Madison and its terrific running back corps
kicked off finals weekend with a bang, as, behind P.J. Mulcahy’s 87
yards and two touchdowns, it rumbled to a 27-6 victory over Rutherford
in the North 2, Group 2 championship game.
Toms River North’s defense has played well
as of late, but will need to turn it up a notch to handle the Braves’
stacked backfield. Williamstown’s trio of quarterback Rich Stanzione and
running backs Tyrick Glenn and Joe Early has led the Braves to 9
victories, including playoff wins over Washington Township and Cherokee.
Much of Williamstown’s success has come due to its dominant front five,
as well, led by the Chamberlain brothers, Nick and Jake.
The top-seeded Panthers, despite all their
success, haven’t won a sectional title since 2002, and come out of the
NJIC looking to upend a Mahwah team that has been harboring championship
aspirations all year. To do so, they’ll need quarterback Matt Schlett
to have a performance that matches the one he produced in last round’s
victory over Hawthorne.
Dan Exter -- a then 27-year-old digital
producer in the sports media industry, covering high school sports
throughout New Jersey -- was fit. He was athletic. He was active. Yet, back in early 2013, for a reason he could not at the time identify, he was constantly out of breath.
The Thunderbolts continue to inch closer to
evening the series record in the state’s oldest rivalry, and have now
won six straight meetings. Vineland has lost six of its last seven
games, and will have a tough time trying to stop Millville quarterback
Will Polhamus, who has passed for 1,167 yards and eight eight
A rivalry that has endured for years will be
back on center stage in championship week, thanks to semifinal
victories by Verona and Cedar Grove in the North 1, Group 1 semifinals
this past weekend.
This is more or less the final four everyone
expected, and the argument can be made that despite its designation as
an eight-seed, the Green Knights are the favorites. Joe’s defeated Don
Bosco Prep on opening day, and its only in-state loss was to Bergen
Catholic in overtime. The Marauders have a fantastic quarterback in
Johnathan Lewis and an array of skilled playmakers, but St. Joseph
(Mont.) is far more battle-hardened than the HCIL powerhouse. Meanwhile,
Bergen Catholic is hoping to get quarterback Jarrett Guarantano back
for their rematch with rival Don Bosco Prep. If they do, the Crusaders’
stock would skyrocket, as they were a high-flying offense with him under
center early this season.
Both semifinal matchups are rematches from
earlier in the year, though Matawan will look significantly different
this time around. They lost to top-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven, 17-0, back
in September, but that was without quarterback George Pearson in the
lineup. The Huskies have now won seven straight games, and will look to
continue their title defense against a Rumson group that has won two
straight titles of its own (in Group 2). Red Bank beat Ocean Township on
Sept. 25, and it marked the only time this year that the Spartans
scored below 17 points. The win was the Bucs’ first over a high-caliber
opponent, and springboarded the group to six more victories in its
aftermath (including one over Shore parochial power Red Bank Catholic).
Just when it looked as if Montclair
Kimberley’s magical undefeated season was about to end, the Cougars dug
deep and won on a miracle Hail Mary to beat Mater Dei Prep, 13-12. Mater
Dei had led the game 12-0 in the first, but Cougars quarterback Erik
Zeug hit wide receiver Max Hall for a 40-yard scoring strike earlier in
the fourth. Zeug came up big again on the game-winning play, heaving a
38-yard prayer that tipped off the hands of several Seraph defenders
before being hauled in by wide receiver/tight end Derek Kleinman.
The Cherokee backfield of quarterback Evan
Powell and running back Jon Lovett is one of the reasons the Chiefs
believe they can win a third straight sectional championship. On the
same side of the bracket, though, is a Williamstown team that is strong
in the trenches. The Braves’ only loss of the year was a 20-0 to the
Chiefs on Oct. 9.
Park Ridge finds itself in an interesting
spot as this section gets underway. The Owls are 8-1 and have dominated
everyone -- everyone except their first round opponent, Cresskill. The
Cougars (6-3) held Park Ridge to a season-low in points when they handed
it its only loss, 18-15, on Oct. 16.