UNION COUNTY, NJ — It’s now down to a final four.
The four Union County football teams still alive in state playoff competition are preparing hard for this weekend’s sectional semifinal matchups.
On Friday night, Nov. 4, Cranford High School and David Brearley High School will be playing at home, while Westfield High School will travel to Hudson County for a road game.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, Hillside High School will be home again for an afternoon game to see if it can advance to a fourth sectional state championship game in the last five seasons there were playoff games.
Here’s a playoff preview for this weekend’s sectional semifinals involving Union County teams.
Friday, Nov. 4
North 1, Group 1
• No. 8 Kinnelon High School (6-3) vs. No. 4 David Brearley High School (9-0), 6 p.m. at Ward Field in Kenilworth. Kinnelon won at Park Ridge High School, 36-34, on Friday, Oct. 28, knocking off the top-seeded Owls for the fourth-ever playoff victory in program history. With David Brearley easily ousting fifth-seeded North Arlington High School, 56-10, at home, that meant the Bears would be home again this weekend for the semifinals. David Brearley is 9-0 for the first time since the 2015 team reached the North 2, Group 1 semifinals with the same record. Kinnelon has reached a sectional championship game only once, in 2012, and won the North 2, Group 2 title that year by beating New Milford High School, 26-14, in the final at Kean University. David Brearley has won North 2, Group 1 in 1981, 1985, 1986, 1991 and 2006.
North 1, Group 5
• No. 3 Westfield High School (7-2) at No. 2 Union City High School (8-1), 7 p.m. on the hill at Union City. Westfield is coming off a 28-7 home win against sixth-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School on Saturday, Oct. 29. Westfield also beat Bridgewater-Raritan in playoff games in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019. Union City smoked seventh-seeded Union High School at home on Friday, Oct. 28, by a score of 62-20. Union City also beat Union at home, 46-6, in the 2018 North 2, Group 5 semifinals. The Union City Soaring Eagles, coached by longtime mentor Wilbur Valdez, have reached a sectional state championship game only twice in their history and have yet to win one. Union City has won eight straight, seven by double digits, since opening with a 6-3 loss to Passaic County Technical Institute at Montclair State University. Passaic Tech (8-2) is the top seed and will host fourth-seeded Clifton High School (5-4) on Friday, Nov. 4, in the section’s other semifinal. Westfield has won two straight and seven of eight since opening on Friday, Sept. 2, with a 17-7 setback at Watchung Hills Regional High School. Westfield lost at Union City, 21-7, in the first round of the 2018 North 2, Group 5 playoffs, which at the time was Westfield’s first playoff loss in four years, after the Blue Devils captured the North 2, Group 5 state championship in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
North 2, Group 3
• No. 3 West Essex High School (6-3) at No. 2 Cranford High School (7-2), 7 p.m. at Cranford’s Memorial Field. The first time these teams met in the playoffs was in 2014, in a North 2, Group 3 semifinal at Cranford’s Memorial Field. The host Cougars came away with a convincing 35-7 triumph to reach 11-0 status for the first time in program history. Cranford was then defeated by Parsippany Hills High School, 20-13, in the final at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. West Essex has won three straight, including a 41-14 home win on Friday, Oct. 28, against sixth-seeded Paramus High School. The week before the brief winning streak, West Essex lost a close game at West Morris Central High School, 9-7. West Morris is the section’s top seed, undefeated at 10-0, and was last year’s North 1, Group 3 champ. Cranford, the defending North 2, Group 3 champion, has won five straight. The Cougars ousted seventh-seeded Wayne Hills High School, 31-7, at home on Friday, Oct. 28.
Saturday, Nov. 5
North 1, Group 3
• No. 3 River Dell High School (5-4) at No. 2 Hillside High School (8-1), 1 p.m. at Hillside’s John Zappulla Field. Both teams won at home the previous weekend in first-round play, with River Dell topping sixth-seeded Vernon Township High School, 35-14, on Friday, Oct. 28, and Hillside coming back to oust seventh-seeded Parsippany Hills High School, 33-28, on Saturday, Oct. 29. Hillside gave up 28 points for the first time, with the Comets outscoring nine foes 289-93. Two Parsippany Hills touchdowns were set up by interceptions, one of them on a tipped pass, and another touchdown came quickly after a blocked punt gave the Vikings a first down at the Hillside 6-yard line. Hillside senior running back Kyon Simonson, who will play in college at Army, rushed for 191 yards on 27 carries and reached the end zone three times.
The following are regional invitational tournament semifinals involving Union County teams.
Thursday, Nov. 3
North, Group 3
• No. 2 Summit High School (3-4) vs. No. 1 Henry Snyder High School (6-3), 6 p.m. at Caven Point.
Saturday, Nov. 5
South, Group 2
• No. 2 Abraham Clark High School (5-4) at No. 1 Bordentown Regional High School (4-4), 11 a.m.
North, Group 1
• No. 2 Roselle Park High School (5-4) at No. 1 Glen Ridge High School (3-5), noon.
North, Group 5
• No. 3 Livingston High School (2-8) at No. 1 Plainfield High School (3-5), 1 p.m.
North, Group 4
• No. 2 Linden High School (4-5) at No. 1 Bergenfield High School (4-5), 2 p.m.