Thomas Jefferson (PA) vs. Millville, 11 am
The Jaguars have won nine Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League championships since 2004 under the direction of legendary coach Bill Cherpak. Junior running back Elias Lippincott rushed for 854 yards and 12 touchdowns a season ago, and junior wide receiver Sean Sullivan caught 31 passes for 547 yards and six touchdowns. Edge rusher Jordan Mayer led Thomas Jefferson's defense with 39 tackles. The senior also generated a pair of sacks.
The Humberto Ayala era begins at Millville on Sunday. The former offensive coordinator replaces Dennis Thomas who left for Rutgers to become the program's running backs coach.
Millville's offense is headlined by 2021 South Jersey Sports Zone Rookie of the Year Lotzeir Brooks. The Thunderbolts wide receiver reeled in 35 catches for 988 yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago. The 5-foot-9 speedster boasts offers from Georgia, Texas A&M, Oregon, Penn State, Louisville, Kentucky, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Rutgers, among others. Ta'Ron Haile, another Power 5 recruit, caught three touchdowns and accumulated 336 receiving yards. The duo can impact the game on a high level, both offensively and defensively. Thomas Smith and Freddie Lavan III also augment the Thunderbolts' prolific passing attack.
Junior Jacob Zamot will take over full-time quarterbacking duties following the graduation of Nate Robbins. The highly-regarded gunslinger will have plenty of protection behind a bulky offensive front the features Marcus Offer, Darian Blachewicz and Edison Andino. The biggest challenge will be replacing the void left at tailback by New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year LeQuint Allen.
The defending NJSIAA South/Central Group 4 regional champions have won 15 out of their last 17 games dating back to November 6, 2020, and have championship aspirations again in 2022.
Holy Spirit vs. Cherokee, 2 pm
The Spartans are looking to bounce back from a 5-6 campaign in 2021, and will be led by a new head coach in Andrew DiPasquale. The biggest obstacle will be replacing the production of Rutgers baseball commit Trevor Cohen. The 2022 graduate led Holy Spirit in passing yards and rushing yards as a senior. The Spartans' offense will be led by quarterback Sean Burns and running back Gavin Roman. Roman rushed for 509 yards and five touchdowns a season ago and should see an uptick in carries this season. Burns will take over signal calling duties after playing wide receiver. The senior tallied 11 receptions for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Defensively, Robert McDevitt is a physical force that racked up 36 total tackles, 9.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss a season ago. Senior Jayden llanos should also see a larger role on defense after accumulating 13 tackles in 2021. Holy Spirit will have to exert its toughness to be able to generate pressure against Cherokee's imposing offensive line.
The top-ranked team in the 2022 South Jersey Sports Zone Preseason Top 15 will be led by All-State running back Brandon "Bam" Boria. The Stony Brook commit racked up an eye-popping 1,694 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns in 10 games in 2021. Boria's abilities will be on full display once again, shining behind a massive offensive line that features seniors Jake Ellis and Dom DeChurch, among others. Junior quarterback Ryan Bender is a dual threat and can provide a punch on the ground (630 rushing yards, eight touchdowns) or through the air (938 yards, seven pass touchdowns, two interceptions). Wide receivers Cameron Burti, Trent Osborn and Tommy Pajic are experienced and help keep opposing defenses on their toes. Cherokee's diverse passing attack allows its overall approach to remained balance, and makes teams pay if they commit to neutralizing the run. Tight end Jake Zubrzycki also factors into the passing game with his soft hands, and can utilize his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame to bulldoze opposing defenders. He thrives in the run blocking department.
Defensively, Cherokee is experienced on all three levels of the defense. Brian Mitchell is a ball-hawking safety in the secondary that plays with speed and toughness. Defensive back Sean Cole is also a returning starter. Senior captain Roman Dougherty is an aggressive pass rusher that explodes into the backfield with a purpose. Linebackers Austin Lenart and Leo Bluestein are terrific from sideline to sideline.
Edison vs. Cedar Creek, 4 pm
Overall, the Eagles return 14 starters (seven on offense, seven on defense) from a team that reached the South Jersey Group 5 semifinals and finished with a 7-4 record . Four-year starter Matt Yasko threw for 1,706 yards,12 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions as Edison's signal caller a season ago. Malcolm Stansbury reeled in 45 passes for 567 yards and seven touchdowns and returns this fall. Senior Michael Strachan also provided 13 receptions for 223 yards. Both players also made significant contributions in the secondary. The Eagles are expected to go with a running back by committee with four candidates all making a strong push.
Defensively, Selbin Sabio (62 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss), Saidu Conteh (29 total tackles), Adekunle Shittu (55 total tackles, 7.0 sacks) and Israel Rodriguez (28 total tackles, 3.0 sacks), among others, are expected to make a significant impact.
The Pirates are an offseason removed from a flawless 13-0 record and a NJSIAA South/Central Group 3 regional title. Cedar Creek graduated a lot of talent including JoJo Bermudez, C.J. Resto, J.C. Landicini, Elijah Smalls, Zac Ricci, Elijah Usher and Ja'Quan Howard, among others.
There will be a lot of new faces, but the expectations remain high.
Junior Billy Smith will be behind center after having a productive offseason and showing his potential at the Hats Off 7-on-7 Invitational. Mekhi Harvey slots into the backfield after rushing for 306 yards and 4 touchdowns in a limited role behind Howard. Junior wide receiver Alim Parks has elevated on the depth chart and will be expected to lead the group after losing three key wideouts to graduation. Parks hauled in 20 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown in a limited role as a sophomore. Sophomore Darius Benjamin is another speedster expected to step up.
Defensively, senior Malik Moore-Summers will lead the way for Cedar Creek. Moore-Summers tallied 59 total tackles, nine sacks, and an astounding 17 tackles for loss as a junior. Zaire Pilgrim is a jack of all trades that will guide the secondary. The senior notched a pair of interceptions and fumble recoveries in 2021.