2022 Football Playoffs - Group 4 Preview
photo by Lokesh Sutherland
*This article reflects the semifinals and beyond, first round teams are not included
North 4 Section 1
1 Irvington vs 4 Northern Highlands
2 Ramapo vs 3 Ridge
North 4 Section 2
1 North Hunterdon vs 5 Morris Knolls
2 Randolph vs 3 Wayne Valley
1 Middletown South vs 5 Winslow Township
3 Mainland vs 7 Long Branch
1 Hammonton vs 4 Shawnee
2 Millville vs 3 Jackson Memorial
- 8-2, 2nd seed in UPR North 4 Rankings
- Last season: North 4 Regional Champions
- On top of a lot of great wins, Irvington has only lost two games in close contests to Seton Hall Prep and Union City. They figured out how to replace quarterback Na’Cir Ransom after he went down early to injury by letting their best playmakers run the ball. The ground game really emerged with Kyshir Desir leading the way and top recruits Famah Toure and Adon Shuler breaking games. Toure and Shuler also anchor the defense with sophomore Jachai Littlejohn. Irvington has a lot of talent and stands a good chance to repeat as regional champions and potentially win one of the first ever state championships.
- 7-1, 3rd Seed in UPR North 4 Rankings
- Last season: Sectional Finals loss to Northern Highlands
- Harvard committed quarterback Jack Grusser is back, and he looks like himself. To say not only how good this team is, but how much depth they have, Ramapo would have been just fine with Landon DePrima at quarterback too. DePrima will now move back to wide receiver and contribute with weapons Will Scordato, Ben Robinson, Ethan Moran, Nick Coffaro, and the list goes on and on. Their defense holds firm too, with their secondary changing the pace of many games. Ramapo came up short last year, but this year may be it.
- 7-1, 1st seed in UPR South 4 Rankings
- Last season: Sectional Finals loss to Irvington (Was in North classification last year)
- South is just as good as they were last year, if not better. This year, they will have to go through a different group of teams after being shifted to the South classification. Bringing a run heavy offense by committee with Donovan Summey as the bell cow, their ground-and-pound play will muscle them far in this group. The defense is led by Colin Gallagher, who had 98 tackles and 7.5 sacks in the regular season as just a junior. Middletown South will have a change of scenery, but a deep playoff run should be expected.
- 7-2, 3rd seed in UPR South 4 Rankings
- Last season: South 4 Regional Champions
- With a new head coach in Humberto Ayala, some wondered how the reigning South 4 Champions would fare this year. Returning a ton of talent, Millville answered by showing they would be just as good. Junior quarterback Jacob Zamot has been very vocal about how good his team is, and he backed it up himself with over 1,700 yards through the air for 15 touchdowns. Sophomore phenom Lotzeir Brooks had 680 all-purpose yards for nine total touchdowns and was even better on defense. He was joined on offense by running back Na’eem Sharp and wide receivers Ta’Ron Hale and Thomas Smith III, as well as a wide group of skilled players on defense. This team is still on the younger side, so we are just starting to watch them crack their potential. Look out, because they already look ready to push for a state championship.
- 9-1, 1st seed in UPR North 4 Rankings
- Last season: Lost to Middletown South in Sectional Quarterfinals
- North Hunterdon is a well-rounded team with some ridiculous statistics on both offense and defense. Their only loss of the season came to the top team in Group 5, Phillipsburg. This is a team that has consistently put up five touchdowns or more each game, and a defense that heavily limits how creative other offenses can get. You’d think quarterback Luke Martini could get it done himself, with over 1,500 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, but their rushing totals are eye-popping. A pair of seniors in Kente Edwards and Alex Uryniak that have combined for almost 2,000 yards on the ground and 23 touchdowns. Uryniak is this team’s x-factor, with 131 tackles on defense (near the top of the state leaderboard) to go with five sacks. They have a tough road the rest of the way, but team’s will have a heck of a time trying to stop this high-octane offense.
- 8-1, 4th seed in UPR North 4 Rankings
- Last season: Lost to Colonia in the Sectional Quarterfinals
- Randolph returned gunslinger Sean Clark, talent on the offensive line, and some top wide receivers from last year’s team that scored 40 points or more in sixty percent of their games. They then added a running back room that made their offense multidimensional. That propelled the Rams to new heights this season amid a loaded schedule. Their only loss was to powerhouse West Morris, and it showed this team’s weakness. If Randolph does not turn the ball over, they are a team with the potential to win a state championship. They rolled over Rahway in the first round, and they can beat an undefeated Wayne Valley team that plays disciplined defense if they do not give the ball away. With the offensive fireworks coming out every game, the defense just needs to step up and limit scoring.
- 10-0, 5th seed in UPR North 4 Rankings
- Last season: Lost to West Essex in the Sectional Quarterfinal
- Wayne Valley had a resurgence this season after going 3-7. With an undefeated season still intact, the mainstay of this team is quarterback Alex Scheuplein and running back Danny Smith. Scheuplein has almost 1,500 yards through the air and over 500 yards on the ground. Scheuplein has a TD-INT ratio of 11-7, so limiting turnovers in the playoffs should be his only goal. Smith is not only a threat running through the tackles, but receiving out of the backfield too. Smith has 1,398 all-purpose yards and 15 total touchdowns. Other teams will try and limit Smith, which will open up opportunities for other players and they have plenty who could step up. Wayne Valley’s defense plays disciplined and fundamentally sound, forcing other teams to limit the offense as much as possible just to have a chance.
- 6-3, 7th seed in UPR North 4 Rankings
- Last season: Lost to Irvington in the North Regional Championship
- Northern Highlands is fresh off an appearance in the North Regional Championship game, and they could make it back with an upset over the team that beat them last year despite turnover. It’s hard losing your head coach and many key players in one season, but Highlands has rebounded well behind sophomore quarterback Nate Johnson and a constricting defense. Johnson has come up big when needed, and had his best performance last week in a first round win while throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. He works with running back Charlie Sparago, a three-sport varsity athlete with great instincts, and top receiver Zach Madison to put enough on the board to win games. Northern Highlands defense is what really has helped them this season, as they suffocate opponents. Defense wins championships, and this team has one that fits the bill. What they also have is one of the best kickers in the state in Daniel Moor. If it comes down to the end of the game, no one should doubt Moor will drill one through the uprights within his long range. If the offense continues to click, Northern Highlands could be hoisting a championship against the odds.
- 8-1, 5th seed in UPR South 4 Rankings
- Last season: Lost in Sectional Quarterfinals to Ocean City
- Since being upset in a heartbreaker against an Ocean City team that finished 2-7 in their second game, Mainland has not looked back. They dismantled Atlantic City, beat Hammonton, and dropped 63 points in the first round of states. This Mainland team is a CONTENDER, not a sleeper; however, they are not getting enough respect across the state so let’s have this add more fuel to the fire. Mainland is not getting the praise because they are in a stacked Group 4. This team can prove many wrong, and it’s only a matter of time before they will show everyone how they do it or end an amazing season on a sour note. Ja’Briel Mace will propel this team to victory, so the opposing defense must have a gameplan ready.
- 8-2, 9th seed in UPR North 4 Rankings
- Last season: Lost in Sectional Quarterfinals to Mount Olive
- Morris Knolls went through a gauntlet of a schedule in the SFC’s Liberty White division. Dropping games to West Morris and Randolph is not an awful mark on any team's schedule this season. Knolls runs their patented veer to perfection, with Dom DelleMonache and Ryan Wong muscling through opposing defenses all season long. They have the perfect fabricator of this system in quarterback Cole Malatesta. Malatesta does not throw much, but when he does it works. He manufactures the run for this team and controls the offense extremely well. Knolls has a hard-hitting defense that will give teams fits as they try and figure it out. The vertical pass is what can beat this Golden Eagles squad, so if they can figure out how to stop it they have a potential championship appearance waiting in the wings.