For Bloomfield’s dream season to end with a
sectional championship, they may need to bring home the trophy without
their athletic senior quarterback. Though nothing has been publicly
announced, Mike Carter, Jr. injured his thumb in the Bengals’ 20-7
semifinal win over Union City, which could force backup Matt Arnold into
a very high-profile first start. It’ll be tough on Bloomfield if it is
forced to win the game on the ground against a Montclair defense that
has allowed just four points per game. The Mounties beat Bloomfield,
14-17, on Thanksgiving, and are looking to avoid a third straight loss
in the sectional finals.
It certainly feels as if West Morris won the
sectional title with its win over Irvington this past week, as Warren
Hills would appear to be very much overmatched. The Blue Streaks have
not beaten a team that is currently above .500 all season, and they were
beaten decisively multiple times by playoff teams earlier in the
season. West Morris, on the other hand, is a built-to-win-in-December
kind of team, with a backfield that is both deep and talented.
Ever since dropping back-to-back games to
some average competition in the middle of the season, Neptune has done
very little wrong. Behind the deadly passing combo of Ajee Patterson and
Geoff Fairbanks, the Scarlet Fliers have put themselves in position to
win a second straight sectional title, though they’ll need to establish
themselves on the ground against a very good Northstars defense. That
unit has pitched six shutouts this season, including a 7-0 semifinals
victory over Long Branch last week.
Let’s face it. The Non-Public playoff format
is heavily flawed, and neither of these teams have been tested yet this
postseason. Spartans quarterback Antonio Natale and running back Connor
Vanderbeek will be counted on to have big days against a Holy Spirit
defense that sometimes bends but seldom breaks. There may not be a deep
backfield in the state than the one possessed by Holy Spirit.
The Red Devils’ streak of shutouts came to
an end against Paulsboro last week, but its dominance continued. Penns
Grove seems downright flawless right now, as its offense—led by
quarterback Nick Elmer and running back Anthony Robertson—is scoring
nearly at will, and its defense has allowed just 32 points all season.
Outside linebacker RaeQuan Norman posted six sacks for Penns Grove
against the Red Raiders, and should have Thundering Herd quarterback
Anthony Averett on the run in the finals.
Running back Michael Million and the
Mounties can taste another sectional final, a place they’ve had their
eye on after back-to-back championship game losses in 2010 and 2011. A
victory would put Ridgewood in its first sectional final since 2004.
Wayne Hills hasn’t failed to reach a
sectional final since 2003, when it lost to Ramapo in the North 1, Group
3 semis. The matchup between Patriots quarterback Kevin Olsen and
Indians quarterback Kyle Schneider will be one of the best of semifinals
The Golden Hawks dropped 35-plus points for
the fifth straight game in their first round win over Jefferson. Despite
being a regular in this bracket, Sparta is looking to reach the North
1, Group 3 finals for the firs time since 1995.
New Milford running back Dante Tobler was a
beast in the Knights’ first round win over Westwood, rushing for 236
yards and two touchdowns. It’ll be a big challenge for the Bears to stop
the star back, as its defense has been a bit shaky over the last month.
Panthers quarterback Joe Slattery threw for
341 yards and five touchdown passes in his team’s first round win over
Belvidere. The Cedar Grove defense, which has been prone to allowing
some high scoring outputs this season, will need to find a way to
contain Aviators running back Anthony Seidel.
We here at Gridiron New Jersey would like to
wish all our readers and fellow high school football fans a very happy
Thanksgiving. Here are our picks for some of the best and most historic
rivalry games across the state.
The opening weekend of the 2012 playoffs gave us plenty of story lines. Penns Grove’s dominance was on display Saturday, just as it has been all season. Certainly a favorite -- if not the favorite -- in South, Group 1,
the Red Devils posted a sixth consecutive shutout by beating Audubon,
64-0. It is their seventh shutout of the season, and Kemp Carr’s squad
has allowed just four touchdowns all season, and just one touchdown since opening
Could we get a practice championship game
two weeks before the real thing? In North 1, Group 5, it seems possible.
Montclair and Bloomfield appear to be on a collision course, and
they’ll surely collide on Thanksgiving. The Mounties were expected to be
here, but the Bengals…not so much. After finally losing last week to
Seton Hall Prep, Bloomfield’s shot at a perfect year went out the
window, but coach Mike Carter sent a major message in going for a
game-winning two-point conversion: the Bengals are here to win, not to
be simply better than they were before.
North 2, Group 4 is the exact reason why
this whole five Group system just doesn’t work. Its top seed would
barely qualify in the other Group 4 sections. Its seven-seed, Linden,
has two wins that it barely eeked out. And right up until the cutoff,
there was a possibility of an 0-7-1 team getting in solely because of
Hurricane Sandy. This setup is flat out absurd.
Two major pieces of the Group 3 landscape,
Wayne Hills and Timber Creek, are both now Group 4s. With their
departure, a changing of the guard is in order in their former stomping
grounds. North 1, Group 3, in particular, will see historically
significant change. Hills, winner of seven of the last nine titles, is
no longer around, and the natural inclination is to pencil Ramapo (the
only team other than the Patriots to win championships in the section
over the past decade) in as the next kingpin. Yet, the Raiders figure to
get legitimate competition from teams like River Dell, Lakeland, and
West Essex, who have all won recent titles, and aren’t intimidated by
Ramapo the way many teams seemed to be by the perennially dominant
If the Group 2 playoffs play out the way the seeds indicate they should, we could be looking at some heavyweight-caliber finals. Take
North 2, for example. Madison, as we all know by now, is in the midst
of a historic winning streak--33 games, to be exact. But not long ago,
it was Mountain Lakes that was considered the prototype for small public
school dominance. This season, both boast terrific running games and
the ability to pull out wins in every which way. A battle between these
Group 2 titans would be something to watch.
The NJSIAA has found a way to dilute our
state’s playoffs even more than it had already done over the years. I
can live with five groups (in fact, I may support the idea if it becomes
a vehicle to an overall group championship down the road). But sub-.500
teams in the playoffs? Call me crazy, but I don’t think many coaches or
players around the state even want this type of charity.