South Jersey Sports Zone Final Top 15 Football Rankings
South Jersey Sports Zone (SJSZ) was co-founded by Kevin Emmons in 2017. The brand covers high school sports and promotes South Jersey pride. If you'd like to keep up with SJSZ, find them on Facebook and Twitter.
With the 2020 high school football season wrapping up across the state, here are the final South Jersey Top 15 rankings from SJSZ:
1. Holy Spirit (8-0): The Spartans finished the season a perfect 8-0 to earn the top spot in the SJ Sports Zone Top 15. Holy Spirit bested Lenape 21-7 in the West Jersey Football League Pod A Championship to become the unofficial South Jersey champion in a season plagued by COVID-19. The Spartans earned quality wins over Saint Augustine Prep (12-7), Winslow (34-0) and St. Joseph-Hammonton (18-6). Holy Spirit’s defense boasted three shutouts and allowed less than 5.9 points per game on average.
2. Lenape (5-2): The Indians opened the season at No. 2 in the SJ Sports Zone Top 15 and remained consistent with five consecutive wins to start the season. During that span, Lenape earned quality wins over Eastern (38-7), Rancocas Valley (27-7), Shawnee (10-3) and outlasted district rival and then-No.2 Cherokee 31-28 in OT. The win over Cherokee in the WJFL Pod A semifinals proved to be crucial as it allowed Lenape to maintain the top spot in the rankings following that week and solidify itself ahead of Cherokee -- a team that also finished in the top five. The Indians own a pair of losses to top-ranked Holy Spirit (21-7) and St. Augustine Prep (27-20). However, Lenape cannot be penalized drastically as the Hermits finished with three losses -- including a 22-21 loss to unranked Millville. Williamstown also had two losses including a 16-8 setback to Millville. The Indians did not lose a game to an unranked team.
3. Cherokee (5-2): The Chiefs climbed up the SJ Sports Zone rankings with five consecutive wins to start the season. Cherokee earned dominating victories over Woodrow Wilson (35-0) and perennial prep power The Hun School (37-8) during that span, before outlasting district rival Shawnee 24-21. The Chiefs only loss to South Jersey competition was a 31-28 overtime setback to No. 2 Lenape in the WJFL Pod A semifinals. Cherokee’s only other loss was a narrow 36-35 loss to North Jersey Non-Public power St. Joseph-Montvale -- a team that was ranked fifth in the state at the time according to NJ.com. The Chiefs were unable to host Winslow in the WJFL Pod A consolation, or third-place game, due to Winslow facing a COVID-19 shutdown.
4. Williamstown (7-2): The Braves finished the season 7-2 after opening up the season as the top ranked team in the SJ Sports Zone Top 15. The Braves earned wins over Timber Creek, Kingsway, Willingboro (by forfeit) and Highland, before dropping back-to-back games against St. Augustine Prep (17-16) and Millville (16-8). However, the Braves immediately bounced back by defeating Hammonton 14-13 in the WJFL Pod C semifinals. Williamstown avenged their regular season loss to the Hermits with a 6-0 victory over St. Augustine in the WJFL Pod C Championship. Although the two teams split the season series, the Braves earned the more impressive win with a shutout and did so in the WJFL Pod C Championship. Since the pods incorporated by the West Jersey Football League were the sole metric used to gauge teams in a postseason-like system in a season affected by COVID-19 -- whether one agreed with the pod format or not -- the Braves earned the upper-hand. Williamstown boosted its resume with a win over Ocean City (28-6) -- a game called at halftime due to COVID-19 concerns. The Braves only had two losses compared to St. Augustine’s three losses. Williamstown and St. Augustine Prep are both ranked behind Lenape and Cherokee because both teams lost to an unranked opponent (Millville).
5. Saint Augustine Prep (4-3): The Hermits suffered three losses this season to Millville (22-21), Williamstown (6-0) and Holy Spirit (12-7). Two of those setbacks came to teams ranked in the top four of the final SJ Sports Zone Top 15. St. Augustine Prep also beat Williamstown (17-16) earlier in the season. Despite finishing with three losses, the Hermits jumped from 11th to 5th in the rankings with a 27-20 win over No. 2 Lenape. However, the win doesn’t hold as much weight since the Prep already had three losses. Additionally, Lenape was a finalist in the WJFL Pod A. The Hermits competed in a lower-ranked tier -- Pod C. The Hermits resume is also boosted with a win over Hammonton (20-7). Fifth is a fair spot in the rankings for St. Augustine Prep considering they have impressive wins over two top five teams, three losses, and (hypothetically) would dominate a majority of teams in South Jersey placed behind them in the rankings.
6. Winslow (5-1): The Eagles opened the season with five consecutive wins, including a 15-12 upset over Camden, to climb up the SJ Sports Zone Top 15 football rankings. During that five-game span, Winslow shutout two-time defending South Jersey Group 3 champion Woodrow Wilson 18-0 and dominated two South Jersey Group 5 teams -- Washington Township (32-14) and Eastern (42-25). Winslow’s only loss was to top-ranked Holy Spirit (34-0). Due to COVID-19, the Eagles never got the opportunity to square off against No. 3 Cherokee in the WJFL Pod A consolation game. The Eagles’ 15-12 win over Camden puts them ahead of a lot of teams in South Jersey.
7. Camden (4-1): The Panthers’ lone loss of the season was a 15-12 setback to No. 6 Winslow. Camden earned quality wins over Haddonfield (34-7), Shawnee (40-21), West Deptford (36-28) and Timber Creek (18-7). However, Camden did not beat a team ranked in the final SJ Sports Zone Top 15. All four of Camden’s wins came against teams that finished in the “other teams under consideration” portion of the SJ Sports Zone Top 15. Nonetheless, all four of Camden's wins proved to be impressive. The Panthers earned an opportunity to face Ocean City in the WJFL Pod B Championship; however, that opportunity was revoked due to COVID-19 concerns.
8. Ocean City (6-2): The Red Raiders won six consecutive games to start the 2020 campaign. During that span, Ocean City’s defense notched two shutouts over Oakcrest (48-0) and Mainland (63-0) and held opponents to slightly over six points per game on average. The Red Raiders defeated Millville 36-16 in dominating fashion -- a team that upset St. Augustine Prep and Williamstown. Ocean City’s most impressive win of the season was a 12-7 victory over St. Joseph-Hammonton in the WJFL Pod B semifinals. The Red Raiders were unable to face Camden in the Pod B final due to Camden’s administration expressing concerns regarding COVID-19. The Red Raiders' two losses came to North Jersey Non-Public power DePaul Catholic (49-22) and Williamstown (28-6). Ocean City reached the No. 3 spot in the SJ Sports Zone Top 15 before falling to Williamstown. The Red Raiders are ranked behind Winslow and Camden as a result of having two losses -- one being a blowout to a South Jersey opponent. Ocean City is ranked ahead of St. Joseph-Hammonton after defeating the Wildcats 12-7 in the WJFL Pod B semifinals.
9. St. Joseph-Hammonton (7-2): The only blemishes on the Wildcats’ resume are two setbacks to top-ranked Holy Spirit (18-6) and No. 8 Ocean City (12-7). St. Joseph-Hammonton closed out the season with impressive victories over Hammonton (13-0) and Burlington Township (51-31) to earn itself a spot in the backend of the top ten. The Wildcats earned quality wins over Timber Creek (23-7) and Millville (56-6) and handled business against Cedar Creek, Pleasantville and Vineland. Camden, Ocean City and St. Joseph-Hammonton all prove to be interchangeable in spots seven through nine in the final SJ Sports Zone Top 15. Unfortunately, St. Joseph and Ocean City did not have the opportunity to play Camden due to COVID-19 concerns. South Jersey would’ve loved to see those matchups.
10. Paulsboro (7-0): The Red Raiders climb into the top ten after going undefeated (7-0 record) for the first time since 2002. Paulsboro defeated Salem 22-13 in the WJFL Pod D Championship to solidify itself as the best Group 1 school in South Jersey this season. The Red Raiders notched impressive shutouts over West Deptford (27-0) and Haddon Heights (36-0) and defeated Penns Grove 35-20 on Halloween. The shutout win over West Deptford is extremely impressive considering the Eagles lost to No. 7 Camden by one possession. Paulsboro jumps Burlington Township in the rankings, despite the Falcons being a larger school, due to the fact that they went undefeated and captured the WJFL Pod D Championship. Theoretically, the Red Raiders should not be penalized for going undefeated.
11. Burlington Township (6-1): The Falcons put together an impressive 6-1 campaign in 2020 with it’s only setback coming to No. 9 St. Joseph-Hammonton (51-31) on the final weekend of the South Jersey high school football season. Burlington Township turned heads with an impressive 22-0 shutout over Willingboro in it’s first game of the season. The Falcons continued their surge with quality wins over Burlington County foes Cinnaminson (14-7), Northern Burlington (42-6) and Rancocas Valley (33-27). Burlington Township extended its winning streak to 6 games with a 21-13 win over Delran -- arguably its most impressive win of the season behind the victory over Willingboro. All four of those opponents (Cinnaminson, Northern Burlington, Rancocas Valley and Delran) finished in the “other teams under consideration” portion of the final SJ Sports Zone Top 15.
12. Salem (6-1): The Rams finished as runner-ups to Paulsboro in the WJFL Pod D bracket after a 22-13 loss in the championship round. The setback to the Red Raiders was Salem’s only loss of the season. The Rams earned impressive victories over Penns Grove (35-14) and Group 3 opponent Deptford (29-7). Salem also handled business against opponents Glassboro, Pennsville, Triton and Woodstown. The Rams finish ahead of Willingboro as a result of playing more games. Willingboro shouldn’t necessarily be penalized for playing less games; however, it is difficult to discredit Salem for winning six out of its seven games.
13. Willingboro (3-2): The Chimeras only losses were to No. 11 Burlington Township (22-0) and No. 4 Williamstown (by forfeit). After facing scheduling difficulties all season due to COVID-19, Willingboro bounced back with wins over two-time defending North 1 Group 3 champion Ramapo (20-19) and Timber Creek (21-14). The win over Timber Creek boosts Willingboro over Delsea after the Crusaders suffered a 15-12 setback to Timber Creek. Willingboro also boosted its resume with a 34-23 win over West Deptford.
14. Delsea (5-1): The Crusaders finished 5-1 with their lone loss coming to Timber Creek, 15-12. As previously stated, that puts them behind Willingboro. Delsea boasts quality wins over Penns Grove (19-8) and Millville (27-14). The Crusaders handled business against Triton, Highland and Glassboro. The lack of a win against a ranked opponent puts Delsea at 14th, even with only one loss on its resume. Nonetheless, 2020 was still a successful season for the Crusaders.
15. Kingsway (3-2): The Dragons initially earned themselves a spot in the rankings with a 35-28 overtime win over then-No. 10 Washington Township on October 16. Kingsway’s only losses were to No. 4 Williamstown (13-6) and North Jersey power Wayne Hills (33-6) For context, Wayne Hills finished 5-2 and was previously ranked in the NJ.com statewide Top 20. The Dragons also earned wins over Highland and Deptford. It’s unfair to drop Kingsway from the rankings even after not playing a game in November. The Dragons earned a spot in the rankings and weren’t given the opportunity to continue playing due to COVID-19. Kingsway also finished in the top ten of NJ.com’s statewide Group 5 rankings.
(Cover Photo Credit: Jean-Daniel Francoeur)