By Gridiron New Jersey Staff
Posted: Saturday, December 16, 2017 8:30 am
NON-PUBLIC TOP 5
1. Bergen Catholic (10-2)
The Crusaders finished their season with a 44-7 thrashing of St. Peter’s Prep to win their first Non-Public, Group 4 sectional title since 2004. It was a sequel to their 41-14 regular season victory over the Marauders in a year where BC went undefeated against New Jersey opponents. Behind QB Johnny Langan (144-of-257, 2,103 yards, 23 touchdowns; 825 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns) they were the undefeated champion (4-0) of the NJSFC United Red Division. Linebacker Anthony Corbin was a beat for the Crusaders, tallying 109 tackles and 3.5 sacks on the year.
2. DePaul (8-3)
DePaul’s defense was outstanding all year, and was the biggest reason it finally beat St. Joseph (Mont.) (after losing 13 straight in the all-time series) in the Non-Public, Group 3 finals. The 7-3 win over Joe’s capped a year that saw the Spartans lose imposingly to Bergen Catholic on opening day, but rebound to win 8 of their next 10. Their other two losses to St. Joseph (Mont.) and St. Peter’s Prep -- both sectional finalists -- were by a total of 8 points. Linebacker Vin DePalma was a stud, finishing the year with 128 tackles and 4.0 sacks.
3. St. Peter’s Prep (9-3)
The Non-Public, Group 4 runner-up, the Marauders lost decisively twice to Bergen Catholic, but beat both Non-Public, Group 3 finalists (DePaul and St. Joseph (Mont.)) in regular season contests. Quarterback Maasai Maynor went 169-of-264 for 2,443 yards and 21 touchdowns, while WR/SS Shayne Simon was a force on both sides of the ball, catching 52 passes for 840 yards and 6 touchdowns and also totaling 53 tackles and 5 interceptions. Linebacker Chase Jones led the Marauders with 81 stops.
4. St. Joseph (Mont.) (8-4)
Quarterback Nick Patti finished his final season going 151-of-256 for 2,131 yards and 18 touchdowns and led Joe’s to the Non-Public, Group 3 final. The Green Knights lost to DePaul, 7-3, but did hold the Spartans’ offense to its lowest scoring output of the year. They also won the first meeting between the sectional rivals, 28-21, on Nov. 4. Defensive end Howard Cross, Jr. had a team-high 5.5 sacks and racked up 103 tackles, as well.
5. St. Joseph (Hamm.) (12-0)
The Wildcats’ dominance was on full display in the Non-Public, Group 2 final, when they rushed for 432 yards as a team to defeat defending champion Mater Dei Prep. Their lowest-scoring game in 2017 was a 22-10 win over St. Augustine Prep on Oct. 23. St. Joseph (Hamm.) scored 30-plus in every other game, and cracked the 40-point barrier in all but one. They boasted the most devastating one-two rushing tandem in New Jersey in running backs Qwahsin Townsel (1,616 yards, 31 touchdowns) and Jada Byers (1,554 yards, 20 touchdowns).
Others getting consideration (in alphabetical order):
Pope John (6-4): QB Niko Hroncich completed 61% of his passes while throwing for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns. Dominating Paramus Catholic and hanging with St. Joseph (Mont.) and Bergen Catholic showed the Lions are on the rise.
St. John Vianney (10-1): Running back Johnny Buchanan rushed for 1,393 yards and 17 touchdowns. They couldn’t upset DePaul, but did earn big wins over fellow non-public programs in Red Bank Catholic and Camden Catholic.
PUBLIC TOP 15
1. Montclair (12-0)
The Mounties have been a powerhouse for years, but this team was as complete as any Montclair team in recent memory. Quarterback Tarrin Earle passed for 2,568 yards and 29 touchdowns on 148-of-211 passing, while running back Danny Webb rushed for 1,371 yards and 24 scores on 122 attempts. With a strong front five and a host of other offensive talents, the Mounties rolled through the season to a 35-14 win over Union City in the North 1, Group 5 final. Earle and WR Colin Callahan connected 7 times for 124 yards in the win over Union City to help Montclair win a fourth championship in six seasons.
2. Lenape (11-1)
In South, Group 5 -- the deepest section in all of New Jersey -- the Indians emerged champs. With a 10-7 win over Rancocas Valley courtesy of a 33-yard field goal by Stephen Mulville with five seconds to play, Lenape avenged its only loss of the year. During its playoff run, it soundly defeated Vineland, 35-0, and Howell, 63-28. Running back JoJo Kellum rushed for 1,549 yards and 29 touchdowns this year, while QB Matt Lajoie accounted for 21 total touchdowns (11 pass, 10 rush).
3. Westfield (12-0)
Westfield didn’t always get the respect it deserved this year, but in the end managed to stretch its state-best win streak to 37 games and win a third consecutive North 2, Group 5 title. They defeated Bridgewater-Raritan 20-7 in the finals on a great defensive performance, and were led all year on that side of the ball by linebacker Drew Ortiz (125 tackles). Defensive end Jake Vall-llobera was a pass rushing terror for opposing offenses and finished the year with 11.0 sacks. Running backs Tim Allegro and Juandre House combined for 1,596 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
4. South Brunswick (11-1)
South Brunswick’s win over Manalapan in the Central, Group 5 final was an upset more because of Manalapan’s offensive firepower than any weakness on the part of the Vikings. Quarterback Felix Quinones and wide receiver Justin Shorter made big play after big play throughout the season, and the Vikings won their last 9 games of the season. Shorter was a tough matchup for every defense he faced, and finished the year with 36 catches for 522 yards and 7 touchdowns, as well as 322 rushing yards and four scores. South Brunswick’s championship win was its second in three seasons.
5. Old Tappan (12-0)
The Golden Knights fought off a spirited effort from Mount Olive to win the North 1, Group 4 title, 31-28. Running back Marquez Antinori rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the title game, capping off a year in which he accumulated 1,114 yards and 19 scores on the ground. Old Tappan’s run saw it defeat long-time rivals Wayne Hills (twice, once in the playoffs) and Ramapo, as well as good North Jersey public school squads in Ridgewood and Northern Highlands. Defensively, they were just about unbreakable, allowing more than 10 points just twice (once in the sectional final) and leading the way to a second championship in three seasons.
6. North Hunterdon (11-1)
The Lions had a season for the ages, losing only once to a team they’d eventually beat when it counted the most. Quarterback Matt Busher went 153-of-284 for 2,435 yards and 20 touchdowns and led North Hunterdon to its second-ever sectional title (and first since 1975). After losing to Phillipsburg in October, the Lions beat rival and eventual North 2, Group 3 finalist Voorhees in game 9. They defeated Orange and Sayreville in the playoffs, and got revenge on the Stateliners in a thrilling 21-20 win in the North 2, Group 4 championship game.
7. Manalapan (11-1)
Manalapan was shocked in the Central, Group 5 final by South Brunswick, but the Braves accomplished a lot this year. The Shore Conference Class A North champs had a memorable run to the championship round, led by phenom running back Naim Mayfield, who carried the ball 203 times for 2,681 yards and 46 touchdowns. Along with quarterback Luke Corcione and wide receiver Symir Blacknall, Manalapan had arguably the most dangerous offense in New Jersey, scoring 34-plus in every game but one prior to the 18-14 setback against the Vikings. They scored two wins over 8-3 Freehold Township this year and defeated the likes of Piscataway, Old Bridge and Freehold Boro in 2017, as well.
8. River Dell (11-1)
Quarterback David Estevez was among the top dual-threat players in the state, rushing for 1,324 yards and 25 touchdowns and tallying 1,772 yards and 15 TDs through the air. He led the Golden Hawks to a second consecutive North 1, Group 3 championship, this one coming via 28-7 victory over Ramapo. The win negated River Dell’s only setback, a loss to the Raiders on Oct. 20. They went 3-0 in NJSFC Patriot Gold Division play, and picked up wins over Demarest (in the sectional semis), Northern Highlands and Westwood on the way to the title.
9. Rancocas Valley (11-1)
The Red Devils defeated Lenape, but not in the game they would have preferred. Capitol Division champion Rancocas Valley earned a 10-7 win over the Indians on Oct. 6, but fell to them by the same score in the South, Group 5 finals. Running back Iverson Clement rushed 220 times for 1,424 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year, and provided a spark for a squad that defeated Eastern and Millville in the playoffs and Burlington Township on Thanksgiving.
10. Delsea (9-3)
Despite a slow start, Delsea did it again. With a 29-28 win over Woodrow Wilson, the Crusaders won their fifth South, Group 3 title in six years, despite a 1-3 start. To be fair, its second loss -- to Cedar Creek -- was due to a forfeit, but it still had potential to hurt them in the power point race. But they went 9-1 from then on, with a shocking payback victory over Timber Creek in the sectional semifinal. Running back Aidan Borguet piled up 2,208 yards and 32 touchdowns for Delsea.
11. Timber Creek (10-1)
The Chargers had a host of talented receivers and a top-flight runner in Kyle Dobbins, but quarterback Devin Leary was the spearhead that led Timber Creek to the South, Group 3 semifinals. This year, Leary went 152-of-246 for 2,863 yards and 31 scores. He also etched himself into the New Jersey record books, ending his career with 9,672 passing yards and 105 touchdowns. Timber Creek won the WJFL National Division championship, and beat Delsea in September before falling to them in the playoffs.
12. Phillipsburg (10-2)
The Stateliners ended the year with frustrating losses to Easton (Pa.) and North Hunterdon -- the latter coming in the North 2, Group 4 championship game -- but they still had a fantastic run. They did beat the Lions on Oct. 27, and appeared to be the heavy favorite to win it all. They proved they were championship-caliber with wins over the likes of Bridgewater-Raritan and Irvington. Free safety Mark Zgoda (81 tackles, 2 INT), quarterback Jack Stagaard (1,902 yards, 15 TDs) and running back Joe Green (1,055 yards, 14 TDs) were among the stars of this talented group.
13. Long Branch (9-3)
Long Branch did it somewhat quietly, but the Green Wave was the champion in Central, Group 4 when the smoke cleared. They avenged an earlier loss to Freehold Boro, swept a season series with Middletown South (both shutouts) and took down perennial Shore power Jackson in the sectional semis. Running back Jermaine Corbett carried the ball 263 times for 1,418 yards and 14 touchdowns as Long Branch raised a championship trophy for the first time since 1999.
14. Somerville (11-1)
Coming into the season, Somerville hadn’t won a championship since 1994. That all changed this year, as the Pioneers were nearly unstoppable in a run that culminated in a 20-15 victory over Rumson-Fair Haven in the Central, Group 3 title game. Quarterback Jalahn Dabney rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns and passed for a third in Somerville’s finals victory, though he was just half of the Pioneers’ QB tandem throughout the year. Ryan Kovacs shared duties under center, and he and Dabney led an offense that dropped 50-plus points four separate times.
15. Newton (12-0)
Newton wasn’t regarded by many as a championship threat back in August, but thoroughly dominated in September, October, November and December. Wins over Lenape Valley, Lakeland and Hackettstown during the regular season showed the Braves were legit, and playoff victories over Pequannock and Westwood confirmed it. In the North 1, Group 2 final, Newton handed the Lancers their second loss of the year, capturing the title in the process.
Others getting consideration (in alphabetical order):
Bridgewater-Raritan (9-3): The Panthers suffered three losses, all to teams that won sectional titles. They’ve lost three straight North 2, Group 5 title games to Westfield by a combined 18 points.
Millville (9-2): Despite sitting at the #1 spot all year, a somewhat generous schedule and back-to-back losses to Rancocas Valley (in the South, Group 5 semis) and Vineland (on Thanksgiving) forced Millville out of the Top 15. The Thunderbolts finished in a three-way tie with the Fighting Clan and St. Augustine Prep for the WJFL Continental Division crown.
Mount Olive (10-2): Quarterback Liam Anderson’s 19-of-25, 285-yard, three-touchdown passing day nearly delivered a North 1, Group 4 championship upset of Old Tappan. A share of the NJSFC Freedom Division title was a nice accomplishment for a squad that was 1-9 in 2016.
Old Bridge (8-3): Quarterback Anthony Imbimbo ran for 903 yards and 9 touchdowns for the Knights, who advanced to the Central, Group 5 semifinal. They went 8-0 against teams that were not in the Central, Group 5 title game.
Ramapo (9-3): Quarterback A.J. Wingfield threw for 1,559 yards and 12 touchdowns for a Raiders team that made it all the way to the North 1, Group 3 finals. Linebacker Anthony Sargenti finished the year with 98 tackles and 2.0 sacks.
Rumson-Fair Haven (10-2): Running back Peter Lucas rushed for 2,192 yards and 31 touchdowns for the Central, Group 3 runners-up. Its two setbacks came by a combined 8 points.
Shawnee (8-4): The South, Group 4 champions’ non-Thanksgiving losses were a 42-41 overtime defeat at the hands of Cherokee, a 25-21 setback against Camden Catholic and 27-22 slip-up against Williamstown. They won their three postseason games by a combined score of 122-13.
Vineland (8-2): The Fighting Clan’s win over Millville on Turkey Day gave them a share of the WJFL Continental Division title. They went 8-2 for the second-straight season after winning a total of 8 games between 2013 and 2015.
Voorhees (9-3): After going 3-7 last year, the Vikings made it to the North 2, Group 3 final. Their three losses (to Somerville, North Hunterdon and West Essex) all came against sectional champions.
West Essex (11-1): A one-point loss to West Morris in Week 2 denied them an undefeated year. Their 28-14 win over Voorhees in the North 2, Group 3 title game gave the Knights their first sectional crown since 2011.