The Carteret High School football team, whose defense has been spectacular against the run, will be challenged in a Central Group III semifinal on Saturday at 1 p.m. when it takes on top-seeded Lawrence, which features a balanced offense.
Carteret (7-2), which won last year’s Central Group II championship, is one of seven area schools that still remain in the NJSIAA playoffs.
The Ramblers have allowed just three rushing touchdowns (including two short quarterback sneaks) since a season-opening loss to St. Joseph, but have had a little bit more difficulty defending the pass as evidenced by a 33-14 setback to South Plainfield.
Since then, Carteret has reeled off six consecutive victories, allowing no more than two touchdowns in any of its games, and holding four opponents to a touchdown or less.
Lawrence (9-0) features the outstanding running tandem of Semei Mitchell and Cameron Kitchen (6-2, 245), the latter of who may remind the Ramblers of Naji Johnson, the bruising fullback who helped Carteret win a sectional title last season.
Quarterback Nick Falkenberg, who has thrown for more than 1,000 yards, utilizes Kitchen (12 touchdowns) as a receiver out of the backfield the same way Carteret employed Johnson last season.
“They have two very talented running backs and a quarterback who can throw it well,” Carteret coach Matt Yascko said. “This year, very balanced offensive teams have given our guys the most difficulty.”
Carteret rolled to a 13-3 victory over Long Branch, whose strength as a run-oriented team played to the strength of the Ramblers’ defensive unit, which is led by linemen Cory Guzman and Cory Baccarella. When Carteret’s front four plays well, the Ramblers are less inclined to stunt and blitz, allowing Yascko to stay in a base defense, taking pressure off the linebackers while still being able to get to the quarterback.
Jim Collins of J.P. Stevens became the third Greater Middlesex Conference coach this season to be the recipient of the New York Giants Lou Rettino High School Football Coach of the Week award. Collins earned the honor on Nov. 11 for leading his team to a stunning 9-0 upset of Old Bridge, which was ranked No. 1 in the Home News Tribune and No. 20 in New Jersey according to one statewide poll at the time.
St. Joseph’s Casey Ransone and Old Bridge’s Anthony Lanzafama won the prestigious award earlier this year. Collins will receive a certificate of recognition signed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin and a $1,000 check will be granted to the Hawks football program. He was acknowledged by a stadium announcement during the Giants home game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Hail to the Chiefs
Piscataway’s Elijah Barnwell became the first freshman in the gridiron program’s storied history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark when he raised his total for the year to 1,096 yards with a 172-yard performance in Saturday’s 21-14 North 2 Group V first-round playoff win over Edison. The victory was Piscataway’s ninth consecutive in the postseason at home and marked the 100th career win for head coach Dan Higgins, whose record now stands at 100-24-1. Piscataway will face Union in Friday’s semifinals. The Chiefs have outscored the Farmers 97-10 in three playoff meetings.
North Brunswick, Highland Park and New Brunswick all earned their first on-field wins this season with victories in their respective consolation games (Highland Park received a forfeit victory over Cardinal McCarrick earlier this year). MyCentralJersey.com will have a roundup of consolation game highlights later this week.