BASKING RIDGE, NJ -- The Ridge football team hopes to have senior fullback/linebacker Christian Sweeney back in action Friday night when the Red Devils host Union City in the opening round of the Section 2, Group 5 playoffs at 7 p.m.
Sweeney has missed the last game-and-a-half with a lower leg injury. Earlier in the week, indications were that the 6-2, 225-pound co-captain would be able to play. And conditions Friday night might warrant a player just like Sweeney.
Temperatures at kickoff could be in the mid 30s, with potentially high winds and a wind-chill factor in the 20s or lower. Conventional football wisdom dictates that such conditions call for the presence of a potent running game, so Sweeney's inside dives behind tackles Andrew Taddeo and Michael Duncan, guards Colin Scherzer and Collin Young and center Mark Minsch might be a critical element of Ridge's Wing-T offense.
"We have a lot of skill guys who can handle and catch the ball," Ridge head coach Bill Tracy said. "And our offensive line is a good one. They're quick and they play with intensity."
Senior quarterback Brendan Bell has passed for 1,064 yards and rushed for 288. Bell has passed for 13 TDs and only two interceptions while completing 62.8 percent of his passes. And Bell, at safety, and Sweeney, at inside linebacker, also are two of Ridge's leading tacklers on defense.
With 568 yards on the ground, Sweeney is one of four Red Devils players (Bell, Jack Perry and Jake Hoffman) with more than 200 rushing yards. When the Wing-T is clicking on all cylinders, its deception and misdirection as executed by this group make it very hard to stop.
That is, as long as the Red Devils (7-1) hold on to the football. Tracy, who believes this year's team has a chance to accomplish something special, was concerned about the number of fumbles the team has committed in its last two games--although the Red Devils won both of them.
In fact, Ridge's only loss this year was a 34-28 overtime decision to Phillipsburg on the road.
Seventh-seeded Union City (5-4) is back in the playoffs a year after reaching the sectional final and losing to Piscataway, the same team that knocked Ridge from the playoffs the previous week. Ridge is 15-3 since the start of the 2018 season.
If the second-seeded Red Devils advance, they would host either third-seeded Clifton or sixth-seeded Hackensack in the second round next weekend.