After the second week of the season, time for some Week One observations. (Hey, it’s NJSIAA math, not mine!)
The Zebras are Back…
It’s back to the Top Ten for New Brunswick, which was a mainstay in the WCTC rankings in the early and mid-2000s when they won two state championships under John Quinn.
Nate Harris was a part of that team, and one of the best defensive line players in school history. Now he’s back, and the Zebras may be as well.
They put the rest of the GMC White Division on notice when they knocked off No. 10 Edison on the road Friday night 19-14.
It’s New Brunswick’s first trip back to the WCTC rankings since 2016. They were there all but the first two weeks of that season, finishing at No. 5 after going 9-2, running the table in the GMC White Division. They next year, they got bumped up to the red – probably unfairly – and by Week 2 they were out of the Top Ten.
“We have a great leadership class in our 2020 guys who are fully committed to the process. We started off 3-6 last year, my first year as a head coach. I learned a lot of what to do and what not to do. Starting off 2-0 is a great feeling, but we understand it’s a marathon, it’s a long process, so we have a long way to go as we continue to grow as a team.”
“The biggest difference between last year and this year,” adds Harris, “(is) last year we had a handful of seniors, and we inherited a couple guys that were good football players, but it wasn’t good football culture. This year, we’re in double digit numbers in our senior class. We have two returning captains Keyshon Davila and Ahyan Brown-Miller, they were junior captains last year. Our leadership is a huge difference.”
And so is Ridge…
They say many teams make the most improvement from Week 1 to Week 2.
But what do you do if you’re Ridge, and you didn’t play in Week 1, while your opponent did? Now, you have to go on the road for your opener, while Hunterdon Central beat down a pretty good – yet 0-2 – Sayreville team.
The Red Devils who wear green (long story!) beat the Red Devils who were red, 29-13.
It’s just one game, and it’s early, but could Ridge have one of those special teams again?
This one is led by one of the best wide receivers of 2018, whose now playing quarterback. Brendan Bell ran for a 22-yard touchdown on a 4th-and-1 quarterback sneak, and threw for two more, a year after catching 32 passes for 825 yards – yes, that’s a whopping 25.8 yards per grab!
These are the kind of storylines that make for memorable seasons.
There’s only one…
Yes, there are two high school football teams that play in Metuchen. But only one Brainy Boro team is 2-0.
That’s the Metuchen Bulldogs. A program that had a hard time fielding a team last year has increased the numbers under new head coach Guy Jensen, whose biggest successes may have come as the boys’ basketball coach at Piscataway about a decade ago.
The Bulldogs count home wins over Keyport 20-12 and Highland Park 34-8 on their resume, but will face stiff tests the next two weeks.
First, they have to play under the lights this Friday night on the road against a Middlesex team that has outscored its first two opponents (Dunellen and St. Thomas Aquinas) by a combined 89-20. Then, they come back home to play a Delaware Valley team coming off back-to-back-to-back 5-5 seasons, but is 2-0 after wins over Aquinas and Johnson Regional.
First Time, Long Time
Besides the early success in New Brunswick, there’s also Perth Amboy. They haven’t had a big win yet (their first two opponents – Carteret and JP Stevens – are a combined 0-2) but they are 2-0 for the first time 2011.
Coached that season by Mike Giordano, the Panthers won their first three games, and finished 6-4.
But did they make the playoffs? No. In fact, that didn’t happen for the first time ever until two years ago. The Panthers actually finished 6-4 in both 2010 and 2011, and failed to make the playoffs both seasons. In 2010, they lost a consolation game to Linden. The year after, the dropped a consolation matchup with Phillipsburg.
Bridgewater-Raritan could very well be 2-0, or 0-2. The Panthers have been on both ends of the close game already in 2019. They won their opener on a late field foal against Colonia, 16-15. This week, they fell 13-12 to Hillsborough.
Even though they were 3-6 at the cutoff date last year, the Panthers made the playoffs, thanks to a high pre-season Born Power Index rating. But they might not have been as bad as their record indicated. Included in those three wins was a cutoff weekend upset win at Union, but they also lost three games by a touchdown or less.
“The One With The Rare Close Game”
After Spotswood’s 17-14 home win over South River Saturday afternoon, the Rams still own a 33-10 lead in the all-time series, but it’s been evenly matched since, if only in wins and losses.
The Chargers have actually won 5 of the last 9 meetings, but this weekend was just the third meeting in that stretch decided by 11 points or less. The average margin of victory in those games was 28 points.