Finals Preview: Group 5

Running back Jamauri Bogan was the catalyst behind Union’s rise from a 1-2 start to a sectional finalist, and enters the title game with 1,514 yards and 18 TDs on the ground. Don’t sleep on his backfield mate Jabree Robertson, either -- the senior has 663 yards and 11 rushing scores of his own. Guard/linebacker Connor Stieglitz is as important a two-way player as you’ll find in this game. His 89 tackles lead the Red Devils, and he’s a cog in the Ridge run game.

Finals Preview: Group 4

The Chargers have possibly the most dangerous passing game in New Jersey thanks not only to quarterback Dan Williams, but the star wide receiver duo of Adonis Jennings and Cameron Chambers. Even when their offense isn’t clicking, they’ve shown they can win defensive slugfests -- having beaten Moorestown and Paul VI by scores of 7-6 and 8-7, respectively. Shawnee knows how to keep games close, but are just 2-2 in games decided by under seven points. Running back Anthony DiOrio is the engine that makes the Renegade offense go, and has 1,188 yards and 16 touchdowns this year.

Finals Preview: Group 3

Needless to say, the first year under head coach Kevin Kostibos has been a rousing success for the Hilltoppers, who have now won 23 straight and are looking for their third title in five years. Parsippany Hills meanwhile, looked like they might struggle come postseason time after mid-season losses to Delbarton and West Morris -- two of the tougher opponents on their NJAC schedule -- but they stormed back to win their last four, including a 20-17 upset over a West Essex squad that had been near-perfect all year. Hills has never won a sectional title.

Finals Preview: Group 2

Caldwell has a formidable defense, particularly in its linebacking corps, but it’ll be hard-pressed to slow down a Herd running back that has over 3,400 yards on the ground this year. Mountain Lakes won the last postseason meeting between the perennial postseason contenders, 26-20. The Chiefs are out for revenge and have won nine straight games. Caldwell has its own dangerous back in Ray Iodice, who has 1,228 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Finals Preview: Group 1

The Heights offensive line -- consisting of Justin Porzl, Chris Verdi, Dimitri Forde, Mauro Altamura and Ryan Palladino -- has been the engine behind an offense that boasts a dangerous run game and top-flight quarterback in Darren Iurato. Iurato scored three times (2 pass TD, 1 rush) in the Aviators’ 28-21 win over the Cardinals in early November. Pompton is looking to become the first team to win three straight North 1, Group 1 crowns since Glen Rock won five in a row between 1998 and 2002.

Thanksgiving Football Predictions

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.

Semifinals Preview: Group 1

Last season’s playoff semifinal tilt between the Panthers and Aviators ended with a late Joe Slattery touchdown pass that sent Cedar Grove to MetLife Stadium. Heights quarterback Darren Iurato is completing over 76% of his passes and has already led his team to wins over three teams still alive in the sectional semifinals (Queen of Peace, Waldwick, Pompton Lakes).

Semifinals Preview: Group 2

Haddonfield has quickly jumped back into the conversation with the Group 2 elite thanks to its shocking upset of two-time defending sectional champion West Deptford last week. To make it to this year’s title game, they’ll need to do the same to streaking Camden, who can put itself in position for its first championship since 1976 if it can win its 13th straight game.

Semifinals Preview: Group 3

Quarterback Matt Thies and the West Essex Wing-T has dominated everyone other than Orange, though their close victories over the Tornados have probably been beneficial for a team that has rarely been challenged this season. The Knights’ offensive line will have its hands full with Par Hills defensive end Michael Dogbe, who has 21.5 sacks in ten games this year.

Semifinals Preview: Group 4

The Bosco defense held Paramus Catholic’s dynamic offense to its lowest output of the season (13) when the teams met on Oct. 18. Still, PC’s brutal schedule has prepared it for this point, and it will challenging for the Ironmen to hold the Paladins’ skill players down once again.

Semifinals Preview: Group 5

The Chiefs are hitting their stride at the right time, and avenged their opening day loss to Edison with last week’s first round playoff victory. Union running back Jamauri Bogan’s 180 yards and two scores against Watchung Hills are evidence that he has overcome his nagging injury issues in time to help the Farmers make a run.

Group 5 Preview & Picks

Running back Elijah Barnwell and his Piscataway teammates have bounced back nicely since an opening day loss to Edison, and will have a shot at redemption against an Eagles team searching for its first championship since 1991. Union looked vulnerable early in the year, but has shown resiliency and toughness in a five-game winning streak that put them back in the postseason. Seven of Ridge’s nine victories have come over teams .500 or above, though they did have to grind one out against fifth-seeded Linden earlier this season.

Group 4 Preview & Predictions

Brick Township hasn’t won a sectional title since 1994, but the top-seeded Green Dragons are hopeful that they can get versatile junior quarterback Carmen Sclafani back from a shoulder injury and make a run. To do so, they very well might meet up with fourth-seeded Middletown South in the semifinals. Brick lost to the Eagles, 28-7, on opening day. Of course, Burlington Township might have something to say about that, and they’ll look to upend South in the first round and end a two-game skid, while handing Steve Antonucci’s squad its third defeat in a row. Colts Neck may have the best two-way player in the bracket in running back/linebacker Anthony Gargiulo.

Group 3 Preview and Predictions

River Dell’s resurgence after a 1-3 start got it into the playoffs, but the Golden Hawks’ haven’t seen a player like Jefferson quarterback J.R. Reese. Ramapo and Sparta are both returning finalists, and it seems improbable that surprising Garfield or up-and-down Englewood will stop them from tilting again in the semifinals. Mahwah has cruised all year long, and has shown the ability to rush the passer effectively. Lakeland is a very dangerous eight seed, and showed its might by hanging in with an outstanding Paramus squad early in the year.

Group 2 Preview and Predictions

It seems unlikely that anyone can stop the collision between Holy Spirit and DePaul in this season’s final. Spirit has won three straight finals (and two in this section), while DePaul is looking to make a run at its first championship since 1992. The Spartans from Wayne (as opposed to their counterparts from Absecon) have picked up several huge wins over Don Bosco Prep and Bergen Catholic this season, and have an experienced leader in quarterback Zach Bednarczyk. Holy Spirit can beat a team in a number of ways, one of which is on the legs of one of the CAL’s top running backs in Taalib Gerald.

Group 1 Preview and Predictions

South Jersey passing phenom Dylan Cummings of Pennsville has led the Eagles to a 7-1 record, though their only real challenge -- undefeated Woodstown -- handed them a 20-17 loss. Glassboro became the latest team to benefit from the removal of the requirement that a playoff team be at least .500, qualifying for the postseason at 3-5. Even in defeat, Glassboro’s defense has been strong, holding the opposition to under 20 points six times. Gloucester City also qualified with just three wins, but if last week’s 55-22 loss to Pennsville is any indication of what their rematch will be like, the Lions’ playoff stay could be short.

Week 9 Predictions

Week nine is finally upon us, and the playoffs will be all set up by weekend’s end. But there are still some highly important regular season games left to be played, and a bunch of teams vying for higher seeds and home games in the postseason. And even some of the games that are “meaningless,” still have a lot of pride (and potential late-round playoff implications) at stake. Let’s get to some picks.

Week 8 Recap

As hard as it might be to believe that a 2012 sectional finalist could possibly be one of the state’s most improved teams, Weequahic may actually fit that bill. This week, they rode another strong defensive effort (led by linebacker Sidney Gopre’s 18 tackles) to a 27-0 victory over Verona. But just how dominant have the Indians been, you ask? They’ve allowed just one touchdown all year—in the first half of opening day against Orange—and have now posted four straight shutouts.

Week 8 Predictions

Hard as it is to believe, the end of the pre-cutoff season is upon many of the teams in New Jersey. But the headline games are, of course, the showdowns between St. Joseph (Mont.) and DePaul and Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco Prep. South Jersey has its own parochial prize fight, as well, with St. Joseph (Hamm.) and St. Augustine Prep going at it. Let’s get to some picks for those and a host of other top games.