Playoff Predictions: First Round
By Tom Szieber
Posted: Friday, November 11, 2016 1:25 pm
Check out Brian Carr's photo gallery from Bridgewater-Raritan's victory over Elizabeth.
The Aviators won the first meeting between these teams, 48-14, on Oct. 8. Hasbrouck Heights QB Frank Quatrone rushed for 148 yards in last week’s NJIC title game victory over Pompton Lakes.
The Pick: Hasbrouck Heights
The Bears are just 0-3 against opponents with winning records. Quarterback Wilden Germain showed the force he can be in the postseason, rushing for five touchdowns in a 44-20 win over Glen Ridge.
The Pick: Hoboken
The Raiders are 4-0 during the regular season against teams in this bracket, including top-seeded Shore (in week 9). It’s already been a banner year for a Mustangs squad that, prior to this fall, hadn’t won more than two games in a single season since 2009.
The Pick: Keyport
The Garnets will have a tall task in trying to stop Rams running back Jon Taylor, who has rushed for 24 touchdowns on the season. Heights is hoping to break the trend they’ve been on this year of following each of their two-game winning streaks with a loss.
The Pick: Salem
The Braves haven’t won a playoff game since a 25-16 victory over Lenape Valley in 2013. The Panthers have had a strong season, but are just 1-2-1 in games decided by seven points or less.
The Pick: Pequannock
The Hornets have shown the ability to beat top-flight teams in wins over the likes of Mahwah and West Essex. Caldwell LB Christian Dalla Riva is a tackling machine who will need to be accounted for if HP wants to move on.
The Pick: Hanover Park
It’s like déjà vu all over again for the Rockets, who last season bounced back from a 3-5 start to win the title, and this year have already overcome an 0-3 start and reeled off five straight. There may be no one in Group 2 more battle hardened than the Lions, who have played the likes of Irvington, St. Peter’s Prep, Westwood and Hoboken this year.
The Pick: Raritan
Collingswood running back Mike Taulane has rushed for 715 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, leading a deep corps of rushers that consisting of five players with 200+ yards. The Panthers won a tight battle between these squads on Oct. 14, 12-8.
The Pick: Collingswood
Holy Spirit running back Reggie Jean-Charles is among the better rushers in South Jersey and will be a tough matchup for an MKA defense that has allowed over 14 points just twice this year. The Cougars have come down to earth a bit, splitting their last four games following a hot 5-0 start.
The Pick: Holy Spirit
Falcons RB Connor Brown has rushed for 745 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. The Golden Knights, who won it all in North 1, Group 4 last year, have won five straight since a 20-0 loss to Ridgewood on Sept. 30.
The Pick: Old Tappan
The Tigers are 0-3 against .500-or-better teams this year. It will be a challenge for the Snyder D to slow down Par Hills QB Nick Verducci and crew.
Many had written off the Cougars after a 1-2 start, but Cranford is rolling after six consecutive wins. Outside of a 28-3 loss to parochial Shore power St. John Vianney, Rumson has allowed just 27 points in seven other games.
The Pick: Rumson-Fair Haven
The Crusaders have won the section four straight times, though they look significantly more vulnerable than in recent seasons. Seneca has a bit of a deceptive record, as the Golden Eagles played reasonably close games with Cherry Hill West, Lenape and Camden Catholic, and have beaten 5-3 Pennsauken.
The Pick: Delsea
DePaul linebacker Vin DePalma (101 tackles) is good enough to keep the Bishop Ahr running game in check. The Spartans have won three straight sectional titles.
The Pick: DePaul
(9) Northern Highlands (5-4) @ (8) Roxbury (5-3)
The Highlanders snuck in the dance on a bit of a technicality, but their early hot start showed that they do have the ability to pull off a big victory. The Gaels have lost three of their last four games -- each time against a team in this bracket.
The Pick: Roxbury
(5) Sayreville (7-2) @ (4) Phillipsburg (5-3)
Bombers QB Jayson DeMild is a star-caliber signal-caller that may actually be a bit underrated. Phillipsburg has struggled this year against playoff-level opposition, and dropped a 28-10 game to Immaculata last week that snapped a three-game win streak.
The Pick: Sayreville
(1) Middletown South over (8) JFK (Iselin)
(3) Summit over (6) Colonia
(2) Middletown North over (7) Woodbridge
(5) Freehold Boro (5-4) @ (4) Pennsauken (5-3)
The Indians offense runs through talented back Martin Booker, who could give the Boro D fits. You can argue no one is hotter than the Colonials, who started 0-4 but have now won five in a row.
The Pick: Freehold Boro
(1) Brick Township over (8) Neptune
(6) Jackson over (3) Nottingham
(2) Allentown over (7) Moorestown
(5) Highland Regional (7-1) @ (4) Cherry Hill West (7-1)
Cherry Hill West won the first game between these teams imposingly, 28-8, on Sept. 16. Lions QB Monte Williams has thrown 12 touchdown passes this year.
The Pick: Cherry Hill West
(1) Lenape over (8) Woodrow Wilson
(2) Timber Creek over (6) Absegami
(3) Shawnee over (7) Clearview
(7) St. Augustine Prep (9-0) @ (2) Bergen Catholic (6-3)
Hermits running back Kyle Dobbins has racked 1,267 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. BC is 5-0 against opponents outside the NJSFC United Red Division.
The Pick: Bergen Catholic
(1) Paramus Catholic over (8) St. Joseph (Met.)
(4) Don Bosco Prep over (5) Seton Hall Prep
(3) St. Peter’s Prep over (6) Delbarton
(5) Montclair (5-3) @ (4) Bloomfield (7-1)
The Mounties seem to have cooled off a bit since an impressive opening day blowout of Passaic County Tech. The high-flying Bengal offense, led by talented running back Brandon Fernandes, has scored at least 29 points in every game this season.
The Pick: Bloomfield
(1) Ridgewood over (8) West Orange
(3) Passaic County Tech over (6) Hackensack
(2) Union City over (7) Clifton
(5) Elizabeth (4-5) @ (4) East Orange Campus (5-3)
All of the Minutemen’s losses have come against playoff teams, and Elizabeth’s schedule has been brutal overall. The Jags have a very capable passing target in receiver Eddie Marshall, who can get chunks of yards in a hurry.
The Pick: Elizabeth
(1) Bridgewater-Raritan over (8) Columbia
(3) Ridge over (6) Union
(2) Westfield over (7) Bayonne
(8) New Brunswick (4-5) @ (1) Manalapan (9-0)
Braves running back Naim Mayfield has run the ball 140 times for 1,123 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Zebras have rebounded after a slow start to the year, but are still without a true signature win.
The Pick: Manalapan
(4) Freehold Township over (5) South Brunswick
(6) Hillsborough over (3) Old Bridge
(2) Piscataway over (7) Hunterdon Central
(8) Atlantic City (4-4) @ (1) Toms River North (9-0)
Toms River North’s combo of QB Mike Husni and RB Mike Bickford has proven time and time again how lethal it can be. The Vikings’s four wins have come against squads with a combined five victories.
The Pick: Toms River North
(4) Vineland over (5) Howell
(6) Cherokee over (3) Millville
(2) Rancocas Valley over (7) Southern
Tom Szieber can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.