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Thanksgiving football preview: Egg Harbor Township, Mainland still with plenty left to play for

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher The Philadelphia Eagles are taking on the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day at 12:30 p.m. and will be looking to get one game closer to the .500 mark. A few hours earlier, the Egg Harbor Township Eagles will be aiming to end their season with a .500 record when they take on longtime rival Mainland Regional. The Mustangs (4-5) also will be looking to finish with an even record, and although both teams no longer have a shot at playoff glory, there is plenty to play for on Thanksgiving at 10 a.m. at Silver Eagle Stadium. A .500 record might not seem like much to brag about, but heading into the long offseason with a win certainly makes for a better atmosphere in the weight room. Mainland will be looking to gain another victory for veteran head coach Bob Coffey as well as for a solid senior class that includes Coffey’s son, Ty, who will be playing his final game in the black and green. Egg Harbor Township coach Kevin Stetser is in just his second year as a head coach, and said he wants to continue to lay the foundation for what he hopes will be a championship contending team in a few years. Each team also has the extra motivation of trying to win for some teammates who won’t be able to suit up. Mainland’s star receiver, Justin Bishop — who emerged midway through the season as the Mustangs’ top offensive threat — will miss the game because of a separated shoulder. The Eagles also have some teammates they would like to get a “W” for, including D.J. Ellis, who suffered a knee injury recently, and Matt Faldetta, the offensive lineman who went out with a brutal leg injury early in the season. The Eagles also have been playing with a decal on their helmets that features the hairdo of Malcolm Lee, a senior who was injured in preseason. He would have been a starting safety and likely would have been one of the top defensive players in the Cape-Atlantic League this season had he been healthy. Egg Harbor Township will be playing for senior Malcolm Lee, who tore up his knee in the preseason and missed the entire 2015 campaign. The team has been honoring Lee's dedication to the program with helmet stickers that feature his jersey number and unique hair style. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Egg Harbor Township will be playing for senior Malcolm Lee, who tore up his knee in the preseason and missed the entire 2015 campaign. The team has been honoring Lee’s dedication to the program with helmet stickers that feature his jersey number and unique hair style. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) “For us, we really do view it as a true Thanksgiving Day rivalry. It’s always a good game, we’re very close to each other, and our kids really do get up for it. Most of your fans are at those games and we really do look forward to it. We are both 4-5, and getting to a .500 record is important. I talk about it with my kids, trying to establish what our program is about going forward, and we don’t want to have losing seasons,” Stetser said. “We’ve been through a lot this year. We’ve been through some tough losses on the field and we’ve been through some real tough losses in terms of injuries to some kids who are seniors and leaders on the team. They are a tight group, and although that didn’t necessarily get us all the wins we wanted, this group really came together this year and really do support each other and play hard for each other. “They want to win. They are excited. It’s the last home game they will ever play there, as far as the seniors, and in the second half of the season I feel like our young guys, not only are they a big part of what we do off the field, but I feel like it’s clicking as far as playing for these seniors and playing for each other. The mood is good, we have a ton of energy. It feels like we are ready for this.” Stetser said dealing with this injuries has been very tough for the Eagles, but all those guys will be out there for this final game, he said. “It’s been really tough for Malcolm. He’s had to go through a couple of surgeries and he hasn’t really had a chance to be around the team,” Stetser said. “He had the first surgery and was able to come out to one game, then he had a second surgery. So it really does matter to these guys. They get energy from that and they know one of the biggest ways they can make these guys feel better is to go out and win a football game for them. As for the game itself, expect a much higher scoring affair than last year’s 13-0 win by EHT. The Eagles should have running back Dante Moore at full strength, as well as fellow senior Spencer LaSure, who has been one of the top wide receivers all season in the Cape-Atlantic League. Mainland will counter with the shifty running of quarterback Sam Jackson and running back Tahir Campbell, but likely will need some plays out of the passing game from guys such as Ryan Swenson and Dean Deveney to keep pace with the Eagles. Mainland’s defense has been stout all season, however. The Mustangs allowed just 10 points in a playoff loss to Timber Creek, and the Chargers will be playing in the South Jersey Group 4 championship game. Cedar Creek (9-1) at St. Augustine Prep (8-1), 10 a.m.: It will be interesting to see how this game plays out since the visiting Pirates will be playing West Deptford for the state championship on Dec. 6 at Rowan University, while the Hermits were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round after falling to St. Joseph-Montvale 28-0. Cedar Creek coach Tim Watson may elect to rest some of his starters, but don’t bank on that. The defacto CAL championship is on the line, as each team won their respective conferences. The Pirates would love nothing more than to win a league and state title in the same season. Expect some great defense in this game, as linebacker Jim Brady leads perhaps the best defensive unit in the CAL in St. Augustine, while Cedar Creek limited Haddonfield — a team that averages more than 400 yards of offense per game — to just nine points in the South Jersey Group 2 semifinals. This game also will feature some outstanding athletes, including Ahmir Mitchell and Bo Melton of Cedar Creek and Kyle Dobbins and Jose Tabora of the Hermits, among others. Holy Spirit (4-5) at Atlantic City (3-6), 10 a.m.: Bragging rights are always important in one of the longest-running rivalries in the CAL, and the Spartans would love to finish .500 in coach A.J. Russo’s rookie year. They have been playing hard with a young group, and quarterback Mike Costabile has become more confident after taking over the starting job in October. Reggie Jean-Charles is one of the better running backs in the league, but the Vikings counter with a lot of good athletes and have been playing well lately, winning two in a row after a rough 1-6 start. Isaiah Pacheco will have to carry the load for Vineland with standout running back Daivon Seymore out with a shoulder injury. Isaiah Pacheco will have to carry the load for Vineland with standout running back Daivon Seymore out with a shoulder injury. Pleasantville (0-9) at Ocean City (3-6), 10 a.m.: The Greyhounds have been up against some tough competition all season, and that won’t change on Thanksgiving. Ocean City might be the best 3-win team in South Jersey, as the Red Raiders have played well at times and loss some tough games in a brutal CAL American Conference. But they rebounded in their regional crossover game, taking down Manasquan in overtime. Look for a steady diet of Dan Henderson early, which may leave the Greyhounds with some indigestion. Middle Township (2-7) at Lower Cape May Regional (1-8), 10 a.m.: The records may not be impressive, but this is a big-time rivalry in Cape May County. These guys will definitely get after it, but the Caper Tigers may not have enough offensive firepower to stay with the Panthers, who have some pretty good weapons and should be able to put up some points. Vineland (3-6) at Millville (5-4), 10:30 a.m.: The Fighting Clan is reeling a bit as their star player, Daivon Seymore, went down with a shoulder injury in a late-season loss to Mainland Regional, while Millville is coming off a close playoff loss. You never know what is going to happen, however, in one of the nation’s longest-running rivalries. These teams have been playing for 122 years, and the teams have been pretty evenly matched throughout the rivalry. Last season, Vineland had a 28-13 halftime lead before Millville stormed back with 23 third-quarter points and eventually hung on for a 44-40 win in the wildest of all the CAL Thanksgiving games last year. Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]

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