South Jersey was in preparation mode this weekend.
Six of the 10 teams in these rankings had byes heading into next week’s playoffs.
It put a bigger spotlight on some of the marquee matchups that did occur, namely St. Augustine vs. Holy Spirit.
In a 35-21 win, St. Augustine gave closing arguments for an easy case: The Hermits are the area’s No. 1 team.
They were No. 1 in these rankings to start the season, and the top spot never felt like it was in jeopardy.
Of course, on the flip side of this, it’s hard not to feel for a Holy Spirit team that continues to run into top teams that also happen to be on hot streaks.
The Spartans have lost four straight, and yet, it still feels like they’re ready for a big postseason run.
There’s still times for Holy Spirit to salvage this season. The team is battle-test. And like most area teams, stringing together a few wins over the next weeks can go a long way in washing out any bad taste the regular season may have imparted.
1. St. Augustine 8-1 (1)
The Hermits capped a stellar regular season with a convincing 35-21 win over Holy Spirit on Friday night. St. Augustine built a 28-14 halftime lead thanks to the play of Nasir Hill. The senior took an interception 45-yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, and hauled in touchdown reception of 21 and 7 yards in the second quarter. The Hermits enter the postseason riding an eight-game winning streak.
2. Cedar Creek 9-0 (2)
Cedar Creek rested this week after capping an undefeated regular season. The Pirates enter the postseason led by one of the top defense’s in recent South Jersey memory. The team opened the season with four consecutive shutouts and only Winslow managed to put up double-digit points against Cedar Creek this season.
3. Millville 7-1 (3)
After a bye this week, Millville will enter the playoffs on a three-game winning streak in which the team has outscored opponents 141-21. The only team that Millville didn’t seemingly brush aside this season was St. Augustine, which handed the Thunderbolts its lone defeat. Running back LeQuint Allen looked unstoppable for most of the regular season. He’s rushed for more than 1,200 yards in eight games, including 501 yards and six touchdowns over the team’s past three wins.
4. Winslow 6-2 (4)
Winslow rested up for the playoffs this week and likely reflected a bit on a fairly historic regular season. The team has as much athleticism as any Winslow team in recent memory, including the electric play of quarterback Hamas Duren. The senior has thrown for 1,836 yards and 28 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
5. Woodrow Wilson 5-2 (5)
Woodrow Wilson was off this week, providing some needed rest heading into the playoffs. The Tigers enter the postseason as one of South Jersey’s most complete and most dangerous teams. Quarterback Devin Kargman is always is one of the best field generals in the state and running back Naz’sir Olgesby has rushed for 492 yards and five touchdowns over the team’s current three-game winning streak.
6. Cherokee 5-2 (6)
A scorching hot Cherokee team had a bye this week entering the playoffs. Cherokee enters the postseason having won four straight games, helping to put back-to-back early season losses well in the rearview mirror. It will be interesting to see if running back Brandon Boria, who is averaging 264 rushing yard per game during Cherokee’s winning streak, can keep his momentum going in the postseason.
7. St. Joseph 7-2 (8)
St. Joseph was another area team with a scheduled bye heading into the playoffs. But, like, most of these teams, the Wildcats have to be satisfied with where they’re at heading into the postseason. Senior quarterback Ja’son Prevard has thrown 12 touchdowns to just one interception over his team’s five-game winning streak.
8. Shawnee 4-3 (9)
Shawnee erased a two-game losing streak this weekend with a 35-0 shutout of Northern Burlington. Matt Welsey was 11 of 18 passing for 278 yards and four touchdowns in the win, helping to ensure Shawnee enters the postseason on the right foot.
9. Delsea 9-0 (10)
Delsea ended its regular season the way it started: With a 42-14 win. In fact, the Crusaders 42-14 win over Steinert on Friday night was the team’s third 42-14 win this season, including last week’s win over Mainland and a 42-14 win over Delran on opening day. Delsea has breezed through its regular season, but tougher tests should be coming up.
10. Holy Spirit 3-5 (7)
A loss to St. Augustine in its final regular season game – the team’s fourth consecutive loss – was yet another point of frustration for a team with sky-high hopes entering this season. There is a bright side here. Each of Holy Spirit’s losses in this span – Cedar Creek, Woodrow Wilson, Winslow and St. Augustine – were to a team that appears in the top-5 in these rankings. Holy Spirit still has elite talent, and a history of winning big football games. There’s still hope that the team pulls it together in the playoffs.
For any comments or questions about these rankings – or if you have an area high school sports story you think needs to be told, contact Chris Melchiorre at CMelchiorre11@yahoo.com.