Week 1 football in Union County gets a quick preview

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Three Union County football teams opened their seasons last weekend, a weekend labeled only as New Jersey could label — Week Zero — while the other 14 will commence their 2022 seasons this weekend, known as Week 1.

New Providence High School and Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School opened at home triumphantly, the Pioneers downing neighborhood rival Governor Livingston High School, 29-9, and the Raiders besting North Plainfield High School, 38-16, in games played on Friday, Aug. 26.

There are no bye weeks for any team this year through to the final weekend of play, Oct. 21-22, before the playoffs, so all 17 Union County schools will be in action this weekend.

There are games scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 1, and Friday, Sept. 2. No one in Union County is scheduled to play on Saturday, Sept. 3.

Thursday, Sept. 1:

• Governor Livingston, 0-1, at Arthur L. Johnson High School, 0-0, 6 p.m. Governor Livingston opened with a 29-9 setback at New Providence, as those teams will not be playing on Thanksgiving anymore. They will probably open with games against each other for the foreseeable future. Governor Livingston defeated Arthur L. Johnson, 24-21, at home on Oct. 30 last year; the game was Arthur L. Johnson’s season finale and Governor Livingston’s only victory. The Crusaders are sparked on defense by returning starter Steven McCaffery, a senior lineman.

• David Brearley High School, 0-0, at Manville High School, 1-0, 7 p.m. Manville opened on Friday, Aug. 26, with a 30-20 win at home against Keyport High School. David Brearley is coming off a 7-3 playoff season and has talented seniors Matt Sims, Bruce Harms and Brendan Fitzsimmons back in the mix. This is the 21st season for head coach and 1987 Brearley Regional graduate Scott Miller, who is the longest-tenured head coach in Union County.

• St. Thomas Aquinas High School, 0-1, at New Providence, 1-0, 7 p.m. St. Thomas Aquinas, formerly known as Bishop Ahr, began last season with seven shutout victories and a forfeit win before it gave up some points, in its regular-season finale, a 12-9 win at home against Delaware Valley High School. St. Thomas Aquinas then lost in the state playoffs at St. Joseph Academy Hammonton, 45-12. On Friday, Aug. 26, under new head coach Tarig Holman, St. Thomas Aquinas was defeated at home by Timber Creek Regional High School, 26-21. Last year’s head coach, Brian Meeney, died suddenly of a heart attack in March at the age of 46. Chet Parlavecchio Jr. has been at the helm of the Pioneers since 2017 and has guided them to winning seasons each of the last four years. Last year’s squad, sparked by current Rutgers University walk-on freshman Charlie Barth, won the program’s first road playoff game in eight years.

Friday, Sept. 2:

• Dunellen High School, 0-0, at Jonathan Dayton High School, 0-0, 6 p.m. The season opener for both, this will be the first game as a head coach for Jonathan Dayton first-year head coach Nick Iannacone. The Bulldogs are sparked by returning senior offensive linemen Wes Griffith at left guard, Jonah Malino at center and David Hurtares at right guard.

• Linden High School, 0-0, at Rahway High School, 0-0, 6 p.m. These teams last played each other in 2009, with Linden winning. They were supposed to play each other two years ago, but the game was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both schools are in North, Group 4 this year. Both have quarterbacks returning as starters — junior Tequan Thomas for Linden and senior Amir Robinson for Rahway.

• Delaware Valley High School, 0-0, at Roselle High School, 0-0, 6 p.m. Jaydin Fils-Aime is Roselle’s center for a fourth year, the senior a rare four-year starter on the offensive line. “He is instrumental for us up front,” second-year Roselle head coach Ibrahim Halsey said. “As the center, he’s the leader there, calling out everything and making sure everyone is in the best blocking situation.” Roselle finished 5-6 last year, beating Roselle Park High School on Thanksgiving after not qualifying for the playoffs out of South, Group 2. “We lacked leadership,” Halsey said. “We’re not going to allow guys to just show up and come in whenever they want.” Halsey and his staff said they are high on this year’s squad, after going through the process for the first time last year. “This is a great group, sprinkled in with a couple of transfers,” Halsey said. “We’re really excited to see how the season starts.”

• Bridgewater–Raritan High School, 0-1, at Union High School, 0-0, 7 p.m. This will be Union’s first game since the first week of November last year, when the Farmers trounced visiting Livingston High School, 41-3, in the first round of the North 2, Group 5 playoffs. Union then had to forfeit its home semifinal game the following weekend against Paterson Eastside High School on account of a COVID-19 outbreak. Union finished 9-2 and could not defend its 2019 North 2, Group 5 crown. The Farmers are lifted by the play of senior Omar Ibrahim at wide receiver and cornerback. The new quarterback is 6-foot, 4-inch Omalley King. Bridgewater–Raritan opened on Friday, Aug. 26, with a 32-7 loss at Passaic County Technical Institute.

• Roselle Park, 0-0, at South Hunterdon Regional High School, 0-0, 7 p.m. Roselle Park, which concluded last year with a nine-game losing streak, seeks to bounce back with returning starters Kevin Osorio, a senior, on the line, and senior Elijah Ignacio and junior John Ranieri at running back. South Hunterdon topped Roselle Park, 28-6, at Roselle Park a year ago.

• Summit High School, 0-0, at Woodbridge High School, 0-1, 7 p.m. Woodbridge opened with a 20-7 loss at home to Irvington on Friday, Aug. 26. Summit, which lost its final four games last year, are sparked on defense by the play of senior linebackers Joe Fagan, George Morgan and Lucas Stocks.

• Plainfield High School, 0-0, at Elizabeth High School, 0-0, 7 p.m. First-year Elizabeth head coach John Fiore says he has one of the best linemen in the state in returning senior starter Gerald Baker III, 6-3, 345 pounds, a guard on offense and tackle on defense. Second-year Plainfield head coach James Williams raves about returning senior starter Samir Cherry, a talented skill player who is rated as one of the top running backs in New Jersey. Not too long ago, Fiore was the head coach at Montclair High School and Williams an assistant coach at rival East Orange Campus High School. Last year, Plainfield won five games for the first time since 2005. Elizabeth last produced a winning season in 2018. Elizabeth edged Plainfield 19-18 at Elizabeth a year ago.

• Hillside High School, 0-0, at Bernards High School, 1-0, 7 p.m. Bernards got Hillside last year, downing the Comets 14-7 at Rutgers University in the Labor Day weekend Rumble on the Raritan. Hillside, which bounced back with a six-game winning streak, then went on to win one playoff game in Central Jersey, Group 2 before finishing 7-3. Bernards opened on Friday, Aug. 26, at home with a 21-6 victory against Overbrook High School.

• North Hunterdon–Voorhees Regional High School, 1-0, at Cranford High School, 0-0, 7 p.m. This was the season opener for both last year, only a week later. Cranford came back from down 16 with two 8-point touchdowns produced in the game’s final five minutes to force overtime. Cranford won the game, 43-37, in single OT, which was the beginning of an 11-game winning streak that paved the way for Cranford’s third North 2, Group 3 state championship. The Cougars have senior Liam Godwin at quarterback, while returning senior starter Shane Kanterman is considered one of the finest linebackers.

• Westfield Senior High School, 0-0, at Watchung Hills Regional High School, 1-0, 7 p.m. Westfield has senior Trey Brown, son of former New York Giants quarterback Dave Brown, back at quarterback. Brown plans on playing lacrosse at Maryland. Watchung Hills opened with a 31-0 triumph at Bayonne High School. Westfield went 4-6 last year after playing, and losing, only two games during the 2020 COVID-19 season. Watchung Hills was 2-8 a year ago and lost at home to Westfield 15-13.

• Scotch Plains–Fanwood, 1-0, at Colonia High School, 1-0, 7 p.m. Both North, Group 4 schools played their season openers at home on Friday, Aug. 26, and each won, Scotch Plains–Fanwood downing North Plainfield High School 38-16 and Colonia besting New Brunswick High School 17-7. On Nov. 29 last year, Colonia defeated Scotch Plains–Fanwood at home by a score of 41-21. Colonia went 8-3 and Scotch Plains–Fanwood 5-6 last year.