When Hillside returned to South River last Saturday it was the Comets who were undefeated this time.
Also unlike last year’s game the score was much closer when the final period commenced.
South River quarterback Michael DeSantis scored on a three-yard run in the fourth quarter to pull his team to within 14-13. However, his extra point attempt was blocked by Hillside senior Boris Nicolas-Paul.
That was the impetus Hillside needed to forge ahead.
The Comets responded by scoring the game’s final 26 points, with four different players – including Army-bound Nicolas-Paul – reaching the end zone.
Perhaps Hillside’s beat quarter of the season propelled it to a convincing 40-13 win at 3-2 South River in one of this season’s Union County vs. Middlesex County crossover contests.
In the first round of last year’s Central Jersey, Group 2 playoffs, Hillside downed a 9-0 South River squad 28-7, ending South River’s season at 9-1. Hillside went on to win Central Jersey, Group 2 for the first time and finished 9-3.
Now the Comets are 6-0 for the first time in a long time and are riding a 10-game-winning streak overall.
“It was a dog-fight with those guys,” third-year Hillside head coach Barris Grant said. “Last year South River was undefeated when we surprised them, so the shoe was on the other foot this time.
“We crushed their hopes last year and they had us at home again this year, so we knew they weren’t going to be happy.”
South River senior Steven Lakatos scored on a seven-yard run in the third quarter and the extra point that followed by DeSantis made it 14-7.
Scoring the final four touchdowns for Hillside were senior Shadon Willis on a pass from Gavin Melendez, senior Brian Ugwu and junior James Louis (80-yard) on runs and Nicolas-Paul on a 50-yard interception return.
Scoring Hillside’s first two touchdowns were junior Nahree Biggins on a pass from Melendez and Louis on a 10-yard run.
“Melendez had a great day, completing 14 of 16 passes,” Grant said.
A junior in his first year as the starting quarterback, Melendez threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns.
“This was similar to our Roselle game,” Grant said.
Hillside defeated Roselle 35-7 at Rahway River Park, coming back from a 7-6 halftime deficit. The Comets scored 22 points in the third quarter to pull away.
The Comets will return to Rahway River Park this Saturday to face North Plainfield for the first time since 2011. The Canucks are 1-6 and coming off a 32-14 home win over Johnson.
Hillside is 0-3 vs. North Plainfield since the Mid-State Conference was formed in 2009, falling to the Canucks in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Hillside also lost to North Plainfield every year from 2003-2006.
North Plainfield is situated in North, Group 3. Hillside’s last win over a Group 3 school was in its final game in 2013 when the Comets beat visiting consolation opponent Somerville 36-17.
North Plainfield won the final two games of its 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons.
“We think they’ve been getting better every week.” Grant said. “They’ve been chipping away every week, playing with a team effort the whole time.”
At present time Hillside is ranked among the top teams – power points wise – in South, Group 2. Wins over North Plainfield this weekend and Cranford next could put the Comets as one of the two top seeds to come out of the bracket.
“Every other year we would have an idea of who to scout,” Grant said. “With this new system we have no idea who we’re going to play.”
Manville at Dayton – both looking for first win on field this year
While Friday night’s Mid-State Conference-Union Division matchup featuring Manville (0-6) at Dayton (2-4) might not be worthy of Game of the Week status on paper, who is to say fans won’t get treated to one heck of a football game.
Both teams are hungry – no doubt – since neither has produced a win on the field so far this season.
Manville has lost seven straight starting with last year’s playoff setback to Point Pleasant Boro. Before that game the Mustangs produced a seven-game winning streak, which concluded with a 15-14 double-overtime triumph at Roselle Park last Nov. 3.
Manville qualified for the playoffs in Central Jersey, Group 1 the past two seasons – the Mustangs only made it one other time in its history – going 7-2 last year and 6-4 two years ago. The five seasons before that – from 2011-2015 – Manville finished 1-9 every year.
Dayton’s two wins this year have come via forfeit. The Bulldogs lost their first game of the year at home to Belvidere 41-14, but the result was reversed after Belvidere reported to the NJSIAA that it had mistakenly used a player that was not academically eligible.
At the end of September the Bulldogs also received a forfeit win over Highland Park, which after one game decided to drop varsity football due to a lack of healthy players.
Dayton’s last win on the field was last year’s 42-14 home win over Highland Park in a season that concluded 1-9. Two years ago the Bulldogs had to forfeit games against Roselle and Bound Brook after a 47-0 home loss to Group 2 Hillside. Dayton rebounded to win its final two games over South Hunterdon and North Arlington to finish 3-7.
Dayton won its final three games to finish 5-5 in 2015. Dayton’s last winning season was in 2010 when the Bulldogs reached the North 2, Group 1 semifinals and finished 9-2 with junior Anthony Cioffi leading the way.
Cioffi, a 2012 Dayton grad who starred in the secondary at Rutgers and signed as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders before he was one of the team’s final cuts last August, is now in his first year playing for the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League.
Rahway posts second shutout, first at home
Rahway’s 21-0 win over Immaculata last weekend was its second shutout and first at home at Rahway River Park.
Qualil Lumpkins had eight tackles and Joshua Darisme two, including a sack. Linebacker Shimei Page led with nine, while he and Brayden Pierre-Louis had two each for losses.
7 weekends down and 2 more to go before November playoffs
Seven weekends down and two more to go before the start of the playoffs.
Two Union County teams have managed to keep the 0 in the right column.
Hillside is 6-0 and leads Union County with a 10-game winning streak – the last nine wins coming away from home.
New Providence is 7-0 for the first time since 2015 when it finished 7-3. The Pioneers, who finished 1-9 in 2016 and 2017, have this weekend off and will then seek eight wins for the first time since 2013.
Big-time wins last weekend included Cranford at home over 5-0 Summit 25-12, New Providence at home in single overtime over 5-0 Brearley 27-21, Rahway at home over 4-1 Immaculata 21-0, Linden at home over 3-2 South Plainfield 14-0 for its first shutout and Union at 3-2 Hunterdon Central 28-10.
Cranford fortified its playoff standing in North, Group 4, New Providence remained undefeated and won the Mid-State Conference’s Union Division title, Rahway won its fifth straight, Linden captured its sixth consecutive win and Union won for the fifth time in a row and now has a 4-0 road record.
Hillside is 6-0 on the road, New Providence also 4-0 and Rahway 3-0.
Union County, having one of its best overall seasons in recent years, is well-represented among the top teams in all five public school group sizes.
In Group 5 there is Union (6-1) and Elizabeth (4-2, only team to beat Union), in Group 4 there is Linden (6-1) and Cranford (4-2), in Group 3 there is Rahway (5-1) and Summit (5-1), in Group 2 there is Hillside (6-0) and in Group 1 there is New Providence (7-0) and Brearley (5-1).
The Watching Division championship will be decided this weekend. Linden is 4-1 and done, while Union and Elizabeth – both 3-1 – play their final division games Friday and Saturday.
Union hosts 0-7 Watchung Hills Friday night, while Elizabeth is at 2-4 Westfield Saturday. If Union and Elizabeth win there will be tri-champions: Union, Elizabeth and Linden – since Union beat Linden, Elizabeth beat Union and Linden beat Elizabeth.
If Union wins and Elizabeth loses, then Union wins the division outright based on the tie-breaker of beating Linden head-to-head.
If Union and Elizabeth both lose – not likely – Linden would win the division outright. Elizabeth can’t win the division, since the best it could do would be to tie Linden and it lost to Linden.
The Delaware Division title will be determined Friday night when Phillipsburg (4-0) plays at Ridge (4-0) in Basking Ridge.
The Raritan Division crown will be decided Oct. 26 when Summit (4-0) plays at Immaculata (4-0) in Somerville.
Somerville 3-peated as Mountain Division champion, while Hillside won the Valley Division for the first time.
Union County won two of the three crossover matchups against Middlesex County schools last weekend, with Linden beating South Plainfield and Hillside downing South River. Middlesex County’s win was Middlesex defeating Dayton.
Union County leads 10-5 so far this year, including Brearley and Dayton forfeit wins over Highland Park.
Crossover matchups this weekend include Scotch Plains at Colonia and St. Joseph’s, Metuchen at Summit on Friday night and Roselle at Spotswood on Saturday.
Union County playoff teams (I think) if playoffs started this weekend:
North, Group 5: Union (6-1), Elizabeth (4-2), Westfield (2-4)
North, Group 4: Linden (6-1), Cranford (4-2)
North, Group 3: Rahway (5-1), Summit (5-1)
South, Group 2: Hillside (6-0)
North, Group 1: New Providence (7-0), Brearley (5-1)
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE:
Friday, Oct. 19 (10 games)
Watchung Hills at Union, 7 p.m.
Hillsborough at Linden, 7 p.m.
Cranford at Immaculata, 7 p.m.
Scotch Plains at Colonia, 7 p.m.
St. Joseph’s, Metuchen at Summit, 7 p.m.
North Hunterdon at Rahway, 7 p.m.
Gov. Livingston at Delaware Valley, 7 p.m.
Johnson at Bernards, 7 p.m.
South Hunterdon at Brearley, 7 p.m.
Manville at Dayton, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 20 (4 games)
Elizabeth at Westfield, 1 p.m.
Franklin at Plainfield, 1 p.m.
North Plainfield vs. Hillside, 1 p.m.
at Rahway River Park
Roselle at Spotswood, 1 p.m.
Off: New Providence.
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:
Friday, Oct. 12 (9 games)
Union 28, Hunterdon Central 10
Franklin 28, Elizabeth 21
Phillipsburg 42, Westfield 14
Linden 14, South Plainfield 0
Cranford 25, Summit 12
Rahway 21, Immaculata 0
North Plainfield 32, Johnson 14
New Providence 27, Brearley 21 (OT)
Middlesex 42, Dayton 0
Saturday, Oct. 13 (3 games)
Gov. Livingston 28, Scotch Plains 12
Bernards 28, Roselle 6
Hillside 40, South River 13
THIS WEEK’S PICKS (14):
Union over Watchung Hills
Linden over Hillsborough
Cranford over Immaculata
Colonia over Scotch Plains
Summit over St. Joseph’s, Metuchen
Rahway over North Hunterdon
Delaware Valley over Gov. Livingston
Bernards over Johnson
Brearley over South Hunterdon
Dayton over Manville
Elizabeth over Westfield
Franklin over Plainfield
Hillside over North Plainfield
Spotswood over Roselle
Best bet: Union
Upset special: Summit
Last week: 8-4
This year: 64-15 (.810)
Best bets: 7-0
Upset specials: 5-2
JR’S UNION COUNTY
9-New Providence (7-0)
Gov. Livingston (3-3)
Scotch Plains (0-6)