SPRINGFIELD – Every game from here on in is a huge one for RosellePark.
Next week is New Providence at home for – most likely – a home playoff game.
The week after that will be a second consecutive appearance in the North 2, Group 1 playoffs, which the Panthers just clinched.
Before playing at Roselle on Thanksgiving, RosellePark hopes to be preparing for a second playoff game. After facing the Rams and enjoying its holiday turkey, RosellePark hopes to be gearing for a second straight state championship contest.
First things first. New Providence – which is on a two-game winning streak and is off this weekend – will need no motivation when they arrive at Herm Shaw Field next Friday night. The Pioneers lost to RosellePark last year for the first time since 2001 and then lost to the Panthers in the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
The same – both teams have the records they had last year and lost to the same opponents. RosellePark is 5-2 once more, with losses again to South Hunterdon and Bernards. New Providence is 6-1 again, with its lone loss once more to Bernards.
Different – the game will be played right away this time instead of being interrupted several weeks by a devastating hurricane.
“We’ll need to come together and play to our full potential,” said RosellePark standout senior running back-outside linebacker Peter Hilburn, who ran for a five-yard touchdown in Friday night’s 56-7 win at Dayton.
All-county senior running back Brian Matthews carried the ball 17 times for 222 yards and three touchdowns, fellow senior running back Joey Fulinello rushed for two scores and senior quarterback Jordan Andre completed a 57-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Brandon Pugliese on the game’s first play.
The Mid-State 38 Conference-interdivison win was an impressive tuneup for a team seeking to defeat New Providence for a second straight season, which is no easy feat.
In last year’s regular season game, a 35-28 Panther win at New Providence’s Lieder Field, RosellePark got out to a strong start and then held on for a hard-fought interdivision victory.
“In the first half we controlled it, which was the key,” Hilburn said. “We got it going and kept rolling,”
The last time the teams faced each other in RosellePark was when there was a berth in the North 2, Group 1 final on the line. The Panthers prevailed then too last year winning 21-13 to reach their first sectional championship game in 19 years.
“New Providence is always good and the team to beat,” said Terry Hanratty, who became the second RosellePark head coach to lead the Panthers to consecutive playoff appearances. John Wagner, the head coach now at Point PleasantBeach, was the first.
New Providence, guided by second-year head coach Joe Carollo, is led offensively by senior running back C.J. Kleisch, who is among the top scorers in UnionCounty with 80 points.
Defensively, the Pioneers have yielded only seven touchdowns in seven games and have posted two shutouts.
New Providence is seeking to get back to the N2, G1 final for the first time since last winning the section in 2010. The Pioneers were ousted in the semifinals the last two seasons.
“To beat New Providence we can’t afford to make any mistakes,” Hanratty said. “We had six new starters that have battled and proved to be competitive.
“Last year’s team had three-year starters and experienced linemen. This year’s team is a little more athletic and our skill guys are more mature.”
Leading the way as far as playing with a ton of more confidence is Andre at quarterback and in the secondary. Andre, along with Hilburn and Pugliese, came up with interceptions vs. Dayton, while junior John Apicella managed one for the Bulldogs.
Andre is a threat to run east or west and can throw a pretty good deep ball.
“Jordan’s been tremendous,” Hanratty said. “He gained weight and became much stronger.”
If you key on Matthews, you might miss tackling Hilburn, Fulinello or senior fullback Bryce Parin carrying the ball. Parin had a 25-yard run up the middle to the Dayton two-yard line before RosellePark scored its fifth touchdown.
RosellePark has plenty of offensive weapons and they were all on display Friday night vs. Dayton. They will all need to be featured once again next week if the Panthers are to get past the Pioneers for a third straight time.
NOTES: Geoff Hill would have been the first RosellePark head coach to lead the Panthers to successive playoff appearances had someone else in North 2, Group 1 qualified in 1979. RosellePark won the section that year in what is termed “declared” and then made the playoffs in the section again in 1980, falling at GlenRidge 20-6 in the final when they were the only two teams that qualified.
That was Hill’s last season as the head coach, with Wagner – a 1969 RosellePark graduate and the winningest football coach in RosellePark history – being promoted to head coach in 1981.
RosellePark last made the playoffs in successive years in 2000 and 2001 and before that from 1991-1993 and from 1984-1986.
New Providence clinched a 16th straight winning season, with the Pioneers last under .500 in 1997.
RosellePark needs one more win to clinch a second consecutive winning campaign after not having one since 2006.
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-INTERDIVISION GAME
ROSELLE PARK (5-2) 13 21 14 8 – 56
DAYTON (2-6) 0 0 7 0 – 7
ROSELLE PARK – Brandon Pugliese 57 pass from Jordan Andre,
Bradley Carle kick (RP 7-0)
1 play, 57 yards, :18 used
ROSELLE PARK – Brian Matthews 40 run, kick failed (RP 13-0)
4 plays, 89 yards, 1:41 used
ROSELLE PARK – Peter Hilburn 5 run, Bradley Carle kick (RP 20-0)
2 plays, 7 yards, :43 used
RosellePark capitalized on a turnover – an interception by Jordan Andre.
ROSELLE PARK – Joey Fulinello 28 run, Bradley Carle kick (RP 27-0)
8 plays, 64 yards, 3:51 used
ROSELLE PARK – Brian Matthews 2 run, Bradley Carle kick (RP 34-0)
4 plays, 58 yards, 1:08 used
ROSELLE PARK – Joey Fulinello 26 run, Bradley Carle kick (RP 41-0)
2 plays, 55 yards, :44 used
DAYTON – Fumble recovery in end zone after blocked punt by Noah Goldberg, Andrew Lashuk kick (RP 41-7)
ROSELLE PARK – Brian Matthews 47 run, Bradley Carle kick (RP 48-7)
2 plays, 51 yards, :46 used
ROSELLE PARK – Carry Mimy 17 run, Will Ferdinando run (RP 56-7)
2 plays, 53 yards, running clock