The first week of high school football (Week Zero – why?) is in the books in Central Jersey. Time for some observations.
Picking up right where they left off
Watching some area teams, you probably couldn’t tell whether it was 2018 or 2019.
Piscataway kept on keeping on with a 40-7 win over Franklin. They’ve now beaten the Warriors every year since 2007, and have won the last three by an average of nearly 31 points. And they did it the way the Chiefs typically do, by capitalizing on mistakes, and with solid special teams. P’way had a pick-six and a kick return for a touchdown, and recovered three of four Franklin fumbles.
The Chiefs have always been opportunistic. Things might be different, though, Friday night when Sayreville comes to town. The Bombers will want to atone for a penalty-filled performance in a 33-12 season-opening loss to Hunterdon Central.
North Brunswick didn’t miss a beat either. The Raiders blanked South Brunswick in their Rivalry Week game, without a single touchdown from Myles Bailey. New Brunswick transfer Dahvey Hicks scored two touchdowns, on a rush, and on a 96-yard kick return to start the second half to put the Raiders up 20-0. They’ll be one of the top teams in the GMC White this season, no doubt.
And how about Somerville? The Pioneers may have different names, like Ethan McNair and Thomas Cantillon, who caught scoring passes from quarterback Justin Brenner (while Cookie Desidiero ran for 60 yards and two touchdowns), but they keep winning by big scores. Friday night’s version of the Big Show came out with a 44-6 win over Hamilton West, the Pioneers’ first regular game against a West Jersey Football League school since a 49-21 loss to Bridgeton in 2007, and their first win against a WJFL squad since 1980, when they beat Cherry Hill West 14-7.
This is Thriller! Thriller Night…
There were thrillers Friday night, and Saturday, too.
Under the lights, East Brunswick and Old Bridge combined for 24 points in the game’s final six minutes, but the Knights prevailed 17-14. The series has suddenly gotten competitive again. Old Bridge had won 7 straight, with six coming by margins of at least 20 points, until the Bears finally prevailed last year in their final Thanksgiving matchup, and the last game under head coach Bob Molarz.
So, it may not be entirely Andy Steinfeld in his debut game as head coach, but hey… not a bad start. And both the Bears and Old Bridge will benefit from not being in a division with Piscataway, Syareville, and/or North Brunswick.
Who remembers Colonia’s heartbreaking loss/Hillsborough’s heart-stopping win in last year’s season opener? This year’s matchup between the Patriots and another Mid-State team – Bridgewater-Raritan, coming off a disappointing 2-7 season – was much of the same.
Last year, Franklin Wasserman kicked a field goal in what was his first ever football game at any level to beat Colonia. I mean, c’mon!
This year, with five minutes and change left against B-R, Colonia went up on an 88-yard pass play for a touchdown. But the Panthers came right back and had Mike Pastor kick a field goal with 23-seconds left. Hollywood couldn’t wrote it any better.
Can Tom Roarty’s squad catch a break?
Bill Denny Stadium was home to another thriller Saturday, where South River never led until the final 23 seconds, and not even on a touchdown.
The Rams tied the game at 20 on a touchdown pass from sophomore Ryan Kurtz to Jeffrey Ferreira. Then, Quadir Shabazz caught a 2-point conversion to seal the deal.
It’ll probably go down as one of the most thrilling wins in 100 years of South River football, a milestone being celebrated this year. It was also career coaching win Number 210 for Rich Marchesi, the Dean of Central Jersey coaches, who was part of a historic team in its own right, finishing undefeated his senior year on one of the best teams in school history.
Marchesi was somewhat speechless even an hour after the game on Football USA Saturday. Hear the interview here:
Later Saturday night, Immaculata and South Plainfield locked horns in a GMC-Mid State crossover thriller. The Spartans didn’t throw much, but made the most of it when they did, as QB Pelton Asannason went 5-of-7 for 149 yards and two touchdowns. They went ahead by the final margin of seven after a fumble recovery, scoring with just over four minutes remaining for a 39-32 victory.
Chalk one up for the little guys
Metuchen’s numbers haven’t been good the last couple of years under Mike Warnock, but a “new” coach in Guy Jensen – well-known as head coach of a very good Piscataway boys’ basketball team several years ago – has brought new enthusiasm to the Brainy Boro. Numbers are up, and following an 0-7 season, the Bulldogs came up with a win over Shore Conference foe Keyport 20-12. That’s two in a row against the Raiders, whom Metuchen beat in 2017 in double overtime, by a score of 9-3.
I don’t know how much of an upset this one was. The name Woodbridge kept coming up when I asked people about a team poised to take a step up this year. And I had them Number Ten in the WCTC preseason rankings.
Junior Ali Lee Junior had to have had one of the biggest single-game performances in the state this weekend, reeling off 233 yards from scrimmage on 29 carries and three touchdowns en route to a 28-12 win for the #10 Barrons over the #5 St. Joseph-Metuchen Falcons. Woodbridge jumped Joe’s into 5th in the Week 1 Top Ten as a result.