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  • Writer's pictureAl Thompson


Shawnee senior-to-be Liam Gilmore during an unofficial visit to Ohio State where his father Jim Gilmore played offensive line. Photo submitted

Virtually every year, Shawnee football is on every high school football fan and observer’s watch list when listing the top programs from South Jersey.

In 2022, the Renegades had an up and down season finishing with a 6-5 ledger and a playoff win. Graduation had a lot to do with the middle-of-the-pack finish, plus some inexperience at some positions.

The hope is the playing time accrued by those underclassmen will pay dividends’ in 2023.

One player looking for big things is tight end/pass rusher Liam Gilmore, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior-to-be who would like to help his team reach its goals…and maybe accomplish a few for himself along the way.

Gilmore has the bloodlines to match his obvious natural abilities.

His father Jim Gilmore played football and was a standout offensive lineman for North Catholic High School in the Philadelphia Catholic League. The 6-4, 269-pounder (per went on to play at Ohio State and spent two seasons in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins (1986-87).

“I’ve always been around it,” Liam said when asked about growing up with a dad who played football at a serious level.

Young Gilmore was asked if the 6-5 campaign in 2022 was a positive or disappointing season for him.

“I don’t know,” Gilmore said during a recent phone interview. “We lost a lot of key players from the year before. So coming into this season everyone was worried about how we were going to perform. It was a heavy loss.”

Gilmore mentioned a few seniors who graduated after the season the ended with an 8-

4 record from 2021 including QB Matt Welsey, WR/CB Avery Cohen, TE/LB Nate Sears, HB/CB Dean Bialous, OL/DL Nick Supelana and “most of the offensive line.”

Gilmore said things looked good at first for Shawnee and long-time head coach Tim Gushue.

“We all bonded like real quick and had a great start to the season.” Gilmore said. The Renegades won their first three games before hitting a slump that included four straight losses including a 21-10 verdict to eventual Group 4 State Champions Millville.

Shawnee regrouped to win three of its final four games including a 42-7 Group 4 playoff win over Ocean City. The Renegades ended the season with a 27-16 loss to Hammonton who lost in the next round to Millville.

Shawnee senior-to-be Liam Gilmore on the sideline during a game in 2022. Photo submitted.

Joe Papa is another standout player returning for Shawnee. Listed at 6-2, 189, Papa played quarterback this year and was 121 of 201 for 1640 yards, throwing nine touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He also rushed 151 times for 808 yards and 14 trips to the end zone.

Gilmore was second on the team in catches behind Ethan Krauss (42 receptions, 779 yards, four TDs) with 27 catches for 407 yards and three touchdowns.

As defensive end Gilmore recorded 69 total tackles and three sacks.

Gilmore predicts the Renegades will be a handful.

“We’re definitely coming back, get past the semis, going to the championship…that’s like our whole goal.”

Gilmore decided to leave the lacrosse team and focus on football. It is easy to see why. Gilmore has the dimensions college scouts are looking for. The 16-year-old is long and still growing as he heads towards his senior season.

He is training at school, at elite facilities like Adrenaline Sports Performance in Cherry Hill and a few camps, getting ready for what he hopes is a Power 5 football career.

Gilmore was asked what the college scouts are telling him what position he can do well at on the next level. He has made some unofficial visits to some campuses including, of course, Ohio State.

“What I am being looked at by coaches is as a rushing outside linebacker,” said Gilmore, who lists Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt as an NFL player he admires. “Because I’m long, agile and I can reach. I think I’m sizable enough to play tight end, but there’s just a lot bigger guys out there.”

He was asked what parts of his game he feels needs to improve on to take the next step? “I just need to get bigger, stronger and faster than I already am,” Gilmore said. “I just need to put on mass and power. I want to get my technique down to really crisp and dominate from there.”

There are terrific offensive tackles on Shawnee’s schedule every year. But at the top tier of the next level it gets really intense.

Gilmore said he and his father attended a camp at Rutgers last summer. He was asked what camps like that do for a player like him.

“They make it like a simulation of how college (practice) is done, and all my competitors” Gilmore said. “The coaches teach you there. They teach you all the techniques that the school uses, they’re pretty helpful.”

Gilmore said he believes some of the players Coach Gushue will likely lean on for leadership include offensive tackle Jake Thomas, wide receiver Jack Connors, Nick Rusinski at running back and linebacker plus nose tackle Eric Bill, “we just call him Bill.”

Gilmore said he likes the way Eagles defensive and Josh Sweat plays as well as Cowboys hybrid pass rusher Micah Parsons.

Gilmore said he loves football because of the physicality it brings, “I just love to hit.” *

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