidaine Bamba.

South 1

Gateway (8-0) at Salem (7-2), Saturday at 1: The visiting Gators are trying to make a sectional final for the first time in program history.

Gateway won a playoff game for just the second time Friday (last year was the first), as Laqwan Sims scored two touchdowns in a shutout of Schalick. The Gators have allowed just 53 points all season, with senior end Pat Hayden and senior back Enrique Marquez sparking the defense.

Salem has won seven of eight, with the lone loss a 26-20 setback to undefeated top seed Penns Grove. Senior all-purpose standout Jamael Bundy leads the Rams, who are trying to reach the finals for the third time in five seasons.

Junior defensive end Josh Johnson, who has a Baylor offer, is another player to watch for Salem. He had 10 tackles and two sacks in a victory over Overbrook.

Buena (9-0) at Penns Grove (10-0), Saturday at noon: This game matches two of South Jersey's six remaining unbeaten teams.

The visiting Chiefs are coming off a playoff-opening win over Glassboro as Jaren Roberts ran for three touchdowns.

Penns Grove has been the team to beat in South 1 since Day 1. The Red Devils are led by senior all-purpiose Tyreke Brown, a Sacred Heart recruit who is the first player in South Jersey history with more than 2,000 career rushing yards and 2,000 career receiving yards, per Langerman's research.

Central 2

Cinnaminson (7-2) at Manasquan (7-1), Saturday at 1: The visiting Pirates have won four in a row, including a dramatic 7-0 victory over Shore in the rain Friday night as Shawn Ruffin hit Carmen Saginario with a touchdown pass with 0:01 on the clock.

Manasquan's lone loss came against Non-Public 3 power Mater Dei. The Warriors beat Delaware Valley, 40-21, in their playoff opener Saturday.

Central 1

Florence (6-3) at Willingboro (5-4), Friday at 7: The visiting Flashes have won three in a row, including a 21-14 overtime victory over defending champion Middlesex in the playoff opener.

Running back Jujuan Hays is a player to watch for Florence, which has made six appearances in the Central 1 finals since 2003, winning five titles (the last in 2012).

Willingboro is a stranger to Central Jersey 1. The Chimeras have played a schedule filled with Group 2 and Group 3 programs. They are coming off a 54-7 win over Keyport in the playoff opener, their first game against a Group 1 opponent this season, as Nasir Murray scored three touchdowns.

Willingboro is trying to reach the sectional finals for the first time since 1985, when the Chimeras won the South Jersey Group 3 crown. The program also made the S.J. 3 final in 1984 and the S.J. 4 final in 1983 and 1980.

Asbury Park (4-4) at Paulsboro (7-2), Saturday at 1: The visiting Bishops are a surprise No. 6 seed coming off a 27-0 upset of No. 3 Woodbury.

Paulsboro, which won the South Jersey Group 1 title in 2017, rolled past Maple Shade in the first round as sophomore Byshul Tuten ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns.

Non-Public 4

St. Augustine (7-3) at St. Joseph Montvale (7-2), Saturday at 1: This is a tough duty for the visiting Hermits, with a long road trip to face a well-rested North Jersey superpower.

St. Joseph of Montvale has lost to American Heritage of Florida by 20-17 in the Sept. 1 opener and to Bergen Catholic by 24-20. The Green Knights have won three in a row, including victories over fellow power programs Don Bosco Prep and St. Peter's Prep.

St. Joseph, which is tops in the state with a 112.2 ranking in the Born Power Index, also is coming off a first-round bye.

St. Augustine scored a playoff win with a 41-7 triumph over Notre Dame on Friday night as senior Jaylen DeCoteau scored on a fumble return and interception return. Isaiah Raikes also ran for two touchdowns.

Non-Public 2

Hudson Catholic (6-4) at Holy Spirit (6-3), Friday at 7: The host Spartans are trying to return to the Non-Public 2 final for the fourth time since 2013 and likely earn a rematch with rival St. Joseph of Hammonton.

Holy Spirit opened the playoffs with a 61-8 win over Morris Catholic as Ahmad Brown and Tommy Finan returned interceptions for touchdowns.

Hudson Catholic beat Gloucester Catholic, 42-0, in its playoff opener. By way of comparative scores, the Hawks beat Morris Catholic, 52-14, earlier this season.

Immaculata (5-4) at St. Joseph (8-2), Saturday at 1: The host Wildcats are seeking their ninth state title in the last 10 seasons.

This has been a tumultuous year for South Jersey's most decorated program, but the Wildcats seem to have found their footing with three straight victories after some midseason struggles.

St. Joseph is coming off a 56-6 win over Immaculate Conception in the playoff opener. Junior Jada Byers scored six touchdowns for the Wildcats, all in the first half. Byers leads South Jersey with 29 touchdowns.