Congratulations to Union County football schools Elizabeth and Roselle Park for advancing to state championship games after posting NJSIAA semifinal victories Friday night.
Elizabeth made it to a championship game for the second straight year and is in the first North 2, Group 5 final.
Roselle Park made it to a title contest for the first time since 1993 and will be playing in the North 2, Group 1 final for the first time since beating New Providence at home 10-7 in overtime in the 1993 game.
Cranford lost at home to Palisades Park 35-21 Friday night in the North 2, Group 3 semifinals. The Cougars finished 7-3, but managed to win a playoff game for the second straight season for the first time in program history. Cranford captured N2, G3 last year for its first playoff championship in its first championship game appearance.
Elizabeth improved to 10-0 after beating visiting Franklin 24-7 in the N2, G5 semifinals. Elizabeth previously defeated Franklin 49-13 at home on Oct. 5.
The Minutemen, ranked No. 2 in the state, will now have a chance to finish 11-0 for only the second time and first time since 1989 when they repeated as North 2, Group 4 champions and finished No. 1 in New Jersey.
Elizabeth will be playing in its ninth state championship game. The Minutemen are 7-1 in North 2, Group 4 finals, including last year’s 41-34 loss to defending champion Piscataway at Rutgers.
Roselle Park defeated New Providence 21-13 at home in the N2, G1 semifinals, winning for the fifth straight time to improve to 9-2. New Providence’s season came to a conclusion at 8-3.
Roselle Park previously defeated New Providence 35-28 at New Providence on Nov. 10 to snap a 10-game losing streak against the Pioneers. That was Roselle Park”s first win over New Providence since 2001.
Roselle Park qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2001, defeated Brearley and New Providence both for the first time since 2001, reached the N2, G1 semifinals for the first time since 1996 and has now made it to the N2, G1 final for the first time since 1993.
A good omen for the Panthers is that the last time they won a state champiomnship – 1993 — they also defeated New Providence twice in that season. This was only the second time Roselle Park defeated New Providence twice in a season and the first time in 19 years.
Roselle Park is 2-3 in state championship games, all in North 2, Group 1. The Panthers lost the 1980 game to Glen Ridge, the 1985 and 1986 contests to Brearley Regional, defeated Butler in the 1992 game and downed New Providence in the 1993 contest.
Roselle Park”s first of three championships in the playoff era came in 1979 when it was awarded the North 2, Group 1 championship because it was the only team in its section to finish at .500 or better.
There’s a good chance that Elizabeth and Roselle Park will both be playing their championship games next Saturday, with Elizabeth at Rutgers in Piscataway and Roselle Park at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford.
Roselle Park, the second seed, will be playing top-seeded Hoboken. The Panthers also have an opportunity to win 10 games for the first time since the 1993. The 1992 squad was the first in program history to go 11-0, while the 1993 team also went 11-0.
Elizabeth, the top seed, will most likely be playing fourth-seeded Piscataway. Elizabeth is tied with Summit for Union County’s longest winnning streak at 10.
Summit (10-0) hosts Parsippany Hills (8-2) Saturday at 1 p.m. at Tatlock Field in the second North 2, Group 3 semifinal. The Hilltoppers are attempting to reach the N2, G3 final for the first time since 1986.