Abraham Clark, Westfield football close with holiday wins

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Four teams in Union County won eight or more games this season.

The first two were David Brearley High School (10-1) and Hillside High School (9-2), which reached state championship games in their sections.

The other two were Abraham Clark High School and Westfield High School, which just completed their 2022 campaigns by preventing their opponents from finishing with winning records.

On Wednesday, Nov. 23, at Arminio Field, host Abraham Clark led from start to finish in producing a 44-2 triumph against longtime holiday rival Roselle Park High School. Abraham Clark closed a fine season with an eight-game winning streak to come in at 8-4. Roselle Park, which last defeated Abraham Clark in 2017, closed at 5-6.

This was the 103rd meeting of the two teams, with Abraham Clark winning the last three games. Roselle Park still leads 52-43-8.

On Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, Nov. 24, at Gary Kehler Football Stadium, host Westfield downed Plainfield High School 42-13 at the 117th meeting of the two teams. Plainfield tied the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter, but Westfield dominated from there.

Westfield has won the last 10 games in the series — Plainfield’s last win came in 2011 — and also leads the series at 65-45-7.

The Blue Devils, who reached the North 1, Group 5 semifinals, falling at Union City High School, 20-14, concluded a highly successful campaign at 8-3. Plainfield had a four-game winning streak snapped and finished at 5-6. Plainfield’s last winning season came in 2005. The Cardinals finished 5-5 a year ago.

Abraham Clark senior Emmanuel Lyles proved to be one of Union County’s best running backs all season long. He turned in another stellar effort against Roselle Park. Lyles scored Abraham Clark’s final touchdown of the year on a 50-yard run in the third quarter.

Lyles finished with 1,272 yards rushing on 138 carries and also led the Rams in touchdowns scored with 16. Against Roselle Park, he carried the ball 13 times for 113 yards and his one score.

Fellow senior running back Nafee Finney carried the ball just three times but gained 112 yards and scored on runs of 42 and 70 yards in the first quarter.

Samir Rivet and William Peay also scored for Abraham Clark, which produced its first winning season since 2017.

Last year, Abraham Clark won at Roselle Park, 32-14, on Thanksgiving to snap a four-game losing streak and finish 5-6 in head coach Ibrahim Halsey’s first season at the helm of the Rams.

“We want our kids to be confident,” Halsey said at the time. “It’s the small victories, like going to practice and working hard to get better every day, that are really important. I feel our kids are starting to respond.”

Although the Rams failed to qualify for the playoffs out of South, Group 2, they did take advantage of the state’s new regional invitational tournament. They won all three games to win the RIT South, Group 2 trophy.

They then waited a bit before finishing off their season in grand style with a big win against Roselle Park the night before Thanksgiving.

The following four Union County schools won regional invitational tournament titles:

• Plainfield (2-0): North, Group 5.

• Linden (2-0): North, Group 4.

• Summit (3-0): North, Group 3.

• Abraham Clark (3-0): South, Group 2.

Plainfield also began its season 0-4 but came back to win an RIT and finish with five victories for the second straight season.

Westfield, sparked by senior quarterback Trey Brown and senior running back Dylan Wragg all season long, just missed playing in the North 1, Group 5 sectional state championship game.

On Thanksgiving vs. Plainfield, Brown threw three touchdown passes and also came up with an interception. Wragg rushed for 135 yards on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns.

Brown, whose father, Dave, was quarterback of the New York Giants in the early 1990s, after playing at Duke, will play lacrosse in college at Maryland.

Seven Union County teams finish with winning records

Union County teams that finished with winning records in 2022 are: David Brearley High School (10-1), Hillside High School (9-2), Westfield High School (8-3), Abraham Clark High School (8-4), Cranford High School (7-3), Arthur L. Johnson High School (6-3) and Summit High School (6-5). Linden High School and New Providence High School both finished .500 at 5-5.

David Brearley reached its first state championship game since 2015 by advancing to the North 1, Group 1 final for the first time. The Bears lost at Mountain Lakes High School, 16-6.

Hillside reached its first state championship game since 2019 and fourth since 2017 by advancing to the North 1, Group 3 final for the first time. The Comets lost at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan, 28-14.

Cranford, like Westfield, reached a sectional semifinal. The defending champion Cougars lost at home to West Essex High School, 14-7, in the North 2, Group 3 semifinals.

Cranford has produced a winning season every year now since 2010, 13 and counting, and has qualified for the playoffs every year since 2011, 11 and counting. There were no playoffs in 2020 because of COVID-19.