2023 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 1 Football Playoffs Preview
CENTRAL JERSEY GROUP 1
Last season’s champion: Salem
(8) Audubon at (1) Schalick
(5) Clayton at (4) Shore
(6) Keyport at (3) Glassboro
(7) Salem at (2) South Hunterdon
The Favorite: Keyport (8-1)
It’s been a banner season for the Red Raiders behind Holy Cross-bound senior Naz Treadwell at quarterback. They have a particularly explosive and dynamic offense for a Group I team, with multiple playmakers.
Treadwell is a machine with nearly 40 TDs combined at quarterback and 1,344 yards rushing. Sophomore Mekai Henderson has 890 yards rushing and 11 TDs on the ground, while junior Andrei Matthews has 604 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns. Even in their lone loss to Freehold, they scored 28 points.
Keyport’s last state title in its proud history came way back in 2002, so the Red Raiders are looking to end a long drought.
Contenders: Schalick (9-0); Shore Regional (5-3)
Schalick has the gaudy record, but two of those wins were forfeits. They do have solid wins over Gloucester City (7-1) and Riverside (6-1), however.
Similar to Keyport with Treadwell, Schalick moved a talented running back to quarterback this season. Sophomore Kenai Simmons has 715 yards passing and 7 touchdowns along with 344 yards rushing and 8 TDs on the ground.
If all goes as planned for Shore Regional, they will be heading down to Pittsgrove Township to take on Schalick in the semifinals. This is where we see how much playing a schedule filled with bigger schools and a non-public school this season helped prepare Shore to make a playoff run against schools of its own size.
The Blue Devils are a typical blue-collar Shore team. They run the ball in the Wing-T and play physical defense. Junior quarterback Josh Moeller has thrown for 511 yards and 5 touchdowns and run for 118 yards and 4 TDs. In typical Shore fashion, the rushing is spread out among multiple backs, led by junior Brendan O’Brien with 441 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Defensively, Shore is led by junior linebacker Tommy Schroeder (58 tackles) and star defensive end Jackson Whitacre, a Delaware recruit with 50 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Senior Lucas White has been an all-around standout as a rusher, receiver and on defense.
There is a good chance we could have an old school, all-Shore Conference match-up in the final between Shore and Keyport if the Blue Devils can beat Clayton (5-3) and take care of business on the road against Schalick. Clayton is very similar to Shore with a pounding rushing attack led by four different players and an offense that does not pass very often.
Dark Horse: Glassboro (5-3)
This program has won 11 sectional titles in its history, so it's used to winning in the postseason. Keyport will certainly have a challenge in the first round against a Bulldogs team that’s balanced on offense and has only allowed more than 20 points in a game twice all season.
Sophomore defensive tackle Brandon Simmons has 57 tackles, 8 sacks and an eye-opening 21 tackles for a loss, so Keyport will have to find a way to block him to give Treadwell some room to operate.
Shore Shots: Keyport and Shore Regional are the only Shore Conference teams in the bracket.
Non-Shore Player to Watch: Xavier Sabb, Fr., WR/DB, Glassboro
Another playmaker on Glassboro is Sabb, a freshman who has 19 catches for 313 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns. Glassboro has only thrown for 615 yards this season, and Sabb has half of them. He is one of the most highly-recruited freshmen in the country with offers from Georgia, Michigan, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State and more.
Badders' pick: Keyport
Stump's pick: Shore