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.
Many teams have already wrapped up their
pre-cutoff seasons, but there are still some playoff implications in
Week 9. For some teams, this week provides a final test run before the
postseason; others are still fighting to get in. And even for those with
nothing at stake, the opportunity to play spoiler is still there. Let’s
check out some picks.
If you read the box score of St. Mary’s
62-20 victory over Emerson, you weren’t seeing a typo. Gaels running
back Derius Stone went absolutely bananas against the Cavos, churning
out 577 yards and an unbelievable seven touchdowns. Stone tallied 518 of
those yards on his scoring runs alone, and helped push the Gaels to fifth place in the Non-Public, Group 2 standings.
If you needed any more proof that New Jersey
high school football is flat out wild, keep in mind that Paramus
Catholic -- the #4 team in the Vita Athletics-Gridiron New Jersey Top
20 -- can be eliminated from the playoffs this weekend. Even with a win,
the Paladins could still lose out on a playoff spot to Notre Dame and Paul VI. Still,
PC’s season has picked up as of late, and will try to beat a DePaul team
that still may be the favorite in Non-Public, Group 3 -- even with just
two wins to date.
With its big win over St. Joseph (Mont.)
Bergen Catholic may have ensured that the Green Knights will start their
postseason journey on the road. Tied with St. Peter’s Prep with 101.0
power points, Joe’s has now played its first eight, while the Marauders
finish out the pre-cutoff slate with North Bergen this week. Barring a
colossal upset by the Bruins, Peter’s figures to snatch up at least the
final home berth in the section, leaving the Green Knights to begin its
title quest in either Jersey City, Richland, Ramsey or Oradell.
Bergen Catholic and St. Joseph (Mont.), Nos.
1 and 2 in the Vita Athletics-Gridiron New Jersey Top 20, have played
some of the best teams from Florida, Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania
this year. But at the end of the day, playing the best from their very
own state (and county, and league) is what means the most. That was
evident Saturday afternoon in Oradell, as the Crusaders and Green
Knights bit and clawed in a hard-fought game won by Bergen, 16-13, in
The playoffs are fast-approaching, and teams
are jockeying for position in their respective sections. Bergen
Catholic and St. Joseph (Mont.), for example, are both safely
playoff-bound, but the Big North United crown and the top spot in the
Vita Athletics-Gridiron New Jersey Top 20 are still very much up for
grabs. Similarly, Don Bosco Prep is out to show that despite two losses
on its schedule, the Ironmen are still, well, the Ironmen. If they can
upend the nation’s top team in Bishop Gorman (NV), they’ll certainly
have a case for inclusion in the USA Today Super 25 again.
Don’t look know, but Paramus Catholic’s
season—thought to be dead by many—may just have a heartbeat. This
weekend showed exactly that, as sophomore quarterback Allan Walters
tossed three touchdowns in a 55-22 victory over Friendship Academy (DC).
Two of those scores went to receiver Donald Stewart, the hero of last
week’s victory over Don Bosco Prep. The win brings the Paladins back to
.500, and right in the thick of the Non-Public, Group 4 and Big North
It’s a big week for some highly successful
teams looking to show that they are, in fact, for real. Lincoln, for
example, has been dominating other teams, but hasn’t really been tested.
That will all change with a Hoboken team that is a very formidable
Bergen Catholic got a big win over a Big North United Division rival Friday night, but it was anything but easy. Playing
in their first game without injured Tennessee-bound quarterback Jarrett
Guarantano, the Crusaders proved that they are more than capable of
winning a low-scoring, scrappy affair. A failed two-point conversion
ended up being the difference, as Bergen held off the Spartans’ attempt
at a late game-winning drive to beat DePaul, 15-13.
If the only two games of the week were the
two scheduled Big North United Division matchups, it would be a big
week. But throw in a battle between long-time rivals Wayne Hills and
Ramapo, a matchup of two South Jersey, Group 5 powers in Williamstown
and Cherokee, and a colossal cross-county showdown between Camden and
Camden Catholic, and you may have the best weekend of football we’ve
seen in 2015.