Hillside football’s 5-0 start most dominating; Comets have outscored opposition 203-14, with 3 shutouts

Standout senior Biggins leads way at QB once again

First Hillside realized what it took to win just to be in the conversation of being among the better teams.
Then the Comets took the next step. Hillside reached a state championship game two years ago for the first time in over 30 years.
Then the Comets won it, state champs for the first time since the dinosaur days of 1985.
Hillside kept on winning last year and repeated as state champions. Only Haddonfield, in a first-ever bowl game, was able to outscore Hillside and that was after the Comets were 11-0.
Standout seniors such as Brian Ugwu, Shadon Willis, Jason Wheeler, Mateus Ramos, Aboubakar Diaby, Boris Nicolas-Paul, Najee Peele, Emmanuel Sass and even placekicker Hugo Carrico moved on.
There was still plenty of key talent to continue. Seniors this fall continuing to make an impact include wide receiver Nahree Biggins, running backs James Louis and Jahon Moore, quarterback Gavin Melendez, two-way lineman Akugbe Omokaro, center Jayden Shaw and defender Jaylean Neals.
Throw in transfers James Westry, a senior wide receiver from DePaul, and more recently Nazeer Elizas, a junior running back-wide receiver from Seton Hall Prep, and the Comets are clicking like never before.
Hillside is 5-0 and has outscored the opposition 203-14, giving up only single touchdowns to Bernards and Johnson. The Comets have shut out three opponents, including their last two.
Hillside has produced consecutive shutouts for the first time since the 2000 team blanked Roselle Park 34-0 at home and then Bound Brook 33-0 on the road. That Comet squad, which finished 9-2 under head coach Jim Hopke, went on to reach the North 2, Group 2 semifinals, losing a heartbreaking 29-26 decision at home to defending champion Pequannock in the semifinal round.
Hillside has put together consecutive wins by shutout since the 2008 team won at Cranford 28-0, lost at Johnson 17-7 and then beat Newark Central 41-0 at home en route to an 8-3 finish and another trip to the N2, G2 semifinals. That squad was coached by present Morristown head coach John Power.
Hillside has now produced nine shutouts under the tenure of fourth-year head coach Barris Grant, eight in the regular season and one in the playoffs which was by a 39-0 score at home last year over South River.
So far Grant has guided Hillside to wins in 29 of 39 games. The Comets have won 14 straight regular season games dating back to the 2017 season.
Hillside’s last two games were resounding home wins over Roselle 47-0 last week and South River 48-0 Saturday.
Is there any room for concern?
“Things are lining up,” Grant said Sunday as his team gets ready to prepare for another Middlesex County opponent this Friday night, that being Bishop Ahr (2-3). The Trojans just beat Highland Park 54-12 at home Friday night.
Bishop Ahr will be going from playing a struggling Group 1 program to facing not only one of the elite Group 2 teams in the state, but one of the highest state-ranked of any group size.
“We just have to be the best version of us,” Grant said.
Biggins, playing quarterback for the second straight week in place of injured Melendez, scored touchdowns in three different manners vs. South River. He scored on a four-yard run, a 35-yard fumble recovery and a 55-yard punt return.
Also scoring for the Comets were Westry, Elias and Louis, all on the ground.
Grant said Melendez might not see action vs. Bishop Ahr. Grant would like to have him back in the mix for Hillside’s Oct. 18 game at Delaware Valley, which could decide the Mid-State Conference’s Valley Division championship.
“We don’t want to rush him,” Grant said.
Outside of the Melendez injury, Grant said this is the healthiest team he’s had at Hillside.
“Our kids have done a great job in the off-season and that builds depth where there’s competition,” Grant said.
Hillside leads the five-school Valley Division standings at 3-0, while Delaware Valley, 4-0 overall, is second at 2-0. Hillside won the Valley Division championship last year, perfect at 4-0, for the first time.
Delaware Valley, which had this weekend off, is at Bernards (3-1, 2-1) Friday night.
If Delaware Valley beats Bernards, then the Oct. 18 Valley Division title showdown in Frenchtown or Alexandria, whichever you prefer, between Hillside and Delaware Valley will be on.
“Everything is good,” Grant said. “We’re expected to compete at a high level.”
Delaware Valley, guided by fourth-year head coach Mike Haughey, is off to a fine start as well. Its 4-0 record includes 113 points for and only 13 against, with two shutouts.
Last year’s game between the two Valley Division squads saw Hillside win at Delaware Valley 49-0.

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