By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
The calendar has turned to October, and now the West Jersey Football League’s divisional races get serious. Several teams will be looking to stay on top, while others are looking to stay in contention for a division title. The three WJFL divisions that feature former Cape-Atlantic League teams — the Continental, Independence and United — are all up for grabs, and many teams are coming off bye weeks.
Two of the biggest games of Friday night feature top teams in the Independence and United divisions. Oakcrest has gotten off to a 4-0 start and is tied atop the division standings with St. Joseph. Both teams are 2-0, and there should be a raucous crowd at Oakcrest tonight as the Falcons face their toughest challenge of the season so far. St. Joseph has won two straight since a 17-14, overtime loss to Holy Spirit, including last week’s 14-6 win over a tough Pennsville team.
In the United Division, Holy Spirit (4-0, 2-0) looks to keep its hold on the top spot as it travels down Route 9 to face upstart Pleasantville (2-1, 0-1), which is above .500 for the first time since the 2003 season after wins over Riverside and Pitman.
Greyhounds coach Chris Sacco said he knows his team is dealing with a different animal this week. The Spartans bring one of the toughest rushing attacks in South Jersey into tonight’s game.
“It’s going to be tough sledding this week. But we have nothing to lose. I just want our kids to play their best, and whatever happens, happens,” Sacco said. “I looked at their weight and I was thinking, jeez, how much do these guys weigh? One is 220 pounds, the other is over 200 pounds. But our kids played tough against them last year.”
Holy Spirit running backs Reggie Jean-Charles and Justin Figueroa, combined, are about 425 pounds of nastiness coming at a defensive line, so the Greyhounds will have quite a challenge on their hands defensively. Spirit also has one of the best kickers in South Jersey in Cade Antonucci, and that’s something that worries Sacco, particularly since Pleasantville has had some difficulties with point-after attempts when they score touchdowns.
“Their special teams are very good. That was the difference in the first three quarters last year, they have a great kicker,” Sacco said. “He’s good, and they do a very good job. Last year, I think he kicked three 35 yards or further field goals against us. I just want our guys to play hard. It’s a big game for us in the sense that I want these younger guys on the Jokers that the potential is there stay with us and not leave (for a Catholic school). So, in that regard, it’s a big game.”
Other Friday night games
Highland at Buena Regional, 6 p.m.: The Chiefs are still in the hunt in the United Division at 2-0, 2-2 overall, although this isn’t a divisional game. But it will be important for Buena to play well and get some momentum. Their next two games are against Cedar Creek and Holy Spirit.
Triton at Middle Township, 6 p.m.: The Panthers are looking to get over the .500 mark with a non-divisional game. Their next three games are all on the road, at Ocean City, Pitman and Pleasantville, so they need every win they can get to make a run at a playoff berth.
Absegami at Ocean City, 6 p.m.: This is a big game for both teams, as the winner likely keeps playoff hopes alive while the loser might be looking at a consolation game. The Braves (2-2, 0-2) are coming off a nice win over Eastern and have won two of their last three, while Ocean City (1-3, 0-2) got into the win column last week with a long road trip win over West Windsor-Plainsboro South. The loser of this game also is all but eliminated in the WJFL Independence Division race.
Atlantic City at Egg Harbor Township, 6 p.m.: The host Eagles (0-3, 0-0) are not only looking for their first Continental Division win, but their first win overall. Last year, Atlantic City (1-2, 0-2) jumped out to a huge halftime lead before the Eagles came storming back to win. You can bet that will be on the minds of the Vikings.
Bridgeton at St. Augustine Prep, 6 p.m.: Normally, this is the time of year Bridgeton (0-4, 0-2) usually gets hot, but that might be asking a lot against arguably the best team in South Jersey. Prep (4-0, 2-0) has been an offensive juggernaut and is coming off a bye week. That spells trouble for the Bulldogs’ defense. Kyle Dobbins is one of the best running backs in South Jersey and this week got a scholarship offer from Northwestern University, and quarterback Josh Zamot has been improving every week and a bye gave him plenty of time to look at film.
Mainland at Cedar Creek, 1 p.m.: The Pirates (3-1, 2-0) are smarting after a tough loss to Camden and will be looking to keep pace with Oakcrest and St. Joseph in the Independence Division standings. Mainland (0-3, 0-2) comes off a bye week. There could be some sloppy conditions, as rain is expected on Saturday afternoon.
*Vineland, Millville and Lower Cape May are on bye weeks.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN