SJ Sports: South Jersey`s Best

SJ Sports: South Jersey`s Best With all the sports, and all the great teams in South Jersey history, it's nearly impossible to pick a list of the best. Different teams playing in different eras are difficult to compare. Arguments could be made for hundreds of teams in a variety of sports, but despite the difficulty of the task, South Jersey SportsClub has ranked the Top 20 teams of the past 25 years.

Not all sports are represented, though all were considered. The only criteria was that the team had to be ranked No. 1 in South Jersey that season in at least one poll. Here is our inaugural list. Let the debates begin.

1. 1980 Gloucester Catholic baseball
Credentials: The Rams went 24-0 in winning the Olympic Conference National title along with the South Jersey and state Parochial B championships. The team benefited when St. Joseph's of Camden closed the previous year. Transferring from St. Joe's was Bob Sebra, who went 10-0 with an 0.60 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 67 innings as a senior. The table-setter on offense was current Gloucester Catholic coach Dennis Barth (left), who was the leadoff batter and centerfielder. The Rams were the first unbeaten South Jersey team since 1958. Barth hit. 483, Yowler batted. 667 and was 8-0 on the mound and Cordner hit .525.
Why this team was selected: Three players, Sebra, John Yowler and Steve Cordner were eventually signed to professional baseball contracts. Sebra pitched in the major leagues, with Montreal and the Phillies among others. The 1980 team romped through its schedule, culminated by a 7-0 win over St. Mary's in the state final. In that game Sebra allowed two hits and struck out 15. This team came right before national rankings became prominent, but thereÕs no doubt that Gloucester Catholic would have been ranked highly.

2. 2001 Eastern Field Hockey
Credentials: Under coach Danyle Heilig, the Vikings capped their third straight unbeaten season by defeating Hunterdon Central, 3-0, in the Group 4 state final. That increased the win streak to 60 and the unbeaten streak to 66. All-American defender Lori Hillman had 22 goals and 21 assists and was the South Jersey player of the year for the second straight season. Two juniors, Shaun Banta and Rachel Dawson were also all-South Jersey players. Banta scored 36 goals and added 13 assists, while Dawson had 13 goals and eight assists. Senior Stephanie Rasicci added 19 goals, while classmate Mary Beth Miller anchored the defense. Goalie Kate Ryno recorded 17 shutouts.
Reason Selected: Eastern (22-0) was ranked No. 1 nationally by at least one publication. The Vikings outscored teams 123-5 and had just one game that was decided by fewer than two goals, a 1-0 victory over Cherokee on a rain-soaked Saturday morning.

3. 2001 Moorestown Lacrosse
Credentials: An argument could also be made for this past year's Moorestown lacrosse team. The 2001 edition won the second of three consecutive state titles. Senior Courtney Legath, who would earn a scholarship to Boston College, had 75 goals and 53 assists for the 23-0 Quakers. Junior Colleen Dalon added 62 goals while Sara Shelley contributed 47 goals and 27 assists. Two all-South Jersey defenders were Kelly Darling and Lisa Riendl. Senior Gen Grossman along with juniors Ally Zeitz, Caitlin Abadin and Kelley Putnam were second-team all-South Jersey performers. Coach Deanna Knobloch expertly guided this talented group.
Reason Selected: Moorestown outscored teams 404-52 and won by an average of 17.56 to 2.2. In the state final, Moorestown beat Shawnee, 12-2 as Zeitz scored five goals. The Quakers earned the No. 1 national ranking by one lacrosse internet web site. The juniors on this team repeated as state champions this past season.

4. 1984 Pennsauken Football
Credentials: The Indians went 11-0 in winning the South Jersey Group 4 championship. Coach Vince McAneney's team featured two future NFL players, defensive lineman Greg Mark and the late David Griggs. Griggs, who was a linebacker in the NFL, also played defensive end and tight end and caught 24 passes for 604 yards and six touchdowns. Mark had 20 catches, but 10 went for touchdowns. The ground game was led by Tim Loper, who gained 142 yards on 19 carries in the 27-0 South Jersey Group 4 title win over Cherokee. Shaun Arline was an excellent change of pace back. Jason Hicks, who went to Miami with Mark, guided the team at quarterback.
Reason Selected: Pennsauken opened the season with two close games, beating Deptford and Cherry Hill East by identical 14-8 scores. After that, the closest margin of victory was 15 points. The Indians outscored teams, 302-77 and were ranked nationally after the Cherokee win.

5. 1988 Shawnee Boys' Soccer
Credentials: The Renegades went 25-0-1 and won their first state Group 4 championship. The lone tie was a 1-1 draw with the Navy freshmen. Entering the season Shawnee was expected to be strong and the Renegades received a major boost with the transfer from Holy Cross of senior midfielder Jeff Zaun, who would score 37 goals and be the consensus South Jersey player of the year. Pete Schneiders led the team with 42 goals. Shawnee showed its dominance by beating Cumberland, 8-1, in the South Jersey Group 4 final. The Renegades clinched the state title by beating Columbia on Tim Bourdon's eighth goal of the season.
Reason Selected: Shawnee's state title win came over a Columbia team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time. Plus the fact that Shawnee was not challenged very often while playing a difficult schedule, makes this team the best ever in boys' soccer.

6. 1981 Camden Boys' Basketball
Credentials: This is one of the few non-state champions on the list, but many feel it was the best ever team in South Jersey. Coach Clarence Turner's Panthers were 27-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country according to Basketball Weekly before losing to unbeaten Neptune, 85-65 in the state Group 4 semifinals at Princeton. Camden was led by arguably the best duo in South Jersey history, 6-5 senior Milt Wagner (33.5 ppg.) and 6-8 junior Billy Thompson (23.1 ppg., 14 rebounds per game). The other starters were 6-6 senior David Kelly, 6-5 senior Gary Ware and senior point guard Keith Williamson. Kevin Walls, who would become a future high school all-American, was sixth man.
Reason Selected: The Panthers were not tested before losing to Neptune. They won the Seagull Classic when Wagner scored 52 points in the championship win over DeMatha. One bad night against a Neptune team that didn't lose that season, wasn't enough to omit the Panthers from the list.

7. 1991-92 Shawnee Boys' Basketball
Credentials: The Renegades finished 32-1 and became the first team from the seven-county South Jersey area to win the Tournament of Champions since its inception in 1989. Their only loss was to eventual Group 1 state champion Burlington Township, and the Renegades reversed that in the T of C semifinals. In the South Jersey Group 4 championship game, Shawnee won a critical, 82-80, overtime decision at previously undefeated Atlantic City. The Renegades were led by the all-South Jersey combination of 6-3 junior Dan Earl (19.6 ppg. and 9.2 rebounds per game) and 6-9 Kirk Luchman (15 ppg., 10 rebounds.
Reason Selected: Besides being nationally ranked after beating Marist, 46-41 in the TOC final, this team had three future Division I basketball players. Dan Earl starred at Penn State. Luchman enjoyed a solid career at Florida State and Brian Earl, who was a freshman on the 1992 team, was eventually the Ivy League Player of the Year at Princeton. Corey Green, who earned a football scholarship to Temple, was a rugged rebounder for coach Joe Kessler's squad.

8. 1994 Moorestown Girls' Tennis
Credentials: The Quakers went 33-0, won their fourth consecutive Group 2 state title and ended No. 1 in the state after beating Group 3 state champion Ramapo for the Meet of Champions title. No. 1 singles player Kris Sell finished 34-5. No. 2 Sarah Lodewick went 35-3 and No. 3 singles player Jen Canuso was 37-1. The No. 1 doubles team of Mindi Cutler and Paige Deblitz went 34-0. Playing at No. 2 doubles was Carla Ricobono and Cara Crosetto. Veteran coach Bill Kingston guided what could have been the best in a long line of powerhouses at Moorestown.
Reason Selected: The Quakers were not challenged the entire season. They capped their year in a decisive manner, beating Ramapo, 5-0, to win the Tournament of Champions title.

9. 1981 Pennsville Baseball
Credentials: Coach Ed Rieger's Eagles went 25-0 and are the last South Jersey baseball team to finish unbeaten. Ron "Boo" Bennett was 13-0 with an 0.33 ERA. The Eagles beat Saddle Brook, 5-0, in the state Group 2 championship. Other top hitters included Lou Berge (.486), Mike Lloyd (.500) and Lex Bleckley (.543). The key win was a 1-0 state semifinal victory over Ridge. Bennett outdueled Brad Powell, who was considered the best pitcher in the state. In addition, Bennett got the RBI on a suicide squeeze, scoring Bleckley.
Reason Selected: Led by Bennett, Pennsville was dominant on the mound, with 16 shutouts. Seven players hit .388 or better. This team could beat opponents in a variety of ways.

10. 2000 Gloucester Catholic Baseball
Credentials: The Rams went 33-1 and were ranked No. 1 nationally in four different polls at the end of the year. The lone loss was a 3-2 defeat to Steinert, which scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Rams won the Diamond Classic and beat Seton Hall Prep, 13-4 in the state Parochial A final. The staff was led by Greg Burke (8-1, 1.05 ERA), Mark Michael (8-0, 1.84), and Josh Copskey (8-0, 2.13). Michael (.500), catcher Mike Rucci (.477, 60 RBIs) and second baseman Anthony Aquilino (.483) joined Burke as all-South Jersey selections.
Reason Selected: Eight seniors from the team received Division I scholarships. Being No. 1 in four different national polls shows that the Rams made a big impression on others outside of South Jersey.

11. 1992 Cherry Hill West Baseball
Credentials: West (27-3) became the first team in state history to win four consecutive state titles. Under coach Tom Trotman, the Lions blasted Elizabeth, 14-0, in the state Group 4 final after beating Edison, 5-0 in the state semifinal. The most difficult postseason game was a 1-0 victory over rival Cherry Hill East in the South Jersey Group 4 final. Bo Gray got the win and outfielder Walt Clymer knocked in the only run with an RBI single. Centerfielder Tom Bianco saved two runs with a spectacular catch of Steve Young's line drive in the sixth inning. Gray went 14-0, while righthander Chris Querns was 7-2 with a 1.40 ERA. Clymer earned all-South Jersey honors after batting .364 with 22 RBIs and committing non errors. Bianco batted .318. Catcher Dan Farling hit .440.
Reason Selected: West finished No. 2 in the nation according to USA Today and No. 1 in Collegiate Baseball's final ranking. They also won the Upper Deck Classic in California, which consisted of some of the top teams in the country. Gray finished a remarkable 30-0 in his career and anytime he was on the mound, West felt it could compete with any team in the country.

12. 1998 Gloucester Catholic Girls' Soccer
Credentials: The Rams went 25-0, won the Tri-Co Classic, beat Shawnee 3-2 in overtime to win the South Jersey Coaches Tournament title and defeated Mendham, 2-1 in overtime to earn the state Group 2 championship. Three juniors were first-team all-South Jersey performers, sweeper Maureen Tohidi, forward Kris Quinn (22 goals, 22 assists) and midfielder Robyn Benson (23 goals, 27 assists). Freshman Lindsey Finnegan, a second-team all-South Jersey selection, had 26 goals and 32 assists. Goalie Alecia Kornicki recorded 14 shutouts. The only senior starter on this young team was midfielder Katie Mullen.
Reason Selected: The Rams outscored opponents, 116-13 and were 6-0 against teams that finished in the final Philadelphia Inquirer Top 10. They also had the ability to win the close games, evidenced by their 3-0 record in overtime contests.

13. 1980 Paulsboro Wrestling
Credentials: Picking a best ever Paulsboro wrestling team is like selecting the best ever Miss Universe. They all seem terrific. This team finished 19-0, won the Edgewood Tournament, the Colonial Conference title, the District 29 championship and the South Jersey Group 1 crown. (State team championships in wrestling didn't begin until 1982). This was also in the middle of the team's still state record 96-match win streak. Joe Duca (122 pounds) and Bill Hinman (170) finished second in the state. Nick Burzichelli (129) was third in the state and Doug Baylor (188) was fourth.
Reason Selected: Paulsboro finished No. 1 in the state and scored a decisive dual meet win over Pemberton, which finished No. 2 in South Jersey. The team also had seven individual District 29 champs in what was among the toughest districts in the state. Besides the above mentioned four, the other District champs were Wayne Haddock (108), Tony Gentile (135) and heavyweight Mike Garvin. Two others were district runner-ups when they were only 12 weight classes. Duca, Gentile, Hinman and Baylor were all Region 8 champions.

14. 1979 Gloucester Catholic Girls' Basketball
Credentials: The Rams went 28-1 and won their fourth state Group 1 championship. The only loss was to Paramuc Catholic, which had 6-8 all-American Anne Donovan. The leading scorers were Reenie Mahon (23.6 ppg.); Theresa McGlade (14 ppg.) and Annette Angelotti (13 ppg.). The other starters were Lori DiPilla and Mary Beth Shikitano. Coached by Tom Inzillo, the team was so strong that senior Katie McPeak, who came off the bench, earned a basketball scholarship to St. Joseph's. Trish McNutt, who was a freshman and a future all-South Jersey point guard, was a JV starter and deep varsity reserve.
Reason Selected: In their four playoff games, the Rams won by an average margin of 24.5 points, culminating with a 77-46 win over Eastern Christian in the Group 1 state final.

15. 1991 Shawnee Field Hockey
Credentials: The Renegades went 24-0 and won their fourth consecutive state Group 4 field hockey title. Coached by Bobbie Schultz, Shawnee extended its winning streak to 58 games and its unbeaten string to 81 games. Lori Vile and Jodie Taylor had 29 and 16 goals respectively. To show how strong the team was, both players were shut out in the Group 4 state final, but Shawnee won 3-0 over Morristown. Tamar Gehris scored twice, giving her 12 for the year and Megan Skahan scored her eighth goal of the season. Other key performers included all-South Jersey link Kim Yeager and halfback Beth Crafshun.
Reason Selected: The Renegades were rarely challenged that season, evidenced by their easy win over Morristown in the Group 4 state final.

16. 1984 Edgewood Boys' Track
Credentials: Coach Russ Bates' team won the Olympic National, South Jersey Group 4 and state Group 4 titles for the second consecutive year. The leader was future Olympic gold medal winner Dennis Mitchell, who won Group 4 state titles in the 100, 200 and 400 meters for the second consecutive season. He was also part of a 1,600 meter relay team that set an East Coast scholastic record in a time of 3:11.2 during the Delaware Valley Meet of Champions at Franklin Field. The rest of the quartet consisted of Chris Bennett, Keith Gloster and Brian Bennett. Edgewood's Damon Julian won the Meet of Champions High jump with a leap of 6-8. Mitchell won the Meet of Champions 400 meter race in a record time of 46.5 seconds.
Reason Selected: For the second straight year, Edgewood was dominant and either the '83 or '84 team could be mentioned. Mitchell was the catalyst, but this was obviously a deep squad that was devastating in sprints, but could also score in field events.

17. 1988 Cherry Hill East Football
Credentials: This was a golden year in football, when four South Jersey teams, East, Holy Spirit, Buena and Woodbury, all finished undefeated. East finished No. 1 in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Holy Spirit was No. 1 in the Courier Post. Glenn Foley passed for 2,187 yards and 25 touchdowns, which were both South Jersey records at the time. Steve Lobel caught 63 passes for 932 yards and 19 touchdowns. Brian Kurlej, who would earn a scholarship to Penn State, rushed for 238 yards on 25 carries and scored five touchdowns in the Cougars' 36-14 win over Brick Township during the South Jersey Group 4 final. That earned coach Bo Wood his 100th career win. Tight end-defensive end Ted Page, who would join Foley at Boston College, and two-way tackle, Ed Regan, would earn a scholarship to Maryland, were other key members. The closest game was a 28-27 win over Pennsauken in a game Kurlej missed with an elbow injury and his backup Steve Lang suffered a double fracture in his right leg.
Reason Selected: This high-flying offense outscored teams 401-100 and could hurt teams just as much with the pass and the run. Foley was one of the best quarterbacks in South Jersey history. With the ability to pass or run, this team could have competed favorably in any era.

18. 1981 Paul VI Football
Credentials: The Eagles went undefeated, going 10-0, en route to winning the South Jersey Parochial A title, as well as the now-defunct South Jersey North title. Coach Dave Capozzi's Eagles, behind the late Tim Curry at quarterback, Willie Fussell and Bernie Colachico in the backfield, and a defense led by linemen Joe McGrail and Bill Gans and linebacker Curt Tegeler dominated teams, shutting out their first seven opponents. Curry, McGrail and Tegeler were all-South Jersey selections. Curry rushed for 867 yards and completed 29 of 59 passes for 681 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tegeler recorded seven interceptions and was the Eagles' leading tackler and McGrail was described by Capozzi as "the most consistent lineman I've had in my first 14 years."
Reason Selected: The Eagles outscored teams 285-22 and was involved in only two close games, 6-0 wins over Cumberland and Woodrow Wilson. Paul VI beat St. John Vianney, 25-12 to win the South Jersey Parochial A title and also captured the powerful South Jersey North title.

19. 2001 Sterling Girls' Basketball
Credentials: The Silver Knights became the first team from the seven-county South Jersey area to win the Tournament of Champions title since its inception in 1989. The Silver Knights beat top seeded Red Bank Catholic, 70-60 in a TOC semifinal behind 35 points from 6-1 senior Jessica Copskey. During a 48-40 win over Group 4 state champion Columbia in the TOC final, Copskey had 34 points and 6-0 senior Kanesha Wright added nine points and 13 rebounds. Copskey averaged 31.4 points and 9.9 rebounds, while Wright averaged 13.3 points and 11 rebounds. Selfless point guard Sam Savage averaged nearly 10 assists. The other starters were seniors Lauren Armbruster and Chantel Cook. Sophomore Alima Williams was a key reserve. The team had two head coaches, Bill Ulrich, who missed 15 games following heart surgery and Jackie Donovan, who was interim coach in Ulrich's absence. When Ulrich returned for the playoffs, they were co-coaches.
Reason Selected: To become the first South Jersey team to win a TOC title, especially while being the No. 4 seed and having to play three games, was an impressive achievement. The lone loss was a 67-56 defeat to nationally ranked Cardinal O'Hara, the Philadelphia Catholic League champion.

20. 1984 Paul VI Boys' Cross Country
Credentials: The Eagles' squad, under then fifth-year coach Mike Glavin, ran the table in the competitive Olympic Conference, going 18-0 in dual meets. The Eagles won the Textile Invitational, the Division A race at the Shore Coaches Invitational, the Division A title at the South Jersey Open, the Camden County Division I title, the Knights of Columbus title, the Division A Race at the Eastern States race in New York, the Parochial A state title and the Meet of Champions title. The Eagles were led by South Jersey co-runner of the year Ron Faith, and All-South Jersey selections George Steinhoff, Chris Hageman and Tom Metzger.
Reason Selected: Despite the fact that South Jersey SportsClub editor Sean Fallon was the seventh man on this team, we decided to overlook our personal biases and keep Paul VI in the Top 20. Arguments can be made for the 2001 Haddonfield squad and the 1988 Paul VI team, but the 1984 Paul VI should be recognized because it was the first South Jersey team to win both the Eastern States title and the Meet of Champions in the same year. This squad helped give South Jersey programs recognition from other parts of the state.

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Author: SJ Sports Club-Sean Fallon & Marc Narducci

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