St. Joseph (Mont.) is in the middle of the octagon. Of course, the No. 9 Green Knights are a football team, not MMA fighters, but with the schedule they have to finish up this season, win or lose, they'll be beyond battle-tested.
Three weeks ago, it was No. 3 Bergen Catholic (a 30-17 loss). Last week, it was a talented Pascack Valley squad (a 42-3 win). And this weekend, it's No. 2 Wayne Hills for the finale.
The Green Knights will look to QB Spencer Aukamp, who has shown great athleticism from the pocket while totaling 13 touchdowns this year, and his favorite target in Ricky Jeune (five touchdowns) to lead an offensive attack that will need to be explosive to keep up with Wayne Hills.
After almost literally playing lights-out football in their first five games by outscoring opponents 185-7, the Patriots have survived upset bids from Ramapo and Ridgewood in the last three weeks. The Green Knights definitely provide their biggest test to date, meaning key players like QB Kevin Olsen (932 pass yards, 16 TDs) and WR/KR Andrew Monahan (11 total TDs) will have to step up even more.
But since the offenses for both teams are proven, defensive play will be the X-factor in this contest. In the Patriots' two close contests, the opponent hung with them early by shutting down their offense. Likewise, in the Green Knights' lone loss, they had to play keep-up after falling behind early.
My pick: Wayne Hills 28, St. Joseph (Mont.) 27
Sayreville vs. Piscataway
After a slow start, both of these teams ride into this matchup on lengthy win streaks. There have been some classic battles since these two started playing in 1995, as chronicled in this Star-Ledger story. I don't expect anything less in this year's bout.
My pick: Sayreville 17, Piscataway 14
Brandon Parker covers New Jersey for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at email@example.com.