By Tom Szieber
Posted: Saturday July 28, 2012 8:50 pm
Favorite: Glen Rock
Somehow, some way, the Panthers always seem to find a way to keep themselves on top—or at least near the top. You can be sure they’ve got Oct. 6 circled on their calendar; that’s when they’ll get another shot at Pompton Lakes, who upended them in last season’s North 1, Group 1 final.
On their tail: Hawthorne
The Bears are coming off their first back-to-back playoff seasons since 1986-87. The return of linemen Ethan Ramos and Evan Ramos provides coach John Passero with a great foundation from which to build his now-Ryan Hollis-less offense.
Keep an eye on: Rutherford late in the season
The Bulldogs are 15-1 in September and October over the last two seasons, but just 1-3 in November. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle the postseason should they make it there again this year.
Magic Number: 5
It was the number of wins Garfield posted last season. It’s the most wins the Boilermakers have posted in a given year during the Gridiron New Jersey era, giving new coach Jeff DeVito something to work with.
Favorite: Pompton Lakes
How can you not like the Cardinals, with their smash mouth defense and fantastic returnee Robbie Meyers at quarterback? Scott Mahoney’s bunch is capable of a repeat not only in the division, but in North 1, Group 1, as well.
On their tail: Cresskill
The Cougars were the only team to defeat Pompton Lakes a year ago, and are a perennially successful squad under Bob Valli. Cresskill hasn’t had a losing season since 2005.
Keep an eye on: Pompton Lakes’ running backs
Losing standout Nieko Torres will be tough, but the Cards believe they’ll be just fine. Dane Torres (Nieko’s brother), Tony Capobianco and Ryan Kazanowski will be a few of the names that will look to fill the hole left by Nieko’s departure.
Magic Number: +25
It’s Pompton Lakes’ remarkable turnover differential from 2011. Is it any wonder they won a sectional crown?
Favorite: Saddle Brook
It really is not exaggerating to call Leo Ciappina one of North Jersey’s better head coaches. The job he’s done with the once-dreadful Falcons is one that could inspire any rebuilding project.
On their tail: Queen of Peace
The Golden Griffins have a good deal of talent, including QB Anthony Villano and two-way lineman Bobby Keegan. Head coach Steve Romano has led a team to a sectional final before, and Q of P thinks they’re good enough to repeat that feat.
Keep an eye on: Chuck Kalendar, head coach, Becton
This is more of an offseason matter, but the former Wallington assistant will have little prep time for this season after only recently taking the job. Roger Kotlarz and the Wildcats were 7-3 last season and defeated the likes of St. Mary and Cresskill.
Magic Number: 295
That’s the listed weight for senior center Tony Bonadies of Palisades Park. At 6’4”, he is one of the more imposing forces in all of the NJIC.
Favorite: St. Mary
Running back Jonathan Diaz is a solid all-around back who is good enough to grind and cut the Gaels back to the postseason. St. Mary’s championship prospects are lot better without having to share a section with St. Joseph (Hamm.).
On their tail: Emerson
The Cavos have a familiar face as their new head coach in former defensive coordinator David Murphy. They were probably even better than their 6-4 record last year.
Keep an eye on: Damian Corredor, RB, Weehawken
The Indians made big improvements last season, largely due to the talented Corredor, who rushed for 1,600+ yards and 17 TDs. Weehawken hasn’t posted a winning season since 2003.
Magic Number: 4
It’s the number of straight wins Wood-Ridge posted to close out 2011. It’s pretty impressive considering the Blue Devils started out the year 0-6.
Tom Szieber can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.