The start of high school football is right around the corner

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UNION COUNTY, NJ — We’re here in July.

Soon it will be August.

That means the start of another high school football season here in Union County.

Believe it or not, another school season has come to a close and another football season is quickly on the horizon. The first football games of the season and the first days of school are now pre-Labor Day in New Jersey and here to stay that way.

The first official day of practice according to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association schedule is Monday, Aug. 12. The first day scrimmages can be scheduled would be the following Monday, Aug. 19.

The Union High School Farmers are coming off a 5-6 season in 2023 that saw them reach the North 1, Group 5 semifinals after winning at Ridgewood High School, 35-30, in first round play. Union then ventured to Passaic County and was ousted by top-seeded and eventual champion Passaic County Technical Institute, 35-8, in semifinal round play.

Speaking of Passaic County, Union has a quad scrimmage scheduled at home on Monday, Aug. 19, at 10 a.m., that includes Passaic County schools Wayne Hills and Passaic high schools. It also includes Montclair High School, which fell at Passaic County Tech, 34-27, in last year’s North 1, Group 5 final.

Union will seek to capture a sectional championship in North, Group 5 this season for the first time since 2019 behind three-year varsity senior quarterback Omalley King.

The high school football season in New Jersey commences Thursday, Aug. 29, which is the beginning of Week Zero.

Week One starts Thursday, Sept. 5.

Eight Union County schools open Week Zero. They include Governor Livingston, Union, Plainfield, Scotch Plains–Fanwood, New Providence, Linden, Abraham Clark and Elizabeth.

Here are their openers:

• Thursday, Aug. 29, South Plainfield at New Providence

• Thursday, Aug. 29, Monroe at Scotch Plains–Fanwood

• Thursday, Aug. 29, Governor Livingston at Lakeland

• Friday, Aug. 30, Linden at Elizabeth

• Friday, Aug. 30, Delran at Abraham Clark

• Friday, Aug. 30, Union at Seton Hall Prep

• Friday, Aug. 30, Plainfield vs. East Side at West Orange

Nine Union County schools open Week One. They include Rahway, David Brearley, Cranford, Arthur L. Johnson, Summit, Westfield, Roselle Park, Jonathan Dayton and Hillside.

Here are their openers:

• Thursday, Sept. 5, Roselle Park at Middlesex

• Friday, Sept. 6, Hillside at Bernards

• Friday, Sept. 6, South Hunterdon at Jonathan Dayton

• Friday, Sept. 6, Westfield at Phillipsburg

• Friday, Sept. 6, Somerville at Cranford

• Friday, Sept. 6, Arthur L. Johnson at David Brearley

• Friday, Sept. 6, Scotch Plains–Fanwood at Rahway

• Saturday, Sept. 7, Montgomery at Summit

Union has its first three games on the road before opening at home against Westfield on Sept. 20. Both teams have new head coaches that were promoted from within.

Jason Scott, a 2005 Central Regional High School graduate who went on to play collegiately at Montclair State University, is now the interim head coach at Union, succeeding Lou Grasso Jr., who was the head coach since 2013.

Grasso, who guided Union to the 2019 North 2, Group 5 sectional state championship, is now the athletic director at his native Colonia High School.

Matt Andzel, a 2002 Westfield High School graduate who played for head coach Ed Tranchina at Westfield before playing at The College of New Jersey, is now the head coach at Westfield, succeeding Jim DeSarno, who was the head coach since 2006.

DeSarno guided Westfield to the North 2, Group 5 sectional state championship three years in a row in 2015, 2016 and 2017. All three of those Blue Devils teams went 12-0 and defeated Bridgewater–Raritan Regional High School in the championship games.

When Union plays at Seton Hall Preparatory School on Friday, Aug. 30, at 1 p.m., in West Orange, it will be the first-ever meeting between the two storied programs.

2024 NJSIAA Football

First practice: Monday, Aug. 12

First scrimmage: Monday, Aug. 19

Season begins – Week Zero – Thursday, Aug. 29

• Week Zero: Aug. 29, Aug. 30, Aug. 31

• Week One: Sept. 5, Sept. 6, Sept. 7
Playoff cutoff weekend: Friday, Oct. 25 and Saturday, Oct. 26

Sectional Public School Playoffs

First round: Friday, Nov. 1, and Saturday, Nov. 2

• Semifinals: Friday, Nov. 8, and Saturday, Nov. 9

• Finals: Friday, Nov. 15, and Saturday, Nov. 16

• Group semifinals: Friday, Nov. 22, and Saturday, Nov. 23

• Group finals: Friday, Nov. 29, to Wednesday, Dec. 4

Sectional first round, semifinals and finals will be played at the higher seeds.

The group semifinals will be played at the higher seeds.

The group finals will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford and at Rutgers University in Piscataway, depending on availability of both sites.

File Photos