For the first time in several years, Wayne Hills will not defend their North 1 Group 3 title and Don Bosco Prep did not earn the top seed in Non Public Group 4 as part of the high school football postseason. Over Friday and Saturday, the River Dell Golden Hawks and Bergen Catholic Crusaders will begin their search for a state title at Meadowlands Stadium.
With the addition of a Group 5 mandated by the NJSIAA, the Hawks were bumped from North 1 Group 2 into North 1 Group 3 and on Friday night at 6pm they will host a foe they have not seen since 2008 - the Jefferson Township Falcons.
River Dell, which was awarded the top-seed in the tournament, went 9-0 for the regular season topping rivals West Essex, Ramsey and Mahwah, having scored 286 points against all opponents while only allowing 103.
And while the Hawks were hit early in the season by injuries to Kevin Barry (knee) and Tim Barnes (leg), the team has continued to find a way to victory courtesy of Ryan Duran who stepped in as signal caller after Barnes' injury. To date, he has 390 rushing yards and 50 receiving ards to his statbook.
The Falcons (6-3) earned the final spot in the tournament as the number eight seed but are stronger than their record reveals. Jefferson was plagued by huge losses to Madison (56-8) and Hoboken (55-7)
Led by QB J.R. Reese (925 passing yards and 222 rushing for 18 TD's), and wide-recievers Dan Brown (351 recieving yards for 7 TD's) and Kyle Neuschatz (432 rushing and 60 reciiving yard for 4 TD's), River Dell will face a tought first-round opponent that is hungry for a title.
With their losses to Don Bosco, St. Joseph (Mont.) and Cocoa of Florida, the Crusaders could only hope for the third seed, possibly setting up a semi-final date with the Ironmen in the postseason rather than at Meadowlands Stadium.
The Crusaders (5-3) drew an opening round for Saturday 1pm against the Notre Dame Irish (6-2) who were seeded sixth.
Bergen has allowed over 200 points this season, while scoring just over 340 as senior quarterback Jon Germano wrote himself into the record book three times as he now leads the red and gold in career TD passes, completions and yards. Running back James Dawson has 126 carries for 692 yards while wide-recievers JJ Kulcsar (39 receptions for 823 yards) and John Feaster (34 receptions for 493 yards) round out the explosive offense. Danny Grasso (70 tackles) and Parker Tobia (45 tackles) lead the defense.
The Irish have relied on their defense playing low scoring games and allowing 105 points. Notre Dame has scored 155 points for the season and only allowed one opponentn (West Windsor-Plainsboro South) to score more than 30 points in a game.