PARK RIDGE, NJ -  A lot can happen over the course of a year.  Then again, it seems like nothing at all changes, that details are different, but the circumstances are the same.

For Park Ridge football, it is little bit of both. It was only 13 months ago that Park Ridge won the Patriot Division with a perfect 6-0 regular season, only to lose Hasbrouck Heights in the opening round of the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference playoffs.  Hasbrouck Heights would go on to win the NJIC championship and Group I title. 

It was 12 months ago that Park Ridge would lose in the North 1, Group 1 championship game to Butler, on a controversial official's call.  Butler would then face Hasbrouck Heights for a second time, this time at MetLife. Hasbrouck Heights triumphed again.

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In 2019, Park Ridge was 6-0, again winners of the Patriot Division.  This time they beat Cresskill in the NJIC playoffs, but lost to Lyndhurst in the finals.  Lyndhurst is playing for a Group 2 Championship on Friday.

Coming into the season, the consensus among the pundits was that Park Ridge’s Vincent Pinto and Lyndhurst’s Piotr Petraya were the two best individual players in the league.  Park Ridge was the same pundits choice for the NJIC’s best team, along with Lyndhurst, with a few people choosing Cresskill. 

The unthinkable almost happened in the game scrimmage  just days before the season started, Pinto injured his knee, and initial reports were that he was done for the season.  Luckily for Pinto and the Owls the original prognosis was wrong, and he missed just three weeks, (only two games due to Park Ridge’s bye in Week 3.) 

Pinto has been, as predicted, one of the best players in the NJIC this season, passing for over 1,000 yards, rushing for over 1,000 yards, compiling 12 touchdowns rushing, 12 touchdown passing, in just eight games.

The Owls come into Depken Field on Friday night with a 9-1 record, with wins over Wallkill Valley (22-8) and Weequahic (14-12) to make it to the Finals of North 2, Group 1 .

Scouting Report:

On Offense:  Obviously Pinto is the engine of the Owls offense, but Hasbrouck Heights needs to watch other people as well.  Pinto has two targets in junior Brendan Hughes and senior Justin Wagner who he throws to with regularity. Hughes (35 catches, 632 yards, 18.1 per catch) is a big target at 6’0, and had five touchdowns.  Wagner, is second on the team in rushing (840 yards, and receiving 31 catches, 596 yards, 19.2 per catch). Junior tackle Kevin Hunt, 6-3, 287 is the muscle of the line.

On Defense:  Park Ridge gave up 21 points to the entire Patriot league in six games, posting four shutouts.  But Cresskill put up 28 and Lyndhurst 34 in back to back weeks in the NJIC playoffs, so the jury is out.  Their wins in the playoffs over Wallkill Valley (8 points) and Weequahic (12) were against teams that combined to go 9-11 during the year.

Hughes, Daniel Gutin and Daniel Kim are a trio of talented linebackers, and are joined by Pinto in the middle to key the Owl defense.  Park Ridge recorded 19 sacks on the year, with five interceptions and four fumbles. 

Schedule:  All season long Park Ridge has been held down in the ranking due to their perceived weak schedule in the NJIC Patriot Division, rising to third in the rankings after beating Cresskill in the opening round of the playoffs.  

Common Opponents:  Only team both have played is Emerson, with the Owls winning 21-7 and the Aviators posting a 21-7 win, which Hasbrouck Heights head coach Nick Delcalzo called “sloppy”


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