2022 Football Playoffs - Group 1 Preview

North 1 Section 1

1 Park Ridge vs 8 Kinnelon

2 Mountain Lakes vs 7 Boonton

3 Waldwick vs 6 Cresskill

4 Brearley vs 5 North Arlington

North 1 Section 2

1 Wood-Ridge vs 8 Shabazz

2 Weequahic vs 7 Hasbrouck Heights

3 Butler vs 6 North Warren

4 Cedar Grove vs 5 Walkill Valley

Central 1

1 Woodstown vs 8 Schalick

2 Salem vs 7 Florence

3 Glassboro vs 6 Keyport

4 Paulsboro vs 5 Audubon

South 1

1 Woodbury vs 8 Penns Grove

2 Asbury Park vs 7 Pittman

3 Maple Shade vs 6 South Hunterdon

4 Manville vs 5 Shore

The Favorites

  • Wood-Ridge 
    • 7-1, 1st seed in UPR North 1 Rankings
    • Last season: First round exit to Weequahic
    • Wood-Ridge comes into the playoffs fresh off their first and only loss of the season to Rutherford in the NJIC Championship game. With that outcome still fresh in their minds, they turn their focus to the Group 1 playoffs where they find themselves as the top seed in the North and an overall favorite for the championship. Relying on dual-threat senior quarterback Braden Negro and the running back duo of Brendan Pollio and Antonio Loyola, Wood-Ridge has a dangerous offense that puts points up against all defenses. On the other side, their defense is lead by one of the state’s leading tacklers in Nick Chromey. With 10 interceptions on the season, opposing signal callers must be weary of Wood-Ridge’s blanket-like secondary.

  • Park Ridge (Group 1 North Finalist)
    • 6-2, 2nd seed in UPR North 1 Rankings
    • Last season: Lost in Group 1 North Championship to Cedar Grove
    • Park Ridge came incredibly close to winning a championship last year, winning their section before just losing to an amazing Cedar Grove team. They come back with unfinished business as the second seed in the North. They’ve lost only two games this season by a combined five points to outstanding Wood-Ridge and Glen Rock teams. Cole Hughes is their X-Factor and one of the most remarkable players in the state. On top of throwing for over 900 yards and rushing for over 1,000 for 21 total touchdowns, he has five sacks, 51 tackles, and an interception on defense. With plenty of playmakers surrounding him on both sides of the ball, Park Ridge is dangerous.

  • Woodstown 
    • 7-1, 1st seed in UPR South 1 Rankings
    • Last season: Lost to Woodbury in South Sectional Final
    • Woodstown may have lost to Woodbury earlier this season, but they were perfect throughout the rest of their schedule and let the twists and turns of high school football lead them to the top overall seed. They rely on workhorse back James Hill, who has over 1,300 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. With Hill carrying the load on offense, the defense steps up across the field. Woodstown brings a very deep core on the defensive side, with playmakers at every level. The real question for this team is if they can shake off a Woodbury team that has given them trouble the past few seasons and win a state championship. 

  • Woodbury (Group 1 South Finalist)
    • 6-2, 2nd seed in UPR South 1 Rankings
    • Last season: Lost to Salem in Group 1 South Final
    • Woodbury has had a great season, with a loss to great Haddonfield team but a quality win over Woodstown. They too, however, have a team they need to figure out how to beat. Salem knocked them from the first overall seed after a one-point victory in the final week. They similarly beat this Woodbury team for the South Group 1 championship a season ago. Derron Moore is a beast on the defense and the offense features playmakers like JaBron Solomon, Anthony Reagan, and Bryan Johnson. This team has the talent to win a state championship, but will have to go through some dangerous teams first.

The Contenders

  • Weequahic (Lost to ML in 2nd round)
    • 7-1, 4th seed in UPR North 1 Rankings
    • Last season: Lost to Mountain Lakes in second round
    • Weequahic was a week away from perfection in the regular season. A major upset loss to a .500 Immaculata team in the last week has them fired up to rebound in the playoffs. Scoring 50+ points in three games and 40+ in two others, Weequahic’s offense is no joke. Running back Rashawn Marshall is almost at 1,000 yards on the season, and freshman quarterback Paul Jones III has been an asset throwing to talented receivers Ihsim Smith-Marsette and Elijah Motley. The defense, anchored by linebacker Tyheed Simmons, is just as menacing. They have allowed eight points or less in every game but one. Coming off that stinging loss, the last team you want to meet in the first round is Weequahic. 

  • Salem
    • 5-4, 3rd seed in UPR South 1 Rankings
    • Last season: South Group 1 Champions
    • Despite a record hovering just above .500, it’s not hard to see why Salem is held in high regard. Each loss was close, with two going to Camden and Woodstown before a two-game lapse against West Deptford and Paulsboro. They rebounded well with a huge one-point win over Woodbury, proving this team has what it takes to go back to the championship. A year removed from a South Group 1 championship, Salem leans on senior Jahki Coates and a strong defense. When Coates gets cooking, Salem is a hard out against anyone. 

  • Mountain Lakes (Consistent G1 Power, lost to Cedar Grove in S2 Finals)
    • 7-1, 3rd seed in UPR North 1 Rankings
    • Last season: Lost to Cedar Grove in North 1 Section 2 Final
    • Mountain Lakes was looking to go undefeated for the first time since the 2014 season when they won a regional championship. A stinging final week loss to one of the state’s best in Caldwell ended that dream. Lakes brings those bitter emotions into the playoff rounds along with a need for vengeance after being denied a spot in the North Group 1 Regional championship last season. The Herd’s defense is suffocating, and their offense never gives up possession of the football. A backfield of Nico Dunn, Jimmy Elliott, and Jordan Hernando rack up yards and chew out the clock. Mountain Lakes will be one of the hardest teams to play against, because if you do not score they will hold the ball for five minutes or even more before giving back to you.

  • Brearley 
    • 8-0, 6th seed in UPR North 1 Rankings
    • Last season: First round exit to Boonton
    • Brearley may have been given the sixth total seed in the North, but it isn’t enough respect for a team that went 8-0. Dual-threat quarterback Matt Sims has over 1,600 yards on offense. He has a connection with receiver/running back Brendan Fitzsimmons, who is the Deebo Samuel of Group 1. When you pair these two weapons with a defense that had four shutouts. It’s a recipe for success. Brearley has a chip on their shoulder and could make a deep run.

The Sleepers

  • Cedar Grove (Group 1 North Champ)
    • 7-2, 8th in UPR North 1 Rankings 
    • Last season: North Group 1 Regional Champions
    • The reigning North Group 1 champions have had an amazing season, only dropping games to Salem and Caldwell. The only glaring issue was that the loss to Salem was by 40 points, but that was also the first game of the year. Having a championship pedigree and an insane offensive group, if Cedar Grove can put it together on defense they have potential to repeat. 

  • Manville
    • 8-1, 8th seed in UPR South 1 Rankings
    • Last season: Did not play in playoffs
    • Manville put together a spectacular season with their only loss to Brearley. They face a tough schedule as a four seed, but the skill is there for them to run the table. Heavily relying on your defense may not always be the best strategy, but defense does win championships. Manville also pairs a great defense with running back Shawn Purcell who rushed for 1,163 yards and the rest of this offense that can find lightning in a bottle and put a slew of points on the board. Look for Manville to make some noise if their offense can click in the playoffs.

  • South Hunterdon
    • 5-2, 12th seed in UPR South 1 Rankings
    • South Hunterdon dropped their only two games of the season in back-to-back weeks. The competition was stiff, with both losses coming by two scores to Brearley and Manville. In every other game, they have a plethora of shutouts and have not let up more than eight points. Even in those losses, they only allowed 14 points to Brearley and 13 to South Hunterdon. This defense stands tall against the best and the offense has given incredible output when they are firing on all cylinders. The playoffs are all about who gets hot at the right time, and South Hunterdon could be that team if both the offense and defense are at full force. 

  • Walkill Valley
    • 6-2, 9th seed in UPR North 1 Rankings
    • Last season: First round exit to Hasbrouck Heights
    • Walkill Valley is as close to an air raid as you can get. Putting up 69 points on Kittatiny last week showed some of the power Walkill has on offense. Quarterback Dylan Bonser has over 1,800 yards passing, with over 1,000 of them going to wide receiver Chase Lorencovitz. That connection is joined by running back Shane Nugent who is approaching his own 1,000 yard mark. Their offense has no trouble scoring, and if their defense can limit points then Walkill Valley can win a lot of playoff shootouts down the stretch.