UNION – Exit 135 off the Garden State Parkway south – the Clark-Westfield turn – is presently 10-0 on the gridiron so far this season.
Johnson and Westfield both improved to 5-0 Friday night, each capturing key Mid-State 38 Conference division victories.
Johnson turned back visiting Hillside 22-13 at Nolan Field to clinch the Valley Division title with a final, perfect league mark of 5-0.
Westfield held on – there was no scoring in the second half – to edge host Union 7-6 at Cooke Memorial Field. The Blue Devils won their state-leading 30th straight game and improved to 4-0 in the Watchung Division, with league games remaining against Elizabeth and Plainfield – Elizabeth at Rutgers and Plainfield at home on Thanksgiving.
Union, which hosted Westfield for the first time since 2012, scored its only points and the game’s final points on a four-yard pass on the right side from sophomore quarterback Andrew Sanborn to senior wide receiver Andy Martin on the final play of the first half. Union’s ensuing extra point attempt failed.
Westfield capitalized on a turnover – a Union fumble on a fair catch punt return – to score its only touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. It was an eight-yard touchdown pass on a slant left from sophomore quarterback Hank Shapiro to senior wide receiver Steve Barden. Senior Aidan Boland added the extra point.
Westfield defeated Union for the second straight time in the regular season – Union’s last win was in 2013 and the teams did not face each other in 2014 and 2015 – and for the fourth time overall, including the North 2, Group 5 semifinals in 2015 and 2016.
Union last defeated Westfield at home in 2012.
Westfield is 4-1 at Union under head coach Jim DeSarno, at the helm of the Blue Devils since 2006.
Westfield had the ball first against Union and on its first series Shapiro was intercepted by Union junior linebacker Michel Lucien at the 50.
The Farmers then drove as far as the Westfield 11 before Barden broke up a pass intended for Martin on fourth-and-three. Sanborn completed two passes on the drive, while Martin had a 12-yard run on a sweep left for a first down.
Union also reached Westfield territory on its second and third possessions before punting the ball back to the Blue Devils.
A holding penalty on Westfield one one-on-one pass coverage aided Union’s touchdown drive.
Westfield sophomore running back Tim Alliegro carried the ball 12 times for 41 yards in the first half. Barden recovered the fumble on Union’s errant punt return.
Union senior defensive lineman Chauncey Caffey had several key tackles and one batted down pass in the first half.
CAN JOHNSON WIN CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2?
Right now the Crusaders are just concerned with the proper preparation for their bye week before hosting Somerville, which is 4-1 after losing at home to Rahway 27-6 Friday night, on Oct. 20. Johnson’s final two qualifying games are at North Plainfield Oct. 27 and home to Gov. Livingston Nov. 3.
Union County has not produced a state champion from the section Central Jersey since the NJSIAA went to re-classification in 2003. The closest any team has come?
That would be Johnson.
Johnson lost the 2008 Central Jersey, Group 2 championship game to Manasquan 19-14 at Rutgers. Johnson led by a touchdown at the half.
Johnson captured its first division title since the 2006 season – pre Mid-State – when the Crusaders finished 9-1, but lost in the first round of the CJ, G2 playoffs that year.
Johnson’s win over Hillside also clinched the Unico Bowl award for the Crusaders, who won the trophy based on beating Hillside three of the past five seasons.
Mike Casalino, Joe Turek and Brandon Rapp scored Johnson’s touchdowns, while Casalino also kicked a 34-yard field goal.
RAHWAY AND CRANFORD TRIUMPH ON ROAD TO MOVE TO 3-2
Rahway won at 4-0 Somerville 27-6 Friday night, while Cranford defeated host Scotch Plains 43-42 in double overtime Saturday afternoon.
Both Mountain Division teams improved to 3-2 overall with non-division triumphs.
Rahway improved to 7-3 last year, but lost twice to Somerville, including the first round of the Central Jersey, Group 3 playoffs.
Cranford, seeking to improve offensively this week, faced Scotch Plains at Scotch Plains for the first time since 2013. Scotch Plains last defeated Cranford in 2009 and last beat the Cougars at home in 2000.
Cranford turned its season around with a come-from-behind 24-14 win over Rahway in its home-opener two weeks ago. Those teams could clash once more in November in the North 2, Group 3 playoffs.
For the second straight year Cranford will be facing Summit with a 3-2 record. The two will tangle at Cranford’s Memorial Field this Friday night.
Summit has won two straight after its first 1-2 start since 2008.
Cranford has defeated Summit the last three years. Summit’s last win over Cranford was at home in the 2013 N2, G3 semifinals.
Cranford’s best game last year was its win at Summit, with the Cougars thoroughly dominating a 5-0 Hilltopper squad 37-7 at Tatlock Field.
BREARLEY ALSO IMPROVES TO 3-2 WITH 3RD STRAIGHT VICTORY
Brearley is now 3-2 overall and tied for first place in the Union Division with Manville and Bound Brook at 3-1 after producing its first home win, a 41-27 victory over Dayton Friday night.
Brearley hosts Manville and Bound Brook the next two weekends, with wins over both giving the Bears the Union Division championship.
Senior running back Khalid Bonnet scored four times and senior quarterback Mike Ramos twice. Bonnet has scored 10 touchdowns the last two weeks.
Brearley has scored at least 40 points in all three victories, after opening with home losses to Group 2 Holmdel and Belivdere by five and three points.
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE- WATCHUNG DIVISION
Westfield (5-0, 4-0) 00 07 00 00 – 07
Union (2-2, 2-2) 00 06 00 00 – 06
Westfield – Steve Barden 8 pass from Hank Shapiro, Aidan Boland kick
6 plays, 40 yards, 3:13 used
Westfield capitalized on a turnover, a fumble recovery by Steve Barden.
Union – Andy Martin 4 pass from Andrew Sanborn, kick failed (W 7-6)
10 plays, 60 yards, 1:31 used
MORE TO COME.