The regular season will be a third complete for North Plainfield and Somerville after tonight’s Mid-State 38 Raritan Division game at Brooks Field.
Is it in the make or break category for the longtime rivals, who are among Somerset County’s original four high schools? No, but with what’s ahead on the schedule it can definitely be described as important as both pursue winning seasons after losing years.
Game time is 7 p.m., with the Pioneers (0-2, 0-2) celebrating their first night home game with a “black out” by wearing all black uniforms and suggesting fans join them, the goal being to stop a six-game home losing streak. North Plainfield is 1-1 overall and in division.
The Pioneers have won two straight in the series, earning second-year coach Skip Fuller’s first win by beating the Canucks 28-12 last year at Krausche Field.
That was just one of two Somerville wins as it finished 2-8.
Who needs this one more can make for good debate. Somerville will play at No. 2-ranked Ridge a week from tonight. North Plainfield will head to Summit, which is riding a 38-game regular-season win streak.
“I don’t want to overlook North Plainfield because they are a good team,” said Somerville quarterback Joe Lucas.
Lucas was on special teams the last time the Pioneers won at Brooks. That was Oct. 14, 2011, a 14-7 victory over Warren Hills.
Lucas thinks Somerville is close to turning it around and uses last week’s 20-14 loss at Cranford as an example. Somerville rallied from a 20-0 second quarter deficit and threatened twice in the closing minutes to win it. A drive to the Cougar 25 was spoiled by an 11-yard sack of Lucas and a pass deflection. Luke Christiano later picked off a Lucas pass, returning it 33 yards and allowing the Cougars to run out the clock.
“We didn’t give up a first down (in the second half after Cranford ran for 140 in the first) and controlled the ball well,” said Lucas, who scored on a 16-yard run early in the fourth. “We really just beat ourselves with penalties and miscues but we are making sure we get rid of these mistakes for Friday night.”
Promising freshman Keshawn Newton returned a kickoff 64 yards that spurred a seven-play drive capped by Pat Trinidad’s seven-yard run in the second quarter.
“The freshman is going to be a real factor and Lucas and (halfback-quarterback Blaze) Aranzullo have experience and (lineman) Nick Brown is a very good kid and they have (Scott) Jordan (kicker),” said North Plainfield coach Bobby Lake, whose team was 4-5 last season and 4-6 in 2011. “Everybody (on North Plainfield) is going to have to chip in.”
North Plainfield has also been hurt by mistakes. Senior QB Kyle Grant had a pass picked and returned 95 yards for a touchdown after the Canucks were set with a first and goal on the first drive of the year against Johnson. Later, a bad snap on a punt led to another Johnson touchdown. The Canucks did manage to rally from a 27-0 third quarter hole and record 322 yards in offense, but lost 34-21. They had 235 in offense with 211 on the ground in last week’s 19-0 win over Roselle with Grant (20 for 82, one TD) and junior Glenn Benson (17 for 67) leading the way. Sophomore Celsean Tucker ran three times for 15 yards.
“We need to spread it around a bit more, it’s not just Kyle,” Lake said.
The fight for control of the line between Somerville seniors Brown, Ross Mescher and Jake Belardo and the Canucks’ J.T. Valley and Charlie Thomas should be intense.
“The Wing T Somerville runs can kill you with that waggle (pass),” Lake said. “If you don’t read your keys right.”