As we head into Week Five of nine in high school football across New Jersey, there are dozens of undefeated teams remaining in the state – 52 to be exact.
Eight of them reside in the Big Central Conference.
The North Jersey Super Football Conference leads the pack with 19, including Immaculata, which is playing in the Independence Red Division after leaving the fledgling Big Central over a disagreement about their division and scheduling.
So who are these eight teams? Who’s having their best success in years? We take a closer look:
Hillsborough (4-0) ad Ridge (3-0): We put these teams together since they square off tonight in Basking Ridge, so one will have suffered their first loss of the season. The Raiders started 2019 with a 4-0 mark, and a win tonight would give them their best start since they won seven-in-a-row to start the 2014 season. That year, the Raiders made it to the Central Jersey Group 5 semifinals, where they lost 28-6 to eventual champion Manalapan, which beat South Brunswick 21-7 for the title at Rutgers.
Each team has a Bellamy & Son Player of the Week to their credit. Thomas Amankwaa of Hillsborough won for his outstanding performance in a 21-14 overtime home win over Phillipsburg a couple of weeks ago, including two touchdowns, a two-point run and an interception on the Liners’ possession in OT that clinched the come-from-behind win. Ridge quarterback Mike Olivo was honored this past week, as he accounted for all seven of his team’s touchdowns (three passing, four rushing) in a 49-20 win over Hunterdon Central.
It’s the best start for the Red Devils under second-year head coach Andy West. Bill Tracy was at the helm when Ridge last won three straight to start the year; they went 6-0 to begin 2018.
Bottom line, this kind of start is nothing new for these ballclubs.
Woodbridge (5-0): The Barrons did this last year, and the year before.
In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, they went 5-1, only losing their final game, in the first week of pod play to Somerville in a highly-anticipated 1 vs. 2 matchup. The Barrons had been No. 1 all season, with Somerville working its way to No. 2.
The ‘Ville took a 39-26 decision at Priscoe Field, and then both teams’ seasons ended due to COVID and contact tracing.
Isn’t it great to see high school football back?
The year before, Woodbridge was 10-0 heading into the North 1, Group 4 title game, but lost 37-7 at Northern Highlands.
Cranford (3-0): The Cougars also got off to a hot start last year, beginning the year 3-0. But they were stopped by Woodbridge in their fourth game and finished 6-2, losing in their finale in pod play to St. Joseph-Metuchen.
Cranford has Scotch Plains-Fanwood at home tonight, then hosts Colonia next Friday, before traveling to the other side of Route One for what could be a battle of two undefeated teams at Priscoe Field on Friday, October 15th, in the Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland heard live on Central Jersey Sports Radio.
If you’re looking for the Cougars’ next best start prior to last year, you’d have to go back to 2015, when Cranford ran the table at 12-0 and won the North 2, Group 3 title with a 50-23 win over Chatham at Kean University in Union.
Linden (3-0): Yes, make it three teams out of eight in what we felt heading into the season was one of the more balanced and competitive divisions in the Big Central, Division 4. In addition to Woodbridge and Cranford, the Tigers are unbeaten, and none of the three teams obviously have played each other yet.
It’s a nice turnaround for Linden, which managed just five games last year due to COVID and ended up 1-4. They had a 7-1 start to their 2018 season, but lost their opener before winning seven straight and dropping their last two.
This is their best start since going 7-0 to begin the 2014 campaign, which they finished 10-2, bringing home a North 2, Group 5 trophy; they beat Elizabeth for the title 27-20 at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.
St. Thomas Aquinas (4-0): The Trojans are on a historic streak. It’s the first time they’ve had this kind of success in North Edison in quite some time.
Aquinas has not gone unbeaten in its first four games since starting the 1992 season 6-0-1, their streak stopped on November 7th of that year by Edison. (Fun side note: current Eagles offensive coordinator Matt Yascko had two touchdown catches in that game; the other went to Justin Garbolino, whose son Frankie is the QB at North Brunswick. Yascko’s son QB’s for Edison.)
They’ve not started a year with four straight wins since 1989, when the Trojans went ran the table in the regular season and finished 10-1, their lone loss coming in the Parochial South A final to Notre Dame, 9-6.
Look for a piece on the Trojans later today on cjsportsradio.com.
Delaware Valley (4-0): The Terriers got off to a 5-0 start last year, finishing 6-1 in the COVID-shortened campaign.
A win tonight against a tough Bernards team would match that effort, and give them a shot at their best start since 2015 when they began 6-0. They also went 7-0 to start 2011 and 8-0 in 2003, finishing 9-1 with a playoff loss to Spotswood.
We got to see them early on against North Plainfield, and the Terriers looked impressive, nearly pitching the shutout before allowing a late touchdown.
Brearley (3-0): The Bears had an 8-2 year in 2019, and won eight straight games in that campaign, but after suffering a season-opening loss to out-of-conference West Essex.
They’re off to their best start since 2018 when they went 5-0, but their season-opening win was a forfeit by Highland Park, which didn’t have enough personnel to play the game. Going by true on-field wins, you’d have to go back to 2015, when the Bears won their first eleven games, and were the top-seed in the North 2, Group 1 playoffs.
They lost in the finals at Kean 34-12 to second-seed Hoboken.
What team has the longest active winning streak in Big Central play?
The answer to that question may surprise you.
Hint: it’s not any one of the undefeated teams we mentioned above.
The answer? It’s Bernards!
The Mountaineers are 3-1 this season, but their loss came to Penns Grove in the Battle at the Beach in Week Zero. Last year, after a season-opening loss to Hillside – which they avenged this year in the Rumble on the Raritan at Rutgers – Bernards won their final eight games to finish 8-1.
Of those, six came against Big Central opponents (the other two wins were against Monmouth and Immaculata). So, the Bernards winning streak in league is nine games.
After that, it’s Somerville and Woodbridge tied with 8 straight in league play (Somerville’s loss this season was to Northern Highlands).
Union – who’s only loss this season is to Millville, out of conference – has won six straight against BCC competition, while Del Val and Brealy each have won five-in-a-row.