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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 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
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.
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