Coming off third straight sectional title, Northern Highlands looks to make history

Interrupted by the COVID season of high school football – with no playoffs – Northern Highlands is a three-time defending champion in the sectional finals, winning the North 1, Group 4 trophy the last three postseasons straight: 2019, 2021 and 2022.

That’s something it’s never done before, and the Highlanders want to make one more piece of history: win New Jersey’s first ever true state title.

In their way en route to the Group Finals at Rutgers in a couple of weeks are the North Hunterdon Lions (11-1) – the North 2, Group 4 champions – and a team that has proved to be very special all year long.

But Northern Highlands (8-3) has had its share of overcome adversity, particularly at the quarterback position. Sophomore Nate Johnson won the starting job this summer over junior J.R. Walley, but two injuries forced Walley into action, including in the last week-and-a-half in the playoffs.

He had to spell Johnson – who suffered a concussion – for the second half of the Irvington win in the North 1, Group 4 semifinals, then led his team to a win in a dramatic come-from-behind victory, 49-42 in overtime, over Ramapo in the title tilt.

Though Walley is expected to start Saturday, Johnson has been cleared to play, so at this point of the season, it could be anyone’s guess as to who comes out to lead the Highlanders’ spread offense in Saturday’s game.

You can hear the North Group 4 semifinal live from Franklin High School Saturday on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with pregame at 5:00, and kickoff at 5:30. Mike Pavlichko will call all the action, joined by Shane Dunn. Click here to listen to the broadcast.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko speak with Northern Highlands first-year head coach Dave Cord about the season, and his thoughts on Saturday’s matchup with North Hunterdon:

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