Millville, Vineland High School Football 2017 Previews

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Millville Thunderbolts and the Vineland Fighting Clan Are Both Highly Ranked.

Millville Thunderbolts SNJ football 2017 season preview

Last year, he Millville Thunderbolts brought home its first South Jersey football championship since 1975.

Following last year’s extraordinary season for the Millville Thunderbolts, and a breakthrough one for the Vineland Fighting Clan, both Cumberland County high school teams have their eyes on the big prize this season —making the playoffs and returning home with a championship. With both Millville and Vineland expected to do very well, here is SNJ Today Sports Director Mike Frankel’s season previews of both teams.

MILLVILLE THUNDERBOLTS 2017 

What a ride for the Millville Thunderbolts a year ago. The Bolts brought home Millville’s first South Jersey football championship since 1975. But according to this year’s team, that title belongs to the class of 2017. Now, a loaded 2018 class returns for its senior season ready to return to the Promised Land. 

When you wait 40 years for a championship, the celebration can last a while. No one can blame Millville for soaking in the victory parade after the Thunderbolts captured the 2016 South Jersey Group V crown. But most of the key players on that team were juniors, which means they had a senior season to prepare for as well.

 “Shortly after we were still celebrating, but we were still working,” said senior wide receiver Marcial Ramos. “We were still getting out there, we were still in the weight room working. But you know, town celebrating, come do this with us, come do that with us, you can eat food here. The celebration, honestly, was going on for a while. But we were back to working immediately.

“We really did get right back to work,” said senior running back Clayton Scott. 

“We started weight training I think in January. It was morning session, and then we had afternoon session afterwards too. But in the afternoons everybody was in there you know. And that took time, and more people showed in it was the same thing.”

It’s anything but “the same thing” in terms of expectations this fall. 

Few would have picked the thunderbolts to win a title last season. Now the defending champs have to be considered one of the favorites. That attention can create pressure. But the bolts say, bring it on.

“And I know people are circling Millville on the schedule,” said head coach Dennis Thomas. “But we’re not in defense mode; we’re attacking. So you can come, but we’re coming as well. So we look forward to the competition. We look forward to the fight. We’re ready. We’re ready to go.”

“We like adversity,” said Ramos. “We love adversity. We faced it all last year. And now there’s more on our shoulders. I feel like everyone on this team is ready.”

“Last year is last year,” said Scott. “Let’s keep that in the past. Now we have to work for something better: 12 and 0 and a championship.”

The road back to Rowan and repeating began with a 47-7 win on the road against Egg Harbor Township on Saturday, Sept. 8. The Thunderbolts’ next game is Saturday, Sept. 15 at home against Kingsway.

VINELAND FIGHTING CLAN

Vineland Fighting Clan 2017 Season preview high school football

The Fighting Clan were a major storyline in the West Jersey Football League last fall, recording their first winning season in well over a decade. Vineland is looking to take that next step this year, a step the Fighting Clan hope will lead to the South Jersey Group V trophy.

There’s a buzz around the Vineland football program. Eight wins a year ago, and a handful of high-profile transfers fuel that buzz. But it’s a pair of Fighting Clan seniors who helped lay the groundwork for turning the program around. 

Rutgers commit Isaih Pacheco and Maryland commit Nihym Anderson put in a ton of work to help lift Vineland back to prominence.

“They’re great leaders,” said Vineland head coach Dan Russo. “Everyone in our program has bought in. And everyone is working extremely hard, but it’s great to have two quality kids like that leading your football program who are going to be playing in the BIG 10. So we’re real excited about them and obviously the entire team and the program and the way things are going for us here at Vineland.”

Things are going up. Last season, Pacheco and Anderson led the program to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. The Fighting Clan lost a close game against Howell in the Group V opening round. Vineland did go on to beat Millville on Thanksgiving, before the Thunderbolts went on to win the Group V title. But the Fighting Clan aren’t hung up on what could have been — they’re just focused on what’s possible this season. And for the first time in a long time, a Group V crown is a realistic goal.

“We’re taking it one step at a time to get back to the playoffs,” said senior quarterback Pacheco. 

“And we want to win that first round of the playoffs and take it from there. We want to beat Millville again, we want to beat a lot of opponents and we just have to keep working hard at practice and everyone stay focused and play as a team and we’re going to be great.”

“You can’t dwell on the past, you know,” said senior tight end Nihym Anderson. “You just have to move forward and just think about what we’re going to do this year. Last year we had a good season, but this year I hope to have a great season.”

“Well if we can take a positive out of that playoff game, the positive is that our guys are extremely hungry,” said Russo. 

“Once something like that happens to you and you feel like you’re capable of winning that game and you don’t, it makes you hungry in the offseason. So the offseason’s been excellent. Practices have been excellent. They’re extremely hungry and focused and the only thing that we make sure we tell them is that they stay in the moment.”

That moment started with a 27-8 win over Bridgeton on Friday, September 8. The Fighting Clan’s next game is slated for this Saturday against Cherry Hill East.

While Millville and Vineland are only scheduled to play each other once this season — for the traditional Thanksgiving Day game — it’s not hard to imagine the two teams squaring off again this season, perhaps deep in the South Jersey Group V playoffs.

WATCH: The Season Premiere of 'The Locker Room' with Mike Frankel and Pete Thompson.


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