Some opening questions for the South Jersey Football Season

by Marc Narducci | Aug 9, 2021
Some opening questions for the South Jersey Football Season

 Football practice began Monday, Aug. 9 for NJSIAA schools, with some teams beginning their season as early as Aug. 27.

Here are some questions entering the season...

Can Holy Spirit repeat as the No. 1 team?

Last year the Spartans were the consensus No. 1 team, going 8-0. Even though there wasn’t a playoff, teams were allowed two postseason games and the West Jersey Football League did a good job of matching teams by strength.

The Spartans were in the A pod, and beat Winslow Township, 34-0 and then Lenape, 21-7. It was a rare time when No. 1 in South Jersey was decided on the field.

The key this year for AJ Russo’s team is who do they replace running back Patrick Smith. Now at Vanderbilt, Smith rushed for 1,719 yards (7.7 avg.) and 16 touchdowns. That is insane production for eight games.

This year the Spartans will be more of a run by committee team, but the passing game could be even better with the return of QB Trevor Cohen who threw for 662 yards and 7 Tds. Senior wide out Elijah Steward had 24 receptions for 293 yards and 4 touchdowns.

The defense should be strong, led by linebacker Michael Francisco. This might not be an undefeated team, but it will be able to compete favorably with any in South Jersey.

Give me an under the radar player

How about Woodbury junior Derron Moore, a 6-0, 200-pound running back-linebacker. Many players from small enrollment schools like Woodbury (Group 1) often get overlooked. Moore has both speed and power and plays for a team that specializes in running the ball. There will be many players who fit this under the radar category.

Who could be the most improved team?

Our answer is definitely Shawnee. The Renegades were 1-6, but four of the losses were by a touchdown or less. Senior Matt Welsey enters his fourth season as a starter and he guided the Renegades to consecutive SJ Group 4 titles his first two seasons. Last season he threw for 1,271 yards and 14 Tds. Junior linebacker Josh Peluse had a team high 72 tackles.

This is an experienced group and Tim Gushue is among the top coaches in South Jersey history. Of course, Shawnee has a brutal schedule, while competing in the WJFL American Division, but the Renegades should be a factor in the division race and a team to watch out in SJ Group 4.

What is the best small-school division?

How about the WJFL Diamond. Last year Paulsboro was 7-0, Salem 6-1 and Penns Grove 6-3. All three should battle one another not only for the division but in SJ Group 1. The other three division teams – Buena, Woodstown and Gateway should be competitive programs. All the schools are Group 1 and this is an extremely strong division.

 

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Author: Marc Narducci

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