PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Over the years, the Piscataway High School football team’s identity and bread and butter has always been its running game. But every once in a while, the Chiefs will have a deadly passing game in their arsenal.
In Piscataway’s home 35-21 resilient win over South Brunswick on Friday night at Dominic R. Ciardi Field, it had both.
Senior quarterback Joseph Hatcher completed 8-of-16 passes for over 250 yards yards and three touchdowns and running back Juwon Jackson tallied over 120 yards on the ground and two more touchdowns. Jackson also caught a 34-yard pass for a score from Hatcher.
With the victory, Piscataway, which is ranked No. 9 in the latest NJ.com Top 20 and No. 11 in the USA Today Network New Jersey Top 20, improved to 2-0 overall and 2-0 in the Greater Middlesex Conference -- Red Division. South Brunswick, which is ranked at No. 11 and No. 19 respectively in the two polls, fell to 2-1 and 1-1.
On the first play of scrimmage in the contest, the Vikings loaded the box to gear up and stop Jackson. Hatcher faked a handoff, rolled to his right, and found wide receiver Marcel Walker all alone. The two connected on a 77-yard touchdown play. Ryan Manganaro added the extra point and just like Piscataway led 7-0.
Five minutes later after a South Brunswick punt, Hatcher tossed a quick screen pass up the middle to Jackson and the fellow senior made a jump cut to the right and followed his blockers out to the left for a 34-yard touchdown as Piscataway went up 13-0.
But, on the Vikings’ next possession, Thomas Joe-Kamara took a handoff in the option, darted through a big hole on the left side, and raced 45 yards into the end zone to cut the deficit to 13-7 before the first quarter came to a close.
In the second quarter, after the teams traded a few punts, South Brunswick quarterback Gage Katzenell-Hall fumbled a snap and the Chiefs’ Austin Mosier recovered. Piscataway turned the turnover into points as Jackson easily scored a 21-yard rushing touchdown off the ride side of the offensive line.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, Katzenell-Hall scored South Brunswick’s second touchdown of the night with a 28-yard keeper on the option to make it 19-14 Piscataway at the break.
To open the third, Thomas De’Jhon of South Brunswick put the Vikings ahead in game for the first time at 21-19 with an 18-yard score on the ground.
However, the Chiefs never were phased or panicked as they reeled off 16 straight points.
After the De’Jhon score, Hatcher again used play-action and tossed another long 54-yard touchdown pass to Walker, who finished with 131 on the two receptions.
Lord Jones added the two-point conversion for Piscataway on an end-around and the Piscataway went back up 27-21. Jackson then scored his final touchdown of the evening from 40 yards out later in the third quarter and Jones again notched the two-point conversion, this time on a pass from Hatcher, as the Chiefs went up 35-21.
The Vikings then got the ball back and were facing a key fourth-down. Using the option, Katzenell-Hall pitched it to De’Jhon who sprinted down the right sideline but was caught by Jones at the Piscataway 6-yard line.
Piscataway held the Vikings and they turned it over on downs and that was all she wrote as South Brunswick never threatened to score again in the fourth. The Chiefs’ defense, led by linebacker Nick Recine, recovered a fumble deep after a strip sack. He also had a sack himself as he came on a blitz from his linebacker spot.
During the game, Piscataway had three scores called back due to penalties. The only one it scored after an infraction was on was Hatcher’s pass to Jackson.
Through two games so far, Jackson has seven total touchdowns (five rushing, one receiving, and one kickoff return). Hatcher has four passing scores.
Last season, after Piscataway topped South Brunswick in week two, the Vikings went on to win every other game and win the Central Jersey, Group 5 title over Manalapan.
Next up, Piscataway will stay home to face J.P. Stevens on Friday night while South Brunswick will travel to Perth Amboy. J.P. Stevens is 1-1 with a loss to Perth Amboy and a win over East Brunswick.