because they had quarterbacks returning.
The best known, of course, is Kevin Foley of Cherry Hill East, who is the returning first-team all-South Jersey selection after setting a South Jersey record with 2,626 yards passing last fall.
But Leo Hamlett led Holy Spirit to the No. 1 ranking a year ago, and is a big reason why the Spartans have retained that ranking this fall. Woodrow Wilson's Marty Cross directs an explosive run-and-shoot offense, and may put some big numbers on the board this fall.
Cherokee has Nick Giordano back from a 9-2 Group 4 champion. Atlantic City has Thomas Kelly back to run the wishbone for another season, after last year's promising 7-2 record. Holy Cross returns both Damion Brock and Gabe Ferraro, who split the time last year in an 8-3 campaign, and Hammonton has Brad Groatman, who led the Blue Devils to a 9-1-1 record. Cinnaminson has Jermaine Myers to take the snaps once more after last year's 7-3 success.
Then there are such outstanding athletes as Scott Lavender, Shannon Green and Erich Wiltsee.
Lavender, one of the best baseball players in South Jersey, is running the offense at Gloucester Catholic, which hasn't won a game in two years. Any hope the Rams might have of breaking that streak rests with Lavender.
Green was the starting quarterback a year ago for Woodbury, and led the Thundering Herd to a 10-1 record and its third consecutive Group 1 championship. This season, Woodbury plans to move him to halfback to take advantage of his running ability.
Gateway's multitalented Wiltsee also is one of the area's top basketball players and competitors in the javelin. Gateway hasn't had a winning season since 1984, but Wiltsee is an important building block.
Keith DeFrance led Clayton to a 5-3-1 record last year, its first winning season since 1959. Ray Skorny helped Delran to a 10-1 record last year and its second straight Group 2 championship. Cliff Chavous helped Overbrook to an 8-3 record and the school's first Group 3 championship. Gloucester's Mike Hunter, blessed with the presence of two-time all-South Jersey split end Neal Houser, helped the Lions to the Group 1 playoffs for the second straight year.
Some teams are hoping to move into contention on the skill of returning quarterbacks. They include: Audubon, with Brian McGettigan; Buena, with Dan Torres; Burlington with Keith Babula; Camden, with Damon Daniels; Florence with Brian Opre; Haddon Township, with Pete Klaus; Mainland, with Shawn Ward, and Pennsauken, with Bruce Nolte.
Some of the other veterans you're sure to read about this season include Middle Township's Damon Bethune, Bishop Eustace's Mike Ford, St. Joseph's John Franchini, Clearview's Dave Gaskins, Cumberland's Kevin Nakai, Paul VI's Dan Plefka, Edgewood's Dominic Raio, West Deptford's Walt Talley, Oakcrest's Ben Theis and Ocean City's Brian Tilley.
ARMS RACE. Both Cherry Hill East's Foley and Gloucester Catholic's Lavender have enjoyed great success as pitchers in baseball. The work load of being both a pitcher all spring and summer, then a quarterback all fall, would seem to be a strain.
But both agree that the arm motion required for throwing a baseball is much different from the motion needed to throw a football. So the risk of injury is minimal.
"There's a pretty big difference," said Lavender, who was 10-1 this summer for the Brooklawn team that won the American Legion World Series. "In baseball, you come from the back and get full rotation. In footbal, you just take it back to your ear and throw it. It's not a real big motion. If anything, that helps my arm."
Foley, who has been a pitching star at East since he was in the ninth grade, did not pitch early last spring due to a tired right arm. He got medical treatment, and the arm responded well.
"I had trouble just below my elbow," Foley said, "but it cleared up by the end of the season. In baseball, you throw with your wrist and elbow. In football, you throw mostly with your shoulder, so it wouldn't bother me, anyway."
HISTORY LESSON. Speaking of passing the football, Sept. 4 was the 85th anniversary of the first legal forward pass, with Brandbury Robinson hooking up with Jack Schneider for St. Louis University in a game against Carroll
Many people believe the forward pass was invented by Knute Rockne, who played at Notre Dame in the World War I era. But historians insist it was Robinson-to-Schneider who were the first version of Montana-to-Rice.
HOMEWARD BOUND. Speaking of quarterbacks, East Brunswick's Bryan Fortay was the most eagerly sought quarterback prospect in the country in the fall of 1988.
He signed with Miami, a school probably more famous for quarterbacks than any other in the country. Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinnie Testaverde, Steve Walsh and recent Eagles draft choice Craig Erickson all played for the Hurricanes in the last 10 years.
Fortay was to be the next in a great line, but he left Miami on Sept. 1 and enrolled at Rutgers, which is literally next door to East Brunswick.
"I left here because I need an opportunity to play," Fortay told reporters in Miami on Sept. 3. "I felt they didn't want me to be at the controls here."
Fortay lost a duel with Gino Torretta for the starting job, even though he appeared to have outplayed Torretta in practice. In two fall scrimmages, Fortay completed 28 of 47 passes for 417 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Torretta went 18 of 44 for 185 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions.
Fortay will sit out this season, and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
TRIVIA TEST. Who was the last Heisman Trophy winner not to play in the NFL? (The answer is below.)
COACHES CORNER. Howard "Skeets" Irvine won 223 games in his career at Collingswood, which ended with his death in 1948.
Delsea's John Oberg enters the season with 218 victories, all at the school in Franklinville where he began the program in 1959. When you add the nine games he won at Delmar, Del., his career total is 227.
Vince McAneney has won 222 games in a career that hass included successful stops at Philadelphia's West Catholic, Cherry Hill and Pennsauken. Since 52 of those victories came at West Catholic, McAneney's South Jersey total is 170.
There are four other New Jersey coaches worthy of note:
* Joe Coviello won 254 games in his career at Berwick, Pa., Memorial of West New York, N.J., and North Bergen.
* Warren Wolf has won 241 in his career at Brick Township, the state record for wins at one school. Like Oberg and McAneney, Wolf remains active.
* Bill Regan won 237 at Delbarton School.
* Charles Morrison won 231 at Hackettstown.
TRIVIA ANSWER. Ernie Davis, a halfback with Syracuse who won the Heisman in 1961. Davis, the first black player to win the Heisman, signed an $80,000 contract with the Cleveland Browns, but fell ill with leukemia. He battled the disease through the 1962 season, never getting into a game. Davis died on May 16, 1963.