Opening weekend of New Jersey high school
football was obviously going to revolve around the North Jersey
parochials and their out-of-state showdowns. But what was most notable
was the dominance shown by several of them.
The Lions have an ambitious first few weeks
on their schedule, and a win over a non-NJAC parochial like DePaul would
provide a lot of momentum heading into their second game against
Paramus Catholic. It will be a test for Pope John to keep junior
linebacker Quayshon Alexander (nine sacks in 2013) off of its star
junior quarterback, Sonny Abramson.
A is for
Shawnee running back Anthony DiOrio. In leading the Renegades to a
South, Group 4 championship, DiOrio was a true workhorse. DiOrio carried
the ball 222 times for 1,321 yards and 16 touchdowns, and was a big
part of why Shawnee earned its first sectional crown since 2008.
It seems like every year we do our finals
recap, and every year the theme is the same. It’s always a verbal
highlight reel of the weekend’s best performances. It isn’t a
lack of creativity on our part. It’s the fact that at the end of the
day, that is what its all about, right? Celebrating these exceptional
athletes on the biggest stage.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.