• Kevin Emmons

NJSIAA Central and South Jersey high school football public sectional finals preview

Camden quarterback Deante Ruffin prepares to run a play against Haddon Heights on October 1, 2022. The Panthers won, 29-8. Ryan Fuhs/D2 Sports Network


The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association high school football public sectional finals have arrived, with 20 teams left throughout Central and South Jersey pursuing a state championship. This week features sectional championship rematches, neighborhood rivalries and more. Here's a look at all 10 Central and South Jersey sectional final matchups coming up this weekend, plus a full group-by-group schedule:


Millville (8-2 record) at Hammonton (9-2), Friday, 6 pm


The Thunderbolts advanced to their second consecutive South Jersey Group 4 final with a 34-16 win over Jackson Memorial last Friday. Signal caller Jacob Zamot completed 20 out of 30 pass attempts for 294 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Demere White rushed for two touchdowns, Na'eem Sharp added 50 rushing yards and a score, and Bricere Hunter paced Millville with a team-high 58 rushing yards. Freddie Lavan III hauled in a game-high nine receptions for 134 yards. Sophomore sensation Lotzeir Brooks reeled in seven catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Brooks currently holds offers from Georgia, Oregon, Penn State, Texas A&M, Syracuse and Kentucky, among others.


Hammonton advanced to its first sectional final since 2019 with a 27-16 triumph over Shawnee last Friday. Sophomore Kenny Smith exploded for 209 rushing yards and three touchdowns. NaKeem Powell added 68 yards on the ground to contribute to 83 yards from scrimmage. The Blue Devils committed zero turnovers and created a pair of takeaways on an interception by Justin Doughty and a forced fumble courtesy of Elijah Church. Kicker Drew Fields also drilled a pair of field goals including a successful 37-yard attempt.


Millville defeated Hammonton, 50-0, in the last meeting on October 8, 2021.


The new and improved Blue Devils field a defense led by Kye Pressley (15 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, forced fumble) and junior linebacker Andrew Wehner that will look to limit the Thunderbolts'' high-octane offense. Wehner leads the team in tackles and interceptions. The junior also returned an interception for a touchdown in a 21-14 win over Rancocas Valley earlier this season.


The winner of Friday night's contest will face the winner of Middletown South and Mainland in the NJSIAA Group 4 state semifinals at Cherokee High School next week.


Edison (8-3) at Lenape (6-4), Friday, 6 pm


The Eagles avenged an early season loss to North Brunswick with a 33-31 triumph in the Central Jersey Group 5 semifinals last Friday. Edison erased a 14-point deficit in the final stanza and secured a sectional final berth on a 30-yard field goal by Selbin Sabio with 4.2 seconds left. Quarterback Matt Yascko completed 15 out of 29 pass attempts for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Yascko also rushed 17 times for 78 yards and a score. Nyekir Eato rushed for a team-high 91 yards and scored a touchdown in the second quarter. Sabio also led the defense with eight tackles and a tackle for loss.


Lenape secured a 21-20 victory over Atlantic City in the sectional semifinals on a 31-yard touchdown by Zyaire Goffney-Fleming with four minutes left in regulation. The senior rushed for 182 yards and three touchdowns. Ty Smith forced a fumble, recorded a sack and tallied 2.5 tackles for loss. Michael Lemay led the Indians with 10 tackles and Nagei Ringo recorded a sack, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.


Lenape has won six out of its last eight games. The Indians reached the sectional final for the first time since 2019 and are seeking their first sectional title in five years. Lenape defeated the Eagles, 39-6, in the South Jersey Group 5 quarterfinals in 2019.


Friday night's victor will face the winner of Toms River North and Kingsway in the NJSIAA Group 5 state semifinals at Cherokee High School next week.


Kingsway (7-3) at Toms River North (11-0), Friday, 6 pm


The Dragons will look to defend their South Jersey Group 5 title against Toms River North on Friday night. Kingsway defeated the Mariners, 21-14, in last year's sectional final to secure its first sectional title since 2001. Luke Van Brill hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Nate Maiers with left in regulation to minimize the possibility of overtime. Jake Mason's interception as time expired secured the win. Van Brill also caught a touchdown on a 51-yard fake punt pass and finished the contest with three receptions for 96 yards and two scores.

The Dragons cruised past Cherokee, 41-14, in the sectional semifinals last Friday. Maiers completed 11 out of 18 pass attempts for 214 yards and three touchdowns. The senior also ran for 39 yards and a score. Darrell Brown, Jr. tallied 130 yards from scrimmage (79 receiving, 51 rushing) and scored twice in the triumph. Benny Liles III hauled in three receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Defensive lineman Carter Williams charted two sacks and two tackles for loss. Tommy DiPietro snared two interceptions.


Toms River North is currently ranked sixth in New Jersey by NJ Advance Media and is the top-ranked public school statewide. The Mariners have won 11 straight games and are averaging 49.3 points per game. Toms River North has also pitched four shutouts and outscored its opponents 542-80 this season. Quarterback Micah Ford went a perfect 6-for-6 for 123 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-6 triumph over Marlboro in the S.J. Group 5 semifinals. Ford also rushed for 257 yards and three touchdowns. The junior visited Penn State on October 29 and currently holds offers from West Virginia and Maryland. Jeremiah Pruitt hauled in three receptions for 60 yards and Tareq Council caught two passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. Ty Boland posted 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack in the victory.


Ja’elyne Matthews, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive tackle, powers the Mariners up front and currently holds offers from Georgia, Ohio State, Tennessee, Penn State, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Miami, Rutgers, Boston College and UConn. Senior Ty Kazanowsky leads the defense with 74 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Junior linebacker Anthony Rodriguez has 69 tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss. Pruitt has also contributed 67 tackles and a team-high five interceptions on defense, and Nicholas Baiocco has recorded 45 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.


Kingsway has won three out of the last four matchups in the series since 2015. The Dragons won 19-14 in the Central Jersey Group 5 semifinals in 2019 and 34-0 in a NJSIAA regional crossover in 2017.


The winner of Friday night's title bout will advance to face the winner of Edison and Lenape in the NJSIAA Group 5 state semifinals at Cherokee High School next week.


Camden (9-1) at Seneca (10-0), Saturday, 6 pm


The Panthers' quest for their first sectional title since 1976 continued with a 25-0 shutout over Cedar Creek last Friday. Running back Jahleer Stanley rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Deante Ruffin threw for 193 yards and ran for a pair of scores. Tahmir Bush recorded a pair of interceptions, including an 18-yard interception return touchdown, and Taquan Brittingham picked off a pass. West Virginia commit Richard James, Nasere Blackney and Craig Walton each recorded a sack.

Camden is undefeated against in-state opponents this season and has won nine straight games since falling to Chardon (OH), 33-6, on August 27. The Panthers have posted shutouts in three out of their last four games and have only allowed 18 points since October 1.


Seneca advanced to its first sectional final since 2006 with a thrilling 29-28 win over Highland last Friday. Zac Fearon powered the offense with 106 rushing yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Brayden Davis threw for 89 yards, rushed for 69 and scored a pair of touchdowns before exiting the game due to injury. Junior Colin Walsh filled in and completed three out of five pass attempts for 47 yards and a touchdown. The senior delivered a 23-yard touchdown strike to Kyle Stickel to establish a one-point advantage with 6:20 left to play. Jamar Warthen led the Golden Eagles with 12 tackles, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble.


The Panthers won the last two meetings in 2016 and 2017 by a combined score of 57-23.


Friday night's winner will challenge the conqueror between Delsea and Hopewell Valley in the NJSIAA Group 3 state semifinals at Cherokee High School next week.


Willingboro (5-5) at Gloucester (8-2), Friday, 7 pm


The Chimeras avenged a 32-8 loss in last year's South Jersey Group 2 final with a 50-30 win over Point Pleasant Borough in the sectional semifinals last Friday. After stumbling to a 1-5 start, Willingboro has won its last four games and will visit Gloucester City in the Central Jersey Group 2 final.


Freshman signal caller Lamar Best has completed 80 out of 146 passes for 1,152 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Junior Derrick Bryant has powered the ground attack with 1,197 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Derek Fryer has also contributed 478 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Senior Khamaad Rice has reeled in a team-high 34 receptions for 498 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also leads the defense with four interceptions. Jayson Harris has 18 catches for 255 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Karim Nasser (76 tackles, five sacks and nine tackles for loss) and sophomore Jaelen Johnson (45 tackles, four sacks and nine tackles for loss) have formed a brutalizing tandem for the Chimeras' defense. Junior Nasir Hawkins has three interceptions.

The Lions extended their winning streak to five games with a 14-13 upset win over Haddonfield last Friday. Jaden Garris scored on a blocked field goal to propel Gloucester into its first sectional final since 2001. Jake Zearfoss charted 22 rushes for 91 yards. Quarterback Jake Seibert added a two-yard rushing score. John Daily powered the defense with a pair of interceptions and eight tackles. Mason Jankowski posted a team-high 14 tackles and Leo Curran snared an interception.


Friday night's victor will face the winner of Raritan and Rumson-Fair Haven in the NJSIAA Group 2 state semifinals at Cherokee High School next week.


Mainland (9-1) at Middletown South (8-1), Friday, 7 pm


The Mustangs will look to capture their first sectional crown since 2008 at Middletown South on Friday. Mainland defeated Long Branch, 34-20, in the Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals last week. Stephen Ordille rushed for three touchdowns and Villanova commit Ja'Briel Mace added 137 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Cohen Cook added a six-yard rushing score to solidify the victory. The Mustangs have won eight straight games since a 21-20 setback to rival Ocean City on September 1.


Middletown South improved its record to 8-1 with a 24-10 triumph over Winslow in the sectional semifinals last Friday. Donovan Summey rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown, and Jake Czwakiel added 87 rushing yards and a score. Logan Colleran led the Eagles with two receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. Like Wafle led the defensive effort with eight tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. Colin Gallagher posted a team-high nine tackles and a fumble recovery. Kyle Smith added five tackles and a sack.


Friday night's victor will face the winner of Hammonton and Millville in the NJSIAA Group 4 state semifinals at Cherokee High School next week.


Rumson-Fair Haven (6-4) at Raritan (8-2), Friday, 7 pm


The Bulldogs reached its ninth consecutive sectional final (no tournament in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic) with a 28-6 win over Oakcrest last week. Alastair Orr exploded for 107 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Brayden Dill added 78 yards and a score on the ground. Marshall Halfacre led the defense with six tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss. Nick Costello added six tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Cooper Bunnell, Reed Elsas and Luke Mikolajczyk each posted eight tackles. Rumson-Fair Haven has won six out of its last eight contests after suffering back-to-back losses to Shore Conference juggernauts Toms River North and Donovan Catholic.


The Rockets reached the South Jersey Group 2 final, their second sectional final appearance in as many years, with a 28-7 win over Pleasantville. Raritan jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter on a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown by Kiernan Falzon, a 75-yard rushing score by Dan Calcari, and a 20-yard run by Falzon. Falzon added his third touchdown of the contest in the second quarter to solidify the victory. Neither team scored in the second half. Raritan has won five consecutive games after suffering a 34-13 loss to Ocean Township on September 30.


Despite being separated by only 10 miles, the two teams haven't met since 2017. Rumson-Fair Haven prevailed with a 56-13 victory. The Bulldogs are 5-0 in the last five meetings since 2013.


The winner of Friday night's title bout will advance to face the winner of Gloucester and Willingboro in the NJSIAA Group 2 state semifinals at Cherokee High School next week.


Maple Shade (9-2) at Woodbury (8-2), Saturday, 10:30 am


The Thundering Herd will host their second straight South Jersey Group 1 final after dismantling Shore, 45-8, last Saturday. Southpaw Bryan Johnson completed 73% of his pass attempts for 222 yards and three touchdowns. The Woodbury quarterback's brother, Jayden Johnson, reeled in four receptions for a game-high 111 yards and a touchdown. Ibn Muhammad caught a pair of passes for a 16-yard touchdown and a 45-yard touchdown. Anthony Reagan, Jr. rushed four times for 100 yards and two touchdowns while Wilson Torres scored on a 94-yard run. Senior linebacker Derron Moore led a stout defensive effort with a game-high 14 tackles.


Woodbury secured its first sectional crown since 2009 with an 8-6 triumph over Woodstown last season.

Maple Shade advanced to its first sectional final since with its eighth straight victory over Asbury Park last Friday. Ryan Mulcahy reeled in two touchdown passes in the 27-18 triumph. Nate Veasey threw for a touchdown and ran for another score. The Wildcats erased an 18-14 deficit in the fourth quarter on Mulchay's second touchdown catch and a 40-yard interception return touchdown by Thomas Kaliamouris.


The Thundering Herd defeated Maple Shade, 38-14, on August 26. Woodbury also defeated the Panthers twice last season, including a 20-3 victory in the South Jersey Group 1 quarterfinals.


Saturday's winner will challenge the conqueror between Salem and Paulsboro in the NJSIAA Group 1 state semifinals at Cherokee High School next week.


Paulsboro (6-4) at Salem (7-4), Saturday, 12 pm


The Red Raiders' resurgence continued with a shocking 15-6 win over top-seeded Woodstown. Rocco Pellegrini completed eight out of 11 pass attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown. Preston Moore rushed nine times for 55 yards and a touchdown, and Jamile Gantt hauled in a 35-yard touchdown catch. Roman Onorato grabbed an interception and Jordon Eli notched a fumble recovery.


Under the direction of first-year coach Kevin Harvey, Paulsboro has won six out of its last seven contests. During that stretch, the Red Raiders defeated Salem, 23-16. Pellegrini tossed a pair of touchdown passes in the second half to erase a 16-7 deficit and secure the victory.


Salem advanced to its second consecutive sectional final with a 42-22 win over third-seeded Glassboro last Saturday. Quarterback Jahki Coates scored five touchdowns (four rushing, one passing) and accumulated 150 passing yards. Abdul Bell rushed for a game-high 120 yards and Ramaji Bundy added a two-yard rushing touchdown. Bundy also reeled in two receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. Amare Smith tallied a sack on defense.

The Rams defeated Paulsboro, 13-12, on a game-winning field goal by current Delaware State kicker Nate Wilson in last year's Central Jersey Group 1 final. The victory avenged a 25-17 loss to the Red Raiders in the regular season.


Will history repeat itself?


Get your popcorn ready.


The winner of Saturday's contest will face the winner of Woodbury and Maple Shade in the NJSIAA Group 1 state semifinals at Cherokee High School next week.


Hopewell Valley (10-0) at Delsea (10-0), Saturday, 7 pm


The Bulldogs squeezed past Burlington Township, 22-16, in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals last Friday. Quarterback Tim McKeown connected with Kyle Machusak for a 16-yard touchdown in the final seconds to lift the Pennington program to its second sectional final in school history. McKeown completed 20 out of 33 pass attempts for 174 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Derek Van Brunt finished with 22 rushes for a team-high 101 yards. Machusak reeled in nine receptions for 73 yards and the game-winning score. Justin Klotz added four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown.


Delsea cruised past Camden Eastside, 49-14, in the sectional semifinals last week. Wayne Adair rushed nine times for 167 yards and four touchdowns, including three scores in the opening frame. Luke Maxwell charted six rushes for 72 yards and a touchdown, and Jared Schoppe added 62 rushing yards and a score. The Crusaders have won 26 out of their last 28 games since 2020 and are seeking their 15th sectional title in school history.


Saturday night's victor will face the winner of Seneca and Camden in the NJSIAA Group 3 state semifinals at Cherokee High School next week


Schedule


South Jersey Group 1


(3) Maple Shade at (1) Woodbury, Saturday, 10:30 am


South Jersey Group 2


(2) Rumson-Fair Haven at (1) Raritan, Friday, 7 pm


South Jersey Group 3


(3) Hopewell Valley at (1) Delsea, Friday, 7 pm


South Jersey Group 4


(2) Millville at (1) Hammonton, Friday, 6 pm


South Jersey Group 5


(2) Kingsway at (1) Toms River North, Friday, 6:30 pm


Central Jersey Group 1


(4) Paulsboro at (2) Salem, Saturday, 12 pm


Central Jersey Group 2


(4) Willingboro at (3) Gloucester, Friday, 7 pm


Central Jersey Group 3


(2) Camden at (1) Seneca, Friday, 7 pm


Central Jersey Group 4


(3) Mainland at (1) Middletown South, Friday, 7 pm


Central Jersey Group 5


(6) Edison at (1) Lenape, Friday, 6 pm



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