Tag: West Morris

Hillsborough puts 3rd best winning streak in the state on the line Friday night at Ridge

It’s only two games into the season, but the Hillsborough football team has kept the ball rolling from last year’s 13-0 squad that put up the program’s first-ever unblemished season, setting a school record for wins, winning two titles, and rewriting eleven different categories in the offensive record books.

That all goes on the line tonight when Boro (2-0) visits Ridge (1-1) up in the Somerset Hills.

Hillsborough is, no doubt, a different team. With the QB/WR tandem of Jay Mazuera and Thomas Amankwaa gone to graduation, there’s a little less flash, but new QB Ryan Tasetano (last year’s backup to Mazuera) has found a favorite target already with slot receiver Shane Donoghue, combining for 3 TD hookups already.

Ridge, on the other hand, has a season-opening 48-0 win over Monroe and lost 28-10 last week to Phillipsburg in a game that was closer than the final score indicated. The truth, for the Red Devils, may be somewhere more in the middle.

The teams have split the last two meetings.

Hillsborough is now on a 15-game winning streak, one of just four teams with streaks on the right side of the ledger of ten games or more.

The longest active win streak in the state belongs to Caldwell. The Chiefs have won 15 straight, dating back to their last three games of 2020. They went 12-0 last year and won the North 2 Regional Championship, and are 2-0 this year.

Bergen Catholic has won 16 in a row, going back to a win in their finale of the 2020 COVID season. They won the Non-Public Group A Championship last year, going 12-0, and are 3-0 to start 2022.

Then there’s Hillsborough at 15, with Irvington behind them at ten in a row. The Blue Knights won their last seven games last year en route to the North 5 Regional Championship; their sectional title was the first ever in program history.

Everyone else undefeated this season has fewer than ten wins. The next closest is West Morris at eight in a row. The Wolfpack won their last five games of last year, including the North 3 Regional Final against Cranford at MetLife Stadium. They’re 3-0 this season.


  • Caldwell: Friday night at home against Verona (1-2)
  • Bergen Catholic: Saturday at home against Seton Hall Prep (2-0)
  • Hillsborough: Friday night at Ridge (1-1)
  • Irvington: Saturday at Columbia (0-2)
  • West Moris: Friday night vs, Roxbury (0-2)

On the other side of the ledger, two Big Central teams continue to hold the longest active losing streaks in New Jersey.

Highland Park has dropped 36 in a row, with its last win coming on Thanksgiving of 2016, in the last game of the year, against arch-rival Metuchen, 35-7. Friday night, they host Spotswood (2-1).

JP Stevens is at 25, with the Hawks’ stretch going back to the last two games of 2018; their last win came over Monroe. Stevens – a Group 5 school – is down several divisions this year in the Big Central, and playing some Group 2 schools. This week, they have a Group 3 on the docket when Governor Livingston (1-2) comes to North Edison).

Behind those two is Paramus Catholic. The Paladins, remarkably, have not won since 2019, in their penultimate game of the season. They were 4-7 that year, and lost their finale, going winless in the 2020 COVID year, as well as last year.

They’ve been close this season, dropping their opener by a touchdown at Hudson Catholic, and getting edged by a single point last week, 37-36, at Pope John. Friday, they play Chaminade of New York, which was 7-3 last season, but dropped their first and only game of the year this year; they’re 0-1.

Even with a win, that streak would continue against New Jersey schools. Chaminade is the only out-of-state opponent the Paladins have faced during that entire stretch.

Behins PC is Ferri – at 16 games – having last won in 2019, followed by Paterson Kennedy at 14.

Gloucester Catholic snapped its 15 game skid last week with a 34-16 win at Bishop Eustace.

North 3 Regional Championship: A complete preview as Cranford battles West Morris at the Meadowlands

It’s Black Friday, and while everyone else is at the malls, the opening weekend of regional championship play in New Jersey high school football gets underway today at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.

Central Jersey Sports Radio is your place for all the action this Friday afternoon. The North Group 3 Regional Championship game is the Big Central Game of the Week, driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland. That features North 2 Group 3 winner Cranford taking on North 1 Group 3 winner West Morris Central.

You can catch all the action beginning at approximately 3:45, with kickoff slated for 4 pm from East Rutherford, NJ.

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

North 2, Group 3 Championship

Teams: Cranford (11-0, North 2 champion) vs. West Morris Central (9-3, North 1 champion)
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
When: Friday, 4 pm
Coverage: Live play-by-play on Central Jersey Sports Radio (click here to listen) with pregame at 3:45
Weather: 42 degrees at kickoff, 0% chance of rain, winds out of the WNW at 16 mph


Cranford: Erik Rosenmeier, 17th season (118-56). His teams have had 12 straight winning seasons.

West Morris: Kevin Hennelly, 25th season (175-91). He took over after five years as an assistant under Pete “Pic” Piccirillo, who retired after 35 seasons as head coach following the 1996 season.  Picarillo went 218-99-6, winning three state titles. 

Finals History:

Cranford: The Cougars won their third state championship last Friday night, making them 3-1 all-time in four finals appearances, all coming under current head coach Erik Rosenmeier.

  • 2011: #3 seed, beat #4 Parsippany Hills 27-0 at Kean University
  • 2014: #1 seed, lost to #3 Parsippany Hills 20-13 at Met Life Stadium
  • 2015: #1 seed, beat #6 Chatham 50-23 at Kean University
  • 2021: #1 seed, beat #3 Sparta 45-21 at home
Students and fans storm Memorial Field after Cranford wins its third state title, defeating Sparta 45-21 in the North 2, Group 3 championship game.

West Morris: The Wolfpack have made 13 title game appearances, winning eight of them, five coming under current head coach Kevin Hennelly. All were in North 2, Group 3 except this year’s title, which was in the North 1 section.

  • 1982: beat Randolph 10-6
  • 1985: lost to Linden 19-7
  • 1987: lost to Randolph 14-13
  • 1990: lost to Scotch Plains 25-12
  • 1991: beat Nutley 14-0
  • 1995: beat Nutley 21-0
  • 1997: lost to Morristown 6-0
  • 2000: lost to Warren Hills 21-13
  • 2001: beat West Morris-Mendham 15-14
  • 2004: beat West Morris-Mendham 10-7
  • 2009: beat Passaic Valley 28-19
  • 2012: beat Warren Hills 35-7
  • 2021: beat West Essex 21-0

How they got here:

The Cougars earned the top overall seed in the North 3 supersection, entering the playoffs with an 8-0 record. Along the way, they knocked off then-No. 4 Woodbridge on the road in a battle of undefeated Big Central Division 4 teams, 38-28, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio. In the playoffs, they beat 8th-seed Demarest in the opening round 56-26, and 4th-seed Pascack Valley in the semifinals 42-7. Senior runningback Colin Murray had career highs of 235 yards and 5 touchdowns in the win over Demarest.

Friday’s game is sponsored locally by Pastosa Ravioli in Cranford.

That was, at least until the sectional final against Sparta, where Murray – aided by the Cougars’ huge offensive line, anchored by Illinois commit Matt Fries, rolled off a new career high: 334 yards on a career-heaviest work load of 40 carries, en route to a 45-21 win over Sparta for the North 2, Group 3 championship. The win was gave Cranford its first crown since 2015.

As for West Morris Central, they were the overall 2-seed in the supersection, garnering them the other top seed, in North 1, Group 3. In the opening round they beat 8th-seed Summit out of the Big Central in a shootout, 56-31. But in the next two games, they hunkered down on defense, shutting out 4th-seed Old Tappan in the sectional semis, 21-0, then beating second seed West Essex by the same score at home last Friday night for the sectional title.

Cranford and West Morris, despite being in the North 2, Group 3 section together for many years, have never played each other in football.

Players to watch:

For Cranford, it’s the tandem of Shane VanDam, the senior quarterback, and Colin Murray, the senior runningback. Murray – after his outstanding performance against Sparta in the sectional final – is now the leading rusher in the Big Central Conference with 2,052 yards. But if it’s not his night (it rarely isn’t) and the Wolfpack defense is taking him out of the game in any way, Van Dam has the arm to make throws to bring his team a win.

Will Gallagher may be his favorite target, but it was on defense where Gallagher – a starting shortstop on the baseball team who has signed his National Letter of Intent to play at rider – made his biggest impact last week. He had three of the team’s five interceptions on Sparta quarterback Austen Frattura, part of a stellar overall defensive performance. Watch Lucca Limiera, too; he had a pick and also tipped a pass that ended up in Gallagher’s hands last week.

On the West Morris side, the big back with a ton of yards is junior Stefano Montella, all six-feet, 200 pounds of him. He’s got the most yards on the ground in a season for West Morris since Michael Burton’s school record 1,769 set in his senior season of 2009. (You remember Burton, the former three-year Rutgers starting fullback who’s now with the Kansas City Chiefs, who’s perhaps the most decorated West Morris football player, at least in recent history.)

They are like Cranford in that they have a roughly 2:1 rush to pass ratio. Offensively, though, they can also spread it around. Senior Noah Turner has a team-leading 393 receiving yards, while left halfback Ryan Brady leads with 23 catches and 7 TD grabs. Not to mention Vinnie Desiderio, the cousin of former Somerville Standout Cookie Desiderio, who has a good mix of six receptions and six rushes on the season, as a hybrid halfback/split end.

MORE ON WEST MORRIS: Wolfpack playing best football of the season heading into North 3 Championship game against Cranford

Defensively, watch out for Montella, too. He leads the team with 135 tackles, 53 solo and 19 tackles for loss, all team bests. Colin Leonhardt, a junior defensive tackle who also starts on the offensive line, is fourth on the team in tackles, and can penetrate the offensive line, scoring 10 TFLs (second-best on the team) and registering a team-high 8 sacks.

What to watch for:

Cranford is well-renowned for its big offensive line this season, which has paved the way nicely for Murray, and also kept quarterback Shane Van Dam upright, giving him plenty of time to throw to his favorite target, Will Gallagher, who’s also a star shortstop for the Cougars’ baseball team. The numbers on that line are impressive: an average of 6-foot-4 and 267 across the board, with all but the center at least 280 pounds a pop. Matt Fries is the leader of the bunch, headed to Illinois after his scholastic career, but this unit works as a group.

LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST: This Week in the Big Central – Episode 13: The Lucky Threes

What’s intriguing is that for a Group 3 school, only one of the five starts on defense. For West Morris, they all do, including quarterback Trevor Hillier. He’s at defensive end, believe it not, but Hennely says “that’s just how we roll.” West Morris has been doing that all year, and successfully, but it will be critical for them to not tire against a dominating, physical offensive line that will be able to catch its breath when the Cranford defense is out there.

The wind also could be a factor. The forecast calls for WNW winds around 16 miles per hours. But if you know anything about the Meadowlands, it doesn’t matter where they’re from. They can swirl in the wide open expanse that is MetLife Stadium, and it certainly could affect the passing game, with gusts of over 25 miles an hour possible. Could this turn into a battle of Murray vs. Montella? Maybe. But with Cranford’s line: advantage Cougars.

Then watch the Cranford secondary. It had five interceptions last week against Sparta QB Austen Frattura, who had only thrown two picks all year to go against 16 touchdowns. He’ll be seeing Will Gallagher in his sleep until next season, as he had three of the interceptions, one of which was tipped right into his hands by a teammate, Lucca Limiera. Can Cranford come up with a similar performance against a QB in Hillier who hasn’t been as accurate? We’ll find out soon enough.

Central Jersey Sports Radio’s 2021 coverage of Cranford:

Their state title already won, Cranford puts unbeaten record on the line when they meet West Morris at MetLife

It’s a bit of an awkward game, and it has been for the three years of its existence, and it won’t be next year when New Jersey high school football finally plays to group champions.

But Friday’s North Group 3 Regional Championship Game between North 2 champ Cranford (11-0) and North 1 winner West Morris Central (8-3) will have a little extra juice for the Cougars, as they look to protect their perfect record, and achieve their second such performance in seven seasons.

Their 2015 state title team also went 12-0, and so far – but maybe not for much longer – is the only perfect season in the school’s long history of playing football, which dates back to 1903.

Friday’s final game of the season for Cranford is the Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland, and will air on Central Jersey Sports Radio with pregame at approximately 3:45 pm, and kickoff at 4:00 from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. Mike Pavlichko and guest color commentator Matt Yascko will call all the action; click here to listen.

Click below to hear Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeir reflect on the Cougars’ state title win over Sparta, and break down Friday’s game against West Morris with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko: