Tag: Hillsborough

Dominating 13-0 season sees Hillsborough’s Amankwaa and Carty Jr. sweep Two-Way Player and Coach of the Year awards from CJSR

It was a season of perfection for Hillsborough, and the Raiders took home two honors Thursday night on the Central Jersey Sports Radio postseason awards show.

Standout Thomas Amankwaa – who signed his National Letter of Intent to go to Rutgers this Wednesday – was named Big Central Two-Way Player of the Year, while head coach Kevin Carty Jr. was named Coach of the Year.

And both awards had a lot to do with Amankwaa.

The RU-bound senior had career highs in two major offensive categories, racking up 853 receiving yards at his natural position, along with 13 touchdowns, but he also rolled off 1,125 rushing yards – and 15 more scores – as Carty got Amankwaa involved as a runningback, a stroke of genius that paid off with a 13-0 record, a school record in wins, and the Central Jersey Group 5 title, its first state title in 21 years.

He also came up big defensively. Though he only recorded 25 tackles – some of that due to a solid defense in front of Amankwaa that didn’t give him many chances – he had 5 interceptions for 118 yards and five pass breakups.

One of those picks came in overtime against Phillipsburg, completing a 21-14 comeback win.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlickho talk with Tommy Amankwaa and Kevin Carty, Jr.:

Honorable mentions from the Two-Way Player of the Year category included Charlie Barth of New Providence, Michael Olivo of Ridge and Union’s Davison Igbinosun.

Barth won the inaugural award last season, but sat out defensively at times this year to stay fresh, and after getting dinged up a bit early in the season; he didn’t play a snap on D in a blowout home win over Bound Brook.

But when he was in the game, he was a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced in a first-round playoff game at Delaware Valley, where an early red zone pick got New Providence on the board, and on its way to victory.

Olivo came up 33-yards shy of 2,000 total this season, with 947 passing yards, 961 rushing, and another 59 on returns. He scored 25 touchdowns on offense, then had 44 tackles and 3 INTs on defense.

Igbinosun – who still hasn’t decided on a college but holds more than 30 Division 1 offers – had 76 carries for 903 yards and 12 touchdowns, 20 receptions for 405 yards and four TDs, while amassing 74 tackles and exerting his dominance on defense, adding four interceptions and two tackles for loss.

You – the fans – get to pick again! It’s the Jersey Central Sports Radio “Highlight Reel Play of the Year.” Watch the video, and vote!

Central Jersey Sports Radio is giving YOU the chance to weigh in on your favorite play of the 2021 high school football season!

We received a lot of entries from high school football coaches all across the Big Central. We spent days, even hours, until we finally narrowed it down to six.

Watch the video below, then scroll down to vote for your favorite!!
Voting ends at 11:59 pm on Monday, Dec. 13.
Remember: Vote early, vote often!

Amankwaa set to graduate Hillsborough early, join Rutgers in January

Thomas Amankwaa – now a state champion – plans to graduate Hillsborough High School early and enroll at Rutgers for the Spring semester, once he signs his National Letter of Intent on December 15th, the first day of the “early” signing period.

Amankwaa spoke of his decision exclusively with Central Jersey Sports Radio Wednesday afternoon.

Amankwaa and the Raiders are coming off a perfect 13-0 season, the first in school history, and their first state championship in 21 years. That came three weeks ago when they beat North Brunswick for the Central Jersey Group 5 title at Noonan Field.

READ MORE: Hillsborough’s Amankwaa gets offer from Rutgers, verbals to Knights, all within 48 hours

Not only was it an all-time best year for Hillsborough – the first school in Somerset County ever to win 13 games in a season – but Amankwaa had a record-setting career. He owns the school marks for touchdown catches (28), total TDs (50), and total points scored (304), as well as receiving yards, breaking Jackson Parham’s mark (2014-17) in Saturday’s regional championship game win against Kingsway, finishing with 2,184.

This season, he began taking the ball at running back to help replace some of the productivity of the graduated Sean Levonaitis, and had career bests at both positions: 853 receiving yards and 12 TDs, along with 1,125 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.

Amankwaa had a number of Power 5, FBS and FCS offers heading into this season, but was waiting for an offer from Rutgers, which came in-person from Scarlet Knight head coach Greg Schiano when the Hillsborough senior was on the field for the Delaware game. He committeed two days later.

Click below to hear Tommy Amankwaa talk about his decision to graduate high school early, and enroll at Rutgers for the Spring:

Raiders sweep Big Central rankings with No. 1 pick by league media

In the final Big Central Media Poll of the season, the Hillsborough Raiders – not the least bit unexpectedly – finished the season atop the rankings, after going undefeated, winning a Somerset County record 13 games, taking the Central Jersey Group 5 crown, and winning the South 5 regional championship.

All six media members – including two from Central Jersey Sports Radio – picked Hillsborough, after splitting their vote among various teams much of the year, including the Raiders, Somerville and Union for the last three weeks of the season.

The Farmers – whose season was cut short by COVID in the second round of the playoffs – finished second, with a mark of 9-2. They were division 5A champions and widely considered a favorite to win North 2 Group 5.

Cranford – which won a sectional title for the third time in eleven years when it cruised past Sparta in the North 2 Group 3 final – came in third, finishing 11-1.

Somerville, the Division 3 champion which finished 8-3, was voted fourth, while Ridge (7-3) came in fifth and Sayrevile – 8-3 and Division 5D champions – came in sixth.

The top six places in the media poll mirrored the Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings.

In seventh was North Brunswick (8-4), followed by Woodbridge (7-3) and St. Thomas Aquinas (9-1), while Phillipsburg finished tenth.

Six teams also received votes.

See the full poll below:

Hillsborough finishes No. 1 in Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings, named Team of the Year

The Hillsborough Raiders’ first-ever perfect season – with a 13-0 mark, the Division 5B title, Central Jersey Group 5 title, and South Group 5 regional championship – has earned them the honor of being Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Team of the Year for 2021.

Hillsborough’s stellar season left them all alone atop the final CJSR rankings, moving up from the Number Two position they held from Week 5 through Week 8. (There were no rankings during the playoffs.)

The Raiders were followed by Union, the Division 5A champion whose season was unfortunately cut short when Superintendent Sr. Scott Taylor withdrew the team from the second round of the NJSIAA playoffs after a handful of players tested positive for COVID-19. The Farmers – who finished 9-2 with a forfeit loss in the playoffs and a regular season-opening loss to Millville, which won the South 4 regional title – were the top seed in North 2, Group 5, and widely considered a favorite for a state title, and to reach the North 5 regional championship game.

Cranford, which dominated Sparta in the North 2, Group 3, title game to win the crown, finished third in the final rankings. At 11-1 on the year, their lone loss came in the North Group 3 regional championship game to West Essex. They were the Division 4 champions.

Somerville (8-3) checked in at No. 4, with the Division 3 title to its credit. The Pioneers only had one regular season loss – to Northern Highlands in game two – and a forfeit loss to Phillipsburg due to a COVID issue. They were knocked out of the playoffs in the sectional semifinals by Cedar Creek, which finished 13-0 to win a state title. Their two on-field losses were to teams with a combined 25-1 record.

Ridge (7-3) checked in at No. 5, the second-place team in Division 5B behind Hillsborough. The Red Devils had a tough regular season loss to Phillipsburg, and an impressive playoff win over Woodbridge, 38-0, before falling at Ramapo in the sectional semifinals.

Sayreville (8-3) finished sixth. The Division 5D champions were perfect in their division, and went on an 8-0 tear after dropping their first two games at home to Bridgewater-Raritan and Woodbridge. The first of those wins was a 35-22 slugfest against North Brunswick, which went to the sectional finals.

Phillipsburg (7-5) finished 7th, followed by North Brunswick (8-4) in 8th and Woodbridge (7-3) in 9th.

Bernards – the Division 2A champions – finished tenth. The Mountaineers were sectional semfinalists, losing at home to Haddonfield, which hung on to beat Point Pleasant Boro for the South 2 regional championship at Rutgers Saturday, when Point missed what would have been a game-tying PAT with just a few seconds remaining on the clock.

Also receiving votes were St. Thomas Aquinas (9-0) – the Division 2B champions – and division runner-up Delaware Valley, which finished 7-3. Aquinas had one of Middlesex County’s best-ever defensive seasons, winning its first seven games on the field (one of their first eight wins was a forfeit) by shutout. They beat DelVal in a highly-anticipated Week 9 game 12-9 in a mudbath in North Edison.

Below are the final CJSR rankings.

One final “Breakfast with Harry” for the 2021 football season

Football season is over.

It was longer than last year, but it still seemed to fly by – 15 weeks from Week Zero to the final weekend of regional championships.

The numbers are in: Two state champs, one regional champion, and a few bucks spent on breakfast with Harry Frezza at the Golden Corner Diner in Bound Brook.

Click below to hear Mike and Harry talk about Hillsborough’s perfect season – including some “breaking” news on QB Jay Mazuera – the controversial East Orange-Clifton ending, and much, much more:

Instant Replay: Hillsborough 28, Kingsway 7 – Raiders win South Group 5 Championship

Click below to listen to the Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland on Central Jersey Sports Radio from Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Hillsborough Raiders beat the Kingsway Dragons 28-7 on at Rutgers Univeristy’s SHI Stadium in Piscataway, to win the South Group 5 regional championship.

Senior Thomas Amankwaa had two touchdown catches in the win, on what is expected to be his new home field; Amankwaa has verballed to Rutgers, and is expected to sign a National Letter of Intent to make him a Scarlet Knight on December 15, the first day of the signing period.

Scroll down to hear the live broadcast by Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe, with Max Scheiner as the sideline reporter and postgame reaction.

Please consider supporting all the local businesses below, which sponsored the broadcast:

Pregame Show
1st Half
2nd Half

Perfection! Hillsborough caps 13-0 season with milestone win over Kingsway

In the end, Hillsborough did what Hillsborough has done all season long.

Highlight reel catches by Thomas Amankwaa, pressure by Will Dixon and Andrew Santa Barbara, a pounding rush from Tyler Michinard, and the arm of Jay Mazuera were just some of the reasons – not all by a long shot – why the Raiders are the South Jersey Group 5 Regional Champions for 2021, as well as a perfect 13-0.

Hillsborough beat Kingsway 28-7 Saturday afternoon at Rutgers’ SHI Stadium in Piscataway in the Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland, and in the process became the first Somerset County team in history to win 13 games in a regular season.

The win also was a personal milestone for Kevin Carty, Jr., the Hillsborough skipper, who picked up the 100th win of his career, now 99-63 in 16 seasons overall, 35-17 in the ‘Boro.

It looked for a while like Kingsway would put up a fight.

The Raiders went three-and-out on their first possession of the game, and Kingsway marched downfield to get a first-and-goal at the eight. But after a five yard rush on first down, Hillsborough forced a no gain on the ground, allowed a one yard rush, then set Kingsway back a yard on fourth down, to take the ball over at the three.

And that was the beginning of a glorious afternoon for the Raiders. They would take the next drive 97 yards on 14 plays, eating up 6:14 of game clock, to go ahead 6-0 on a 7-yard touchdown run by Tyler Michinard.

Hillsborough was off an running at that point.

The next two drives only took eight plays total, but each resulted in touchdown passes from Jay Mazuera to his childhood friend Thomas Amankwaa, 42- and 53-yards, and the second one even more amazing than the first,.

The first was an outstretched arm to make the ball reach the pylon.

On the second, Amankwaa made a two-handed grab down the left sideline, stretched the ball away from his defender with his left hand while on the run, and stiff-armed him away with the other, running it into the end zone once he got some distance.

It might have Greg Schiano rethinking that whole using him as a d-back thing, once Amankwaa – a Rutgers commit – signs on the dotted line in about 11 days.

Anmankwaa finished with five catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 111 yards on 12 carries. He also had a big tackle in the first half that kept a Kingsway drive from being extended.

The receiving yards put him over Jackson Parham’s school record 2,069 receiving yards, giving Amankwaa 2,194; he now owns four career records, including TD receptions (28), total touchdowns (50), and total points scored (304).

Hillsborough clinched its first-ever perfect season, besting its 1973 record of 8-0-1, which saw them awarded a state championship by the state, sharing with Warren Hills, in the final year before the advent of the playoffs.

The Raiders also are the first Big Central Conference team – as a member of the league – to win 13 games in a season. Piscataway did it in 2018, but the Big Central was still two years away from beginning play as a conference.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from Hillsborough’s 28-7 win over Kingsway in the South 5 championship game with Central Jersey Sportrs Radio’s Max Scheiner:

WR/CB Thomas Amankwaa
QB Jay Mazuera
Head coach Kevin Carty, Jr.

South 5 Regional Championship: A complete preview as Hillsborough takes on Kingsway at Rutgers

There’s just one team from the Big Central Conference left in the 2021 NJSIAA state playoffs, and it’s the Hillsborough Raiders, who are in select company.

They’re one of just seven teams undefeated teams left in New Jersey – two of them having already completed their seasons – and strive to become the first perfect team in school history when the Central 5 sectional champion Raiders face South 5 sectional title winner Kingsway Saturday afternoon in the South Jersey Group 5 regional Championship in the Big Central Game of the Week, driven by Autoland.

You can catch all the action beginning at 12:15 on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with kickoff set for 1 pm from Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium in Piscataway.

Read on for everything you need to know about the game:

South Group 5 Championship

Teams: Hillsborough (12-0 overall; 5-0, Big Central Conference Division 5B champions Central 5 champion) vs. Kingsway (8-4 overall, 3-2; 2nd place in the West Jersey Football League’s Continental Division; South 5 champion)
Where: SHI Stadium, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ
When: Saturday, 1 pm
Coverage: Live play-by-play on Central Jersey Sports Radio (click here to listen) with pregame at 12:15 pm
Announcers: Mike Pavlichko & Justin Sontupe, play-by-play; Max Scheiner, sideline
Weather: 48 degrees at kickoff, 1% chance of precipitation, winds out of the West at 4 mph

Coaches:

Hillsborough: Kevin Carty, Jr., 11th season with the Raiders (68-47); also coached Bound Brook from 2006-2010 (29-22) with an unbeaten 9-0 regular season in 2008. Carty is 99-63 in his 16th overall season as a head coach.

Kingsway: Mark Hendricks, 6th season with the Dragons, 29-23

Strength Ratings:

By the NJSIAA’s Strength Index rating, calculating each team through the playoffs (and Kingsway’s Thanksgiving Day win over Clearview), Hillsborough is rated a 95.12, while Kingsway is a 72.30. That’s a +22.82 differential.

The Born Power Index rates Hillsborough at 100.5, while Kingsway is a 79.3, a +21.2 for the Raiders.

Finals History:

Hillsborough: The Raiders are 3-2 all-time in five finals appearances, winning titles in 1980, 2000, and 2021. They played in the very first state playoffs, which began in 1974. This year’s team made it to the school’s first title game in 21 years, beating North Brunswick for the Central 5 championship.

  • 1974: Central Jersey Group 2: lost to Middlesex 24-6 at Atlantic City
  • 1980: Central Jersey Group 3: beat Madison Central 10-7 (OT) at Giants Stadium
  • 1996: Central Jersey Group 4: lost to Middletown North 33-8 at Giants Stadium
  • 2000: Central Jersey Group 4: #6 seed, beat #1 Sayreville 16-13 at Rutgers Stadium
  • 2021: Central Jersey Group 5: #1 seed, beat #3 North Brunswick 35-8 at home

Kingsway: The Dragons have made six finals appearances, winning twice.

  • 1994: South Jersey Group 2: lost to Hammonton 36-28 on the road
  • 1995: South Jersey Group 2: lost to Northern Burlington 20-17 on the road
  • 2001: South Jersey Group 2: beat Hammonton 16-14 on the road
  • 2012: South Jersey Group 4: #6 seed, lost 57-27 to #1 Timber Creek at Rowan
  • 2019: Central Jersey Group 5: #6 seed, lost 35-18 at #5 seed Cherokee
  • 2021: South Jersey Group 5: #4 seed, beat #3 Toms River North 21-14 at home

How they got here:

Hillsborough has had a dominating season, only trailing three times in 12 games. They were down 14-7 to Phillipsburg in Week 2 and came back to win 21-14 in overtime. They briefly trailed in the early second-half against at Bridgewater-Raritan in what would be a 31-21 road win in Week 4. And the trailed North Brunswick 8-7 two weeks ago in the Central Jersey Group 5 final, but wound up winning 35-8. In the opening round of the playoffs, Hillsborough beat 8th-seed New Brunswick 49-6, followed by 5th seed Williamstown 49-14 in the semifinals.

Kingsway, meanwhile, was just 4-4 entering the playoffs, but a strong strength of schedule had them seeded 7th overall, in the South 5 supersection, 4th in the South 5 section. They beat 5-seed Old Bridge 51-49 at home in the opening round, two years after upsetting the Knights 34-7 in an opening round 6 vs. 3 game at Lombardi Field. In the semifinals, they beat 8th-seed Lenape (which had knocked off top-seed Washington Township by a field goal in the opening round) 20-17, then topped third-seed Toms River North 21-14 for the sectional title. While Hillsborough had a week off, Kingsway beat Clearview 24-6 at home on Thanksgiving, their first win against the Pioneers since 2016.

Common Opponents:

Old Bridge: Hillsborough played the Knights in a crossover game on October 15th, and won 44-0 at Noonan Field. Kingsway beat the Knights in the opening round of the playoffs, 51-49. Old Bridge played both games without injured starting quarterback Owen Haughney.

Williamstown: Kingsway fell to the Braves in Week 3, getting shutout 31-0. The transitive property never quite works in sports, but Hillsborough dispatched of Williamstown in the second round of the Central 5 sectional playoffs 49-14. That’s a 66 point swing.

Players to watch:

For Hillsborough, the main four are seniors Thomas Amankwaa, Tyler Michinard, Jay Mazuera, and Will Dixon. Amankwaa – a who committed to Rutgers quickly after being on the field for the Delaware game and being offered a scholarship there by head coach Greg Schiano – has proven himself a versatile player this year, getting the ball as a runningback, not just wide receiver. That has made the Hillsborough offense much more dynamic. Amankwaa still catches plenty of balls, thrown by his childhood friend Jay Mazuera, the quarterback who also punts. Mazuera can get the ball around the field. Another one of his targets can be tight end Will Dixon, who also blocks well, whether it’s Amankwaa or Michinard running the ball. Michinard had a seven touchdown performance in the sectional semifinals against Williamstown, setting a school record.

As much as Amankwaa can do on offense, he also excels defensively; in fact, that’s where he’s projected as to play for the Scarlet Knights, at defensive back. With 14 interceptions on the season as a team defense, Amankwaa leads the way with five, one of which came in overtime against Phillipsburg to seal a come-from-behind win in Week 2 at Noonan Field. But as head coach Kevin Carty explained at the time, it was Will Dixon who made the play happen from his defensive end spot. He’s the one who pressured fill-in quarterback Kakhye McLean; Amankwaa just mopped up grabbing the pass to preserve the win. The point is, Hillsborough has players who can make big plays all over the field.

For Kingsway, you’ll want to watch Nate Maiers. He’s the team’s junior quarterback, but was expected to be one of the team’s top receivers way back in the preseason. Sophomore Joseph Lyons started the team’s first four games behind center, but Maiers eventually got the call, and has blossomed at the position ever since. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who’s got great mobility, and he’ll present a challenge defensively for the Raiders. He’s thrown for 925 yards and five touchdowns, while he’s rushed for six scores and 537 yards. His game, like Kingsway’s overall, is about balance.

MORE ON KINGSWAY: Battle-tested Dragons are is ready for Hillsborough, confident in their trial-by-fire youth

What to watch for:

The great thing about Hillsborough is, while they have four big stars, they don’t need any of them to have an off-the-charts game to win. Tyler Michinard had a school-record seven touchdowns against Williamstown, but it might just as well have been two, plus one from Will Dixon, a rush or two from Jay Mazuera, and a rushing and a receiving touchdown from Amankwaa. Look at what the Raiders did to North Brunswick last week: Mazuera threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Amankwaa had 81 receiving yards and two TDs, and 39 rushing yards and a score. Michinard had 56 yards and didn’t reach the end zone. Amankwaa and Ryan Tasetano each had a pick. Will Dixon had two sacks.

Yawn. Hillsborough may have trailed 8-7 early in the second quarter, but they scored four unanswered touchdowns to win 35-8. All everyone did was their jobs, just as they should. And that’s the thing with Hillsborough; imagine if one of those guys were to go off for a game?

Kevin Carty admitted this week, there’s really nowhere for Hillsborough to go in the direction of “up.” They are at the top of their game, and have been all season long. There’s been no surge, but no dropoff either. They don’t get a lot of shutouts, but they’ve held teams down all year, especially lately. In their last seven games, the Raiders have surrendered a total of 42 points, with two shutouts. That’s an average of six points a game.

LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST: This Week in the Big Central – Episode 15: The Cartys

It helps that they are plus-10 in the turnover category, a number that’s fueled by the 14 interceptions the Raider defense has racked up this year. That’s five for Amankwaa, three for Tasetano – an unsung hero on defense – and six for the rest. The Raiders also have recovered six fumbles. They have either been even or on the plus side in the turnover battle in every game this year. Little surprise here.

Against Kingsway, they will face a team that runs it as much as they throw it, by design, according to Dragons head coach Mark Hendricks. That starts with Maiers, a threat to run or pass, at QB. That’s Hillsborough’s tall order. For Kingsway, it’s all about stopping the multiple options the Raiders have. Any one of four guys can beat you.

Notes and Scribbles:

100 Even: Hillsborough head coach Kevin Carty, Jr., will be going for the 100th win of his head coaching career Saturday afternoon. Should he get it, he’ll be one of 46 active coaches in New Jersey who’ve hit the century mark.

Speaking of Wins: Hillsborough already has set a program record for wins with 12 this season, and would extend that to 13 should they bring home the South 5 hardware. It’s the first time the Raiders have won double-digit games under Carty, with his previous best seasons coming in 2014 (9-2) and 2019 (8-3). The previous program best for wins was 10, which they did twice: in 1996, when they lost to Middletown North in the Central Jersey Group 4 title game at Giants Stadium, and 1980, when they knocked off statewide No. 1 Madison Central at Giants Stadium 10-7 in overtime for the Central Jersey Group 3 championship.

Almost Perfect: Hillsborough has never had a perfect season since it started playing football in 1970. Other than the pair of 10-1 seasons, the closest the Raiders came was in 1973, the year before the playoff era began, when they went 8-0-1.

Elite Company: A 13th win also would put Hillsborough in a rare strata among Big Central football teams. Since the playoffs expanded one more round beyond sectional finals in 2018, only one other current league team has won 13 games, and no Somserset County team has ever done it. Though the Big Central was still two years away – not beginning play until 2020 – Piscataway won the North 2 Group 5 title in 2018 over Union City, then beat Ridgewood at Met Life Stadium to finish 13-0. Sayreville won the South 5 title that year, but had a regular season loss, and finished 11-1.

Three other current league teams made the regional championships that year, but Hillside lost in the South 2 final to Haddonfield, which finished 13-0, while Phillipsburg and Summit already had a loss each heading into that final game. In 2019, Union was 12-0 having won the North 2 Group 5 title, but lost to Ridgewood in the regional final. And though Hillside finished undefeated, winning the South 2 regional title over Cedar Creek, they only played 12 games. This year, Cranford lost in the regional final to West Morris – last weekend – but still could have only been 12-0.

Next year, the playoffs expand to group champions for the first time ever, meaning there would be a maximum 14 games to win if a team reached their overall group final.

Mirrors: Kevin Carty, Jr. has been at Hillsborough for eleven seasons, but it took until his fourth to field a team with a winning record. The Raiders went 4-6 in 2011, 3-7 in 2012, and 5-5 in 2013 before going 9-2 in ’14. Kingsway head coach Mark Hendricks has been the Dragons’ head coach since 2016, and also took four seasons to field a winning team. His first three years? Kingsway was 4-6, 3-7, and 5-5 from 2016-18, the same three records as Carty’s first three seasons.

Distance Disparity: The bus ride from Hillsborough High School to Rutgers’ SHI Stadium is a 14-mile hop-skip-and-a-jump down Amwell Road, Cedar Grove Lane, a crossover of the Raritan River via Route 287, and a straight shot down River Road. Kingsway has a bit farther to drive from Woolwich Township. They’ve got a 77-mile drive from nearly south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Better bring some reading material.

First Time For Everything: In 2019, when Kingsway knocked off Old Bridge in a 6-3 playoff game at Lombardi Field, it was the first time the Dragons had ever played a Middlesex County opponent. Having played them again this year, they’ve now faced the Knights twice. (I guess the Dragon slayed the Knight.) Saturday, Kingsway will play its first-ever Somerset County opponent. It’s not quite the same for Hillsborough though. They met Williamstown, another Gloucester County school, in the semifinals. Two years ago, they beat Washington Township, before losing to Lenape of Burlington County in the semifinals. Before 2019, the southern-most school Hillsborough had ever played was Lenape, nearly a straight shot East of Camden.

The Undefeated: Hillsborough is one of seven teams left in the state who are undefeated. That number could stay at seven, or end up as low as two. Two 12-0 teams are done with their seasons: undisputed statewide No. 1 Bergen Catholic and Caldwell both played their final games last weekend, with the Crusaders winning Non-Public Group A over Don Bosco, and the Chiefs beating Jefferson for the North Group 2 title. Yet to play are five 12-0 teams, including Hillsborough. The others are: East Orange, which faces Clifton in the North 5 title game Sunday; Cedar Creek, which plays Woodrow Wilson in the South 3 championship Saturday; Northern Highlands, which faces Irvington in the North 4 regional title tilt Saturday; and Woodbury, which takes on Salem for the South 1 crown Sunday.

More on Hillsborough:

Hillsborough looks to cap amazing year with one more win, in South 5 regional title tilt

Hillsborough might not have been everyone’s favorite to make the longest of playoff runs in 2021, but here they are.

The Raiders have played a grueling schedule, many of the same teams they played in their Skyland Conference days. And they’ve beaten every one of them, some fairly handily.

Some, like Phillipsburg, they trailed, as they did by a 14-7 score in the second half at Noonan Field in Week 2.

All they did was win the game in overtime, as Tommy Amankwaa sealed the deal with an interception in the end zone.

They even beat a team twice, North Brunswick, right before the playoffs began, and again just three weeks later in the Central Jersey Group 5 sectional title game. It was Hillsborough’s first championship in 21 years.

This Saturday at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium in Piscataway, they will chase perfection, something no Hillsborough team has ever done.

Even the 1980 team that knocked off statewide No. 1 Madison Central, and the 2000 team that upset statewide No. 4 Sayreville, may not have been this good.

Saturday, they get a chance to prove it.

That’s when Hillsborough (12-0) faces Kingsway (8-4) out of the West Jersey Football League in the Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland, our final one of the season, on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Click here to listen to Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe call all the action, with a special extended pregame starting at 12:15, and kickoff at 1:00. Max Schiener will report from the sidelines and provide live postgame reaction.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk about the Kingsway game with Hillsborough head coach Kevin Carty, Jr.: