• Kevin Emmons

Football: 2021 South Jersey Sports Zone Final Top 15


1. St. Augustine (9-2 record) : The Hermits went undefeated (8-0) against West Jersey Football League competition in 2021. St. Augustine defeated Millville, 31-17, and added key wins over St. Joseph (24-7), Shawnee (21-7), Holy Spirit (35-21) and North Jersey power Delbarton (28-13) in the NJSIAA Non-Public A quarterfinals. The Prep also notched shutouts against Williamstown (28-0) and Lenape (36-0). The Hermits’ only two losses were to perennial power Don Bosco Prep (17-0) in the Non-Public A semifinals and Archbishop Spalding (34-13) — the third-ranked team in Maryland via MaxPreps.


2. Millville (12-1) : The Thunderbolts captured the NJSIAA Rothman Orthopaedics South/Central Group 4 regional title with a 45-35 triumph over Winslow at Rutgers University on Sunday. Millville opened the 2021 campaign with a 31-28 statement win over North 2, Group 5 power Union. It reeled off three consecutive wins (one by forfeit), including a 49-39 victory over Shawnee, before falling to No. 1 St. Augustine, 31-17, on September 24. The Thunderbolts notched a quality win over Pennsauken (50-15) before soaring past Ocean City, 40-3, in the South Jersey Group 4 final. Millville secured its first sectional title since 2016 and its second during Dennis Thomas’ tenure.


3. Cedar Creek (13-0) : The Pirates secured their first undefeated season in program history with a 35-34 come-from-behind win over Woodrow Wilson in the NJSIAA Rothman Orthopaedics South/Central Group 3 regional championship. Cedar Creek won its third sectional championship since 2015 with a 30-13 win over Delsea in the South Jersey Group 3 final. The Pirates opened the season with four consecutive shutouts, including a 36-0 triumph over South Jersey Group 2 finalist Willingboro, and earned back-to-back wins over Woodrow Wilson (21-8) and Holy Spirit (7-6). Cedar Creek’s biggest win of the regular season proved to be a 35-27 victory over WJFL Memorial Division foe Winslow on October 15. James Melody’s squad also notched quality victories over Camden (27-8) and Big Central power Somerville (27-0).


4. St. Joseph (9-3) : The Wildcats won seven out of their last eight games en route to a 9-3 finish. Their only loss during that stretch was a 21-10 setback to eventual NJSIAA Non-Public B champion Red Bank Catholic in the Non-Public B semifinals. St. Joe’s walloped South Jersey Group 5 champion Kingsway, 42-6, and defeated Washington Township, 31-21, during that eight-game frame. The Wildcats also defeated Central Jersey Group 4 champion Winslow, 29-6, on Thanksgiving Eve. St. Joseph opened the campaign with a 31-18 win over Northeast (PA) at the Battle at the Beach and also earned a quality win over Cherokee (38-21). It also handed St. Thomas Aquinas (9-1 record) it’s only loss of the season with a 45-12 trouncing in the Non-Public B quarterfinals. The Wildcats dropped decisions to then-No. 2 Holy Spirit (35-24) and No. 1 St. Augustine (24-7).


5. Winslow (9-4) : The Eagles captured their first sectional championship in school history with a 34-22 victory over Shawnee on November 20. The Eagles only three losses to South Jersey competition came at the hands of No. 3 Cedar Creek, No. 4 St. Joseph and No. 2 Millville, in that order. Winslow stormed back after trailing 28-7 to the second-ranked Thunderbolts in the NJSIAA Rothman Orthopaedics South/Central Group 4 regional championship at Rutgers on Sunday evening. The Eagles fell short, 45-35. Their lone loss to out-of-area competition was a 26-14 setback to Woodbridge at the Battle at the Beach. Winslow rallied from behind to defeat Woodrow Wilson, 32-30, on September 11 and added key wins over Camden (22-20 in OT) and Holy Spirit (52-21) during the regular season.


6. Woodrow Wilson (9-3) : Woodrow Wilson concluded its season with a 9-3 record following a 35-34 loss to No. 3 Cedar Creek in the NJSIAA Rothman Orthopaedics South/Central Group 3 regional championship. The Tigers of East Camden cruised through the Central Jersey Group 3 playoffs earning notable wins over traditional Shore Conference threats Manasquan (34-7) and Rumson-Fair Haven (28-6), and secured their third sectional crown since 2018. Wilson also defeated South/Central Group 2 regional champion Haddonfield, 44-21, and Holy Spirit, 28-12, during the regular season. It also picked up a 28-12 win over crosstown rival Camden on Thanksgiving. The Tigers only losses were a pair of setbacks to the third-ranked Pirates that reside in Egg Harbor City and a 32-30 decision to No. 5 Winslow.


7. Delsea (11-1) : The Crusaders rattled off 11 consecutive wins to start off their 2021 campaign. Delsea dominated Delran, 42-14, on September 3 and followed up that performance with a 41-13 thumping of Gloucester County rival Clearview on September 10. The Crusaders also earned convincing wins over Oakcrest (47-16), Hammonton (31-7) and Mainland (42-14). Sal Marchese, Jr.’s program defeated perennial Shore Conference power Wall via forfeit in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals to advance to its first sectional final since 2017. Delsea’s only setback was a 30-13 loss to No. 3 Cedar Creek in the South Jersey Group 3 final.


8. Cherokee (7-3) : The Chiefs biggest win proved to be a 56-21 blowout of district rival Shawnee in early October. Cherokee won six of its last seven games with it’s only loss during that stretch being a 34-21 upset to North Brunswick in the Central Jersey Group 5 semifinals. Brian Glatz’s squad also dominated South Jersey Group 5 champion Kingsway, 28-7, two weeks after knocking off the Renegades. The Chiefs dropped two early season matchups to No. 4 St. Joseph (38-21) and then-No. 12 Washington Township (21-14). Cherokee earned dominating wins over Lenape (35-0), Eastern (33-7), Rancocas Valley (38-7), Egg Harbor Township (37-8) and Seneca (42-7). The Chiefs only allowed 29 points in those five wins.


9. Shawnee (8-4) : The Renegades opened the season with a statement as they cruised past eventual South Jersey Group 5 champion Kingsway, 38-0. One week later, Shawnee battled with No. 2 Millville before falling short, 49-39. Tim Gushue’s program proceeded to rattle off three consecutive wins, including a 42-21 triumph over Burlington Township, before dropping back-to-back contests to district rival No. 8 Cherokee (56-21) and No. 1 St. Augustine (21-7). The Renegades’ quest for a fourth straight sectional title ended with a 34-22 loss to No. 5 Winslow. Shawnee lost three of its four contests to teams that finished in the top five of the final South Jersey Sports Zone Top 15.


10. Salem (11-2) : The Rams cruised past Woodbury, 34-8, in the NJSIAA Rothman Orthopaedics South/Central Group 1 regional championship on Sunday. The victory boosted Salem’s record to 11-2 and solidified the program as the best Group 1 team in South Jersey this season. The Rams opened the season on a four-game winning streak, including a 22-20 victory over Camden at the Battle at the Beach, before dropping a 25-17 decision to Paulsboro. Salem avenged that loss with a 13-12 victory over the Red Raiders in the Central Jersey Group 1 final. The Rams notched dominating victories over Haddon Heights (30-13), Penns Grove (48-13) and Audubon (42-7). Their only other loss came at the hands of Woodstown (20-14) on Turkey Day.


11. Woodbury (12-1) : Woodbury accumulated 12 wins for the first time in school history and secured its first sectional title since 2009. The Thundering Herd concluded their campaign on Sunday with a 34-8 setback to No. 10 Salem in the NJSIAA Rothman Orthopaedics South/Central Group 1 regional championship. Woodbury turned heads with a 6-0 shutout win over Colonial Conference rival Paulsboro on September 3. The Thundering Herd proceeded to win their next eight games before defeating Woodstown, 8-6, in the South Jersey Group 1 final. Anthony Reagan’s group took home the WJFL Patriot Division crown with a perfect 5-0 division record.


12. Ocean City (12-1) : The Red Raiders surged to an 11-0 start before falling to No. 2 Millville, 40-3, in the South Jersey Group 4 final. Ocean City posted shutouts in four out of its first five games and secured a WJFL Independence Division title with a 5-0 mark in five division contests. The Red Raiders outscored Mainland (41-7) and Long Branch (45-10) 86-17 the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs before bowing out to the Thunderbolts in the sectional final. Ocean City is now 27-6 since 2019.


13. Paulsboro (9-2) : The Red Raiders concluded the season with a 9-2 record and were Central Jersey Group 1 sectional finalists. Paulsboro dropped a 6-0 decision to rival Woodbury on September 3 before rattling off eight straight victories. Glenn Howard’s crew defeated Penns Grove, 21-20, before sailing past No. 10 Salem, 25-17, in late September. The Red Raiders dominated South Jersey Group 1 finalist Woodstown (9-2 record), 35-8, before cruising past Sterling, 35-12, a week later. Paulsboro also handed Gloucester (10-1 record) its only loss of the season in the Central Jersey Group 1 semifinals. Howard’s squad concluded their season with a 13-12 loss to No. 10 Salem in the sectional final. The Red Raiders lost two games by a combined seven points.


14. Haddonfield (10-3) : The Haddons trailed 14-0 in the first quarter before rallying to bring home the NJSIAA Rothman Orthopaedics South/Central Group 2 regional title with a 28-27 win over Point Pleasant Borough on Saturday. The victory capped a surprising postseason run for Haddonfield that included a victory over Raritan in the Central Jersey Group 2 final. During the regular season, the Bulldawgs earned quality wins over division foes Delran (28-14) and Sterling (14-7). Haddonfield dropped back-to-back games to No. 6 Woodrow Wilson (44-21) and South Jersey Group 2 finalist Willingboro (18-10) before storming to seven straight victories. The Haddons also dropped a 36-13 decision to neighboring rival Haddon Heights on Thanksgiving. Haddonfield is now 43-11 since 2017.


T-15th. Burlington Township (8-2): The Falcons won eight out of their first nine matchups of the 2021 campaign. Their only setback during the first two months of the season was a 42-21 loss to No. 9 Shawnee. Burlington Township earned a quality win over Pennsauken (33-21) on October 1. The Falcons also notched consecutive shutouts over WJFL Liberty Division foes Timber Creek (32-0) and Moorestown (42-0). Burlington Township defeated Route 130 rival Delran, 34-28 in overtime, in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group 3 playoffs before being shutout by perennial Shore Conference power Rumson-Fair Haven in the sectional semifinals. Tom Maderia’s squad finished the season 8-1 against WJFL competition.


T-15th. Kingsway (8-5): The Dragons rallied to win five out of their last six games and captured the South Jersey Group 5 title along the way. Kingsway defeated Toms River North, 21-14, for its first sectional championship since 2001. The Dragons fell to Hillsborough, 28-7, in the NJSIAA Rothman Orthopaedics South/Central Group 5 regional championship on Saturday. Hillsborough (13-0 record) finished the season as the fourth-ranked team in the state per NJ.com. Kingsway finished 6-4 against true South Jersey competition with wins over Eastern, Rancocas Valley, then-No. 9 Washington Township, Atlantic City, Lenape and Route 322 rival Clearview. Mark Hendricks’ team dropped three out of their four other losses to three top 10 teams in South Jersey — No. 9 Shawnee (38-0), No. 4 St. Joseph (42-6) and No. 8 Cherokee (28-7). The Dragons were also shutout by Williamstown (31-0).


Others under consideration (listed alphabetically) : Audubon (8-2), Bordentown (10-1), Camden (5-5), Camden Catholic (6-4), Clearview (6-5), Delran (6-3), Egg Harbor Township (7-4), Gloucester (10-1), Haddon Heights (6-4), Holy Spirit (5-6), Middle Township (8-2), New Egypt (8-2), Overbrook (8-2), Paul VI (7-3), Pennsauken (8-3), Penns Grove (6-5), Sterling (5-5), Triton (7-3), Washington Township (6-3), Willingboro (8-4), Woodstown (9-2).

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