MAPLEWOOD, NJ -- Coming off a 27-point loss to East Orange Campus on the road last week, the Columbia Cougars (2-2-0) will be looking to rebound against their rivals, Seton Hall Prep (5-0-0), on Friday evening.

Columbia began the season with strong defensive showings, defeating Kearny and Livingston in their first two games and holding both opponents to just eight points apiece. Since then, however, the Cougar defense has stalled..

The Cougars have allowed 91 points in their last two games, including letting East Orange Campus score 53 points last Friday.

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Columbia’s offense has been consistent so far on the young season, averaging 27 points per game. One of the main reasons for the offensive surge has been the team’s stout running game.

Junior running back Marcus Nash has 37 carries for 211 yards thus far, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and 70.3 yards per game, while senior running back Willie Malone has 136 yards on 29 carries, which puts him at 4.69 yards per carry and 34 yards per game.

While the running game seems to be under control, senior quarterback Deion Hudson is still trying to find his groove in the passing game.

Hudson has converted 56 percent of his completions (42-for-75) for 595 yards and thrown six touchdowns, but already has seven interceptions. Four of those interceptions came against East Orange Campus.

The Cougars’ main target in the passing game so far is senior Emmanuel Grant, who leads the team with six total touchdowns scored, three of which were receiving touchdowns. Grant has 16 receptions for 226 yards this season, putting him third in the Super Essex-American Division in receiving yards.

Seton Hall Prep enters the game undefeated and is coming off a 38-14 weekend victory over West Orange.

The Prep allows an average of 23 points per game on defense this season; however, they have been able to overpower their opponents when in possession of the ball, averaging 35.8 points of offense per game.

The team’s main weapon has been senior quarterback Peter Burkly, who leads the division with 597 passing yards. Burkly is 29-for-51 (56.9 percent) on the season and has thrown nine touchdowns and four interceptions.

His success is due in large part to senior wide receivers Clay Austin and Kevin Taylor. The duo are the top two receivers in the division.

Austin has 12 receptions for 294 yards and four touchdowns while Taylor has 11 receptions for 247 yards and three touchdowns.

With such a powerful passing game, the Prep is able to run the ball effectively as well. Senior running back Andrew Harmon is the team’s leading rusher with 58 carries for 305 yards and an average of 5.26 yards per carry. Harmon also has four rushing touchdowns.

Last season, in the only meeting between the two teams, Seton Hall Prep won the game 44-7, and Clay Austin turned in one of his best performances of the season with three receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns.

Friday evening’s conference matchup between Columbia and Seton Hall Prep is set for 7 p.m. at Underhill Field.

The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.