Let’s get right to it.
Cranford (5-2) is at Hillside (7-0) today (Friday, Oct. 26) at 3 p.m. – an historic first game on the brand new field turf at John Zappulla Field.
Cranford is coming off decisive wins at home against 5-0 Summit 25-12 and at 4-2 Immaculata 35-7. Summit is 6-1 and has averaged more than 40 points in its six wins, held back offensively only by Cranford.
“After we beat Summit we created another big game against Immaculata,” said Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier, at the helm of the Cougars since 2005. “We were out to prove that we were not a one-game wonder.”
Senior running back James Shriner made sure of that immediately last week at Brooks Field. He scored on a 69-yard run on the game’s first play from scrimmage and finished with four touchdowns.
“We’re trending toward playing better,” Rosenmeier said. “That was another good win against a good team. We came out right away offensively with two quick scores and made our stops on defense.”
Cranford – the North 2, Group 3 state champion in 2011 and 2015 and the finalist in 2014 – has now qualified for the playoffs for a school-record eight years in a row.
On Friday night, Oct. 27, 2017 Cranford was – for the most part – dominant in defeating Hillside 34-21.
The Comets – who after that game went on to win Central Jersey, Group 2 for the first time which was Hillside’s first state championship in 32 years – have not lost since.
Hillside leads Union County with an 11-game winning streak and this year has outscored all seven opponents by double digit margins. The Comets – sparked by big-player performers such as seniors Brian Ugwu (RB-LB), Army-bound Boris Nicolas-Paul (WR-DB) and Shadon Willis (WR) and juniors James Louis (RB), Nahree Biggins (WR) and Gavin Melendez (QB) – are averaging 42 points.
“Hillside is very talented and explosive,” Rosenmeier said. “They have been dominant this year after making a run to a state title last year.
“They have a lot of weapons. There is a lot there to be concerned about.”
This will be Hillside’s first home game since turning back Brearley 21-15 last Nov. 4 right before the playoffs began for the Comets for the first time in nine years. Hillside produced its first winning season, playoff campaign and playoff victory last year since 2008.
When Hillside defeated North Plainfield 48-20 at Rahway River Park last Saturday it was the program’s first win over a Group 3 opponents in five years. Hillside won at Scotch Plains 28-24 on Sept. 21, 2013.
Now Hillside is playing a Group 4 school. Hillside third-year head coach Barris Grant believes Hillside has never defeated a Group 4 opponent.
“This is like us playing a parochial school,” Grant said. “Or it’s like – say – Cranford playing Don Bosco.”
Hillside has won its last 10 games all away from home.
“The cool thing is that we’re starting the game at 3 p.m., which means that most of the school can walk down to the field,” Grant said. “They did such a great job with the field turf.”
Hillside’s first practice on it was last Friday.
“It’s almost like it’s not Hillside,” Grant said, referring to how nice the field turf looks. It’s euphoric almost.
“The Superintendent (Dr. Antoine Gayles) did a great job to get it done.”
Defending champion Hillside – which last year won the section as the seventh seed – is presently the top seed for Central Jersey, Group 2. The Comets will definitely be home for the first round.
“I think it’s a good trade off, being able to play home in the playoffs rather than in the regular season,” Grant said.
The first test on the new field turf will be a serious one for Hillside. Although both Cranford and Hillside have qualified for their respective playoffs, both want to keep on winning – and stay healthy.
“Coach Rosenmeier has done a great job over there,” Grant said. “We’re the only team in our division (Hillside – perfect at 4-0 – captured the Mid-State’s Valley Division championship for the first year) that is playing a Group 4 school.”
Cranford finished third in the Mountain Division at 3-2.
“Shriner killed us last year and they have a great senior on defense (Rob Schork) that’s difficult to handle,” Grant said. “From a player’s standpoint they are the most complete team we will have faced so far.
“Games like this are really good before the playoffs to see where you are it. Staying healthy is the most important thing.”
Union County teams in at the moment? 10.
According to gridironnewjersey.com, 10 teams from Union County would be in the playoffs if they were this weekend.
We’ll soon see if that will be the case for next weekend when the playoffs commence.
The 10 in right now include Group 5 schools Union, Elizabeth and Westfield; Group 4 schools Linden and Cranford; Group 3 schools Rahway and Summit; Group 2 school Hillside and Group 1 schools New Providence and Brearley.
From South, Group 2, Hillside is presently the top seed for Central Jersey, Group 2.
The Comets won the section last year for the first time and did so as the seventh seed, knocking off the second seed (9-0 South River) first, the third seed (Johnson, who they lost to in the regular season) second and the top seed (11-0 Point Pleasant Boro) third.
Hillside is one of two Union County teams still undefeated, the other being New Providence, which finished 1-9 in each of the past two seasons.
Both are 7-0.
New Providence seeks an eighth win for the first time since 2013 when it plays at Belvidere Friday night.
Hillside has a Union County-leading 11-game winning streak. The Comets will host Cranford Friday at 3 p.m. on the first game that will be played on their brand new, first-time, field turf field.
The last time Hillside lost a game was a year ago to Cranford by the score of 34-21 on a Friday night at Cranford.
Union County won two of the three crossover games vs. Middlesex County teams last weekend and increased its lead in the series this year to 12-6, including Brearley and Dayton forfeit wins over Highland Park.
There are six such crossover clashes scheduled for this weekend, five on Friday and one more on Saturday.
Five of the six games will be played at Union County schools.
Only one of the five Union County games that were originally scheduled to be played Saturday was not moved up to Friday. Despite the inclement weather forecasted for Saturday, Plainfield will still host Edison Saturday at 1 p.m.at Hub Stine Field.
It’s Seniors Day for Plainfield. Fans may want to break out heavy duty rain slickers to combat the constant rain and high winds predicted for the afternoon.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE:
Friday, Oct. 26 (12 games)
Rahway at Gov. Livingston, 2:30 p.m.
Cranford at Hillside, 3 p.m.
New Brunswick at Scotch Plains, 3 p.m.
Piscataway at Westfield, 3:15 p.m.
Bridgewater-Raritan at Union, 7 p.m.
Old Bridge at Elizabeth, 7 p.m.
Linden at Ridge, 7 p.m.
Summit at Immaculata, 7 p.m.
Spotswood at Johnson, 7 p.m.
New Providence at Belvidere, 7 p.m.
Brearley at Dunellen, 7 p.m.
South Hunterdon at Dayton, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 27 (1 game)
Edison at Plainfield, 1 p.m.
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS:
Friday, Oct. 19 (10 games)
Union 42, Watchung Hills 14
Linden 21, Hillsborough 14
Cranford 35, Immaculata 7
Colonia 35, Scotch Plains 7
Summit 46, St. Joe’s, Met. 20
Rahway 35, North Hunterdon 9
Delaware Valley 35, GL 28
Bernards 47, Johnson 12
Brearley 28, South Hunterdon 14
Manville 31, Dayton 0
Saturday, Oct. 20 (4 games)
Elizabeth 12, Westfield 0
Franklin 27, Plainfield 2
Hillside 48, North Plainfield 20
Roselle 22, Spotswood 21
Off: New Providence.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS (13):
Union over Bridgewater-Raritan
Elizabeth over Old Bridge
Linden over Ridge
Summit over Immaculata
Johnson over Spotswood
New Providence over Belvidere
Brearley over Dunellen
South Hunterdon over Dayton
Piscataway over Westfield
New Brunswick over Scotch Plains
Edison over Plainfield
Cranford over Hillside
Rahway over Gov. Livingston
Best bet: Union
Upset special: Scotch Plains
Last week: 12-2
This year: 76-17 (.817)
Best bets: 8-0
Upset specials: 6-2
JR’S UNION COUNTY
9-New Providence (7-0)
Gov. Livingston (3-4)
Scotch Plains (0-7)