Week 5 Hot Takes: First looks at Pioneers and Raiders, Aquinas impresses, Friday night playoff impacts coming soon

New Providence and Bound Brook get set for kickoff Friday night. (Mike Pavlichko)

When you call a game every Friday night, it’s going to make it hard to see game action in person of every team in the Big Central. Make that downright impossible.

How else can you cover 60 teams? Why, you’d have to be Marcus Borden to do that!

But this week, we got our first looks of games that count involving New Providence and Hillsborough, and they certainly impressed.

In fact, both will be successful this year for much of the same reason: they’re more than just one player, and their coaches are getting creative. (What, you thought it was because both coaches are juniors, whose fathers were legendary high school coacahes in their own right? Hmmmm…. maybe that could have something to do with it.)

New Providence with and without Barth…

Let’s start with the Pioneers, where head coach Chet Parlavecchio Jr. got his team to rebound from a tough loss to Willingboro on short prep with a 40-8 win over Bound Brook.

In 2020, New Prov rode Charlie Barth, their big-time junior back, on offense, and also saw him contribute heavily on defense. He was the Central Jersey Sports Radio Two-Way Player of the Year, racking up 1,502 yards and 25 TDs (for a touchdown every 7.4 carries) while also leading the Big Central with 115 tackles, good for Top Ten in the state.

READ MORE: Pioneers spread it around in 40-8 win over Bound Brook

Against Bound Brook, Barth had two scores, sure. But sophomore runningback Ben Gullo had a touchdown run, QB Dean Licari had a TD run, and sophomore fullback Jack Verbaro had a touchdown catch in a goal-line situation from the five that on any given night would just scream having Barth pound it down the middle through a solid offensive line.

Oh, and he didn’t play a lick of defense in the game, according to Parlavecchio.

Keep him fresh, coach.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I think this is going to be a special year for New Providence.

Hillsborough looks – and is – the part…

Then there’s Hillsborough. This is the team that has come in with all the hype of the 1-2 combo of quarterback Jay Mazuera and wide receiver Thomas Amankwaa, friends since the age of eight, since they were both – yes – linemen with the Junior Raiders in town. (Mazuera says his dad was the coach and didn’t want to favor either of them.)

READ MORE: Hillsborough has its sights set high with 1-2 combo of Mazuera and Amankwaa

But the varsity Raiders are so much more than that combo.

Sure, Amankwaa – who just committed to Rutgers less than a week ago – got his touchdowns, but the two he had were on the ground, a product of head coach Kevin Carty Jr. doing all he can to get the talented, speedy, and elusive Amankwaa more touches.

Tommy on the jet sweep? Yes please.

But then they also have bruiser Tyler Michinard at runningback. And what did he do Saturday afternoon in a 31-21 win over Bridgewater-Raritan?

Michinard flipped the other half of the script and had a receiving touchdown, and a nifty one at that.

READ MORE: No. 3 Hillsborough gets it to all the right people in 31-21 road win over rival Bridgewater-Raritan

I’ve always had fun watching Carty’s teams, and more often than not he’s had some really good ones, but even he admits this is one of the better ones, and I tend to agree with him.

They’re going to be special, too.

But they’ll be up for a big challenge against Ridge this Friday night, trying to prepare for the Red Devils on a quick turnaround, since their game against B-R was on a Saturday, and they should have started prepping Friday since the game was originally scheduled for Thursday. But alas, Mother Nature.

Trojans looking good

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve always enjoyed extremes in sports, good or bad. Teams scoring a lot of points. Going long stretches without. Winning streaks.

In this case, St. Thomas Aquinas was one of just two teams in the entire state heading into Saturday’s action to be 4-0, without allowing a single point. (The other is Cedar Creek.)

The resume shows a 6-0 season opening win against Woodstown at home, followed by a 43-0 win at Roselle, a 59-0 win at Spotswood, and a 46-0 home win this Friday night over Johnson.

That’s a 49.3 point per game scoring average in Big Central play.

And yet, Woodstown may have been the best win of the bunch, as they’re 3-1. Roselle is 2-1, Spotswood is winless and Johnson only has one win on the season. So you can take this however you take it.

But schedule out the window, I’ve always believed it’s not easy to shut a team out. Even a bad one. All it takes is one play to go wrong and there’s a touchdown.

A shutout – 48 minutes in high school football – requires intense focus, especially when you’re scoring 43, 59 and 46 points. It’s easy for a 16 or 17 year old to take his foot off the gas pedal.

The fact that Brian Meeney’s squad has not done that, in four games, makes it super impressive.

READ MORE: St. Thomas Aquinas finding historic success, wins fourth straight by shutout

They’re on a historic run, too: 4-0 to start a season for the first time since 1989, and it’s their best record through the first four games since going 3-0-1 in the first four of 1992.

Are they top ten material? It’s certainly debatable. There might be 15 or more teams worthy of the Top Ten in their own right in this 60-team league.

But what they’re doing is something special. A good test comes Saturday at South River’s Bill Denny Stadium, and their biggest test will be in their regular season finale when they host 4-0 Del Val.

UPR coming soon(er)…

While Gridiron New Jersey released its first UPR playoff standings of the year last Sunday (they’re the official calculator for the NJSIAA) Central Jersey Sports Radio will soon be doing its own unofficial calculations.

We know you live for this stuff.

It’s still early; teams with only three games can make big jumps (or falls) with a win or loss in one week. So, we’ll start updating soon on Friday nights/Saturday mornings. Keep an eye out for it on cjsportsradio.com.

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