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High School Football:
Public School Playoff Preview

Tuesday, November 7, 2000

By Ed Benkin
SJSports Staff Writer

After two exciting months of football in South Jersey, the playoffs have finally arrived. Here is a look at how each public school group sizes up along with the first round match-ups.

Group 4
(8) Toms River North at (1) Jackson
(7) Shawnee at (2) Cherokee
(6) Washington Township at (3) Lenape
(5) Brick Township at (4) Toms River East

Jackson is the only unbeaten team in Group 4, but this is the most wide-open group in the region. All eight teams have a legitimate chance of winning the title. All four opening round games are rematches from earlier in the season. The Jaguars are powered by a dominating defense and a strong ground game, while senior Jay Gold leads the Toms River North rushing attack. The Mariners lost to the Jaguars, 25-14, in the second week of the season. Cherokee and Shawnee were involved in one of the most exciting games in South Jersey this fall when the Chiefs defeated the Renegades, 21-20. Shawnee is strong on both sides of the ball, led by senior running back and fullback Tom O'Connor. Cherokee running back Sean Mayers has scored 17 touchdowns this season. The Indians rallied from a 25-7 second half deficit to defeat the Minutemen, 26-25, earlier in the season. Washington Township has a strong group of running backs, and quarterback Keven Williams gives the Minutemen a balanced attack. Lenape quarterback Dennis Marone is one of the region's top quarterbacks, and running back Lamarr Watkins is coming off a 237 rushing performance at Cherokee a week ago. Toms River East defeated Brick Township, 21-20, in their first meeting. Brick will try and control the clock with a power running game, while Toms River East quarterback Colin Gaynor is one of the top signal callers in the state.

Group 3
(8) Toms River South at (1) Edgewood
(7) Lacey Township at (2) Delsea
(6) Egg Harbor Township at (3) Lakewood
(5) Ocean City at (4) Mainland

Edgewood has been blowing away opponents all season, but have only beaten two teams with a winning record. The Eagles have more weapons on offense than anyone in Group 3, and are eager to prove their 8-0 record is no fluke. Edgewood will open up against a Toms River South squad that may be without their top rusher. Running back Anthony Serafino sprained his ankle last week, and the Indians will need him to keep Edgewood's offense off the field. Delsea has quietly put together an impressive 7-1 mark led by running back Assad Hafiz. Lacey has tremendous speed at running back. Egg Harbor has a balanced attack led by quarterback Lou Pepper and bruising running back Neil Anderson. Lakewood, led by quarterback Andrew Nelson, has been through several close games this fall. The best match-up of the first round is the rematch between Cape-Atlantic rivals Ocean City and Mainland. The Mustangs defeated Ocean City, 20-12, last month, but Ocean City upset Mainland in the Group 3 finals last season.

Group 2
(8) Collingswood at (1) Moorestown
(7) Cinnaminson at (2) Hammonton
(6) Haddon Heights at (3) Kingsway
(5) Buena at (4) West Deptford

Moorestown and Hammonton are playing the best football among the Group 2 contenders. The Quakers, who have already beaten Mainland this year, will rely on running back Albert Young. The sophomore has reached the end zone 20 times this season. Collingswood will be heavy underdogs against the Quakers, and must let running back Ted DiOrio control the clock. Hammonton is 8-0 on the season, and the Blue Devils are led by a strong ground game featuring senior running back Mike Mazzeo. Tyrone Artis is Cinnaminson's featured back. Haddon Heights open some eyes with an upset over West Deptford two weeks ago. They will play a Kingsway squad with plenty of speed on both sides of the ball. Tarif Hill is the Dragons' leading rusher. The battle between Buena and West Deptford appears to be the most evenly matched first round contest. The Chiefs are led by linebacker and running back Andrew Mack along with strong-armed quarterback Steve Shaughnessy. The Eagles have a solid defense and a balanced running game featuring fullback Brett Holmes.

Group 1
(6) Salem at (3) Gloucester (winner plays (2) Glassboro)
(5) Burlington City at (4) Bordentown (winner plays (1) Paulsboro)

It would be a shock if Paulsboro and Glassboro don't meet in the championship game. Only six teams qualified in Group 1 because no other team reached the .500 mark by the cutoff. The unbeaten Red Raiders are getting a monster season from running back Issac Redman. The Glassboro tandem of quarterback Sakeen Wright and wide receiver Terrence Holmes have been unstoppable all season. Gloucester has a solid offensive and defensive line and a top wide receiver in Lew Merryfield. Salem's younger players made significant strides this season, but the Rams lost to the Lions, 34-13, back in September. Burlington City defeated Bordentown, 21-12, earlier in the year. The Scotties and Blue Devils both have a balanced running attack.

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