2023 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 2 Football Playoffs Preview
CENTRAL JERSEY GROUP 2
Last season’s champion: Willingboro.
(8) Spotswood at (1) Point Boro
(5) Cinnaminson at (4) New Providence
(6) A.L. Johnson at (3) Pleasantville
(7) Monmouth at (2) Willingboro
The Favorite: Willingboro (7-2)
The Chimeras get the favorite status since they beat Point Boro last year and won the whole thing, but it’s a razor-thin margin. Point Boro could easily also be considered the favorite. It’s a lot of the same faces that stunned Point Boro 50-30 in the semifinals last year, including sophomore quarterback Lamar Best.
He has 1,707 yards passing and 23 touchdowns on 158 attempts, and he’s also run for 529 yards and 10 touchdowns on an average of 8 yards per carry. The Panthers will have to solve him if they end up meeting in the championship game. Best has three receivers with over 300 yards, led by sophomore Terrance Knighton with 29 catches for 553 yards and 7 touchdowns. Senior Jarelle Taylor leads the team with 10 touchdown catches. The only team that has held them under 20 points this season is undefeated Group 3 contender Timber Creek in a 16-14 loss.
The contender: Point Boro (7-1).
The Panthers have been waiting a year for another crack at Willingboro after last year’s disappointing finish. They have buried their last two opponents 92-7 after a stunning loss to Manalapan and feature the Shore’s highest-scoring offense at 40 points per game.
Senior Matt Oliphant is one of the Shore’s top quarterbacks and has run for 1,300 yards this season in their triple option attack. Senior fullback Jake Croce is also having a strong year with more than 600 yards rushing.
The main question for the Panthers if they meet Willingboro in the final will be whether their secondary can hold up against the deep passing attack of the Chimeras, and whether Point Boro can control the clock with its running game to keep Willingboro’s offense off the field. The Panthers gave up 28 points to Rumson-Fair Haven, a strong passing team, in a regular-season victory, so the back end of the defense will have something to prove in this postseason.
Dark horse: Pleasantville (7-1)
A team that may have an outside chance of giving Willingboro a game in the semifinals is Pleasantville, although it played a very Group I-heavy schedule. The Greyhounds’ one loss is to a middle-of-the-pack Ocean City squad, but they are averaging 34.9 points per game. Their quarterback, sophomore Ahmad Jones, has thrown for 839 yards and 13 TDs.
Shore Shot: Monmouth (6-3)
It’s been a great bounceback season for the Falcons off a two-win campaign in 2022. Their strength is their defense, which enters allowing just 9.3 points per game. But Willingboro is a whole other level of offense than anything Monmouth has seen this season.
In its last two games outside the Liberty Division, the Falcons were shut out by Red Bank and Shore Regional, so they will have to find a way to generate offense against an explosive team. Quarterback Dom O’Grady has thrown for nearly 900 yards and will need to make plays through the air to senior Kaiden Stafford (25-418-4) to keep them in the game.
The defense has been led by safety Evan Booth (72 tackles) and defensive end Dan Kikta, who has 64 tackles and a whopping 22 tackles for a loss, plus 7 sacks.
Non-Shore Player to Watch: Khalil Witherspoon, Sr., TE, Pleasantville
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound tight end is committed to Old Dominion. He has 17 catches for 285 yards and 6 touchdowns this season.
Badders' pick: Point Boro
Stump's pick: Point Boro