North Section 1
Group 1: I expect top-seeded Butler to beat next-door neighbor Pompton Lakes and they play the New Milford-Wallkill Valley winner. New Milford is banged up and have their work cut out for them. On the other side of the bracket, I see Park Ridge handling Cresskill. Emerson-Boonton will be interesting. Boonton comes off an impressive win over Mountain Lakes, while Emerson has running back Ryan Shaw back healthy, rushing for 257 yards last week. .
Group 2: This is a wide-open group, with defending champ Newton as the favorite. They have a rematch with Pequannock, a game won early in the season by Newton, 8-7. They play the Ramsey-High Point winner; my belief is if Ramsey gets out in front, they will win because High Point does not have the offense that can come back. I expect Westwood to beat Glen Rock, while Kittatinny-Mahwah is a game that can go either way. Both teams have players who can take over a game: Mahwah has quarterback Kyle Teel and Kittatinny has running back Jacob Mafaro.
Group 3: The only game that I see that may be undecided is Sparta-Lakeland and I plan on attending that game Saturday afternoon. I don’t expect Ramapo, River Dell, and Paramus to have any problems winning their games.
Group 4: I expect the two top seeds, Wayne Hills and Old Tappan, to win their games. It’s the other two games that are interesting. The Morris Knolls-Northern Highlands game is a rematch of last week’s game won by Knolls, 12-7, with anything possible. Morris Hills-Wayne Valley is up for grabs. Morris Hills has taken it on the chin the last two weeks against Randolph and Sparta, while Wayne Valley has rebounded from an 0-2 start and have recent losses to Old Tappan (7-6) and Northern Highlands (14-0).
Group 5: Montclair will probably avenge their opening night loss to West Orange and will face the winner of Hackensack-North Bergen. I am picking Hackensack to win this behind the running of Tymere Robinson. Ridgewood is expected to beat 2-6 Passaic Tech and Will Cardew is rounding into form after missing last year with an ACL injury. Clifton goes against next-door neighbor Paterson-Kennedy. Both teams have a player who can be a difference maker: Clifton with running back David Martinez and Kennedy with wide receiver Jamier Wright-Collins.
North Section 2
Group 1: I expect Shabazz, Hasbrouck Heights, Weequahic, and Cedar Grove to win.
The most interesting game will be Hasbrouck Heights and New Providence in a game of undefeated teams, but I expect Heights to win.
Group 2: I expect the top two seeds to win, with Rutherford over Newark Central and Verona over Dumont. It’s the other two I’m not sure about. Mountain Lakes visits Hawthorne: I would have said Mountain Lakes would win, but last week’s pounding by Boonton has me re-evaluating that. Hanover Park-Lyndhurst has the chance to be a very good game. Lyndhurst has a field goal weapon in Ben Franchino.
Group 3: This is a stronger section than last year with defending champ West Essex, Summit, Rahway, and Montville. West Essex may be facing its toughest opponent this year in South Plainfield, who could give them all they can handle. Summit and Rahway should not have any problems. Montville and Warren Hills can be good one: Montville has a very good quarterback in Michael Burke, but Warren Hills has had the tougher schedule.
Group 4: There are some good matchups in this section. Phillipsburg has a rematch of last year’s sectional final against North Hunterdon, who graduated most of that team. Linden is the favorite against Cranford, with BJ George rushing for almost 1,500 yards. Irvington-West Morris is a clash of styles: Irvington’s spread and speed against West Morris’ methodical Wing-T. Saturday night’s Randolph-Colonia may be one of the best matchups of the weekend.
Group 5: Piscataway is the favorite to win the section and they will avenge last year’s playoff loss to Bridgewater-Raritan. They play the Ridge-East Orange winner. Ridge comes off a good win over Linden and played a tougher schedule of the two. Union-Elizabeth can go either way and is a rematch of an early season game won by Elizabeth, 28-14. Westfield will play up on the roof at Union City. Union City is 7-1 and Westfield is 2-6, their Westfield’s losses have been to opponents with a combined 42-9 record. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Blue Devils gave the Soaring Eagles a tough game, maybe even a win.