By JR Parachini, Sports Editor
ELIZABETH– It wasn’t beauty that killed the beast.
It was speed that killed the Farmers.
In an early-season division showdown that featured the two best teams inUnionCountyand two of the top-ranked teams in the state, it was the home team Minutemen making the biggest statement.
Elizabeth, behind the speedy running and pass receiving of senior backs Jahad Thomas and Kason Campbell – who each zig-zagged their way to three touchdowns – dominatedUnion42-7 last Friday night in a Mid-State 38 Conference-Delaware Division clash many thought would feature fourth-quarter drama.
Instead, the only mystery was whether or notElizabethwould go up 35 points by halftime.
The Minutemen did, with a commanding lead of 35-0.
Elizabethimproved to 2-0 and has outscored division foesWestfieldandUnionby a combined total of 87-13. The Minutemen will play their first road game tomorrow night at division rival Hunterdon Central, which is 0-2, including two one-point defeats.
Union, which has this weekend off before traveling toPhillipsburgfor the first time since back-to-back North 2, Group 4 semifinal defeats in 2005 and 2006, is 1-1.
Thomas carried nine times for 150 yards and three touchdowns, whileCampbellgained 171 yards on three attempts, rushing for two scores and catching one TD pass from senior quarterback P.J. Walker.
Elizabethwas in the end zone beforeUnionknew it, scoring on three one-play drives, one two-play, one four-play and one five-play.
“They were very well-prepared and they beat us pretty good,” said Union acting head coach Dominic Cuniglio.
“We were able to execute well,”Elizabethhead coach John Quinn said. “Jahad has been unbelievable for us for three years and was overshadowed by Elijah Hughes until now. Kason has persevered through some very tough situations.”
Elizabethwas halted on the game’s opening drive afterWalker’s first three passes fell incomplete. Taking over on its own 40,Unionbegan to move the ball and without the benefit of standout junior tailback Jamauri Bogan carrying it.
Behind the running and passing of senior quarterback Doug Carter,Unionmarched all the way to theElizabeth26 before an 11-play drive was halted.
“On our first drive we didn’t wantElizabethto come out and gang-tackle Jamauri, so we devised some things we didn’t show in our first game,” Cuniglio said. “We moved the ball effectively until the drive stalled.”
AfterUnionwent 11 plays and did not score,Elizabethneeded just one play to take the lead for good. Thomas made a darting move in the middle and then scampered 74 yards untouched into the end zone for the game’s first score.
With 36 seconds left in the first quarter,Elizabethstruck again on the first play of its fourth possession.
From the Minutemen 30,WalkerhitCampbellat the Union 35 and thenCampbellcut across the field and raced into the end zone for a 70-yard scoring strike.
“Two things we’ve improved on are our tackling and perimeter blocking,” Quinn said. “Campbell and Thomas both received excellent blocking on their touchdown runs.”
Bogan’s first carry was good for five yards, coming on the initial play ofUnion’s second possession. However, that would be Bogan’s only rushing attempt and the last time he would see action.
Bogan, who said he entered the game 100 percent healthy and who caught one screen pass for 11 yards on Union’s opening drive, suffered what Union hopes is not a very serious injury to his left ankle on his only rushing attempt.
“When I got the ball I tried to cut and plant,” said Bogan, who in two games againstElizabethlast year carried 98 times for 625 yards and seven touchdowns. “I felt it (his left ankle) twist. I’m not sure if someone landed on it.”
Bogan had no problem withUnion’s opening strategy of trying to move the ball down field without using him as a runner.
“We did a little option and it’s the quarterback’s decision on what plays to run,” Bogan said.
Senior wide receiver Darnell Boyd had one catch onUnion’s first drive, while senior running back Shane Bond carried nine times for 10 yards in the first half. Carter gained 79 yards on 12 attempts and completed seven of 15 passes for 65 yards.
“Bond had a good game against Bridgewater-Raritan and Carter does a nice job of reading the option play,” Quinn said. “My concern was that we would be too amped up.
“I’m also very proud of the way our defense played.”
Elizabeth’s starting defense pitched a shutout.
Also not running the ball forUnionwas junior running back Jabree Robertson, who Cuniglio said only played on defense and only for the first half.
“Jabree was banged up a bit in ourBridgewatergame, so we only used him on defense (in the secondary),” Cuniglio said.
Cuniglio also reported that junior defensive back Agbai Iroha, one of four Union captains, pulled a hamstring in the first half.
Bogan, Robertson and Iroha may be questionable forUnion’s Sept. 28 game atPhillipsburg.
“We’ll have to see,” Cuniglio said.
“I’ll have to see what the trainers and the doctor says,” Bogan said about his injury.
Despite the lopsided defeat, Cuniglio was very positive after the game.
“The sun will still come up tomorrow and we will learn from this and get better,” he told his team. “I guarantee that we will play this team again in the playoffs and we will play better.
“There are peaks and valleys. We can still make the playoffs, win the conference and win a state championship. Those goals are still within reach.”