Roxbury vs. Randolph.
There’s no need to even say anything more than that. It’s easily the biggest rivalry in Morris County sports.
If the two schools were matched in a forensics debate or a mock trial competition, there would be intense feelings.
On the football field? It doesn’t get any better that what will take place Friday at Randolph, with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
“It’s a great rivalry,” Roxbury head coach Cosmo Lorusso said. “It’s a rivalry of respect. This is what high school football is all about. For our kids, it’s something 20 years from now, if you beat Randolph, you’ll remember it. You can make it a memory game.”
“When you look down the schedule, the kids all look at Roxbury,” Randolph head coach Joe Lusardi said. “It is the big rivalry, a long rivalry that started a long time ago. You can throw the records out. The records don’t matter for this game. The kids all know what’s in store. This is Roxbury, our neighbor. That’s how big this is.”
In recent years, the two programs have enjoyed immense success. In 2010, Randolph captured the NJSIAA North 1, Group IV state title. In 2009 and again last year, Roxbury won the same state crown.
But that’s not the case this season. The Rams have had a little more success, owning a 3-2-1 record. The Gaels have sputtered to a 2-4 mark. Both teams are holding on to hopes of qualifying for this year’s state playoff party, but they will need help from others in the last two weeks before the cutoff.
Lorusso hasn’t given much thought to fighting for a state playoff spot.
“Each week, we’re just trying to improve and get better,” Lorusso said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re facing. Our slogan has been to grab a shovel and dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in. We’re a lot like the Giants.”
Lorusso has been reading excerpts of Tom Coughlin’s book to the players.
“Last year, we read Nick Saban’s book and that worked out well,” Lorusso said of the Alabama head coach’s memoir. “In terms of the Giants this year, we’re not pointing fingers at who did what wrong. We have a great group of kids who have been working hard. We know that if we win this week and next week, we have a shot for the playoffs. I’d rather get the kids a chance to play in the playoffs than a consolation game.”
Lorusso knows that the atmosphere will be electric tonight.
“They’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of their big state championship win (against Union),” Lorusso said. “So we’re going into a lion’s den. We better be ready for that.”
Lorusso said that he didn’t have to worry about motivating his players.
“Last week, we didn’t have a good practice, but this week, I could see the focus,” Lorusso said. “I can see that they’re enthusiastic. That’s all you can ask of the kids, to give their best effort.”
Lusardi knows that the Rams have not been consistent.
“This season has had a lot of ups and downs,” Lusardi said. “We’re always looking to play a good sound game. That’s what I’m looking forward to in this game.”
The Rams have been getting excellent play from junior quarterback Connor Logoyda, who already has had a five touchdown passing game this season.
“He’s settling in,” Lusardi said of Logoyda. “He’s taking charge of the team. Each week, he’s been doing good things for us.”
Junior fullback Jason Cohen has also been a steady force for the Rams.
Lusardi likes the play of his offensive line.
“They have been improving since the beginning of the year,” Lusardi said, mentioning center Leo Greco, guards George Zak and Brett Gundy and tackles Mike Petruziello and Adam Pardo. “Because of those guys up front, we’re playing better.”
The Rams’ defense has struggled somewhat, but Lusardi is counting upon linebacker Anthony Santo to lead the way.
The Gaels have watched sophomore Grant Dixon develop at quarterback.
“We’re beginning to use his legs a little more, but we need to protect him better,” Lorusso said.
The Gaels lost veteran running back Peter Sutton to a season-ending injury, but recently returned wrestling standout Dillon Artigliere to the lineup at outside linebacker. Junior Nick Snow has been solid at middle linebacker.
It might be a big time rivalry, but after the game is over, the two coaches will still be friendly.
“Of course, we’re always trying to beat each other,” Lusardi said. “But I like the camaraderie we have with the coaches in our league. The sportsmanship of the whole thing is real important. We’re ready to go after it, but when it’s over, we’re friends. We move on.”
But not when the ball is teed up tonight. After all, it’s Roxbury and Randolph. No one would want it any other way.
Here’s a look at some other games on tap for this weekend:
Mountain Lakes (6-0) at Boonton (3-3): The Herd are after the top seed in the NJSIAA North 2, Group II bracket, currently tied for first with Lincoln of Jersey City. The Herd also want to keep pace in securing another NJAC-Independence Division championship. The Bombers are still in the hunt for a North 1, Group I berth, but will need some help.
Wallkill Valley (1-5) at Butler (5-1): The Bulldogs, led by QB Glenn Reger and RB Ryan Cirillo, will look to secure a berth in the North 1, Group I bracket against a Rangers team that has been struggling.
Newton (3-3) at Dover (3-3): It’s a playoff do-or-die game for both teams, so look for standout Tigers RB George Scalley to take control of this game. Scalley has eclipsed 200 yards in two of the last three games for the Tigers.
Hackettstown (1-5) at Jefferson (5-1): Falcons QB J.R. Reese and RB Kyle Neuschatz will look to continue the march toward the NJAC-Freedom championship, as Jefferson shoots for its first league championship in 21 years.
Kittatinny (4-2) at Hanover Park (4-2): Another game that has huge playoff ramifications, as Hornets QB Christian Bossolino (209 yards, three TDs last week) continues to make strides as a top signal caller.
High Point (2-4) at Mount Olive (2-4): Marauders QB Alec Oriolo has emerged as one of the top passers in Morris County.
Pequannock (1-5) at Kinnelon (3-3): The Panthers will look to spoil all hopes of the Colts returning to the North 1, Group II bracket that they won a year ago. The Colts are hanging on to hopes for a playoff berth, but they will need help and a win here.
Sussex Tech (3-3) at Parsippany (0-6): The surprising Mustangs, already with a school-record three wins under their belt, take on the winless Red Hawks and tough RB Andrew Massefski.
Morris Hills (2-4) at Vernon (0-6): The Scarlet Knights have shown some life of late, thanks to freshman QB Daymon Fleming, and will look to continue the winning ways against the winless Vikings.
Morris Knolls (5-1) at Pope John (6-0): The Golden Eagles’ solid veer option attack of QB Joe Leonardis, RB Mike Marra (five TDs last week) and Mike Sweeney, will look to offset the spread offense of the Lions, led by brilliant sophomore QB Sonny Abramson and do-everything back Noah Brown.
West Morris (4-2) at Parsippany Hills (5-1): The Wolfpack will look to Connor Thompson to control the ball, but the Vikings’ stingy defense, led by Michael Dogbe and Michael Weiss, will do its best to shut down the Wolfpack’s rushing attack.
North Warren (4-2) at Whippany Park (2-4): The Wildcats hope that their win over Pequannock last week will lead to a positive result this weekend against the tough Patriots, who defeated Boonton last week.
Montville (1-5) at Sparta (5-1): The Mustangs and Booker McLean have not won since the season opener. The Spartans dropped a tough one against rival Pope John last week and will look to improve their North 1, Group III seeding with a win here.
Lenape Valley (5-1) at Madison (3-2): This usually was the game to decide the NJAC Freedom Division title, but the Dodgers have uncharacteristically dropped two games this season and right now are in danger of not qualifying for the North 2, Group II bracket they have won for the last three years.
Hopatcong (4-2) at Morris Catholic (1-5): The Chiefs are in the middle of a donnybrook for a playoff bid in North 1, Group I and can improve their chances with a win over the Crusaders, who got on the win side of the ledger last week with a shutout of Wallkill Valley.
Delbarton (5-1) at Morristown (2-4): The Green Wave have already secured a Non-Public Group 3 playoff spot, but QB Giuseppe Bevacqua is hoping to get the Wave a home game in the states, facing a stingy Colonials defense that still has hopes of a North 2, Group IV playoff spot.
Mendham (2-3-1) at Chatham (0-6): The Minutemen, led by standout QB Jack Horan, are fighting for a North 2, Group IV playoff berth and can improve their chances with a win against the winless Cougars.
Morristown-Beard (5-1) at Montclair Immaculate Conception (3-3): The Crimson are playing for a high seed and a home game in the Non-Public Group 1 state playoffs, but face a Lions squad that has won three straight games. These two teams could see each other again in a few weeks in the state playoffs.