Two area teams – one from Middlesex County and one from Somerset County – are headed to sectional championship games in New Jersey’s high school football playoffs.
In North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 semifinal play, Woodbridge got stellar defensive play from Ali Lee, Jr. – typically an offensive standout – to hang on for a 14-13 win over Randolph. In the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals, Somerville blew out Seneca 53-23.
In Woodbridge – in a game heard on WCTC – the Barrons clinched a trip to their first sectional final since they won the Central Jersey Group 4 title in 1997. The second-seed improved to 10-0 – its highest win total in school history – by beating a tough 6th-seeded Randolph squad. The Rams got on the board on their opening possession, but Woodbridge answered right back with a scoring drive of its own, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run Lee.
The Barrons blocked a Rams field goal attempt in the second quarter to keep the game tied 7-7 at halftime.
In the second half, Lee – who struggled for yards all game, but still cracked the hundred yard mark for the 10th time in ten games this season – shone defensively. He blocked an extra point on what should have been a game-tying touchdown by Randolph in the fourth quarter, after jumping offside on the first attempt. He grabbed an interception near mid-field to stifle another Randolph drive. Then, with Randolph receivers drawing two straight pass interference penalties on Barrons defensive backs, Lee came up with a stop on a third straight pass along the sidelines.
The game was sealed when a fourth-down pass with under a minute-and-a-half to go was broken up – perhaps unintentionally – by sophomore Isaiah Allen; the ball hit him squarely in the numbers on the back of his jersey, and fell to the turf, leading to a turnover on downs. The Barrons twice took a knee to finish out the game.
Woodbridge goes on to the championship game next Friday night at 6:15 at top-seed Northern Highlands (8-2), which beat 4th-seed Irvington at home Friday night 30-16.
In Somerville, senior quarterback Justin Brenner went 10-of-16 for 261 yards and three touchdowns for the second-seeded Pioneers in a 53-23 rout of 6th-seed Seneca. The game was never really in doubt, as Somerville led wire-to-wire, including 32-8 at the half. Brenner had completions to five different receivers en route to taking The Ville to its third straight sectional final; they won the first against Rumson in 2017, but lost last year to the same Bulldogs.
Now, it’s on to the sectional final against either 4th-seed Holmdel or top-seed Woodrow Wilson of Camden next Friday night. Should Holmdel win tomorrow’s 1 pm semifinal game in Camden, the Pioneers would host. If it’s Wilson, the game will be played in Camden.
Three area teams are eliminated
Meanwhile, three area teams were knocked out of the playoffs Friday night.
The biggest upset came in North Brunswick, where the top-seeded Raiders lost a Central Jersey Group 5 semifinal game to visiting 5th-seed Cherokee, 41-25. The Raiders were looking to get back to the sectional final after losing last year’s title game to Sayreville. North Brunswick also lost TE/DE and Syracuse commit Leon Lowery to an injury late in the game, but MyCentralJersey.com reported that head coach Mike Cipot while he appeared to suffer a neck or shoulder injury, he had movement in his limbs and appeared to to suffer any paralysis. The Raiders finished their season 9-2.
In the South Jersey Group 5 semifinals, 3rd-seed Hillsborough lost at 2nd-seed Lenape 28-17. Tom Ramsey threw for a touchdown and rushed for another in the loss, while Franklin Wasserman kicked a 28-yard field goal. The Raiders end their season 8-3.
And in North Jersey Section 2, Group 5 action, second-seed Ridge fell to 3rd-seed Clifton 42-35. The Red Devils jumped out to a 20-0 lead and looked in good shape, but the Mustangs rallied back to take a 21-20 lead going into halftime. The teams then traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter, with Clifton scoring last and winning by a score. Ridge finishes 2019 at 8-2