2019 NJSIAA South Group 3 Regional Championship Preview: Wall vs. Woodrow Wilson
SOUTH GROUP 3 REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
WHO: Wall (12-0) vs. Woodrow Wilson (9-2)
WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m.
WHERE: SHI Stadium at Rutgers University
WALL’S ROAD TO THE REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Defeated Allentown, 49-7, in the Central Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals; defeated Lacey, 35-18, in the semifinals; defeated Rumson-Fair Haven, 14-13, in the CJ-3 final.
WOODROW WILSON’S ROAD TO THE REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Defeated Hopewell Valley, 49-7, in the South Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals; defeated Holmdel, 42-0, in the semifinals; defeated Somerville, 54-30, in the SJ-3 final.
WALL’S BEST WINS: 14-3 and 14-13 over Rumson-Fair Haven; 14-7 over Non-Public Group 3 finalist Mater Dei Prep; 24-0 over Central Jersey Group 4 finalist Jackson Memorial.
WOODROW WILSON’S BEST WINS: 48-38 over Delbarton; 48-0 over South Jersey Group 4 champion Shawnee; 54-30 over Somerville.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: Wall has made 20 playoff appearances all-time with six trips to the sectional final and five championships. The Crimson Knights have a 21-15 postseason record. This year’s squad is the first in school history to be 12-0 and can become the first Shore Conference team to ever go 13-0…Woodrow Wilson has won back-to-back South Jersey Group 3 titles under head coach Preston Brown. They have appeared in the playoffs 20 times with nine appearances in a sectional championship game and 16-17 overall.
WALL STAT LEADERS
-Casey Larkin, Jr., RB/DB: 1,038 yards rushing and 12 TDs on 6.5 ypc; 19 rec. for 388 yards and 3 TDs; 41 tackles, 3 INTs.
-Logan Peters, Jr., QB/DB: 1,214 yards, 63% completions, 14 TDs, 2 INTs; 611 yards rushing and 10 TDs on 5.3 ypc; 4 INTs on defense.
-Matt DeSarno, Sr., RB/DB: 337 yards rushing and 1 TD, 136 receiving yards.
-Charlie Sasso, So., LB: 116 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 TFL, 3 INTs.
-Colin Riley, So., LB: 11 sacks, 7 TFL, 65 tackles
-Dean Terry, Sr., LB: 86 tackles, 2 sacks, 7 TFL
-Ian Ackerman, Sr., DE: 75 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 TFL
WOODROW WILSON STAT LEADERS
-Devin Kargman, So., QB: 3,356 yards passing, 69% completions, 43 TDs, 10 INTs; 3 rushing TDs.
-Fadil Diggs, Sr., WR/DE: 62 rec. for 1,004 yards and 11 TDs; 90 tackles, 17 sacks, 5 forced fumbles.
-Muheem McCargo, Sr., RB/LB: 1,050 yards rushing and 14 TDs on 7.3 ypc; 33 rec. for 459 yards and 5 TDs; 124 tackles, 2 INTs (2 TD).
-Malik Harvey, Sr., WR/DB: 51 rec. for 1,012 yards and 17 TDs; 7 INTs and 39 tackles
-Dyshier Clary, Sr., DL: 16 sacks, 69 tackles, 3 forced fumbles
-Naziq Murray, Sr., WR: 38 rec. for 474 yards and 3 TDs.
-Amari Clark, So., WR: 36 rec. for 419 yards and 5 TDs.
-Joshua Nobels, Jr., DL: 9 sacks, 53 tackles.
-Jazmere Hopps, Sr., DB: 3 INTs.
-Dawuh Shakir, Jr, LB: 96 tackles, 3 forced fumbles
Woodrow Wilson's offense vs. Wall's defense
If someone knew nothing about either Wall or Woodrow Wilson and looked simply at the statistics it would be easy to say Wall has no chance to defeat the offensive juggernauts from Camden. However, it is the fifth-ranked Crimson Knights who come in with the higher state ranking against the No. 17 Tigers. Both teams go about their business of winning in very different ways.
For Woodrow Wilson, it’s all about an explosive offense that is unstoppable when done right. Record-setting quarterback Nick Kargman graduated after last season’s title run, so all the Tigers did was replace him with his younger brother, sophomore Devin, and not miss a beat. Kargman leads New Jersey in passing with mind-boggling numbers: 3,356 yards passing and 43 touchdowns while completing 69 percent of his passes. Whoa. Even scarier is that Kargman isn’t even the best player on his own team. That distinction goes to senior two-way monster Fadil Diggs, who has 62 catches for 1,004 and 11 TDs plus tremendous defensive numbers we’ll get to farther down this preview. The Texas A&M commit was named the Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year on Friday. The Tigers have additional FBS recruits with versatile senior running back Muheem McCargo and senior wide receiver Malik Harvey. McCargo (5-11, 200) has rushed for 1,050 yards and 14 touchdowns and caught 33 passes for 459 yards and 5 TDs. Harvey has a whopping 17 receiving touchdowns and 51 catches for 1,012 yards. Senior Naziq Murry and sophomore Amari Clark would be the leading receivers on most teams, but the 38 catches and 474 yards and 3 TDs for Murry and then 36 receptions for 419 yards and 5 TDs for Clark are third and fifth on the team, respectively.
The obvious question is: how does Wall come up with a plan to slow down a Woodrow Wilson offense averaging 46.7 points per game? It starts in the area where most games are ultimately decided: the trenches. Wall can begin to neutralize Woodrow Wilson’s offensive prowess by winning at the line of scrimmage with its front seven. As good as Wall’s secondary of Logan Peters, Casey Larkin, Matt DeSarno and Dale McNally has been this season, covering Wilson’s litany of weapons without help in the form of pressure on the quarterback is not the path to success. The Knights have to find a way to get to Kargman and not let him sit back and pick his targets. If he has time, Wall will be in trouble. Wall’s defensive front of senior Ian Ackerman and junior Grant Puharic at defensive end and senior Jack Wolter at nose tackle team with sophomore linebackers Charlie Sasso and Colin Riley and senior twins Dean and Will Terry plus senior Jaden Carasquillo. Riley is one of top pass rushers in the Shore with 11 sacks while Sasso does a little bit of everything – 116 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 INTs, 5 tackles for loss – and does all of it very well. They don’t necessarily need to bring Kargman down to alter Wilson’s offense, but they do have to make him uncomfortable.
Wall’s offense vs. Woodrow Wilson’s defense
The Crimson Knights are not explosive, at least not in the same way Woodrow Wilson is, but Wall is efficient, opportunistic and good at the point of attack. The Knights enter the regional final averaging 28.3 points per game. They have a balanced offense in terms of run/pass, but the bulk of the yards and touchdowns come from junior running back Casey Larkin and junior quarterback Logan Peters. Both are two of the Shore’s best all-around players as dual-threat offensive weapons on top of being standout defensive players. Larkin has rushed for 1,038 yards and 12 touchdowns and also leads the team in receiving with 19 catches for 388 yards and three touchdowns. Peters has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,214 yards and 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions and has rushed for 611 yards and 10 touchdowns. If Wall is to win it will need one last big performance from either or both, but the linchpin on Sunday morning needs to be the offensive line.
In a Thanksgiving Day win over Manasquan, Wall ran for 330 yards behind the road-grading group of Ackerman, Puharic, Wolter, sophomore Brian Byrne and junior Eddie Van Woudenberg. That fivesome along with sophomore tight end Blake Rezk and Sasso at fullback will be tasked with sustaining drives through the running game to both wear down Woodrow Wilson and keep its dangerous offense off the field. Wall has surely studied the film of last season’s regional title game when Rumson held the Tigers to three scores in a 26-18 victory at MetLife Stadium. The recipe then was a potent rushing attack and timely defensive plays, which is exactly what excels at. To steal a line from former Rumson lineman Ryan McCann, Wall wants to turn the game into a ‘fistfight in a phone booth”.
Like its offense, Woodrow Wilson’s defensive thrives on big plays. The Tigers have racked up 54 sacks and forced 19 turnovers, including 14 interceptions, on their way to allowing 16.2 points per game. Diggs is a menace at defensive end with 17 sacks, 90 tackles and five forced fumbles, while senior Dyshier Clary has 16 sacks, 69 tackles and three forced fumbles and junior Joshua Nobels has 9 sacks and 53 tackles. McCargo leads the team in tackles with 124 while Harvey also catches passes from the other team with seven interceptions.
Harvey is Woodrow Wilson’s kicker but has not attempted a field goal and is listed as being 10 of 16 on extra points. The Tigers go for two after almost every touchdown. It’s worked for them so far, but there’s definitely the possibility it burns them in a close game.
Wall’s kicker is sophomore Max Oakley, who has had a solid year in converting 41 of 45 extra points and his only field goal attempt from 33 yards out. Wall also has a very good punter in senior Frank Passantino, who has dropped 11 inside the 20-yard line this season. Wall would rather not have to trot out Passantino more than a couple of times on Sunday, but he has the ability to flip the field.
PREDICTION: Wall 28-26.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.