PISCATAWAY, NJ – Reload! On July 11, the Piscataway High School varsity football team’s 2017 schedule was released, and the reigning Central Jersey, Group 5 champions will face familiar opponents.

Teams across the Greater Middlesex Conference for the most part play the same schools every year, and this season is no different for the Chiefs. In fact, the schedule is a mirror image of last year’s when they went 10-2 and earned the No.2 seed in the state tournament. The only difference is all the game locations have swapped. Those that were home games are now away and those that were away are now home. All games with the exception of Thanksgiving Day (10:30 a.m.) will be played on Fridays at 7 p.m.

Piscataway begins their title defense and quest for championship No. 10 at Dominic R. Ciardi Field on Sept. 8 versus New Brunswick.

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“It’s a competitive schedule which gives us the best chance of growth by testing us in adverse situations,” head coach Dan Higgins said.

If they want to make it back to the sectional final, they’ll have to replace a bevvy of seniors including the program’s all-time leading rusher, Elijah Barnwell, who finished his career with 5,728 yards on the ground and 75 touchdowns (78 total). In 2016, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back and linebacker ran for 1,838 with 23 touchdowns. In the Central Jersey, Group 5 title game, the now Rutgers freshman had 185 rushing yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns against Manalapan.

Besides the humble Barnwell, the Chiefs will be without college football-bound quarterback Danny Haus, cornerback/wide receiver Nazir James, defensive end Ibn Robinson, defensive back Brevin Donerson, offensive/defensive lineman Abdel Mohamed, kicker Michael Stanleyj, and lineman Terrell Hagans. They will also miss linemen Al-Donte Dickerson and Anthony Ciancio Jr., safety/receiver Joshua Boyd, and tough receiver Trey Hogan.

Replacing four of five starting offensive linemen will be a tough task, considering their bread and butter and identity has always been to run the ball. Robinson was a playmaker at defensive end where he swatted down passes and got to the quarterback. James, Boyd, and Hogan were effective receivers last year as well for the Chiefs, which aired it out more which opened up even more space for Barnwell. Donerson scored three defensive touchdowns (two interceptions returns and one fumble return).

The Chiefs do return backup running Juwon James who flourished in a change of pace role as a more speedy back compared to the tough inside running of Barnwell. Piscataway also gets one more season out of linebacker Jevon Buckmire-Davis, defensive lineman Brijon Artis, receiver Nahjir Woods, defensive back Isaiah Colon, and fullback Michael Petite, who all performed well in 2016. Rising junior Joey Hatcher figures to be the starting signal caller.

It’ll be up to Higgins and his staff to get the team up and ready to go.

“We lost a lot of outstanding players but the players for this year will now have an opportunity to step up and play at a high level,” Higgins said. “We have guys returning who had roles last year which helps. New year, new challenges, but excited to get back to work.”

TAPinto Piscataway will have more coverage throughout the summer on the Chiefs football team.

Training camp begins Wed. Aug. 9.

Piscataway HS varsity football 2017 schedule:

Sept. 8 vs. New Brunswick

Sept. 15 @ East Brunswick

Sept. 22 vs. South Brunswick

Oct. 6 @ Sayreville

Oct. 13 vs. Old Bridge

Oct. 20 vs. Monroe

Oct. 27 @ Manalapan

Nov. 3 @ Edison

Nov. 23 vs. Franklin

First Round of Playoffs: Nov. 10-11

Second Round of Playoffs: Nov 17-18

Championship Round of Playoffs: Dec. 2-3-4

2016 schedule and results:

09-09  @ New BrunswickMemorial StadiumW 39 - 13

09-16  East BrunswickPiscataway HSW 32 - 7

09-23 @ South BrunswickSouth Brunswick HSW 26 - 14

10-07  SayrevillePiscataway HSW 27 - 21

10-14 @ Old BridgeSandburg Middle SchoolL 24 - 20

10-21 @ MonroeMonroe HSW 51 - 7

10-29  ManalapanRutgers UniversityL 21 - 10

11-04  EdisonPiscataway HSW 52 - 13

11-12  Hunterdon Cent.Piscataway HSW 41 - 14

11-19  Old BridgePiscataway HSW 42 - 3

11-24  @ FranklinFranklin HSW 38 - 7

12-03  @ ManalapanRutgers UniversityW 34 - 13

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