• Dan Russoman

Blue Devils expected to contend


Hammonton running back Kenny Smit breaks into open territory during a Blue Devils practice held last week. (THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Months of off-season preparation ended last week for Hammonton High School’s football team as the Blue Devils began their preseason workouts as they get ready for the 2022 season.


A year ago, Hammonton struggled early in the season before winning three of its last four games on the way to a 5-6 record and an appearance in the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs.


“We were very young last year. Started a lot of sophomores and they had their share of ups and downs,” Hammonton coach Jim Raso said.


Raso and the Blue Devils coaching staff are hopeful that the experience gained by those young players will pay off this season when they are another year older.


“We called those guys ‘the young bucks.’ They’re a year older now and they’re still very hungry. As a staff, we were all very impressed with how they worked in the offseason, in the weight room. They’re ready to take the next step and we’re excited to see what’ll happen this year,” Raso said.


Hammonton will compete in the West Jersey Football League’s Memorial Division this season against some of the top teams in the league such as Timber Creek, Highland and Rancocas Valley.


“The schedule is strong. We play some very good teams in our division and outside,” Raso said.


In addition to its slate of division games, Hammonton will take on Delsea, Cherokee and Ocean City, three teams that are perennial contenders for sectional titles.


Last week, Hammonton held its first official workouts of the preseason and looked sharp running its offense and defense.


Raso won’t tell much about this season’s approach, but fans can expect to see some new wrinkles on both sides of the ball.


“We’re working on a few new things offensively. We feel like we have the talent to push the ball down the field,” Raso said.


On August 17, Hammonton opens its preseason schedule with a quad scrimmage at Atlantic City that also includes Camden and Woodbury. On August 20, the Blue Devils will visit Cherry Hill West for a scrimmage that begins at 9 a.m.


The regular season opens on August 26 when Hammonton hosts Notre Dame at 6 p.m.


“It’s a quick turnaround, with two scrimmages in four days and then we turn our attention to Notre Dame. They’re usually very good,” Raso said.