The Hammonton and Timber Creek high school football teams find themselves in a familiar spot today - the South Jersey Group III title game.
The schools kickoff at 4 p.m. at Rowan University.
Hammonton and Timber Creek also met in the 2009 final with Hammonton winning 23-17.
Two years ago, a veteran Hammonton team was the favorite. This year, Timber Creek (11-0) is No. 2 in The Press Elite 11 and the top seed. Hammonton (9-2) is the No. 2 seed and No. 7 in the Elite 11.
Not many in the southern New Jersey football community expected Hammonton to reach the title game this season. But the Blue Devils have blended experienced veterans with talented newcomers to again be one of the region's best.
"Our goal was to get the Group III final and give it our best shot," Lancetta said. "Our players are real excited to be here and have a chance to win a title because they know not many people expected them to do it. That's an exciting position to be in. They can play loose and play aggressively."
Few schools in the state can match the college prospects that Timber Creek features.
Linebacker Quanzell Lambert is one of the nation's top high school players. Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma are among the colleges that have offered the 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior a scholarship.
Numerous colleges have offered a scholarship to 6-2, 290-pound junior defensive tackle Greg Webb.
Lambert and Webb lead a defense that is Timber Creek's strength. The Chargers have held opponents to a touchdown or less in eight of their 11 games.
"The word is they really rely heavily on their defense," Lancetta said. "Offensively, they think they're good enough."
The Blue Devils will counter with one of their most versatile offenses in years.
Running back Russell Forchion averages 6.5 yards per carry has the speed to score every time he touches the ball. Quarterback Christian Mortellite has completed 69 percent of his passes and is an accurate down field passer. Junior Dave Williams is one of the area's top fullbacks with 12 touchdowns.
Hammonton runs the Wing-T offense. Timber Creek faced just one Wing-T team this season - Delsea Regional on Sept. 16. The Chargers won that game 40-7.
"We're hoping that can be an advantage," Lancetta said. "Any offense - if you haven't seen it - could be difficult. I think we have kids who can run inside, run outside and throw the ball a little bit. Not saying that it's going to be that easy."
On defense, Hammonton doesn't want to give up the big play. Blue Devils defensive back Bobby Barbieri has picked off six passes this season.
"We have to prevent the easy score and make them drive the length of the field," Lancetta said. "If they can do that, we're in trouble."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Hammonton (9-2) vs. Timber Creek (11-0)
What: South Jersey Group III final
When/where: 4 p.m. today at Rowan University
Tickets: $5.50 for adults and $2 for students and senior citizens
Radio: 97.3 FM
Playoff history: Hammonton is one of the state's most storied programs. The Blue Devils have won five South Jersey titles since the playoffs began in 1974 - four of them under current coach Pete Lancetta. Timber Creek is seeking its first South Jersey title. Hammonton beat Timber Creek 23-17 in the 2009 South Jersey title game.
Hammonton: Christian Mortellite, QB, 62-of-90 for 961 yards and 11 touchdowns; Russell Forchion, RB, 75 carries for 488 yards and 12 catches for 189 yards; David Williams, 166 carries for 907 yards and nine touchdowns; Bobby Barbieri, WR/DB, 25 catches for 395 yards and six touchdowns and five interceptions on defense; A.J. Scibilia, DL, two sacks; Brian Beebe, OL.
Timber Creek: Calvin Lowe, QB, 945 passing yards and 14 touchdowns; Khalil Pierce, RB, 1,410 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns; Quanzell Lambert, LB, 130 tackles; Greg Webb, OL/DL; five sacks; DeJuan Drennon, WR/DE, seven touchdown catches; Myles Nash, LB/WR, 81 tackles.
Keys to victory: Hammonton must be able to sustain drives against the Timber Creek defense. Hammonton will try to use its special teams to gain a field-position advantage. The Blue Devils must not give up the big play on defense.
Did you know? The Blue Devils have made 29 playoff appearances - more than any other local public school.