"We're finally playing penalty-free football, dumb-free football," said Holy Spirit coach Charlie Roman, whose team has returned to the Top 10, in the No. 8 spot.
Holy Spirit is 6-3, but the Spartans are 7-2 on the field since one of those losses was a forfeit for using an ineligible player. The two losses were to teams that are a combined 17-1.
The Spartans have one of South Jersey's best ground games, powered by senior running backs Donta Pollock and Nigel Jones as well as a sturdy offensive line. Pollock ran for 227 yards and four touchdowns and Jones ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns Friday night - all in the first half.
Holy Spirit's improvement will be tested Thursday in its annual Thanksgiving Day clash at Atlantic City (6-3).
"They present a major challenge," Roman said of Atlantic City.
Holy Spirit will finish this choppy season against Camden Catholic (9-0) in the Non-Public 2 state title game Dec. 2 at the College of New Jersey.
"We know how good they are," Roman said of Camden Catholic.
Big numbers. St. Joseph is hovering around several area records, according to South Jersey sports historian Chuck Langerman.
St. Joseph (8-0), the No. 1 team in The Inquirer Top 10, is averaging 48.9 points per game. The South Jersey record for highest scoring average is 48.4 ppg., set by Salem in 1996. The Rams scored 436 points in nine games that season.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania record is 49.7, established Springfield (Montgomery County) in 1970.
St. Joseph could maintain its average in the Non-Public 1 title game against St. Mary's on Dec. 3 at the College of New Jersey. The Wildcats beat the Gaels by a 40-0 score in the state title game last season.
But St. Joseph will face a major challenge in the annual Thanksgiving weekend game against Hammonton (9-1) on Saturday at noon on the Wildcats' field. It's the 50th game in one of South Jersey's best rivalries, with Hammonton holding a 26-22-1 edge.
Another comeback. For the second playoff game in a row, Washington Township rallied from a big deficit on the road against a higher-seeded opponent.
The Minutemen rallied from a 17-0 deficit to stun third-seeded Williamstown, 42-23, in the South Jersey Group 4 opener on Nov. 11. On Friday night, Washington Township was behind by 35-7 but came all the way back in a 42-41 loss to second-seeded Millville.
"I've never seen anything like the way these kids fight," Washington Township coach Mark Wechter said. "They don't quit. They don't stop."
Washington Township pulled within 42-41 with 31 seconds to play. Rather than kick the extra point and likely force overtime, Wechter decided to go for two, but Millville's Shaquille Lee intercepted the pass in the end zone.
"I was thinking that whole drive that we were going for two," Wechter said. "We had the momentum. I thought we could get 3 yards."
Wechter's team was 3-7 in 2010 but bounced back in a big way this season.
"I had neutral people call me and tell me that they were there Friday, and that was the best game they've ever seen, the best comeback they've ever seen," said Wechter, whose team faces Williamstown again on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. "It's a tribute to these kids. When we were walking back to the field after halftime and some guy was yelling at our kids to go home and one of our kids turned to him and said, 'Excuse me, sir, but you haven't seen anything yet.' "
Record setter. Pennsville quarterback Dylan Cummings is on the verge of breaking the state record for passing yards by a sophomore.
Cummings has 2,535 yards. The record is 2,610 by Scott Brown of Butler in 1995.
Cummings also has 32 touchdown passes. That's already tied for the third-highest in South Jersey history, behind Holy Cross' Jason Amer (40 in 1999) and Pennsauken's Manny Cortez (36 and counting this season). Holy Cross' Brian Obuchowski also threw 32 touchdown passes in 1998.
Cummings and Pennsville have two games to play - Wednesday night vs. Penns Grove and Dec. 3 vs. Glassboro in the South Jersey Group 1 final.
Wednesday night games. Thanksgiving Eve is becoming more and more popular for annual football games.
This year, 10 games will be played on Wednesday night in South Jersey, including Pennsauken at Bishop Eustace, Penns Grove at Pennsville, and Cherry Hill East at Cherry Hill West, all slated for 6 o'clock kickoffs.
Chalk talk. There must be something to that fairly new power-point system that the NJSIAA is using to seed playoff teams.
This year, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds advanced to the playoffs in every South Jersey group as well as the two Non-Public groups that involved South Jersey teams.
In South Jersey sectional title games the weekend of Dec. 2-3, it will be No. 1 seed Pennsauken (9-1) vs. No. 2 seed Millville (10-0) in Group 4; No. 1 Timber Creek (10-0) vs. No. 2 Hammonton (9-1) in Group 3; No. 1 Haddonfield (10-0) vs. No. 2 West Deptford (9-1) in Group 3; and No. 1 Pennsville (10-0) vs. No. 2 Glassboro (8-2) in Group 1.
In the Non-Public state title games the same weekend, it's No. 1 St. Joseph (8-0) vs. No. 2 St. Mary's of Rutherford (6-3) in Group 1 and No. 1 Camden Catholic (9-0) vs. No. 2 Holy Spirit (6-3) in Group 2.
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseyside sports