Rahway, Summit, Hillside football seek to capture state championships for the first time before Thanksgiving

The explosive running backs include Rahway’s Dashon Moore, Summit’s Max Jackson and Hillside’s James Louis.
The absolute studs on defense consist of Rahway’s Shimei Page, Summit’s Jack Kelly and Hillside’s Brian Ugwu.
The efficient, calm-cool-and-collected, offensive-leading, signal-callers are Rahway lefty-throwing senior Jakir Robinson, Summit senior Skyler Schluter and Hillside junior Gavin Melendez.
These are the players that are going to make a difference. There will be others as well, some not even thought of before kickoff.
Welcome to Union County football Championship Week for the 2018 season.
The three teams from Union County that made it – Rahway (9-1), Summit (9-1) and Hillside (10-0) – have been as consistent as any triumvirate anywhere in New Jersey.
All three will be in action Saturday. All three will also be – for the first time – seeking to win state championships the weekend before Thanksgiving.
The North 2, Group 3 state championship game – for the second time – features Rahway vs. Summit. Third-seeded Rahway, winners of nine straight, will play at top-seeded Summit at 1 p.m. at Summit’s Tatlock Field.
Their first meeting in the final came in 1980 at Giants Stadium, with Summit holding off Rahway 10-7 to prevent the two-time defending champion Indians from three-peating.
The Central Jersey, Group 2 state championship game features Hillside for the second straight season. Second-seeded Manasquan (8-1) will play at top-seeded and defending champion Hillside (10-0 for the first time ever) at 1 p.m. at Hillside’s John Zappulla Field.
Years ago Summit and then Rahway left the Watchung Conference, with Summit – who before that played in the Northern Hills Conference – moving over to the Morris County-friendly Iron Hills Conference and Rahway to the smaller Mountain Valley Conference.
Since the formation of the Mid-State Conference in 2009, Summit is 7-0 vs. Rahway in the regular season and 0-1 vs. the Indians in the playoffs. The only time Rahway won at Summit in that span was in last year’s North 2, Group 3 first round, by the score of 45-37.
Summit’s 7-0 Mid-State regular season record against Rahway includes the 2013 game at Veterans Field, which was a wild, fourth quarter comeback by Summit that saw the visiting Hilltoppers win a battle of 4-0 squads by the score of 26-20. Summit outscored Rahway 20-0 in the fourth quarter to give first-year head coach Kevin Kostibos his third road win.
Summit vs. Rahway since the beginning of the
Mid-State Conference in 2009:

2009 and 2010: Did not play
2011: Summit 24, Rahway 14 – at Summit
2012: Summit 39, Rahway 20 – at Summit
2013: Summit 26, Rahway 20 – at Rahway
2014: Summit 30, Rahway 20 – at Summit
2015: Summit 13, Rahway 12 – at Rahway
2016: Summit 35, Rahway 20 – at Summit
2017: Summit 34, Rahway 14 – at Rahway
2017: Rahway 45, Summit 37 – at Summit: N2, G3 first round
Hillside has Union County’s longest winning streak at 14 going back to last season. After playing nine straight games away from home – also going back to last season – Hillside hosted North Plainfield at Rahway River Park and has since played its first three games on its new turf field.
Three of the four head coaches have one state championship on their resume – Kevin Kostibos of Summit in 2013, Jay Price of Manasquan in 2016 and Barris Grant of Hillside in 2017.
Summit is 6-0 at home this year. Summit’s last loss at home was to Rahway last year in the North 2, Group 3 quarterfinals.

PLAYOFF RESUMES:
Manasquan: 35 playoff seasons
46-22 (.677)
12-6 in championship games

Summit: 27 playoff seasons
31-18 (.633)
8-4 in championship games
2nd most playoff wins in Union County (Union 34).

Rahway: 21 playoff seasons
21-17 (.553)
3-4 in championship games

Hillside: 10 playoff seasons
10-7 (.588)
2-1 in championship games

HERE’S A LOOK AT BOTH GAMES:
SATURDAY, NOV. 17 AT 1 P.M.

North 2, Group 3 final: 3-Rahway (9-1) at 1-Summit (9-1): These teams met seven straight seasons from 2011-2017, with Summit winning every game. Then they met in the North 2, Group 3 quarterfinals last year and Rahway came out on top 45-37 at Summit’s Tatlock Field.
They did not play in the regular season in 2009, 2010 and this year.
The two will clash again at Tatlock Field on Saturday, this time with the North 2, Group 3 trophy on the line.
Cranford, which this year won its first playoff game in North 2, Group 4 by winning at Linden in the first round, played Rahway and Summit at home. Cranford lost to Rahway 22-0 and defeated Summit 25-12 – handing Summit its only loss.
Rahway and Cranford were scoreless until the third quarter. Rahway’s last touchdown was a pick-6.
Summit led Cranford 12-7 at intermission before the host Cougars came back in the second half.
Rahway didn’t score in the first half against Cranford and Summit didn’t score in the second.
“Both teams are very good,” Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier said. “We never really figured Rahway out. Against Summit it was a must-win for us as far as making the playoffs. We needed the game more.
“It should be a great game.”
Cranford also played at Hillside, which was Hillside’s first game on its new turf field. The Comets won 39-10. Cranford did not score until the second half.
Amazingly, Cranford bounced back to win the next week at Linden.
“Hillside kicked our butts,” Rosenmeier said. “They have so many weapons.
“For us to come back the next week and beat a really good team like Linden, that made me very proud.”
Rahway began the year with a 42-31 loss at home to Somerville, which is 11-0 and seeking to repeat as Central Jersey, Group 3 state champions. Rahway was the last team to beat Somerville, topping the Pioneers 27-6 last Oct. 6 at Somerville. The Pioneers presently have a winning streak of 18.
Rahway has won nine straight, all of the wins by double digits.
Summit has won four in a row since the Cranford loss. All nine wins are by double digits. The Hilltoppers are averaging 54 points in the playoffs.
Central Jersey, Group 2 final: 2-Manasquan (8-1) at 1-Hillside (10-0): For the second straight season Hillside will attempt to beat a Shore Conference school in the final to capture the CJ, G2 trophy. Last year it was Point Pleasant Boro.
As the defending champion, Manasquan lost at PPB 27-6 in last year’s CJ, G2 semifinals. Manasquan returned to PPB for its season-opener on Sept. 7 and this time won 42-28.
The Warriors have seven wins by double digits. The only one that wasn’t was last week’s 14-7 triumph at home over third-seeded Cinnaminson.
Hillside has won all 10 of its games by double digits. The last time the Comets did not win by double digits was in last year’s final – their 20-13 win over PPB at Rutgers.
Hillside has scored four points shy of 400 and has yielded a Union County-best 72.
This battle of the last two CJ. G2 state champions – Manasquan beat Bernards 42-6 in the 2016 final at Rutgers – could come down to which team executes its offense best.
Senior running back Canyon Birch, who also excels in lacrosse, made up for losing a fourth quarter fumble by – later in the game – scoring the winning touchdown from one-yard out against Cinnaminson.
Hillside can score on the ground behind Brian Ugwu, James Louis and Jahon Moore and through the air with quarterback Gavin Melendez throwing to receivers Boris Nicolas-Paul, Shadon Willis and Nahree Biggins.
Paul will play in college at Army. Ugwu will take official visits after the season, with several Big Ten schools – in addition to Temple and Pitt – in the running for his services.

STATE CHAMPIONSHP GAME RESUMES
(for Union County teams):

SUMMIT HILLTOPPERS (8-4)
North 2, Group 3 – 4-1
North 2, Group 2 – 4-3
2013 North 2, Group 3: Summit 16, Parsippany Hills 13 – at Kean University
2012 North 2, Group 3: Summit 30, Palisades Park 0 – at MetLife
2011 North 2, Group 2: Madison 47, Summit 7 – at Kean University
2009 North 2, Group 2: Summit 28, Orange 19 – at Giants Stadium
1995 North 2, Group 2: Johnson 21, Summit 6 – at Summit
1994 North 2, Group 2: Summit 26, Mendham 8 – at Mendham
1993 North 2, Group 2: Summit 26, Mendham 21 – at Summit
1992 North 2, Group 2: Dover 22, Summit 0 – at Dover
1988 North 2, Group 2: Summit 12, Dover 6 (OT) – at Dover
1986 North 2, Group 3: Randolph 12, Summit 7 – at Randolph
1980 North 2, Group 3: Summit 10, Rahway 7 – at Giants Stadium
1976 North 2, Group 3: Summit 40, West Essex 0 – at West Essex

RAHWAY INDIANS (3-4)
North 2, Group 3 – 3-4
2008 North 2, Group 3: Phillipsburg 20, Rahway 6 – at Rutgers
1999 North 2, Group 3: Morristown 46, Rahway 0 – at Giants Stadium
1984 North 2, Group 3: Rahway 8, Morris Hills 7 – at Rockaway
1981 North 2, Group 3: Caldwell 17, Rahway 6 – at Caldwell
1980 North 2, Group 3: Summit 10, Rahway 7 – at Giants Stadium
1979 North 2, Group 3: Rahway 14, Phillipsburg 6 – at Giants Stadium
1978 North 2, Group 3: Rahway 23, Phillipsburg 10 – at Phillipsburg

HILLSIDE COMETS (2-1)
North 2, Group 2 – 1-1
Central Jersey, Group 2 – 1-0
2017 Central Jersey, Group 2: Hillside 20, P. Pleasant Boro 13 – at Rutgers
1985 North 2, Group 2: Hillside 13, Madison 12 – at Madison
1983 North 2, Group 2: Butler 16, Hillside 8 – at Hillside

MANASQUAN 5-0 VS. UNION COUNTY TEAMS SINCE 2008
IN CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2 PLAYOFFS:

2017 QUARTERFINALS: Manasquan 41, Roselle 8 – at Roselle
2016 SEMIFINALS: Manasquan 31, Roselle 27 – at Roselle
2016 QUARTERFINALS: Manasquan 33, Johnson 29 – at Manasquan
2010 QUARTERFINALS: Manasquan 33, Roselle 32 – at Manasquan
2008 FINAL: Manasquan 19, Johnson 14 – at Rutgers

NORTH 2, GROUP 3 FINAL:
3-RAHWAY INDIANS (9-1)
(H) Somerville 42, Rahway 31
(A) Rahway 35, Voorhees 7
(A) Rahway 22, Cranford 0
(A) Rahway 52, North Plainfield 12
(H) Rahway 61, Carteret 15
(H) Rahway 21, Immaculata 0
(H) Rahway 35, North Hunterdon 9
(A) Rahway 49, Gov. Livingston 0
(H) Rahway 48, Parsippany Hills 21
(H) Rahway 28, South Plainfield 7
Nov. 17 at Summit, 1 p.m.
Nov. 22 at Johnson, 10:30 a.m.
Head coach: Brian Russo,
Fourth season: 26-15 (.634)
Section: North, Group 3
Conference: Mid-State 36
Division: Mountain, 4-1
Record: 9-1
Home: 5-1
Away: 4-0
Points for: 385
Points against: 113
Shutouts: 3
Overtime: 0

1-SUMMIT HILLTOPPERS (9-1)
(A) Summit 42, Montgomery 0
(H) Summit 45, Warren Hills 8
(H) Summit 22, North Hunterdon 9
(A) Summit 64, Scotch Plains 25
(H) Summit 36, Colonia 6
(A) Cranford 25, Summit 12
(H) Summit 46, St. Joseph’s, Metuchen 20
(A) Summit 44, Immaculata 0
(H) Summit 57, Voorhees 39
(H) Summit 51, Montville 14
Nov. 17 Rahway, 1 p.m.
Head coach: Kevin Kostibos,
Sixth season: 50-14 (.781)
Section: North, Group 3
Conference: Mid-State 36
Division: Raritan, 5-0, champs
Record: 9-1
Home: 6-0
Away: 3-1
Points for: 419
Points against: 146
Shutouts: 2
Overtime: 0

CENTRAL JERSEY, GROUP 2 FINAL:
2-MANASQUAN WARRORS (8-1)
(A) Manasquan 42, Point Pleasant Boro 28
(A) Manasquan 21, Neptune 10
(H) Manasquan 34, Raritan 13
(A) Manasquan 27, Monmouth 7
(H) Manasquan 41, Colts Neck 6
(A) Mater Dei 41, Manasquan 0
(H) Manasquan 21, Ocean Township 7
(H) Manasquan 40, Delaware Valley 21
(H) Manasquan 14, Cinnaminson 7
Nov. 17 at Hillside, 1 p.m.
Nov. 22 Wall, 10:30 a.m.
Head coach: Jay Price,
Eighth season: 53-31 (.631)
Section: Central Jersey, Group 2
Conference: Shore
Division: Liberty, 5-0, champs
Record: 8-1
Home: 5-0
Away: 2-1
Points for: 240
Points against: 140
Shutouts: 0
Overtime: 0-0

1-HILLSIDE COMETS (10-0)
(A) Hillside 55, Middlesex 6
(A) Hillside 35, Roselle 7 at RRP
(A) Hillside 49, Delaware Valley 0
(A) Hillside 23, Bernards 13
(A) Hillside 47, Johnson 0
(A) Hillside 40, South River 13
(H) Hillside 48, North Plainfield 20 – at RRP
(H) Hillside 39, Cranford 10
(H) Hillside 39, South River 0
(H) Hillside 21, Bernards 3
Nov. 17 Manasquan, 1 p.m.
Head coach: Barris Grant,
Third season: 23-9 (.719)
Section: South, Group 2
Conference: Mid-State 36
Division: Valley, 4-0, champs
Record: 10-0
Home: 4-0
Away: 6-0
Points for: 396
Points against: 72
Shutouts: 2
Overtime: 0

UNION COUNTY
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE:
NJSIAA FINALS
Saturday, Nov. 17 (2 games)
North 2, Group 3
3-Rahway at 1-Summit, 1 p.m.
Central Jersey, Group 2
2-Manasquan at 1-Hillside, 1 p.m.

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:
NJSIAA SEMIFINALS
Friday, Nov. 9 (1 game)
North 2, Group 5
Union City 46, Union 6
Saturday, Nov. 10 (4 games)
North 2, Group 3
Rahway 28, South Plainfield 7
Summit 51, Montville 14
Central Jersey, Group 2
Hillside 21, Bernards 3
North 2, Group 4
Phillipsburg 21, Cranford 0

CONSOLATIONS
Thursday, Nov. 8 (4 games)
Johnson 27, Chatham 24
Plainfield 18, Eastside 0
Gov. Livingston 45, Spotswood 27
Westfield 20, West Morris 13

THIS WEEK’S PICKS (2):
Summit over Rahway
Hillside over Manasquan
Last week: 4-1
This year: 93-25 (.788)
Best bets: 10-1
Upset specials: 7-4

JR’S UNION COUNTY
TOP 10:
1-Hillside (10-0)
2-Rahway (9-1)
3-Summit (9-1)
4-Union (8-3)
5-Cranford (6-4)
6-Linden (7-3)
7-Elizabeth (6-3)
8-New Providence (8-1)
9-Westfield (3-7)
10-Brearley (6-3)
Others:
Gov. Livingston (5-5)
Johnson (5-5)
Roselle (2-6)
Dayton (2-7)
Plainfield (2-8)
Scotch Plains (1-8)

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