Saturday's NJSIAA Group 2 South Jersey football final features the defending champion returning to the finals for the third year in a row and a team fairly new to playing football that was one game away from an undefeated season.
No. 1 seed West Deptford meets No. 2 Cedar Creek in the championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon, Dec. 8.
West Deptford returns to Rowan University for third-straight year as it eyes another Group 2 championship. West Deptford lost to Haddonfield in the finals in 2010, before defeating the Bulldawgs in a rematch last year.
This time, there will be no Colonial Conference rival to compete against to become champions of Group 2, but there will be an equally opposing counterpart in the Cedar Creek Pirates.
West Deptford will have to contend with a Cedar Creek team that dominated No. 3 Willingboro to the tune of 41-3 in the Group 2 semifinals. Quarterback Damon Mitchell completed 12 of 19 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Five of his completions were to running back Gary Melton, who finished with 125 yards and a touchdown.
Melton also had a big day on the ground, rushing for three scores. It was a similar story in Cedar Creek’s opening-round 34-7 win over Cinnaminson as Melton finished with 168 yards receiving.
Like West Deptford, Cedar Creek (10-1) is capable of hitting the big play at any time. Four of the Pirates’ six touchdowns against Willingboro came from 25-yards or longer.
If recent history is any indication, the biggest challenge for the Eagles’ defense will likely come in the air. In West Deptford’s (11-0) closest wins—games against Haddon Heights and Paulsboro—the opposition has had success in the air, particularly to receivers lining up in the slot. Cornerback Alex Hilbmann said the team got valuable experience during its 28-20 win over Paulsboro two weeks ago. The Eagles gave up more than 200 yards of passing from Zack Funk in that game, but also recorded three interceptions to seal the win.
“We definitely can use this game to get better,” said Hilbmann, who is also the starting quarterback. “Guys made plays, but there are some things we can work on in practice to get better at.”
Outside of the Pirates' 41-40 defeat to St. Augustine on Thanksgiving, Cedar Creek has also played stifling defense. In the 10 other contests, Cedar Creek has allowed just 6.8 points per game.
This game was looked at as a likely final as soon as the Group 2 brackets were released with West Deptford as No. 1 and Cedar Creek No. 2.
Cedar Creek is playing just its second year of varsity football, and its first in the Cape-Atlantic League.