UNION COUNTY, NJ — The first week of the 2023 high school football season is in the books, with four schools, Linden, New Providence, Rahway and Scotch Plains-Fanwood, all 1-0 and three other schools, Union, Elizabeth and Governor Livingston, starting off 0-1.
Returning senior quarterback Tequan Thomas scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter, to lift Linden High School to a come-from-behind 27-22 triumph against Elizabeth High School in the game at Kean University in Union on Friday night, Aug. 25. It was the first time the Union County rivals clashed in four years.
All proceeds went to a memorial scholarship in the name of former Linden player Xavier McClain, who died last year.
New Providence High School senior Eric Dowden scored both of his team’s touchdowns, including an 80-yard kickoff return for the winning points as the visiting Pioneers opened with a 14-7 triumph at Governor Livingston High School on Friday afternoon, Aug. 25.
Senior running back Anthony Romano scored two touchdowns to help lead Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School to a 25-0 win at Monroe Township High School on Friday night, Aug. 25.
Scoring touchdowns for Rahway High School were Andrew Avent, Damari Julius and Trevor Delapara in the 21-7 victory against Perth Amboy High School at Rahway River Park on Friday night, Aug. 25.
All 17 Union County football playing schools are in action this week, with 10 making their 2023 debuts in what is Week One.
There are games scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 31; Friday, Sept. 1; and Saturday, Sept. 2.
Here’s a look at each game:
Thursday, Aug. 31
• Arthur L. Johnson High School (0-0) at Governor Livingston High School (0-1), 4 p.m.: Arthur L. Johnson is coming off its first winning season and playoff year since 2017, with the Crusaders going 6-3, including a 4-0 start that saw them yield just 12 points. Robert Gallagher, one of Union County’s top juniors, is back behind center. Governor Livingston played New Providence High School much closer in its opener last week than the Highlanders did this year. That could spell the beginning of a much-improved cast.
• Colonia High School (0-1) at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School (1-0), 7 p.m.: Both opened on Friday night, Aug. 25, with Colonia falling at home to Sayreville 42-21 and Scotch Plains-Fanwood blanking Monroe High School 25-0 in Monroe. Last year, Scotch Plains-Fanwood lost at Colonia 34-24, which was the beginning of an eight-game losing streak that was not halted by the Raiders until Scotch Plains-Fanwood won at Columbia High School 14-7 in the season-finale for both.
Friday, Sept. 1
• Rahway High School (1-0) at Linden High School (1-0), 6 p.m.: Last year’s game at Rahway’s River Park went to the host Indians 21-20 and was a big reason why Rahway qualified for the state playoffs for the eighth straight season and Linden narrowly didn’t. The Tigers went on to win the first North, Group 4 Regional Invitational Tournament. Both teams are situated in North, Group 4 again for this season. Senior Ray Giacobbe is a standout on the offensive line for Rahway, while senior Marquis Diggs is a threat to intercept any pass his way as a defensive back for the Indians. Linden has a talented wide receiver in senior Myles Hamilton.
• New Providence High School (1-0) at St. Thomas Aquinas High School (1-0), 6 p.m.: The Pioneers lost at home to St. Thomas Aquinas 49-14 in 2022. St. Thomas is coming off another strong win, this time against Paul VI High School 42-7 on Saturday, Aug. 26, in the Battle at the Beach in Ocean City.
• South Hunterdon Regional High School (0-1) at Roselle Park High School (0-0), 6 p.m.: South Hunterdon Regional opened with a 28-12 setback at home to Ewing High School on Friday, Aug. 25. Roselle Park is coming off a much-improved 5-6 season a year ago, which was a four-win upgrade. The Panthers were defeated at South Hunterdon Regional 42-8 in last year’s opener. Senior Xavier Padilla is back at quarterback for the Panthers, who are seeking their first winning season since 2017.
• Manville High School (0-1) at David Brearley High School (0-0), 6 p.m.: Manville opened with a 41-6 loss at Keyport on Saturday, Aug. 26. David Brearley has finished better than .500 or at .500 the past 10 seasons, seven winning and three at 5-5. Succeeding Matt Sims at quarterback for the Bears is senior Ryan Obeidzinski. Sims is now playing at Salisbury University. David Brearley won at Manville 34-20 last year.
• Union High School (0-1) at Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School (1-0), 7 p.m.: Bridgewater-Raritan Regional, led by first-year head coach DJ Catalano, opened with a 44-12 home win against Edison High School on Friday, Aug. 25. It was the most points the Panthers scored in two years. Union lost to Rancocas Valley Regional High School 21-6 on Saturday, Aug. 26, in one of the Battle at the Beach games at Ocean City’s Carey Stadium in Ocean City. Union was edged at home by Bridgewater-Raritan Regional 7-6 a year ago.
• Cranford High School(0-0) at North Hunterdon Regional High School (0-1), 7 p.m.: Cranford is the only Union County program to have a winning season every year since 2010 and make the playoffs every year since 2011. Cranford hosted North Hunterdon Regional in its season-openers the past two seasons, coming back to win in overtime in 2021 and falling in 2022. North Hunterdon Regional opened with a 44-7 loss at home to Hunterdon Central Regional High School. Senior Ryan Carracino excels at halfback and linebacker for the Cougars.
• Abraham Clark High School (0-0) at Delaware Valley High School (0-0), 7 p.m.: Abraham Clark lost a close game at home to Delaware Valley by the score of 20-17 a year ago. Abraham Clark overcame an 0-4 start last year to finish with an eight-game winning streak for an 8-4 final record that included the first South, Group 2 Regional Invitational Tournament championship. Ajani Phillips, a senior, is Abraham Clark’s lead running back as the Rams seek a ninth straight victory.
• Jonathan Dayton High School (0-0) at Dunellen High School (0-0), 7 p.m.: Jonathan Dayton has defeated Dunellen the past three seasons, including last year’s 14-8 triumph in Springfield. Jonathan Dayton defensive standouts include senior linebackers Alex Altemus, Declan Vesey and Nick Apicella.
Saturday, Sept. 2 = four games
• Watchung Hills Regional High School (1-0) at Westfield High School (0-0), 1 p.m.: Watchung Hills opened on Friday, Aug. 25, with a 37-8 home win against Hudson County foe Bayonne High School. Westfield is coming off an 8-3 season that saw it excel following a season-opening 17-7 setback at Watchung Hills Regional. Standouts on defense for the Blue Devils include lineman Julian Montez and back Luke Jordan.
• Woodbridge High School (1-0) at Summit High School (0-0), 1 p.m.: Woodbridge opened with a 28-13 home win against Old Bridge on Friday night, Aug. 25. Summit began last year with a 34-27 loss at Woodbridge. The Hilltoppers won their last three games to finish with a winning record of 6-5. A two-way standout lineman for Summit is senior offensive tackle-defensive end Leo Haselmann. Back to run with the ball for the Hilltoppers is senior Ryan Schnall.
• Elizabeth High School (0-1) at Plainfield High School (0-0), 1 p.m.: Elizabeth had the lead in the fourth quarter, but fell just short to Linden 27-22 in the opener at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium in Union on Friday night, Aug. 25. Elizabeth has defeated Plainfield by one point the past two seasons, including 23-22 last year and 19-18 two years ago, both games played at Elizabeth’s Williams Field. The contest on Saturday, Sept. 2, will be played at Plainfield’s Hub Stine Field. The last year Plainfield defeated Elizabeth was 2009, a 7-6 double overtime Cardinal victory at Elizabeth.
• Bernards High School (1-0) at Hillside High School (0-0), 1 p.m.: Hillside is 52-11 the past six seasons, including 5-1 against Bernards in that span. The Mountaineers opened with a convincing 47-6 win at Jefferson High School on Friday, Aug. 25. Standout defensive backs for the Comets, who last year won at Bernards 35-20, include senior Chibugo Chigozie-Nwosu and junior Darren Ikinnagbon.