High school football playoffs begin Friday.
What better way to get ready for this year’s post-season then reviewing the 20 greatest playoff games involving Press-area teams since 2000.
Games were chosen for their quality and historical significance.
2010 State Non-Public III Championship
Holy Spirit 14, St. Joseph of Montvale 13
Joe Sarnese dove at the feet of the St. Joseph-Montvale kicker on an extra-point attempt in the fourth quarter. The Holy Spirit High School senior heard the crowd roar, looked up and wondered why Spartans fans were cheering.
The kick missed.
Spirit beat Montvale 14-13 to win the state Non-Public III football championship at Rutgers Stadium. Spirit finished 12-0 and won the second state title in school history. Sarnese, a wide receiver and safety, was the best player on the field. He returned a kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown, recovered a fumble and caught five passes for 43 yards.
2015 South Jersey Group II Championship
Cedar Creek 28, West Deptford 27
The Pirates stormed back in the second half en route to a dramatic 28-27 win against West Deptford for the first sectional football title in school history. Cedar Creek trailed 14-0 at halftime. Bo Melton sparked the comeback with a touchdown pass and run.
2006 South Jersey Group IV Championship
Absegami 27, Cherokee 26
Mark Schenauer never looked at the clock in the fourth quarter.
"I just played like I had eternity left, " the Absegami High School quarterback said.
In reality, he and the Braves had 3 minutes and 16 seconds.
They didn't even need that much that time.
Absegami drove 83 yards with no timeouts and scored with 32.7 seconds left to beat Cherokee and win the first South Jersey title in the program's history.
Schenauer threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Rooks and Dustin Schaffer followed with the extra point to give Absegami a 27-26 victory and the South Jersey Group IV championship.
2012 South Jersey Group V Quarterfinal
Atlantic City 34, Absegami 30
Quarterback Jarren McBryde sparked a stunning comeback as Atlantic City scored three touchdowns in the final 7 minutes, 49 seconds to win 34-30. McBryde (23-of-37 for 314 yards) scored the winning touchdown on a quarterback sneak with 55.2 seconds left.
2016 South Jersey Group V
Millville 22, Toms River North 16
The Thunderbolts won their first South Jersey championship in 41 years Saturday with a thrilling 22-16 upset over Toms River North at Rowan University. Toms River North (11-1) had won 21 straight and was the defending Group V champion.
2016 State Non-Public II Championship
Mater Dei 26, Holy Spirit 20
Eddie Lewis called it a dream. For the Holy Spirit High School football team, it was a nightmare. Lewis scored on a 50-yard, hook-and-lateral pass with six seconds left to give Mater Dei Prep a 26-20 win over Holy Spirit in the state Non-Public II title game.
2017 State Non-Public II Championship
St. Joe 30, Mater Dei 14
Qwahsin Townsel and Jada Byers combined to rush for more than 400 yards as the Wildcats pounded Mater Dei 30-14 to win the state Non-Public II title at Rowan University. The victory gave St. Joe its first 12-0 season and its 19th championship since the state Non-Public playoffs began in 1993.
2008 South Jersey Group IV Championship
Mainland Regional 21, Southern Regional 14
Eddie Irizarry caught two touchdown passes and made a key interception to lead the Mustangs to the win. Mainland quarterback Brent Caprio threw three touchdown passes – all in the first half.
2007 State Non-Public III Championship
Holy Spirit 26, Immaculata 13
Spirit capped a 12-0 season with this win. William Washington ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Spirit ended Immaculata’s 23-game winning streak. Immaculata featured NFL running back Theo Riddick.
2011 State Non-Public II Championship
St. Joe 51, St. Mary 0
St. Joe capped one of the most dominant seasons ever by a local team with a 51-0 defeat of St. Mary of Rutherford to win the state Non-Public I title at The College of New Jersey in Mercer County. St. Joe outscored its opponents 474-19 this season. The Wildcats did not allow a touchdown in their final 31 quarters - seven-plus games.
2009 South Jersey Group IV Semifinals
Egg Harbor Township 41, Toms River East 30
Kevin Marquez scrambled 27 yards on a fourth-quarter fake punt for a first down. The play led to the touchdown that clinched EHT's first South Jersey final appearance in nine years.The Eagles beat Toms River East 41-30 in a thrilling game that tested the nerves of players, coaches and fans on both sides.
2005 State Non-Public II Championship
St. Joe 33, Queen of Peace 6
Jack Corcoran rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns as the undefeated Wildcats beat Queen of Peace 33-6 to win the state Non-Public Group II championship at Neptune's Memorial Field. The victory gave the Wildcats their seventh straight state championship. Queen of Peace (Bergen County) had won 21 straight. St. Joe coach Paul Sacco called the Golden Griffins (11-1) the most talented team the Wildcats had faced in a state final.
2009 South Jersey Group IV Semifinals
Southern Regional 14, Cherokee 13
A game that was scoreless until the final two minutes of regulation ends with the Rams heading to their first South Jersey final. Southern quarterback Brian Sullivan scored the tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Sullivan threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Josh Broadbent in overtime and Kyle Gross kicked the extra point to give the Rams a one-point win.
2002 South Jersey Group III Championship
Mainland Regional 21, Delsea Regional 7
Mainland relied on wide receiver Mike Bradway (four catches, 181 yards) to build a 21-0 halftime lead. Bradway made a leaping 38-yard catch on third down to set up Mainland's first touchdown. The Mustangs took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter when Bradway caught a pass over the middle and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown. Bradway also caught a 52-yard option, touchdown pass from fullback Brandon Hargrose.
2011 South Jersey Group IV Semifinals
Millville 42, Washington Township 41
The winning Thunderbolts staved off a gutsy Washington Township comeback and won 42-41 before fans that packed the home and visiting bleachers at Millville's Wheaton Field. The Thunderbolts led by 28 points in the third quarter. Washington Township scored 34 points in the final 20 minutes. Millville running back Alquann Jones rushed 37 times for 257 yards and four touchdowns. Thunderbolts defensive back Shaq Lee intercepted a two-point conversion pass with 31.8 seconds left to preserve Millville's 1-point lead.
2009 South Jersey Group III Semifinals
Hammonton 3, Seneca 0
Esteban Sandoval kicks a 26-yard field goal in overtime to give the Blue Devils the win.
2004 State Non-Public I championship
St. Joe 34, Paterson Catholic 12
Jack Corcoran helped St. Joe dominate Paterson Catholic (Passaic County), which had won 21 straight games. Corcoran rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns. Patrick Collins rushed for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
2009 South Jersey Group III Championship
Hammonton 23, Timber Creek 17
The Hammonton High School football team needed 2 yards on fourth down in the fourth quarter to help clinch its first South Jersey championship in 13 years Friday night.
Or the Blue Devils could punt.
Hammonton's successful program was not built on booming punts. The Blue Devils went for the 2 yards.
They gained 6.
Top-seeded Hammonton, No. 2 in The Press' Elite 11, staved off a Timber Creek comeback to win the South Jersey Group III championship 23-17.
South Jersey Group IV Quarterfinals
Oakcrest 38, Williamstown 13
Seventh-seeded Oakcrest earned the first playoff victory in the history of the program, riding a memorable defensive performance to a 38-13 upset over second-seeded Willliamstown in the South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals.
2010 South Jersey Group III Championship
Lacey Township 56, Delsea 7
The Lions capped a 12-0 season with the dominating win. Lacey forced eight turnovers and Jarrod Molzon ran for two touchdowns in the win.