Eleven local high school football teams will begin pursuit of S.J. and state Non-Public titles this weekend.
The first round of the playoffs will be held Friday and Saturday. This weekend’s winners will advance to next week’s semifinals. The championship games are scheduled for the first weekend in December. South Jersey title games will be held at Rowan University.
A preview of first-round games involving teams from Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and southern Ocean counties:
S.J. Group II quarterfinals
(8) Pleasantville (7-1) at (1) West Deptford (7-1) 7 p.m. Friday
This is Pleasantville’s first playoff appearance since 2005. West Deptford is a perennial power. The Eagles are the defending S.J. Group II champions and have won seven S.J. titles. These teams last met in 2003, with West Deptford winning 34-0 in the S.J. Group II semifinals.
Pleasantville quarterback Sahmir Jones has thrown for 884 yards and 12 touchdowns and run for 342 yards and five scores. Linebacker/running back Mohamed Toure has rushed for 757 yards and made 77 tackles.
West Deptford always features a strong running game. Running backs Ken Lim (77 carries for 761 yards and eight TDs), T.J. Hoyt (106 carries for 533 yards and nine TDs) and quarterback Peter Orio (45 of 72 for 691 yards and five TDs) lead the Eagles.
(5) Willingboro (7-2) at (4) Cedar Creek (7-2) 1 p.m. Saturday
Cedar Creek reached the past two S.J. Group II finals behind a flashy offense that produced plenty of big plays.
This season, the Pirates have succeeded with defense.
Cedar Creek has allowed an average of 12.3 points per game. The Pirates have two shutouts this season and allowed a total of 11 points in their last four wins. Linebacker Michael Gulig and lineman Frank Rivera lead the defense.
The Pirates will be tested by a Willingboro offense that features quarterback Trae Green, who has completed 109 of 178 passes for 1,574 yards and 21 TDs. The Chimeras have won seven straight games and scored at least 30 points in five of those victories.
S.J. Group III quarterfinals
(5) Ocean City (6-2) at (4) Delsea Regional (6-3) 7 p.m. Friday (106.3 FM)
Ocean City makes its first playoff appearance since 2008. Delsea is a perennial power. The Crusaders have won 13 S.J. titles, including four straight from 2012-15.
Ocean City quarterback Harry Pfeifle has rushed for 14 TDs. Brandon Lin and Tom Meehan lead the Red Raiders’ defense. Delsea is famed for its running game. Junior running back Aidan Borguet has rushed for 1,069 yards and 19 TDs. Delsea has won five straight and scored at least 42 points in each of those wins.
(6) Lakewood (4-4) at (3) Lacey Township (7-2) 1 p.m. Saturday
This game is a rematch. Lacey rallied from a 14-point, third-quarter deficit to beat Lakewood 34-33 on Oct. 7.
Lacey running back Jason Giresi has rushed for 1,183 yards and 16 TDs. The Lions’ Coleton Klaus has thrown 10 TD passes. Junior linebacker Greg Chadwick has intercepted three passes and made 15 tackles for losses.
Lakewood quarterback Zyheir Jones ran for a TD and threw for another score in last week’s 37-7 win over Pinelands Regional. Lakewood has won three straight.
S.J. Group IV Quarterfinals
(5) Absegami (4-4) at (4) Shawnee (5-3) 7 p.m. Friday
Absegami has won three straight and clinched a playoff spot with last week’s 34-27 win over Mainland Regional. Absegami wide receiver Josh Coursey has caught seven touchdown passes. Quarterback Andrew Marcucci has thrown for eight TDs.
Shawnee won the 2014 S.J. Group IV title and is one of the favorites this season. Renegades quarterback Colin Wetterau has thrown for 1,649 yards and 15 TDs. Defensive end Dan Falzone has made 78 tackles.
(6) Hammonton (3-6) at (3) Central Regional (7-2) 7 p.m. Friday
Hammonton started the season 2-0. Five of the Blue Devils’ six losses are to playoff teams. Quarterback Rey Triboletti threw a TD pass in last week’s 34-6 loss to Shawnee. Two weeks ago, Triboletti ran for two scores in a 21-0 win over Egg Harbor Township. Central Regional has won four straight. Sophomore running back Kavon Chambers has rushed for 1,194 yards and 10 TDs for the Golden Eagles.
S.J. Group V quarterfinals
(6) Williamstown (4-4) at (3) Millville (8-0) 7 p.m. Friday (98.7 FM)
These teams met in the regular season, with Millville winning 28-17 on Sept. 30. Millville is the defending S.J. Group V champion and ranked No. 1 in The Press Elite 11.
Millville quarterback E.J. Nichols has thrown for 1,200 yards and 16 TDs. Wide receviver Marcial Ramos has caught 10 touchdown passes. Running back Clayton Scott has rushed for 897 yards.
Quarterback Jonathan Collins leads Williamstown with 804 passing yards and 486 rushing yards.
(8) Vineland (7-1) at (1) Lenape (7-1) 7 p.m. Friday
Vineland seeks the first playoff win in school history. It will not be easy. Lenape is No. 10 in the Elite 11. The Lenape defense has shut out three opponents and not allowed more than 14 points in a single game this season. Running back Jo Kellum (114 carries for 1,107 yards and 21 TDs) leads the Lenape offense.
Vineland quarterback and Rutgers recruit Isaih Pacheco has rushed for 1,140 yards and 14 TDs. Linebacker and Maryland recruit Nihym Anderson has made 52 tackles and gotten seven sacks. He’s also rushed for 590 yards and 14 TDs. The Fighting Clan are 0-7 in their previous playoff appearances.
State Non-Public II quarterfinals
(7) Gloucester Catholic (5-3) at (2) Holy Spirit (7-1) 7 p.m. Friday
Holy Spirit is No. 4 in the Elite 11. The Spartans lost to Mater Dei in last season’s state Non-Public II title game. Holy Spirit running back Elijah Gray has rushed for 1,323 yards and 18 TDs, while quarterback Josh Zamot has rushed for 567 yards and nine TDs and thrown for 1,056 yards and 14 TDs. Zamot has thrown just one interception in 141 attempts.
Gloucester Catholic will make its first playoff appearance since 2013. Rams running back Dashaun Harris has rushed for 806 yards and 12 TDs.
(8) St. Mary of Rutherford (4-4) at (1) St. Joseph (9-0) 1 p.m. Saturday.
St. Mary is a familiar playoff opponent for St. Joe. The two have played nine times in the playoffs since 1996. The Wildcats have won all nine matchups by the combined score of 299-43.
Few New Jersey teams can match St. Joe’s tradition of excellence. The Wildcats’ streak of seven straight state titles ended last season, but few S.J. teams have been more impressive than St. Joe this season. The Wildcats are No. 3 in the Elite 11. Running backs Qwahsin Townsel and Jada Byers have combined to score 42 TDs. The defensive front four of Sencere Tapp, Brad Lomax, Sean Morris and Wisdom Quarshie has combined to make 58 tackles for losses.
St. Mary running back Shawan Gresham has rushed for 1,620 yards and 19 TDs.
State Non-Public IV quarter.
(8) St. Augustine (5-4) at (1) Bergen Catholic (7-2) 1 p.m. Saturday
Bergen Catholic beat St. Augustine 57-33 in last year’s quarterfinal. Bergen Catholic is considered the state’s top team. Crusaders quarterback Johnny Langan has thrown for 1,563 yards and 17 TDs. He’s run for 483 yards and seven TDs.
St. Augustine is No. 11 in the Elite 11. The Hermits beat previously undefeated Vineland 14-0 last Friday. St. Augustine linebacker Joe Bonczek has made 119 tackles, 15 for losses.