2021 NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 Football Championship Preview: Point Boro vs. Willingboro
SOUTH JERSEY GROUP 2 CHAMPIONSHIP
WHO: 2-Willingboro (8-3) at 1-Point Boro (9-1)
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Al Saner Field - 830 Laura Herbert Drive, Point Pleasant, NJ 08742
POINT BORO'S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated Monmouth Regional, 34-14, in the quarterfinals; defeated New Providence, 28-7, in the semifinals.
WILLINGBORO'S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated Sterling, 20-0, in the quarterfinals; defeated Nottingham, 36-14, in the semifinals
POINT BORO'S BEST WINS: 34-20 over Shore Regional; 41-0 over Barnegat; 20-12 over Middletown North; 28-7 over New Providence
WILLINGBORO'S BEST WINS: 26-7 over New Providence; 18-10 over Central Jersey Group 2 finalist Haddonfield; 36-14 over Nottingham
PLAYOFF HISTORY: Point Boro has three sectional titles in program history with the last one coming in 2007. The Panthers will be making their eighth appearance in a sectional final and own a 17-14 all-time playoff record across 17 appearances. They last reached the championship game in 2017...Willingboro has a similar championship history although it has more recent playoff success. The Chimeras are back-to-back defending champions but in Central Jersey Group 1, including going 12-1 and winning a Group 1 bowl game in 2019. They have three sectional titles all-time with the first coming in 1985 when they were in South Jersey Group 3. This will be their seventh appearance in a sectional final and they are 19-15 all-time in 19 playoff berths.
POINT BORO STAT LEADERS
Jake Croce, So., RB/LB: 130 carries for 975 yards and 9 TDs; 8 rec. for 115 yards and 2 TDs; 2 INTs on defense
Charlie Vitale, Sr., QB/DB: 109 carries for 779 yards and 13 TDs; 338 yards passing, 6 TDs, 1 INT; 3 INTs on defense
Connor Cilento, Jr., RB/DB: 43 carries for 555 yards and 7 TDs; 2 INTs on defense
Matt Oliphant, So., RB: 67 carries for 465 yards and 11 TDs; 2 kickoff return TDs
Brian Orio, Jr., WR: 5 rec. for 120 yards and 3 TDs
JJ Bennett, Jr., LB: 58 tackles
Tyler Gordon, Jr., LB: 41 tackles, 1 INT
Connor Reynolds, Jr., LB: 35 tackles, 3 sacks
Aidan Ward, Jr., LB: 21 tackles, 3 sacks
WILLINGBORO STAT LEADERS
Nasir Abney, Sr., RB/LB: 810 yards rushing and 8 TDs
Mekhi Gibson, Sr., RB/WR: 28 rec. for 424 yards and 5 TDS; 304 yards rushing and 5 TDs
Bryson Bright, Sr., RB/LB: 643 yards rushing and 7 TDs; 66 tackles, 2 INT on defense
Andrew Campbell, Sr., LB/QB: 74 tackles, 3 sacks, 6 TFL
Chris Schoemer, Sr., QB: 879 yards passing, 7 TDs, 7 INTs
Eric Wilson, Sr., SS: 38 tackles, 4 INTs
Jaheim Wright, Sr., DB: 58 tackles, 2 INT
A pair of teams with powerful rushing attacks will duke it out on Friday night in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 sectional championship game.
Host Point Boro has employed the flexbone, triple-option attack for many years and this year's version is one of its best ever. Really, it could be called the quadruple option this season. Between senior quarterback Charlie Vitale, sophomore fullback Jake Croce, junior slotback Connor Cilento, and sophomore slotback Matt Oliphant, the Panthers have four legit options on every play and all four can take it the distance at any time. It's still a ball-control offense at its core, but the big-play ability has been there all season. The Panthers are the No. 1 scoring offense in the Shore Conference at 36.7 points per game.
Point Boro's defense has also been very solid but has understandably taken a back seat to its high-scoring offense. Shore Regional scored a late touchdown in Week 1 to get to 20 points, but Manasquan is really the only team to score more than three times on the Panthers all season. They've allowed a touchdown or less in four games with one shutout.
The Panthers are a young team with a ton of sophomores and juniors helping to lead the way and only a handful of seniors seeing significant action. One of those seniors is Vitale, a three-year starter who has been excellent in piloting the Panthers' offense. With a great teacher in head coach Brian Staub, who quarterbacked Brick Memorial to a sectional title in 2018 running the same offense, Vitale has blossomed into exactly the kind of quarterback they need to win a championship. Another huge factor is Point Boro's size along the offensive line. Any time an option team is big up front they are going to be dangerous and that is certainly the case with the Panthers. Six-foot-five, 300-pound junior Cole Skinner is a dominant force in the trenches along with senior Luke Wilson, senior Mike Meccia, junior Connor Reynolds, senior Justin Tuzzolino, and sophomore Charlie Davison.
Willingboro has two very good running backs in Nasir Abney and Bryson Bright and a versatile running back/wide receiver in Mekhi Gibson. The Chimeras are a run-first team but quarterback Chris Schoemer can air it out, as well.
Defensively, Willingboro has 11 interceptions, seven sacks, and 32 tackles for loss in 10 games. Obviously, Point Boro will be in good shape if it isn't passing the ball much and stays on schedule.
This game hinges on Point Boro's offense. If the Panthers can do what they have done all season and keep teams guessing with their option attack, there's a great chance there will be a party in the Boro on Friday night.
The pick: Point Boro, 28-20