Week Zero Predictions

By Tom Szieber
Posted:  Tuesday, August 29, 2017   9:35 pm

The 2017 season is finally upon us, and that’s a good thing. Instead of discussing coaching turnover and playoff proposals, the focus will be on the games. Even though it’s only “Week Zero,” there are plenty of top-quality games on the slate.

Let’s take a look at some of the games on deck.

DePaul @ Bergen Catholic
The Crusaders are loaded offensively, with senior quarterback Johnny Langan (1,998 yards, 19 TD) and junior running backs Josh McKenzie and Rahmir Johnson back to pursue BC’s first Non-Public, Group IV title since 2004. Linebacker Vin DePalma will be the primary player tasked with stopping them as DePaul looks to beat Bergen for the first time since 2013.

The Pick: Bergen Catholic

Allentown @ Nottingham
The defending Central, Group 4 champion Redbirds begin a new era, as a freshman -- Dan Merkel -- take the reins at quarterback. The Northstars are looking to build on a bounce-back 2016 season, which saw them rebound from a 2-8 year to get back to the postseason.

The Pick: Allentown

Shabazz @ Bernards
Bernards took last season’s Week Zero matchup, defeating the Bulldogs, 54-40, on a pair of late touchdowns. Shabazz will need to make sure its run game is operating on all cylinders, as it could be tough to pass on Ethan Caldwell and the Bernards secondary.
The Pick: Bernards

Timber Creek @ Belleville West (IL) (1-0)
Chargers QB Devin Leary is seen as the top quarterback in the state, having gone 181-of-284 for 2,605 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. Belleville West (IL) running back Jirehl Brock was among the team’s stars to get a bit banged up the Maroons’ 48-24 win over Quincy (IL) last week.
The Pick: Timber Creek

Livingston @ Randolph
The Lancers won three of their final four games last year. Long-time assistant coach Mike Lyons will look to help the Rams build on a 7-4 year after Tarig Holman took the Neptune job.

The Pick: Livingston

Southern @ Central
Central is looking for a big year after last season’s 7-2 finish was tainted due to its postseason ban for a fight that occurred in an early season contest with Toms River East. The last four contests between these teams have been decided by 10 points or fewer.

The Pick: Central

Wayne Hills @ McKinley (OH) (1-0)
Running back Javon Lewis’ 128 yards helped push the Bulldogs past Harding (OH), 29-7, last week. Wayne Hills could have one of North Jersey’s best public school defenses, led by defensive end Jason Modak, who racked up 11 sacks last year.

The Pick: Wayne Hills

Byrnes (SC) (2-0) @ Don Bosco Prep
Running back Quez Mayes and the 11-time South Carolina 5A state champion Rebels took down Greer (SC), 42-7, last week. The Ironmen are playing their first game without Greg Toal as their head coach since 1998, and went 0-3 against out-of-state foes in 2016.

The Pick: Byrnes

Deerfield Beach (FL) (1-0) @ St. Joseph (Mont.)
The Non-Public, Group 3 champions will again have Pittsburgh-bound Nick Patti under center, a year after he threw for 1,737 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Bucks went 10-3 last year and have a stud defensive end in Ge’mon Eaford

The Pick: St. Joseph (Mont.)

Paramus Catholic @ Archbishop Wood (PA) (1-0)
Archbishop Wood (PA) lost to Bergen Catholic last year. The Non-Public, Group IV champion Paladins have seen some early growing pains from their young offensive line, but still figure to be one of New Jersey’s top teams.

The Pick: Paramus Catholic

Tom Szieber can be reached by emailing tom@gridironnewjersey.com.