There are still 4 Union County teams without a loss as we are down to the final 3 weeks of the regular season.
A showdown this Friday night features 2 of them clashing.
After that just 1 will still have the 0 in the right column.
Among this weekend’s top matchups includes Brearley (5-0) at New Providence (6-0) for sole possession of first place in the Mid-State Conference’s Union Division.
Kickoff is Friday night at 7 at New Providence’s Lieder Field.
“We’re doing much better than I expected,” said Brearley head coach Scott Miller, at the helm of the Bears since 2002. “We’ve got a lot of sophomores and a lot of unselfish kids playing well together as a group. So far they have responded.”
Brearley is 4-0 in the Union Division and will host South Hunterdon Oct. 19 in its final division game. New Providence is also 4-0 in the Union Division, with its final division game at home against Belvidere Oct. 26.
These Union County Group 1 rivals also clashed with undefeated records just three years ago in 2015. Brearley was 8-0 and New Providence 7-0 when the Bears won 27-19 at Brearley’s Ward Field in Kenilworth. That gave Brearley the Mid-State’s Valley Division championship over New Providence.
Brearley, which has played only four games so far (the Bears have a forfeit win over Highland Park), has defeated New Providence the last three years. Brearley went for two in the fourth quarter and got it last year, coming from behind to edge New Providence 29-28 in New Providence.
Senior quarterback Mike Ramos scored the touchdown – on a two-yard run – that brought Brearley to within one and then threw the two-point pass for the game’s winning points.
Brearley is now led at quarterback by his younger brother Danny, a sophomore who has already made several key plays in Brearley victories thus far.
“I was joking with Scott (Miller) that I hope I don’t have to deal with another Ramos,” second-year New Providence head coach Chet Parlavecchio, Jr. said.
Brearley’s most impressive and dramatic triumph so far this year was its 17-14 Union Division win at 2-1 Bound Brook Sept. 28. Junior placekicker Antonino Principato sent the visiting Bears to victory by making a 39-yard field goal on the game’s final play.
“I knew it would be a difficult game for us,” Miller said. “Our expectations were not high ones yet. Bound Brook has a lot of talent and size. It was a moment to see how our kids would respond.”
Bound Brook tied the game at 14-14 with a touchdown and extra point with less than two minutes remaining. However, a helmet-to-helmet penalty against the host Crusaders helped give Brearley better field position on the game’s final drive as the Bears were able to get into field goal range for Principato.
“When Bound Brook tied the game our kids didn’t have their heads down,” Miller said. “We showed fight and determination.”
Ramos rushed for 128 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries and also threw a touchdown pass. Senior defensive tackle Dylan Santelli was credited with 10 tackles.
Another standout sophomore is returning middle linebacker Michael Dotro. Other key senior performers on defense include end Justin O’Rourke and cornerback Vin Rappa.
“Our seniors have been through a lot,” Miller said. “They’ve been leading our younger kids.”
Brearley fashioned 5-5 records the past two seasons, qualifying in North 2, Group 1 in 2016. In 2015, the Bears went 11-1, losing only to Hoboken 34-12 in the North 2, Group 1 final played at Kean University. Miller won his 100th game the first round of that year’s playoffs.
New Providence went 1-9 in each of the past two seasons after qualifying for the playoffs and also finishing over .500 every year from 2002 to 2015.
“New Providence was Group 2 by a small margin and with a cycle had a tough schedule,” Miller said.
New Providence moved up to Central Jersey, Group 2 status for the 2015 and 2016 seasons and also into the Mid-State Conference’s division consisting of Group 2 schools Johnson, Hillside, Roselle, Delaware Valley and Bernards.
The Pioneers dropped back down to North 2, Group 1 last year, but still remained in the Group 2 division. New Providence was put back in the Group 1 division – the Union Division – this year along with fellow Group 1 schools Brearley, Bound Brook, South Hunterdon, Dayton, Belvidere and Manville.
UNION DIVISION STANDINGS
1-New Providence (4-0)
3-Bound Brook (3-2)
4-South Hunterdon (2-1)
New Providence, including an 0-8 start, snapped an overall 12-game losing streak last year by winning at Dayton 27-0 in its consolation game.
The Pioneers have immediately gone from a 12-game losing streak to winning seven of their last eight, including this year’s 6-0 start. The only blemish was falling to Gov. Livingston on Thanksgiving last year.
“It’s been great so far,” Parlavecchio said.
When New Providence hosted Brearley last year the Pioneers were 0-6, back to being a Group 1 school, but still playing mostly a Group 2 schedule. Twelve months later the Pioneers are 6-0, still Group 1 and back to playing a Group 1 schedule.
Parlavecchio reports the numbers this year are 29 from grades 10-12 and 15 more freshmen, overall up six kids from last year. There was no freshman team last year.
“Our physical strength training in the off season was huge,” Parlavecchio said. “We also had a lot of guys get invaluable experience against a grinder of a schedule. That experience is now showing in our games this year.”
Back behind center is junior Owen Kovacs and the lead running back is senior Jack Gertie, who did not play football last season.
“We have a seasoned quarterback, who played 10 games last year, and skill players performing with a lot of confidence,” Parlavecchio said. “It all started with Middlesex, which was a huge win for us.”
On the very first night of the season – Thursday, Aug. 30 – New Providence won at Middlesex 27-19 for its initial opening-game win in three years.
“We’ve been rolling ever since,” Parlavecchio said.
Gertie, also a standout lacrosse player on defense, rushed for 78 yards on 11 carries vs. Middlesex. He will continue playing lacrosse in college on the Division 1 level at Monmouth University. Parlavecchio was also the head boys’ lacrosse coach at GL for four seasons from 2014-2017.
“Jack played (football) as a sophomore, but didn’t come out last year,” Parlavecchio said. “It was his senior year and I think his friends sort of talked him into it. He certainly has helped turn things around with what he has done.
“He started in the off season with us from day one and it’s obvious the impact he has made both offensively (792 yards on 85 carries and 9 TDs) and defensively (15 tackles and one interception).”
Other defensive standouts include leading tacklers Mario Fuentes, Joe Delia and Joe D’Anna – all seniors – and junior Tucker Davidson.
When asked to break down just exactly getting into the weight room means, Parlavecchio began this way: “I don’t think we were prepared for our schedule last year, so I had to dissect it this way:
“We had to develop flat-out power. Getting in the weight room also taught the kids to expand their athleticism.
“We concentrated on what is called ‘Hang Clean and Squat.’ It’s a full-body lift that provides explosion and power.”
New Providence has outscored its first six opponents by a solid 203-52 measure that includes two shutouts. The Pioneers have scored at least 41 points in each of their last three games and the only win not by double digits was opening night at Middlesex.
“Being Group 1 I think has made it a little easier since the teams are smaller,” Parlavecchio said of the program’s quick turnaround. “I give the kids credit. They got experience playing bigger and stronger Group 2 schools last year – teams like Hillside and Roselle – and that experience has helped them.
“They never quit. The success they are realizing now is a result of the experience they gained. It all started with Middlesex. That validated what we set out to do. We’ve gotten better every week.”
Like Brearley, New Providence has a win over Bound Brook that was cemented in the fourth quarter. New Providence beat Bound Brook 27-17 in its Sept. 14 home-opener.
“We were up 13-3 and then they scored to make it 13-10 and then we fumbled the kickoff and they scored again to go ahead 17-13,” Parlavecchio said.
New Providence came back with two more touchdowns after that – the Pioneers scored three in the fourth quarter – with the final one a pick-6 by D’Anna, a 35-yard interception return.
Bound Brook is 3-2 overall, with its only losses coming to New Providence and Brearley. The Crusaders captured the Union Division championship in 2016 and 2017.
For the first time in three years we have a big-time Brearley-New Providence matchup, with the Pioneers seeking to beat the Bears for the first time since 2014.
“I’ve always heard a lot about Brearley and Coach Miller,” Parlavecchio said. “They are a well-disciplined team, well-coached and they have a lot of tough guys who can make plays. They always seem to come out and play their butts off.
“It’s a great rivalry and last year was a great game. We also expect to have another great game with them Friday night.”
Miller, a 1987 Brearley Regional graduate, has been through many of these marquee matchups before as a player, assistant coach and head coach.
“Chet has done a nice job from what we’ve seen on film and the things they are doing,” Miller said. “He got some kids to come back out that he didn’t have last year, including the tailback (Gertie) and they’ve become more physical. He’s done a nice job turning the program around.”
Here’s what Miller sees as the keys for his team’s success: “we can’t give up the big play; they have players capable of scoring on long runs. We have to make them have to put together long drives. We have to make them earn it.
“For us, offensively, we have to take care of the ball.”
SOMERVILLE, HILLSIDE FIRST MID-STATE CHAMPIONS
This year’s first two Mid-State division winners were crowned last Friday night. Somerville 3-peated as Mountain Division champions, winning the division undefeated for the second time in three years. The Pioneers won the Mountain at 5-0 and are 6-0 overall.
Hillside captured the Valley Division crown for the first time after finishing second last year. The Comets won the Valley at 4-0 and are 5-0 overall. Hillside is preparing for its first day game, a date Saturday at South River.
Hillside’s Union County-leading winning streak is now at nine, with the last eight of those victories coming away from home.
Cranford (3-2) hosts Summit (5-0) Friday night at Memorial Field. The teams had the same exact records when they met on a Friday night at Summit’s Tatlock Field in 2016. Then Summit senior quarterback Brian Oblachinski – playing a fine game on both offense and defense – led the visiting Cougars to a decisive 37-7 triumph.
Summit won at Cranford 31-13 last year, snapping a three-game losing streak against the Cougars.
Summit is Union County’s other undefeated team, owners of a 5-0 record that includes the Hilltoppers outscoring their first five foes by an impressive 209-48 margin.
Summit is presently tied with Immaculata – both 4-0 – atop the Raritan Division standings. They will face each other for the division title Oct. 26 in Somerville.
Union (5-1) just defeated Westfield for the first time in five years and for the first time at home in six, handing the Blue Devils (2-3) their second straight loss for the first time in five years. Union has won four straight. The Farmers play their final regular season road game at Hunterdon Central (3-2) Friday night.
Union is hoping that it will be playing many more home games after that. Union hosts Watchung Hills Oct. 19 and Bridgewater-Raritan Oct. 26 to close out the regular season before the North 2, Group 5 playoffs commence.
BJ GEORGE BECOMES LINDEN’S ALL-TIME LEADING RUSHER
Linden (5-1) has won five in a row and has not yielded more than seven points in four quarters yet. Senior running back BJ George rushed for 190 yards in last Friday’s 35-7 Watchung Division triumph at Watchung Hills, becoming the program’s all-time leading rusher.
Elizabeth (4-1) has won two straight.
Linden leads the Watchung Division standings at 4-1 and is done. Union is 3-1 and Elizabeth 3-1.
Union and Elizabeth will play their final division games next weekend, Union first hosting Watchung Hills Oct. 19 and then Elizabeth at Westfield Oct. 20.
If Union and Elizabeth win, then there will be tri-champions – Union, Elizabeth and Linden – because Union beat Linden, Elizabeth beat Union and then Linden beat Elizabeth.
If Union wins and Elizabeth loses, then Union wins the division outright based on the tie-breaker of beating Linden. If Union and Elizabeth both lose – not likely – Linden would win the division outright.
Elizabeth can’t win the division because it lost to Linden and can’t finish just tied with Union – which it beat – for first.
COMPETITION OR NOT BEING COMPETITIVE AT ALL?
There were 12 games played last weekend involving 15 of Union County’s 16 teams – Gov. Livingston had the week off.
The average margin of victory was a whopping 35.25 points, including four teams scoring at least 50 and one of them more than 60 – Rahway defeated visiting Carteret 61-15.
There was not a single game decided by single digits, with Union’s 21-7 home win over Westfield the closest margin of victory – 14 points.
UNION COUNTY LEADS MIDDLESEX COUNTY 8-4 SO FAR
Rahway’s win over Carteret increased Union County’s edge over Middlesex County in first-year crossover matchups to 8-4. That includes Brearley and Dayton getting forfeit wins over Highland Park.
Union County vs. Middlesex County crossover games this weekend include South Plainfield at Linden and Dayton at Middlesex Friday night and Hillside at South River Saturday.
Oct. 19: Phillipsburg (4-0) at Ridge (4-0) for division title.
Somerville 3-peated as division champion.
Somerville won at 5-0 in 2016, 4-1 in 2017 and 5-0 in 2018.
Oct. 26: Summit (4-0) at Immaculata (4-0) for division title.
Oct. 12: Brearley (4-0) at New Providence (4-0).
Oct. 19: South Hunterdon at Brearley.
Oct. 26: Belvidere at New Providence.
Hillside won the division for the first time, perfect at 4-0.
Hillside was second last year at 4-1 and Johnson first at 5-0.
Linden is 4-1 and done.
Oct. 19: Watchung Hills (0-4) at Union (3-1).
Oct. 20: Elizabeth (3-1) at Westfield (1-2).
If Union and Elizabeth both win then there will be tri-champion -:
Union, Linden and Elizabeth – based on Union beating Linden,
Elizabeth beating Union and Linden beating Elizabeth.
If Union wins then Union wins the division outright based on the
head-to-head tie-breaker of beating Linden.
If Union and Elizabeth both lose – not likely – Linden would win
the division outright.
* * *
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE:
Friday, Oct. 12 (9 games)
Union at Hunterdon Central, 7 p.m.
Elizabeth at Franklin, 7 p.m.
Westfield at Phillipsburg, 7 p.m.
South Plainfield at Linden, 7 p.m.
Summit at Cranford, 7 p.m.
Immaculata at Rahway, 7 p.m.
Johnson at North Plainfield, 7 p.m.
Brearley at New Providence, 7 p.m.
Dayton at Middlesex, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 13 (3 games)
Hillside at South River, 1 p.m.
Roselle at Bernards, 1 p.m.
Scotch Plains at Gov. Livingston, 1:30 p.m.
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:
Friday, Oct. 5 (10 games)
Union 21, Westfield 7
Elizabeth 55, Plainfield 6
Linden 35, Watchung Hills 7
Somerville 50, Cranford 7
Rahway 61, Carteret 15
Hillside 47, Johnson 0
Delaware Valley 45, Roselle 6
New Providence 41, Newark Academy 10
Brearley 30, Belvidere 6
Bound Brook 50, Dayton 6
Saturday, Oct. 6 (2 games)
Summit 36, Colonia 6
Warren Hills 42, Scotch Plains 14
Off: Gov. Livingston.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS (12):
Union over Hunterdon Central
Elizabeth over Franklin
Phillipsburg over Westfield
Linden over South Plainfield
Summit over Cranford
Rahway over Immaculata
Johnson over North Plainfield
Brearley over New Providence
Middlesex over Dayton
Hillside over South River
Bernards over Roselle
Gov. Livingston over Scotch Plains
Best bet: Hillside
Upset special: Brearley
Last week: 11-1
This year: 56-11 (.836)
Best bets: 6-0
Upset specials: 5-1
JR’S UNION COUNTY
9-New Providence (6-0)
Gov. Livingston (2-3)
Scotch Plains (0-5)