SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ—Week 0 of the 2018 New Jersey High School Football Season is over and the regular season really gets underway this coming Friday night with all of the GMC football playing schools in action. GMC Gridiron has put together pre-season division picks for the Greater Middlesex Conference Football season below:
With South Brunswick’s win over South Jersey Group 5 power, Lenape last Thursday in Monmouth Junction, Piscataway’s hold on the GMC Red might not be as much of a lock as it was earlier in the summer. However, the Chiefs, which have the likes of RB Juwon Jackson, QB Joe Hatcher, and Nasir Best returning, appear to be the team to beat this year in the Red Division.
South Brunswick lost a good deal from last year’s Central Jersey Group 5 Championship squad including QB Felix Quinones, WR Justin Shorter, and RB Jaylen Lawson, Jayvon Palmer, and Dylan Kriz. However, Vikings have the likes of RB/DB Thomas Joe-Kamara, who played a key role in the win over Lenape on opening night, RB Katibu Martin, and QB Gage Katzenell-Hall all back to fill some of the void while other newcomers such as Jelani Devonish-Wynter and Justin Lawson can make big plays as well.
Jalen John, who was all over the place on defense in the win over Lenape, leads the offensive and defensive lines along with Darrin Seavers and Sean Goldsmith. Old Bridge took some heavy hits to graduation losing the likes of QB Anthony Imbimbo, RBs Manny Wheagar, Liam Knowles, Chancellor Cooper, and Tyler Haughney, who combined to nearly accumulate 3,000 all purpose yards a year ago. However, the Knights have a very large program with nearly twice as many sophomores, juniors, and seniors in its program than at South Brunswick. Depth could be OB’s biggest ally. The Knights feel they can compete with the best in the division, and last year’s run proved that.
East Brunswick will have to battle the likes of P-Way, South Brunswick, and Old Bridge to have a shot at qualifying for the state playoffs, but will also have to hold off J.P. Stevens and Perth Amboy, which are both moving up from the GMC White. The Bears move Tim Gudzak from QB to TE, which gives them a big target to look for in the passing game while Joe DeGuida will likely be the QB. Isaiah Jackson returns at RB while Drew Brenner will help at WR along with Derrick Davis. Aston Jones, Austin Percy, and A.J. Smith will also share the load in the offensive backfield. EB played better in the second half of its scrimmage against defending N2 Group 4 champion, North Hunterdon. The Lions had a big second quarter though to take a 24-0 lead at the half, and get the edge in the exhibition, 31-13.
Stevens, which finished the year with a solid 45-25 win over New Brunswick in a Group 5 consolation, will look to build off that performance as it moves up to the Red after being in the GMC White the past two years. The Hawks will return the two headed monster of basketball standout, Kasi Hazzard and Joey Young at QB while Devon Fowlkes comes back at WR. Stevens also will have Jordan Miller and sophomore Nadale Buntin coming up. JPS will have to overcome the loss of RB Quian Muse and a shrinking roster from a year ago. Perth Amboy, which will be led by QB Tahjmere O’Neal, RB Erick Rivera, RB Kenneth Carrillo, and WRs Hector Caba and Anthony Saucedo. The Panthers finished 3-7 last year, but qualified for the state playoffs for the first time since the NJSIAA state playoff format was introduced in 1974. Amboy also improved from a 1-9 finish two seasons ago. Like the Hawks, the Panthers will be moving up to the Red Division, where they haven’t played in over 20 years.
2. South Brunswick
3. Old Bridge
4. East Brunswick
5. J. P. Stevens
6. Perth Amboy
With Sayreville, Edison, Monroe, and New Brunswick all coming down from the Red Division, North Brunswick and Woodbridge will have to battle hard in the renovated White Division in 2018. The Raiders made their statement on opening night with a hard fought upset win at home against Blue Division favorite, and second ranked St. Joseph’s. North Brunswick has to come back out this week and defend its home turf against pre-season division favorite and third ranked Sayreville on Friday night.
Woodbridge, which is now under the direction of former Colonia hoops and gridiron standout, Joe LaSala, opened its season at home with a loss to Morris Hills (24-14). The Barrons have a talented group of sophomores coming up led by Kyree Henry, the younger brother of former hoops and football standout, Keshaun Henry. Anthony Santino takes over for Donovan Tabon at QB after Tabon transferred to IMG Academy in Florida. Ke’sean Glover, the younger brother of hoops and football standout, Quassim Glover returns while Ali Lee transferred in from Moore Catholic in Staten Island.
Sayreville, which looked very impressive in a pre-season scrimmage against North Jersey power, Montclair, looks to be the top dog in the White in 2018. Not only are the Bombers coming down from the GMC Red, but they have Mark Whitford returning at QB along with Connor Holmes moving to WR to complement standout Jacari Carter in the passing game. Antwan Golson and Savon Kirksey will anchor the running game for the Bombers, which went a misleading 6-5 a year ago that included heartbreaking losses to solid programs such as Piscataway, Old Bridge, and Brick Memorial. The current group of seniors were very successful as freshmen with a 6-1 record that earned them a three way tie with P-Way and Edison that year.
Edison also moves down from the Red, and also picked up a couple of key transfers including Kamille Pryor, who had been at EHS as a freshman. Pryor helped Edison’s freshmen basketball team reach the 2016 Perth Amboy Freshmen Tourney final before losing to St. Joseph’s-Green at the buzzer. Pryor then moved over to Piscataway, where he had a very good campaign a year ago. He led the Chiefs in interceptions with four, and scored P-Way’s only touchdown in a sectional semifinal loss at home to Bridgewater-Raritan. In addition to Pryor, the Eagles also have Noah Stansbury coming in from Immaculata of Somerville. So, this year’s Eagle squad, which is looking to be healthier than it was in 2017, looks to be in the mix for the division title.
Monroe and New Brunswick round out the GMC White, but expect both teams to be competitive in the division. Before Monroe moved up to the Red Division, the Falcons last season in the White Division produced a Central Jersey Group 3 Championship in 2009. In the 2009 campaign, Monroe defeated powerhouse Middletown South at The College of New Jersey for the Championship. This year’s Falcons only have three returning player with Josh Pemberton, Matt Mekhail, and Corey Thompson. In addition, they have a solid junior QB in Dylan Gorhan, who will be taking over the reins for standout, Fritz Frage. The Falcons, which had a solid 7-2 freshmen team last year, lost two key returning players as Mason Shipp and Isaiah Johnston transferred.
New Brunswick has a lot of talent returning for first year head coach and former Rutgers football player, Nate Harris. Harris, who was both a solid player on the gridiron and on the basketball court at his alma mater, NBHS, has the likes of standout running back Dylan Johnson returning. In addition, the Zebras have Ny’Dir Harmon, basketball standout Ahyan Brown-Miller, Dahvey Hicks, and another basketball standout and big target at receiver, Tahjay Moore returning. Johnson has been at NBHS the past two years after playing at St. Joseph’s as a freshman, and is the younger brother of Jerod Johnson, a standout rusher at Carteret.
3. North Brunswick
5. New Brunswick
Although St. Joseph’s lost in a major shocker on opening night at North Brunswick (9-7), the Falcons look to be a solid favorite to win here with Jordan Davis, Brian Reilly, Nate Wyatt, and John Olmstead back. With QB and basketball standout, Tyree Ford suffering an ankle injury in the loss to the Raiders, the Falcons may have some struggles establishing a rhythm offensively. Nevertheless, St. Joseph’s still appears at this point to be head and shoulders above everyone else.
South Plainfield has a senior class that not only consists of its crown jewel in running back and star wrestler, Zach DelVecchio, but also others such as Dondre Tate, Brian Maszczak, and QB T.J. Massaro that were key contributors to a team that went 7-2 as freshmen three years ago. Colonia lost a senior class that included Luke Pero and Matt Zawacki that went undefeated as freshmen four years ago. Two of the last three freshmen teams at Colonia have been down. However, they still have lineman and hoops standout, Chris Sica back along with Rahway transfer and Alabama commit, Antonio Alfano, who played at football powerhouse, Bergen Catholic two years ago. The Patriots opened the season with a tough loss at home to Mid-State 38 school, Hillsborough. There are, however, a lot of positives that Colonia can take from that loss.
Carteret looked to be a tough contender prior to the summer. Then gridiron and hoops standout, Zamar Brake, who was the QB for the Ramblers a year ago, transferred along with his younger brother and TE, Zaccheus Brake to Bethlehem Catholic in Pennsylvania. Beachi is traditionally one of the top programs in Eastern Pennsylvania along with Easton, and had a top football player in Julian Spigner, the son of Metuchen legendary hoops standout, Larry Spigner. Julian Spigner, who now is on the Lafayette University football roster as a wide receiver was also valedictorian of his senior class at Bethlehem Catholic a few years ago.
Despite the loss of Brake, the Ramblers are still hoping to contend with basketball standouts, Jahlil Nix and Malik Austin teaming up to form a very good receiver corps on paper. If they find the right ingredient to fill the void left by Zamar Brake at quarterback, the Ramblers could remain competitive in the GMC Blue. Sophomore Zaire Crutchfield and junior transfer from St. John Vianney, Cameron McCargo will be vying for the coveted QB spot to replace the elder Brake. James Henderson will return to shoulder much of the burden, especially early on at QB while Zaire Gilbert, a talented junior, who played well at the freshmen level two years ago, will lead the way in the backfield at FB.
Kennedy did suffer some tough losses early on, and was a lot more competitive than its 2-8 record would suggest last year. In addition, the Mustangs have a talented group of sophomores coming up from a freshman team that was very good a year ago. Last year’s freshmen team defeated crosstown rival Woodbridge, which consisted of the likes of Kyree Henry, and knocked off St. Joseph’s earlier in the year. JFK lost standout Deandre Carter to graduation, but have back a solid QB in David Lee as well as Dennis Howard, Maven Garced, and Allen Hill returning. GMC Gridiron saw Kennedy play three times a year ago, and each time, the Mustangs were very competitive going 1-2 with a blowout consolation game win at Belleville, and single digit losses at Perth Amboy (12-7) and at home versus South Plainfield (7-0).
1. St. Joseph’s
2. South Plainfield
5. J.F. Kennedy
NOTE: Highland Park, which opened its season with a loss to Montclair Kimberley (41-0) on August 31st, will be playing an independent schedule this season, but still will play the likes of GMC Gold foes: Dunellen, Metuchen, and Middlesex.
Don’t be fooled by the order of the standings below. Of the four divisions of the GMC in football this year, the Gold could be the most wide open even though South River has a great deal back including QB Mike DeSantis and RB’s Billy Drum and Trenton Balitsky as well as wideout Davine Mayes.
Dunellen, which played North Plainfield tough in a scrimmage, and rallied from a 28 point first quarter deficit to defeat South Hunterdon in its season opener, has several key players back including Joe Olsommer and Baraka Yabidi, who has looked well at fullback. Metuchen has QB Will Hronich and RB Jaden Rojas returning. Spotswood has Eddie Rogers back.
However, the Chargers also lost Shae Obado and Chance Fee from last year’s tears, which rallied in the second half of the season to finish at .500. Middlesex lost several key players from last year’s team that won Central Jersey Group I including QB John Kressbach. South River lost WRs/DBs Travis Thomas and Terry Outlaw Jr., which are huge losses in special teams due to each of their big play capability on punt and kickoff returns.v
Metuchen lost WRs Danny Russell and Amari Whitehead. Bishop Ahr lost QB Ryan O’Leary and TE Jack Roarty. Dunellen lost QB Mike Harmon. So while each team has some experience back, they also lost some key players from a year ago. A lot will depend on how well South River’s offensive line holds up, especially in the early games where the heat and humidity could be a factor.
1. South River
3. Bishop Ahr
GMC Gridiron plans to be at Monroe for its season opener against Edison on Friday night, and then at Rahway River Park on Saturday afternoon for South River’s season opener versus Roselle.