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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Blue Devils begin preseason workouts


Dan Russoman/THG. Hammonton quarterback Drew Craig sends a pass downfield during practice on August 8.


Dan Russoman/THG. Deandre Clemons breaks into open ground during a preseason workout on August 8.

HAMMONTON—With its first game approaching on August 25, Hammonton High School’s football team began its preparations last week in anticipation of what the Blue Devils feel could be a championship season.


“We’re excited. The kids worked hard in the offseason, hit the weight room, speed training, just a great effort. It’s great to be back on the field and starting another season,” Hammonton head coach Jim Raso said.


Hammonton has plenty of reasons for optimism this season. The Blue Devils finished at 9-3 in 2022, reaching the South Jersey Group 4 championship game where the season ended with a loss to eventual state champion Millville.


The Devils were young last year, and the experience of a deep postseason run helped lay a strong foundation for this year’s team.


“Our younger guys grew up a lot last year. They had that first taste of success and it’s made them even hungrier this year,” Raso said.


In early workouts last week, Hammonton looked sharp, especially on the offensive line, where four starters return.


“It’s an experienced group that really came together last year. Those guys are all a year older and more experienced and we’re very confident in them.


That line will block for one of the top running backs in the state, junior Kenny Smith, who gained more than 1,600 yards last season and scored 23 touchdowns.


“We’re fortunate to have him,” Raso said.


“He’s grown a little bit, become more mature physically and we really feel he’s ready to take his game to the next level,” Raso said.


Smith ran well in practice on August 8, and said he’s ready for the new season.


“I can’t wait. It’s going to be a big season,” Smith said.


Junior quarterback Drew Craig, a transfer from Williamstown, also impressed in the August 8 morning workout.


Craig threw crisp passes and appeared to be quickly grasping Hammonton’s offensive sets.

“He [Craig] has a nice arm and does a good job reading the defense. He fits our offense well.

He’s a good passer and can pull it down and run when we need him to,” Raso said.


Perhaps more importantly, Craig has quickly become popular with his new teammates.


“He fits right in. He’s a great kid and he works hard,” Raso said.


Craig, Smith and the rest of Hammonton’s roster will have its first test of the season on August 16, when the Blue Devils host Cedar Creek in a preseason scrimmage at 10 a.m.


“The kids and the coaches are ready to go, we’ll learn a lot about where we are and what we need to work on,” Raso said.


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