After the J.P. Stevens High School football team nearly registered the biggest upset of the season in a 16-7 loss to Sayreville, ranked No. 1 in the Home News Tribune Top 10, Bombers head coach George Najjar had high praise for his opponent.
“They came out prepared,” said Najjar, whose two-time defending sectional champion Bombers have made 17 consecutive NJSIAA playoff appearances. “They did a great job. I don’t think our kids believed (the Hawks) were as good as they were.”
After Sayreville took a 10-7 lead on Isaiah Cureton’s 29-yard field goal with 2:50 remaining, J.P. Stevens quarterback Dario Brzozowski marched the Hawks down field, completing a long pass to set up a 25-yard field goal attempt with six seconds left.
The kick was blocked and returned for a touchdown by Myles Hartsfield as the Bombers (4-0) avoided a stunning upset.
J.P. Stevens, which many felt at the season’s onset was a resurgent program, was coming off a 62-19 loss to two-time defending North 2 Group IV champion Piscataway, which makes Friday night’s result more impressive.
Najjar praised J.P. Stevens coach Mike Ryan and his assistants for having the Hawks prepared, saying the staff did an excellent job in film study and of using their athletes well in space.
He said Brzozowski was the best throwing quarterback his team played thus far, citing the signal caller’s strong, accurate arm.
Brzozowski completed 5 of 12 passes for 129 yards and 1 touchdown.
For the win
Bishop Ahr coach Don Sofilkanich explained, in part, why he opted to go for the win, rather than a potential game-tying field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 4 with 30 seconds remaining in St. Joseph’s 9-6 victory Friday night.
The presence of St. Joseph placekicker Bryan Rafano, who has one of the strongest and most accurate legs in the state, factored into Sofilkanich’s thinking. Bishop Ahr also shanked a PAT earlier in the game.
Even if Bishop Ahr forced overtime, Sofilkanich said he felt St. Joseph might have an advantage in the extra session because of Rafano’s range.
He said if the score were 9-7, he definitely would have attempted a field goal.
Monroe, which pitched its second consecutive shutout, blanking East Brunswick Friday night, has outscored its last two opponents 55-0. The Falcons have allowed just seven points over the last 10 quarters.
“I think our backers have improved,” Monroe coach Chris Beagan said of his inexperienced group. “Overall, I think it’s really just a team effort, being responsible for assignments, more than anything else.”
Monroe will receive a test on the road Friday at Edison, whose coach, Matt Fulham, was a high school teammate of Beagan’s in the late 1980s at Sayreville. Fulham was a Bombers’ team captain.
Friday night’s intra-township GMC White Division showdown between Woodbridge (3-1) and Colonia (4-0) promises to be a defensive battle.
Each team has held three opponents without a touchdown. Monroe was the only team to reach the end zone against Woodbridge, while St. Joseph is the only team to score a touchdown against Colonia.
“They have some very good athletes and probably the most athletic quarterback that we are going to see in Trent Barneys,” Woodbridge coach Bill Nyers said. “I think they are, across the board, a very athletic team.”
Nyers said middle linebacker Jesse Lammers has led a “team effort” on defense.
Woodbridge, which returned just four players with significant varsity experience, has surprised many with its fast start.
Air out of the ball
Spotswood entered Saturday’s game against Highland Park with the league’s top passing combination in quarterback C.J. O’Connor and wideout Corey Brown.
While the duo connected for a touchdown on Spotswood’ only pass play of the entire game, fullback Jack Dalrymple, benefitting from strong line play, rushed for 230 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries in a 41-14 win.