Top 20 - Final Rankings

By Gridiron New Jersey Staff
Posted:  Tuesday, December 13, 2016   7:45 am

Picking our Top 20 is never. easy. As always, we feel it is necessary to emphasize that our selections are based on an indefinite formula that take into account the quality of season a team had, plus who we believe would win in a head-to-head setting. Go ahead. Agree. Disagree. But here is the final edition of the Vita Athletics/Gridiron New Jersey Top 20 for 2016.


1. St. Joseph (Mont.) (9-2)
Joe’s reeled off six straight wins to end 2016, the last being a 26-17 win over DePaul for the Non-Public, Group 3 title game. Linebacker Louis Acceus was a force on defense for the Green Knights all year, notching 101 tackles and 6.5 sacks.

2. Paramus Catholic (10-2)
Running back Alijah Jackson ran for 127 yards, QB Andrew Brito for 126 and RB Jonathan Clark for 130 as PC downed St. Peter’s Prep in the Non-Public, Group 4 championship game, 33-28. The championship came in coach Dan Sabella’s first season, a year after the Paladins went 3-6.

3. Don Bosco Prep (6-5)
A 6-5 record looks odd for Bosco, but they were 6-2 against New Jersey opponents and shared the NJSFC United Red Division title with St. Joseph (Mont.). The Ironmen’s only two in-state losses came against eventual sectional champion Paramus Catholic.

4. St. Peter’s Prep (8-4)
Quarterback Johnathan Lewis rushed for four touchdowns, but Peter’s still fell to Paramus Catholic in the Non-Public, Group 4 finals. The Marauders were 2-0 vs. Bergen Catholic this year, but still went 0-4 against other members of the NJSFC United Red.

5. Bergen Catholic (7-4)
BC started off hot at 4-0, but had a tough time with its divisional opponents, losing its final four division games to close the year. Quarterback Johnny Langan had an impressive junior year, throwing for 1,998 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Others Getting Considered (in alphabetical order):

DePaul (6-6): The Spartans went 0-6 against opponents from the NJSFC United Red, and 6-0 against everyone else. Sophomore QB Roberson Taquan finished the year with 1,174 yards and nine touchdowns.

Mater Dei Prep (12-0): The Seraphs’ improbable turnaround led to their first title since 1969. They won it in dramatic fashion over Holy Spirit, with receiver Eddie Lewis cashing in on a hook-and-lateral play from 38 yards out.

Pope John (6-5): The Lions may have been most impressive with how close they played Bergen Catholic and DePaul this season. Linebacker Nick Denucci had an impressive 122 tackles for their defense.

St. John Vianney (10-1): The Lancers beat the likes of Matawan, Rumson-Fair Haven and Middletown South before running into St. Joseph (Mont.) in the Non-Public, Group 3 playoffs. Running back Chris Chukwuneke rushed for 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns to cap his career.


1. Timber Creek (12-0)
Quarterback Devin Leary went 23-of-34 passing for 357 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, in the Chargers’ 31-10 South, Group 4 title victory over Lenape. Leary, who was named the Gatorade New Jersey Football Player of the Year, also broke the New Jersey single-season state passing record, throwing for 3,688 yards on the year.

2. Ridgewood (12-0)
Running back Zach Feagles rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns as the Maroons defeated Passaic County Tech, 14-13, for the North 1, Group 5 crown. Ridgewood won its fourth-ever title, and securing its first sectional championship since 2004.

3. Westfield (12-0)
The Westfield defense racked up five sacks and harassed Bridgewater-Raritan’s Nick Attanasio all game long as the Blue Devils took down the Panthers, 15-13, in the North 2, Group 5 final. Westfield has now won 25 consecutive games, the longest active winning streak in the state.

4. Wayne Hills (11-1)
From nearly being excluded from the playoffs to winning a 31-24 finals squeaker against Wayne Valley in overtime, the Patriots are North 1, Group 4 champs. Quarterback Brendan DeVera was one of North Jersey’s most productive quarterbacks, as he threw for 2,221 yards and 37 touchdowns this season.

5. Piscataway (10-2)
Running back Elijah Barnwell carried the ball 29 times for 185 yards and three touchdowns in the Chiefs’ win over Manalapan, 34-13, in the Central, Group 5 championship game. It’s hard to believe it was the Chiefs’ first championship win since 2011.

6. Millville (10-2)
Running back Clayton Scott ran for 133 yards and also cashed in a two-point conversion as the Thunderbolts won the South, Group 5 title game, 22-16, over Toms River North. The 10-win season was Millville’s best since going 11-1 in 2011 -- though that season ended with a loss in the sectional finals.

7. West Deptford (12-0)
Running back/free safety Ken Lim caught a key 33-yard touchdown pass in the third and sealed the win with an interception in the fourth as the Eagles defeated Cedar Creek for the South, Group 2 title, 19-13. It was sweet revenge after West Deptford’s previous 11-0 start -- one year prior -- was ended by the Pirates in the final.

8. Toms River North (11-1)
The clear top public team all season long, the Mariners’ season ended on a sour note with their 22-16 loss to Millville in the South, Group 5 finals. Despite the finish, Toms River North boasted two of the Shore’s best offensive players this season in running back Parker Day and quarterback Mike Husni.

9. Sayreville (10-2)
In Sayreville’s 41-14 victory over Middletown North in the North 2, Group 4 final, running back Jaquae Roberts ran 25 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Jason DeMild finished his 2016 season with 2,117 yards with 24 touchdowns through the air.

10. Rumson-Fair Haven (9-3)
Running back Matt Vecchiarelli ran for 196 yards and three touchdowns as the Bulldogs took down South Plainfield, 27-22, in the Central, Group 3 final. The victory -- sealed by a pick by DB Mike O’Connor -- gave Rumson its fourth-straight sectional title (two in Group 2, two in Group 3).

11. Allentown (10-2)
Allentown ran for 328 yards on the legs of running backs Joe Mannino and Aydon Chavis and quarterback Jordan Winston, as the Redbirds won their first ever sectional title with a dominant 41-6 victory over Brick Township in the Central, Group 4 final. Brick, meanwhile, managed just 178 yards of total offense, thanks to a total team effort by the Allentown 'D'.

12. Bridgewater-Raritan (11-1)
For the second straight year, Bridgewater-Raritan fell in the North 2, Group 5 final to Westfield, this time by a score of 15-13 (last year it was 10-7). The Panthers’ offense was far more potent throughout most of the season, scoring at least 21 points in every one of its 11 wins.

13. Lenape (11-1)
Running back JoJo Kellum had a big season, rushing for 1,008 yards and 10 touchdowns (QB Matt Lajoie wasn’t far behing, rushing for 738 and nine). The Indians came up one game short of a perfect year, losing to Timber Creek, 31-10, in the South, Group 4 final.

14. Manalapan (11-1)
Running back Naim Mayfield rushed for 1,785 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2016 for the Braves, who made it to the Central, Group 5 final before losing to Piscataway. The Braves’ finish was its fourth 11-1 campaign in the past five seasons.

15. Madison (12-0)
A 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Michael Kearney to running back Matt Mulcahy gave the Dodgers an undefeated season and a 13-7 win over Lenape Valley for the North 2, Group 2 championship. The title is Madison’s fifth in the past seven seasons. 

Others Getting Consideration (in alphabetical order):

Cedar Creek (10-2): The Pirates had another strong year despite falling, 19-13, in the South, Group 2 final to West Deptford. This 10-2 year was Cedar Creek’s fifth winning season in six years of varsity existence.

Mahwah (11-1): The Thunderbirds finished the year with a second-straight North 1, Group 2 title, beating Westwood, 35-28. Defensive end Jake Wood had a career moment in the final, taking a 31-yard interception to the house.

Manasquan (10-2): The Warriors went from 3-7 in 2015, to state sectional champs in 2016. Running back Connor Morgan rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns in their win over Bernardsin the Central, Group 2 title game.

Passaic County Tech (9-3): The Bulldogs’ losses to eventual North 1, Group 5 champion Ridgewood were by seven (in the regular season) and one (in the sectional final). Free safety Jermaine Wilder finished his year with 92 tackles -- good for third on the team.

River Dell (10-2): The Golden Hawks finished the year with a 26-20 overtime win over Old Tappan to take home win the North 1, Group 3 championship. Quarterback Dave Esteves went 17-of-29 for 249 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

Shawnee (8-3): Linebacker Ryan Parris was a tackling machine, tallying 135 stops and 5 sacks in 2016. Shawnee had a great year, but ended it with back-to-back losses to Timber Creek and Lenape in the South, Group 4 playoffs and Thanksgiving, respectively.

Somerville (10-1): The Pioneers’ season ended in a heartbreaking 21-13 loss to Rumson-Fair Haven in the state playoffs. Still, Somerville had a historic year, bouncing back from a four-year stretch where they went 4-36.

Wall (10-2): Crimson Knights running back Sean Larkin had a huge year, rushing for 1,507 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was a big reason why Wall finished its year with a 20-7 victory over four-time defending champ Delsea in the South, Group 3 final.

Wayne Valley (9-3): Quarterack Grant Ferrauilo threw for 3,330 yards and 40 touchdowns for the Indians. They were seconds away from a North 1, Group 4 crown, but lost on a last-second fumble to Wayne Hills.