WHAT: NJSIAA North 2 Group V final.
WHO: Union (8-3) vs Ridge (11-0)
WHEN/WHERE: Sunday, 10 a.m. High Point Solutions Stadium, Rutgers University.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: No. 2 Union beat No. 7 Watchung Hills 28-0 and No. 3 Piscataway 47-24. No. 1 Ridge beat No. 8 Westfield 35-21 and No. 5 Linden 28-14.
CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: Union has won 10 North 2 IV sectional titles, it’s last in 1993. The Farmers, 7-9 in playoff games since 2000, will play in their 15th final and first since 2003. Ridge is making its fourth final appearance. The Red Devils will also be playing in a fourth different group final. Ridge played in Central Group II in 2001 (lost to Manasquan at Kean) North 2 III in ’03 (beat Scotch Plains-Fanwood at Giants Stadium) and North 2 IV in ’09 (lost to Phillipsburg at Kean). The Red Devils were declared Central Group II champs in 1987. This is the first time Ridge has been a top seed. The Red Devils were a seventh seed in ’03, a fifth in ’09 and fourth in ’01. Ridge is 10-6 in playoff games since 2000.
UNION STAT LEADERS: Rushing: Sr. Jamauri Bogan (231-1,514-18 TDs); Sr. Jabree Robertson (83-663, 11 TDs); Jr. Maurice Francis (57-313, 2 TDs); Passing: Sr. Diego Rios (53-116-904, 7 TDs, 5 INTs); Receiving: Sr. Travon Gravenshire (9-246, 4 TDs); Sr. Gabriel Rios (16-205, 1 TD).
RIDGE STAT LEADERS: Rushing: Sr. Liam Derkasch (125-894, 14 TDs), Sr. Nick Franzese (55-473, 8 TDs), Sr. Matt Soulas 65-578, 7 TDs), Sr. Conor Hughes (53-360, 4 TDs); Passing: Sr. Conor Hughes (105-172, 14 TDs, 4 INTs); Receiving: Sr. Ryan Bell (43-697, 9 TDs), Sr. Nick Franzese (37-631, 4 TDs).
THREE KEYS FOR UNION: Jamauri Bogan needs to have a productive first and second half. This could be a great showcase for him. A speedy secondary has to limit the damage of Ridge’s top two receivers. Senior defensive end Lance Lee (10 sacks) and senior DL Uchenha Egwuonwu (six sacks) have to sustain pressure and navigate a smaller, but athletic Ridge offensive line.
THREE KEYS FOR RIDGE: The Red Devils scored quickly in their first two playoff games, but Westfield and Linden came back with big plays. If the Red Devils can get up early it’d be nice to add on. Ridge’s offensive line gas been terrific. The Red Devils will get their biggest test against a bigger and quicker front. Minimize the damage. Senior Liam Derkasch ran for 96 yards and a touchdown against Linden in the semifinal and went for 112 and two scores against Westfield in the first round. Similar numbers would likely mean a good result for Ridge.
PREDICTION: I’ve come all this way, through the warmth, humidity, unseasonably warm and now frost. To abandon a local on the curbside in Piscataway would be against my spirit of good will and, yes, intimidation, fear, etc. Ridge 27-20.