Not since the end of World War II has there been such an unusual high school football season around here. Games were cancelled and postponed, sometimes at the last minute. New games, to replace those that disappeared, were put together in a hurry.

A few teams played the NJSIAA maximum of nine games but some played just four, with many schedule counts in between.

Still, a football season was completed in the middle of an international pandemic that is as serious in our country right now as it has been in the nine months we’ve had to deal with it. It is a virus that forced the cancellation of the entire spring sports season and has required adjustments in the upcoming winter season with more likely to come.

There were no divisions in the West Jersey Football League, just a schedule of games. There were no championships in the WJSL or the NJSIAA, though Holy Spirit won a post-season bracket and Ocean City reached the final round of another.

Before completely filing away all records and eventually moving on to basketball, wrestling, swimming and winter track, lets review some of the highlights of the football season.

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OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: There were a lot of great performances from talented players like Ahmad Ross, Jordan Marcucci, Jake Schneider, Millville’s LaQuint Allen and Ocean City’s Joe Repetti. But Patrick Smith is a clear choice. The Holy Spirit senior averaged more than 250 rushing yards a game. He didn’t play in the Spartans Thanksgiving Day game with Atlantic City by choice. But if you take his numbers and project them over a typical 11-game season, he was on track to gain 2,700 yards and score 25 touchdowns.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Like on offense, there is some talent on this side of the line. Michael Francisco and Andrew Constantino of Holy Spirit, Nasir Hill and Brady Small of St. Augustine, Mike Rhodes and Jake Inserra of Ocean City, Jahqir Haley of St. Joseph and others. But at the top of the group is Ahmad Ross. His numbers were impressive – 64 tackles including 27 solos and 14 for losses, two sacks and two interceptions. But beyond the numbers, Ross just always seemed to be around the ball when the other team had it.

FOOTBALL COACH OF THE YEAR: There are four CAL coaches whose teams finished among the top eight ranked teams in South Jersey – Pete Lancetta, A. J. Russo, Paul Sacco & Kevin Smith – and all four are former CAL football players. They all took on the challenges of a difficult season and created a season to remember for their student athletes. But A.J. Russo gets the nod. After putting a state championship in 2019 back-to-back with a No. 1 ranking in South Jersey this year he has earned a spot next to Ed Byrnes and Bill Walsh in the history of Holy Spirit football and football in the Cape-Atlantic League.

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