Barnegat football

Barnegat High School linemen Zach Andrews, left, and Sam Madden  practice Thursday at Toms River East. The Bengals (10-1) will play Delsea Regional (9-2) for the South Jersey Group III title at 4 p.m. Saturday at Rowan University in Glassboro. Barnegat is ranked No. 9 in The Press Elite 11.

Staff photo by Edward Lea

Quarterback Cinjun Erskine of the Barnegat High School football team visited the chiropractor this week.

A man in the waiting room had one question for him.

"How are you guys going to do against Delsea?" the man asked.

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Barnegat (10-1) will play Delsea Regional (9-2) for the South Jersey Group III title 4 p.m. Saturday at Rowan University. Barnegat is No. 9 in The Press Elite 11.

This is Barnegat's first trip to a South Jersey final. The school and community has rallied behind the Bengals.

"The town loves it. The school loves it," Erskine, a junior, said. "I've never seen our school get so into school spirit. It's nice how the town has come together. We're embracing every moment of it."

Barnegat opened in 2004. Barnegat students used to attend Southern Regional.

The Bengals played their first varsity football season in 2006. Barnegat lost in the South Jersey Group II finals in 2010 an 2011. The Bengals won the Shore Conference B South title this season for the second time in school history.

"We dreamed big when we started this program," Barnegat coach Rob Davis said. "When we started, people laughed at us and said, 'You can't win there.' We've been a perennial playoff team. We've been to the semifinals and now to start from scratch and be in the final is really a good feeling."

Barnegat was known for its passing game in the past. But these Bengals rely more on the run, rushing for nearly 250yards per game. Erskine has rushed for 629 yards and thrown for 1,061 yards.

Barnegat also overcame adversity. Standout running back A.J. Opre (682 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns) injured his knee midway through the season and was lost for the year.

Backup running back Tyler McGuiness has filled in well, rushing for 621 yards on 92 carries. The Bengals also feature versatile wide receiver and running back Manny Bowen, who has 124 rushing yards and 460 receiving yards.

"Opre's injury was a big injury for us," Davis said. "But we're showing we have pretty good depth. That's apparent because we're in the final without one of our leaders."

There should be plenty of back and orange - the school's colors - at Rowan. The Bengals just might get a police escort out of town on their way to Saturday's game.

After beating Northern Burlington 28-25 in the semifinals on Nov. 22, Barnegat police met the team at the town border and gave them an escort back into town.

"That was awesome," Erskine said. "It's a memory no one on our team will ever forget."

Much has been expected of these Barnegat juniors and seniors. They went undefeated in middle school competition. But Erskine and standout junior lineman Sam Madden, who are both getting NCAA Division I scholarship offers, spent their freshmen year at Holy Spirit before transferring back to Barnegat the summer before their sophomore season.

The two left Spirit after then Spartans coach Charles Roman left to become an assistant at St. Augustine Prep.

Erskine said the decision to return to Barnegat was a lot easier than the decision to leave the Bengals.

"I knew we had the talent and the team camaraderie to win a state title," Erskine said. "I'm going out on the field with the guys I grew up with. We really are a family."

Contact Michael McGarry:


South Jersey

Group III final

Who: Delsea Regional (9-2) vs. Barnegat (10-1)

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Rowan University, Glassboro

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