The injury bug has hit the Penns Grove High School football team pretty hard, but the Red Devils have continued to get the job done.
They’ve won three close games – Woodstown (18-7), Cumberland (18-6), Deptford (14-9) – with strong defense and taking control in the second half.
“We’ve played pretty well defensively and that’s really where we’ve been most consistent over the years,” coach John Emel said. “We’ve had our hands full in those matchups and the kids have done pretty well.
“To win games and play really solid defense to start the season is something that will pay off later when we get everyone back. We just feel that no matter who gets an opportunity to play, we expect them to be successful. If we continue to get better, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”
Penns Grove has been without All-South Jersey defensive lineman Jaron Maldonado for the last two games. He is isn’t expected to return until Oct. 24 against Gloucester Catholic at the earliest.
The Red Devils also lost Keyshawn Seals to a knee injury, while Craig Ransome missed last game to injury as well.
“That’s three captains,” Emel noted.
“We’re playing a lot of guys and we feel that we’re improved at almost every position from last year. For a Group 1 school, we do have a lot of depth.”
Penns Grove will square off against No. 14 Salem on Saturday in a matchup of 3-0 teams.
•Not there yet: No. 2 St. Augustine owns rather convincing wins over No. 12 St. Joseph, Millville and Atlantic City. The Hermits outscored the three 107-32.
But in his fourth season, coach Mark Reardon wants to see his team get better. The Hermits hosted Ocean City on Thursday.
“I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’re winning games and winning pretty handily,” Reardon said. “Our potential is very high. We just have to play better.
“One week we tackle very well, and last game (against A.C.) we didn’t. We’re making too many mistakes and I’d like to see us play a clean game. It’s not the effort. We’re playing hard and physical, but that falls on me and the way we’ve practiced. People say you’re winning games, but are we getting better?”
•Closing in: According to South Jersey sports historian Chuck Langerman, Timber Creek senior Cameron Chambers needs just 64 yards to become Camden County’s all-time leader in receiving yards.
The Michigan State recruit has 113 career catches for 2,080 yards. The record is held by Devante Waugh of Winslow Township, who finished with 2,143 yards in 2010.
The South Jersey record is held by Holy Cross grad Isaac Irby, who finished with 3,080 yards in 1999.
•Hawkins, too: Camden senior Brad Hawkins is also closing in on an area record, according to Langerman.
With 108 career catches for 1,848 yards, the Michigan recruit needs just 49 yards to break the Camden city record for career receiving yards. Rashad Baker of Woodrow Wilson set the mark of 1,896 in 1999 before going to play at Tennessee and for several teams in the NFL.
•Foga in charge: Florence is off to a 2-1 start and has been getting solid production from Joey Foga.
The senior has accounted for six of the Flashes’ seven touchdowns, all on the ground. He’s the team’s top running back with 219 yards on 40 carries and is also the top receiver with eight catches for 54 yards.
•Solid in defeat: In last week’s 35-34 loss to Sterling, Josh Davis turned in a sensational effort for Gateway.
The senior rushed for a career-high 261 yards on 29 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 26 and 58 yards. It was the fourth time in his last six games that Davis went for at least 240 yards on the ground.
Last season, he rushed for 1,290 yards and nine touchdowns.
“Josh really ran hard for us,” coach Josh Mason said. “When we get him going it really makes our offense hard to stop. He is the hardest between-the-tackles runner I have had in my nine years as a head coach and my 15 years coaching high school football.”
Dan Teschko also enjoyed a strong game, catching four passes for 142 yards and scoring on an 85-yard kickoff return.
•Record setter: Terrence Smith became Oakcrest’s all-time leading rusher last week, breaking the record of 1,965 yards set by James Jenkins in 1994.
Smith goes into Friday’s important Cape-Atlantic National showdown against Buena with 2,028 career rushing yards. He finished with 88 yards and three touchdowns last week in a rout of Pleasantville.
“I have been fortunate to watch Terrence since he played in the JFL for the Mays Landing Lakers,” Oakcrest coach Chuck Smith said. “The thing I noticed immediately, and he has shown consistently in his four years at Oakcrest, is his passion for football and especially boosting his teammates both on and off the field. He’s a great team leader.
“You know as a coach when a player is special on the field due to their performance, but Terrence is idolized in the Mays Landing community by the younger kids who are constantly yelling his name and trying to high-five him at games. That is when you know a player has left an indelible mark on your program.”
Kevin Minnick; (856) 486-2424; firstname.lastname@example.org