Cedar Grove (6-3) at Shabazz (8-1)
This is a rematch of a game won by Cedar Grove, 22-19, and the only loss for Shabazz.
Shabazz has allowed only 56 points this year, while scoring 304. They are led on offense by QB Anthony Travis and RB Aziz Wilson. The defense features safeties Shakur Williams, Brandon Shaw, and linebacker Elliott Idemudia and do a good job of flying around the field.
Cedar Grove can score points, but they also allow points. They show good offensive balance and WR John Guaimano is having a big year. He scored all three touchdowns against Shabazz, including a 100-yard interception return.
While I did not expect to Cedar Grove to win earlier, I don’t see Shabazz losing this game.
Weequahic at Hasbrouck Heights
This a battle of undefeated teams, the fourth straight game Hasbrouck Heights has been in this position.
Weequahic has scored 221 points in eight games, not including the forfeit win over Glen Ridge, while allowing 55 and posting three shutouts. RB Charles Bruton needs 15 yards to reach 1,000 and the defense is led by safety Iam Venable and tackle Dioh Desuah. Both defenders get penetration and that needs to be neutralized.
Hasbrouck Heights starts with Jasiah Purdie at WR/RB/LB, who is a playmaking machine. Getting overlooked has been the play of quarterback Spencer Lee, who has completed 78% of his passes and has thrown for 457 yards in the last two games. The big concern for the Aviators is the lack of size up front and they are facing a big Weequahic team.
Mountain Lakes (7-2) at Rutherford (8-1)
Mountain Lakes run a spread Wing-T and their quarterback, Jack Baker, is a three-year starter who has thrown for 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns. Matt Palazzi has rushed for 900 to give them balance. But the Herd’s defense has been porous in their two losses, yielding 91 points of their 177 points allowed.
Rutherford has the speed of RB Abellany Mendez, who has rushed for 1,200 and has 20 receptions. The Bulldogs have scored 330 points, being held under 30 on two occasions, and scored 24 and 21 in those two games. DE Lawson Fisher leads the defense that has solid, but they allowed 48 in their lone loss to Hasbrouck Heights.
Lyndhurst (8-1) at Verona (7-2)
Only a double overtime loss to New Milford stands in the way of Lyndhurst being undefeated. They have a big star in RB/LB Piotr Partyla, who has rushed for 1,300 yards to go with 77 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 15 sacks. FB/LB Jeff Grasso is a good complementary back and leads the team in tackles with 98 and has 13 tackles for loss. The red flag is their offensive line had great difficulty blocking in their loss to New Milford and need to step up this week.
Verona has bounced back from a difficult year with the controversial removal of their coach and have a chance to take another step. Nick Riggio is a typical, hard-nosed back for Verona, with 1,200 yards rushing and linebacker Matt Frungillo is their leading tackler. Freshman QB Cael Zebrowski has been effective this year, but he is a freshman and this is his first challenging playoff game. The key is to stop their running game, as Shabazz limited them to 67 yards and Weequahic 129, their two losses.
Montville (8-2) at Summit (8-1)
Montville is enjoying its first winning record in ten years and have scored 361 points. QB Michael Burke is having a phenomenal year, passing for 2,100 yards and 16 touchdowns to go with 983 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. His main target, Deen Ninche, has 988 receiving yards. Their defense is another story, allowing for over 200 points. I figure the offense will need to make this a higher scoring game to have a chance.
Summit has is having a banner year with their only loss to Cranford, playing in a town that has a rich football tradition. Max Jackson has 1,200 yards rushing and Tyler Jackson complements him well. The Hilltoppers had three players rush for over 100: Jackson, Ryan Reigle, and Austin Groce. They don’t often go the air, but Skyler Shluter has been effective when called to do so. Their defense is led by linebacker Jack Kelly, who battled his way back from an ACL injury during lacrosse season last spring.
South Plainfield (5-4) at Rahway (8-1)
South Plainfield surprised some by beating West Essex, but their strength of schedule helped them along the way. QB Sam Nieves rushed for 100 yards last week and he is helped by WR Ashwin DeGroot and fullback Zach Delvecchio. The defense allowed 118 points on the year, keeping them in games and they will have to be at their best.
Rahway scored 354 points, allowed 106, won their last eight after losing to Somerville in the opener. RB Zi’on Pendleton has rushed for 1,100 yards and QB Ja’kir Robinson keeps opposing defenses honest. On defense, linebacker Shimei Paige leads the team in tackles.
On paper, Rahway has the edge, but if South Plainfield keeps it close, they have been in more close games, including two one-point wins.
Cranford (6-3) at Phillipsburg (8-1)
Cranford surprised some by beating Linden last week. The Cougars have a balanced offense with QB Connor Katz and RB Rob Schork rushed for 176 yards last week. Jimmy Shriner has also been a productive back. They will have to bring their A-game if they are going to win.
Phillipsburg has balance; if the running game is off, the air game picks them up and vice versa. Jack Stagaard has thrown for over 1,500 yards and Joe Green has rushed for 900. The Stateliners don’t produce many top college prospects, but they do have blue collar kids who are good, physical football players.
Irvington (7-3) at Randolph (9-1)
Irvington stormed back in the fourth quarter with two blocked punts for touchdowns. Since a loss to Bergen Catholic had them at 2-3, the Blue Knights have won five straight, including wins against North Bergen, Montclair, and their playoff win. RB Zakee Swann is very close to 1,000 yards and twin brother Zahir forms a talented receiving duo with Mohamed Toure. Nashawn Brooks is the ringleader for the defense.
Randolph righted itself after suffering their first defeat against Ramapo. They made plays against Colonia last week, especially the defensive plays late in the game. Anthony Sofia is a two-way threat for the Rams and shows some speed. Ryan McDermott is their leading receiver and has made diving catches in both games I have seen them. Despite the one-sided Ramapo loss, I attribute that to a good Ramapo and Randolph being less than their best.
Ridge (8-1) at Piscataway (9-0)
Ridge has had a very good year, with their only loss coming to Phillipsburg, comes off a 28-7 win over East Orange. They have an offense that consistently puts points on the board, but rarely the 40 to 50-point variety. The passing of quarterback Wesley Hudkins and the running of Christian Sweeney has been instrumental in their success.
Piscataway is the prohibitive favorite in this group, allowing only 47 points, including five shutouts and scoring 360. Juwon Jackson has 1,300 yards rushing behind a line that returned four starters from last year. Last week, they also turned to Nasir Best and Khrsitain Hernandez, as they rolled up 299 yards on the ground. QB Joseph Hatcher has thrown eleven touchdowns to only one interception. Their defense features linebacker Nick Recine and many others.
Union (8-2) at Union City (8-1)
Union has rebounded from a losing season and the Farmers have a very good quarterback in Andrew Sanborn, who has passed for over 2,000 yards and his top target is Ahmirr Robinson. Last week, Michel Lucien stepped up with 202 yards rushing. Lucien is also a top linebacker, forming a good tandem with Isaiah Martinez.
Union City’s only loss was to St. Peter’s Prep and come off last week’s win over Westfield – here’s an interesting score comparison: both Union City and Union have beaten Westfield, 21-7. Union City features the hard running of 1,000 yard rusher Jean Alvarez and have run the ball 282 times and thrown only 59 passes. They have scored quality wins over Irvington, North Bergen, and Bayonne, while allowing 97 points, including the 35 surrendered to St. Peter’s Prep.