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SJ Sports: Colonial Football Preview

SJ Sports: Colonial Football Preview
The race for the Colonial Conference football title should feature some familiar faces in both the Liberty and Patriot Divisions. This is the second year that the 11-team conference has split into two divisions after Lindenwold joined the conference in 2001.

The Patriot Division, consisting of the smaller enrollment schools, actually has the more high profile teams, simply because of the presence of Paulsboro. The Red Raiders have currently won 23 in a row and this proud football program is no stranger to long streaks. Paulsboro owns the state record of 63 consecutive wins, which was snapped in 1998 by Woodbury.

It’s ironic that Woodbury snapped the streak because over the years, the Thundering Herd have been Paulsboro’s top tormentor.

Last year for instance, Paulsboro needed a late-game comeback to send its Group 1 playoff game with Woodbury in overtime. Paulsboro then defeated the Herd, 26-20.

This season Woodbury will again be Paulsboro’s main challenger not only in the Colonial Patriot race, but in Group 1 as well.

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Paulsboro coach Glenn Howard, who has guided the school to eight South Jersey Group 1 titles, feels his team lost too much to graduation to be considered the favorite. That may be true for most teams, but Paulsboro has the conference’s best player in Isaac Redman, who rushed for 1,445 yards and 25 touchdowns, while also playing much of the year on a bum ankle. Redman is healthy and could surpass 2,000 yards. Teammate Zach Garren is among the best linebackers in South Jersey, while senior defensive lineman Matt Petrutz was a second-team all-Colonial choice after registering six sacks.

Woodbury went 7-4 last year and has one of the top playmakers in the conference in senior quarterback Melvin Rivera. First-year coach Zach Valentine, the former linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelrs and the Eagles, will rely heavily on junior fullback-linebacker Chris Pressley. At 6-foot-1 and 233 pounds, Pressley is difficult to tackle once he gains some steam. Senior Desmond Simmons (6-1, 270) was a first-team all-Colonial defensive lineman and is also a punishing blocker.

Maybe the most interesting team is Lindenwold, which went 4-6 in its first season last year. Coach Derryk Sellers feels his team can earn a Group 1 playoff berth and there’s reason for his optimism. The school didn’t have a senior class last year, so everybody’s back. Senior Blake Burr rushed for 1,096 yards and five touchdowns, while classmate Maurice Cantey contributed 16 sacks.

Haddon Heights looks to reach the .500 level. The Garnets were 6-4 last year, but lost many players who either transferred or graduated. Gateway, under new coach Mark Deal looks to improve on last year’s 2-8 record.

In the big-school Liberty Division last year, Sterling, West Deptford and Haddonfield finished tied for first. This season, Sterling is clearly the favorite. The Silver Knights return the division’s best backfield, led by quarterback Marcus Hammond and running backs Mario Marchione and Ken Parker. Fullback-defensive end Craig Johnson and two-way tackle Blayne Brook were first-team all-Colonial selections.

West Deptford, which won its own summer 7-on-7 passing league title, has senior quarterback Kyle Mancuso leading. First-team all-conference tight end Justin O’Neill, is among the best in South Jersey. Sophomore place kicker Jake Brownell, has one of the strongest legs in South Jersey.

The difference between Sterling and West Deptford is that Sterling has a much more experienced team.

Haddonfield, which was 8-3, will be competitive, but first-year coach Frank DeLano must replace 17 starters. Junior Kyle Turner could emerge as one of the better quarterbacks in the conference.

Collingswood (2-8) and Audubon (5-5) have the potential to field winning teams. Audubon senior Joe Flacco is considered one of the best quarterbacks in South Jersey, but developing a receiving corps will be the key. Haddon Township (1-9) has a young team that is probably a year away from thinking about a .500 season.

For more Local Sports features, visit our Sports page.


Author: Marc Narducci

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