PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- For the first time in 15 years, the Piscataway High School varsity football team will play in East Rutherford.
Fresh off of a North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 title win over Union City and a Thanksgiving Day rivalry victory over Franklin, the Chiefs, ranked No. 3 in the NJ.com Top 20 and No. 4 in the USA Today Network New Jersey Top 20, will face Ridgewood, the N1G5 winner, in the newly created and first ever North 5 Bowl Game. The contest will take place this Saturday, Dec. 1, at 10:00 a.m. at MetLife Stadium.
Piscataway last played at the Meadowlands at the old Giants Stadium on Dec. 11, 2003 when it beat Union in the N2G4 sectional final.
This season, Piscataway is 12-0 and has a chance to be a record 13-0 with a triumph over the Maroons. In the playoffs, it beat Bridgewater-Raritan, Ridge, and then Union City. Ridge and Union City run a Wing-T offense much like Ridgewood (9-2).
While the offense in general is the same as the Chiefs’ past two postseason opponents, Ridgewood, which is receiving votes in the USA Today Network poll, runs its scheme with effectiveness and its intricacies could be tough for Piscataway to adjust at first. There are a lot of moving bodies who try and create misdirection and get your eyes out of the right spot and off your man. Many players could touch the ball on every play. It is important for the Piscataway defense to be disciplined and for each player to do their own job as you hear all the time. The Maroons’ Wing-T forces the defense to defend every gap and spread out.
Ridgewood running back Will Cardew has 1,274 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on 179 carries. The senior averages 7.1 yards-per-carry and 116 per game. While Cardew is the main show for the Maroons, six others have scored at least three touchdowns and three of them -- Gabe Santiago, Will McDermott, and Avery Scott all have over 300 yards on the ground. Ridgewood averages 265.8 rushing yards per game and 337.4 total.
Passing the ball, the Maroons do a good job keeping the defense honest and they can gain yards -- and long touchdowns -- through the air. Piscataway has shown this season to be susceptible in pass defense. That could be something to watch should Ridgewood try and pass more often.
Quarterback Liam Tarleton, who is now starting because of an injury to Will Mollihan, can hit the opposition with chunk gains through the air. Big-play receiver Tommy Bourque has 16 catches for 397 yards and four scores. Don’t sleep on Santiago, McDermott, and Cardew in the passing game either.
Defensively for Ridgewood, Jack Wittmaack leads the team with 118 total tackles. Andrew Messineo is second with 89 and is first in tackles for loss with 8.0 and 4.0 sacks. As a team, the Maroons have 14.0 sacks and 19 interceptions.
If Ridgewood can create turnovers and use its offense to eat up clock, Piscataway could be trouble.
Piscataway will counter with its own old fashioned, power running game with Juwon Jackson and Nasir Best behind the blocks of Jordin Martell, Austin Mosier, Andrew Buchek, David Greene, Charles Parker, and others.
Jackson has 33 touchdowns on the season (31 rushing, one receiving, one punt return) - breaking Elijah Barnwell’s single-season record of 30 set two years ago. Jackson also has a record 216 points scored. He’s tallied 1,756 yards on 166 carries (10.6 yards per carry). Best, who has been vital for the Chiefs in the playoffs, has 73 carries for 676 yards (9.3 per carry) and 10 touchdowns.
And much like Ridgewood, it doesn’t stop after just those two. Fullbacks Nick Recine, Danny Lopez, and Andre Felton are capable of carrying the ball effectively and into the end zone.
Quarterback Joseph Hatcher has thrown for 1,008 yards thus far and is the first Chiefs signal caller since Nadir Barnwell in 2011 to go over the 1,000 yard plateau. He also has 11 touchdowns and five interceptions on 55 completions.
On the end of Hatcher’s passes, the Chiefs have a number of skill guys. Lord Jones leads the way with 12 catches for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Joey Bellamy has 10 grabs for 172 yards and another two scores. Chris Corvil, Marcel Walker, Best, and Jackson can get in on the action as well.
At linebacker, Recine is the heart and soul for the Chiefs and he has 116 tackles including 36 for loss with seven sacks. Walker can apply pressure off the edge with his seven sacks and the line can hold up in the run game and be physical. Piscataway owns five shutouts on the year and allows just 156.2 yards per contest, but will be tested against Ridgewood.
This season has already been a success with Piscataway having won its 10th sectional championship all-time, but a Bowl Game win would be icing on the cake.
TAPinto Piscataway will be there covering the historic game. Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.
WHAT: North 5 Bowl Game
WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 1 at 10:00 a.m.
WHO: Piscataway Chiefs vs. Ridgewood Maroons
WHERE: MetLife Stadium - East Rutherford, N.J.