Most New Jersey football fans have had this weekend circled on their calendar for weeks now. Not only are is national No. 1 Don Bosco Prep hosting rival Bergen Catholic on Friday but the next day, state No. 2 Holy Spirit faces off against No. 8 St. Joseph (Hamm.).
The five-time defending state champ Ironmen (3-0) have won the last eight meetings, with the most recent coming in last year's Non-Public Group 4 title game. But after losing a close one to Plant (Fla.) two weeks ago and with coach Nunzio Campanile in his second year after moving over from Don Bosco, the Crusaders (2-1) have upset on their mind.
Both teams boast stout defenses and inexperienced quarterbacks, so mistake-free football will be key for each squad. Don Bosco QB Mike Yankovich showed poise in the 22-16 comeback win against Manatee (Fla.) and threw two scores in last week's victory against Ridgewood — their 48th straight against New Jersey teams — but he's still raw under center.
Same goes for Crusaders QB Jonathan Germano. The junior totaled five scores in last week's win against Teaneck but struggled to find a rhythm amid the constant pressure from Plant. Friday won't be any different for either team, but both possess a wealth of weapons on offense to complement their QBs. That's why my guess is that a defensive turnover (and possibly touchdown) will decide this close battle.
My pick: Don Bosco 24, Bergen Catholic 17
No. 2 Holy Spirit (3-0) at No. 8 St. Joseph (Hamm.) (2-0)
An explosive offense meets a stingy defense in what should be an intense version of Saturday football. Holy Spirit boasts the productive tailback tandem of Donta Pollock and Nigel Jones while St. Joseph has All-State defenders Kaiwan Lewis and Max Valles clogging the running lanes. The Spartans are putting up more than 40 points per game, but the Tigers have outscored opponents 107-7 through two games. Last year's battle proved surprisingly lopsided, as Holy Spirit capitalized on five Tiger fumbles for a 35-0 win. It's safe to say this year's matchup will be much closer.
My pick: Holy Spirit 27, St. Joseph (Hamm.) 21
Westfield (3-0) at Elizabeth (3-0)
The other day, I told you about Elizabeth's offensive weapon in Elijah Hughes (533 total yards, six scores), but the senior tailback and his fellow Minutemen will be tested against a talented Westfield squad this Saturday. Tailback James O'Rourke (394 rushing yards, two TDs) leads the Blue Devils, who also possess an aggressive defense that's allowed just seven points in three games. Thing is, the Blue Devils will have to deal with Hughes and the Minutemen passing game, which was put on hold during last week's win against Linden due to a rain-soaked field.
My pick: Elizabeth 28, Westfield 17
Brandon Parker covers New Jersey for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.