2 tantalizing 2-0 vs. 2-0 matchups this weekend: Sept. 23 – Belvidere at Roselle Park; Sept. 24 – Johnson at Roselle

We have two tantalizing 2-0 vs. 2-0 matchups this weekend including three Union County squads and one Warren County unit that are off to very impressive starts.
The first that will take place is Roselle Park facing Belvidere in its home-opener Friday night at 7 at Herm Shaw Field.
Both Mid-State 38 Conference-Union Division teams have not given up a point yet.
Roselle Park opened with consecutive road shutouts, first blanking South Hunterdon 33-0 and then Dayton 32-0.
Belvidere began with two straight shutout wins at home, first shutting out Dayton 42-0 and then Brearley 27-0.
Roselle Park and Belvidere – along with Bound Brook – are tied for first place in the Union Division standings at 2-0. Bound Brook has also begun with decisive division wins, the Crusaders beating Manville at home 35-12 and then winning at South Hunterdon 48-13.
Roselle Park lost at Belvidere 33-14 in the regular season last year and then 26-21 in the North 2, Group 1 playoffs. Roselle Park took the lead in the quarterfinal round game 21-18 in the fourth quarter before Belvidere came back with an eight-point touchdown to win it.
“We’re very excited for this game,” said fifth-year Roselle Park head coach Terry Hanratty. “Here you have two small towns with kids playing both ways.”
Roselle Park has been led by a number of different players in putting up two victories so far. In the season-opening win at South Hunterdon, senior running back Carlos Vasquez rushed for 173 yards and three touchdowns, while in the victory at Dayton fellow senior running back David Forstenhausler rushed for 125 yards. Forstenhausler and Vasquez have both scored four touchdowns so far this season.
Another senior running back, Elijah Toro, rushed for 96 yards vs. South Hunterdon and 101 and a touchdown against Dayton.
Defensively for the Panthers, junior end Devin Hilburn, junior tackle Oniks Fazliu and senior linebacker Abel Crespo produced sacks in the South Hunterdon triumph.
Against Dayton, senior linebacker Darius Zayas had 13 tackles – one of them a sack – and a fumble recovery, while junior back Enzo Brutus picked off three passes, returning one of his interceptions for a touchdown.
“We got better as the year went on last year and had a lead on Belvidere in the playoff game, but just came up short,” Hanratty said. “So far this year we’re getting contributions from a group of people.
“It’s been a real team effort so far from a bunch of hard-working young men.”
Among the Belvidere players Hanratty has been impressed with so far are returning starters senior Jake Thornton at quarterback, junior David Kinney at running back and senior Zach DeLuca at middle linebacker.
“Their quarterback really runs the option well,” Hanratty said. “Their middle linebacker (DeLuca) is a tough kid who really hits people hard.”
Since the formation of the Mid-State 38 Conference in 2009, Roselle Park is 0-5 against Belvidere in the regular season and 0-1 in the playoffs. The teams did not play each other in 2013 and 2012.
“Belvidere is very similar to the team they had last year, which was a pretty good one,” Hanratty said.
Belvidere reached the North 2, Group 1 semifinals the past two seasons, falling at home to eventual first-time champion Shabazz in 2014 and at finalist Brearley in 2015.
Roselle Park reached the final in 2012, falling to Hoboken at MetLife Stadium, and the semifinals in 2013, falling at finalist Shabazz.
“We’re going to have to make a few big plays Friday night,” Hanratty said. “We’ll need to limit our fumbles. We’re going to have to play mistake-free football if we’re to have a chance.
“Belvidere is very good. We have the potential to be a good team and can show that Friday.”
Roselle Park’s home-opener should be one of many big games the Panthers play this season. The following week they are at arch rival Brearley before they come back home to face Bound Brook.
“This is a good test for us,” Hanratty said. “It’s not make-or-break only because of how early it is in the season.”
On Saturday at Arminio Field in Roselle it will be Johnson at Roselle in a battle of undefeated Valley Division squads.
This past Friday night Johnson – in its home-opener – handled Bernards 43-14. Bernards came in averaging an even 54 points after its first two games.
Johnson will next face a Roselle team that is averaging 53 points a game through its first two contests.
Roselle opened with a 61-54 win at Bernards and followed that up Saturday with a more-than-convincing 45-6 win in its home-opener vs. Delaware Valley.
It was reported that in Saturday’s win over DV, Roselle running back Isiah Byrd rushed for 301 yards on 16 carries and also scored three touchdowns for the second consecutive week.
Johnson topped Bernards by carrying the ball 65 times for 463 yards, with junior running back Joe Turek scoring four touchdowns. Turek and senior running back Nick Fischetti both rushed for over 100 yards.
Turek, Fischetti, senior running back Jon Duffy and senior quarterback Vin Crisafi combined to carry the ball 34 times for 287 yards in the first half alone.
Johnson and Roselle are tied for first place in the Valley Division with 2-0 league marks. Johnson beat Roselle 23-14 at home a year ago, while two years ago Roselle downed visiting Johnson 20-7.
The Crusaders will attempt to go 3-0 for the first time since 2007.
The Rams are after their first 3-0 start since 1998 when they finished 8-3 after reaching the North 2, Group 2 semifinals and then concluded with a Thanksgiving Day victory at holiday rival Roselle Park.
Roselle began that season 18 years ago with a 29-7 home win over Johnson, a 32-6 home triumph over Ridge and a 35-0 victory at Governor Livingston.
Roselle’s first loss that year was in Game No. 4, which was at home to Immaculata 28-0.
Roselle also lost at Bound Brook 20-17 that season.
In the 1998 N2, G2 playoffs, Roselle defeated West Essex 24-17 at home in the quarterfinals and was then defeated at Caldwell 34-7 in the semifinals.
Two years ago Roselle won its first playoff game since that 1998 season and again fell just one game shy of reaching its first state championship game since 1990.

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