Friday, December 2, 2011
New Jersey football championships preview
By By Brandon Parker
There will be championships galore across the Garden State this weekend. Here are five contests to keep a close eye on:
Don Bosco Prep vs. Bergen Catholic
We've seen this before in last year's Non-Public, Group 4 title game and about two months ago. And even though Don Bosco has won both matchups (along with its last 45 games overall and the last five titles), we all want to see this one again. Bergen Catholic gave the Ironmen their greatest challenge this year, bringing a lead into the fourth quarter before falling 33-22 behind late turnovers. The Crusaders have seen great growth since then, as QB Jon Germano has emerged as a big-time passer while the defense continues to be solid. Thing is, with each passing week, the Ironmen seem to get better and find a different playmaker. Plus, while both teams beat St. Joseph (Mont.) and Paramus Catholic, the Ironmen did so in a much more convincing manner behind its suffocating defense. Regardless, this one should be another classic.
My pick: Don Bosco Prep 34, Bergen Catholic 30
Wayne Hills vs. Old Tappan
Here's another rematch of last year's North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 final, when Wayne Hills ran back a kick return for the decisive TD in the final minute. This year's tilt could be just as thrilling with offensive firepower at a plenty. Wayne Hills boasts talented junior QB Kevin Olsen and do-everything player Andrew Monahan, who is expected to play despite being charged with assault a few weeks back. For Old Tappan, arguably the state's top offensive prospect in Devin Fuller makes the Golden Knights a threat to score on every play.
My pick: Old Tappan 28, Wayne Hills 27
Elizabeth vs. Piscataway
At the start of the year, most wondered what was wrong with Piscataway, as the defending North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 champs lost two of their first three games. But the Chiefs have recovered in a major, letting loose an aggressive defensive attack that's produced five shutouts this year. The Chiefs are also explosive on offense behind QB Nadir Barnwell. Elizabeth doesn't have Piscataway's size, but it has the talent and speed, anchored by RB Elijah Hughes (21 touchdowns).
My pick: Piscataway 31, Elizabeth 24
Summit vs. Madison It's been 24 games since Madison lost a game. The last one? A 23-14 playoff defeat at the hands of Summit. Of course, the defending North Jersey Section 2, Group 2 champs would like nothing more than to avenge that loss, but that will be easier said than done. Summit's offense has been nearly unstoppable this year, averaging 43 points a game during its 11-0 campaign. Madison has the defensive ability to thwart such an attack, though, as the Dodgers have given up less than 10 points per game and shut out their last two opponents. Which unit will bend in this intense matchup?
My pick: Madison 27, Summit 20
St. Joseph (Mont.) vs. Delbarton Never mind St. Joseph's blowout loss to Don Bosco Prep. It's a new week and the Non-Public, Group 3 championship is at stake. But the Green Knights' foe this weekend is also formidable in 11-0 Delbarton. The Green Wave's defense has been stifling this year, barely allowing 11 points per game. Likewise, the offense has been solid behind RB Jamie White (1,334 yards and seven scores). On the other side, St. Joseph is certainly battle-tested, facing the likes to Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco Prep this year. Take away those two losses and the Green Knights have given up just 81 points in nine wins. But while Delbarton might not be of the caliber of the top two teams in the state, its firepower and success could be too much for the Green Knights.
My pick: Delbarton 27, St. Joseph (Mont.) 23
Brandon Parker covers New Jersey for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.