NJ Football Week 3 - Games of the Week Preview

Sparta (2-0, 7th in Group 3) vs 7 Ramapo (2-0, 1st in Group 4):

Sparta and Ramapo showcase two of the best quarterbacks in the state, and the battle through the air on Friday night will be electric. Ramapo senior Jack Grusser, committed to Harvard, has 503 passing yards through the first two games of the season. Sparta senior Austen Frattura, committed to Holy Cross, is right behind him with 473 passing yards total and 284 in his last game. Both quarterbacks move well outside of the pocket and can make plays with their legs too. Last time these teams met, Frattura was a star-studded freshman in his first varsity start and Grusser was sitting behind Harvard QB Charles DePrima.

While the quarterback matchup is spectacular, this game will be decided based on the play of each defense. Sparta’s defense has been a turnover machine, forcing four fumbles and three interceptions in just two games. Their secondary was burnt at times by Vernon last week, and will need to take an extra step forward to contain Ramapo’s air raid. On the other side of the field, Ramapo’s defense has been stout, but not overwhelming. They’ve let up 27 points in two games, the defense standing tall but not making much noise. This Sparta offense will be the first time they will have been truly tested all year, and if the dam breaks it will happen fast with a great backfield duo of Frattura and running back Josh Brancy. 

9 Millville (2-1, 3rd in Group 4) vs St. Augustine (1-2):

The Millville-St. Augustine rivalry always lives up to the hype, and the last few years have been no different. Led by WR/DB Lotzeir Brooks, one of the best players in the class of 2025, Millville has weapons across the board on offense and defense. This team came into the season with high expectations and is out to prove something after losing to Group 4 rival Irvington at Rutgers. St Augustine is coming off a Non-Public A semi finals appearance, but have already dropped 2 games to Cherokee and St. Peters Prep. Junior RB/LB Tristan McLeer could take over this game if given the opportunity. This fierce rivalry provides a lot of tension and highlight plays, and it will live up to the hype between a St. Augustine’s team that is trying to right the ship and a Millville squad with something to prove after losing to the Hermits last year.

14 Delbarton (0-2, 8th in Non-Public) vs 4 St. Peters Prep (2-1, 4th in Non-Public):

Delbarton has had a rough go so far this season, and the Green Wave need to find some momentum to ride. Their first loss came to a Seton Hall team they had on the ropes until starting QB Robert Russo was taken out due to cramping. They were then unfortunate enough to meet a Bergen Catholic team oozing confidence after taking care of business in the desert. Delbarton has some high impact players, with a backfield tandem of Russo and RB Ryan Trafford and Matt Gemma leading a disruptive front 7. However, they are running full steam ahead into a St. Peter’s Marauders team that is just as hungry and talented. 

The Marauders are led by Maryland-bound QB Champ Long. Long has a cannon for an arm, throwing for 750 yards and 9 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions through 3 games. St. Peters might even be better off on defense than they are offense. After allowing 55 points to Philadelphia powerhouse St. Joseph, the Marauders came down on DePaul like a hammer with 10 total sacks. With a fearsome front 7 and a secondary led by future Ohio State Buckeyes Jayden Bonsu, Peters does not plan on allowing many points for the rest of the season. 

This game will be decided by the defense, and if the Delbarton secondary can limit Long’s damage in the way that the Marauders plan to shut down Russo. 

11 Seton Hall Prep (2-0, 6th in Non-Public) vs 1 Bergen Catholic (3-0, 1st in Non-Public):

Seton Hall has started the season off with two nail-biters, their defense doing the bulk of the work so far. Elijah Rippey and Pope John transfer Lucas Brown have led a great secondary and linebacker corps. This week will be similar, with the Pirates offense taking on the best defense in the state. The Seton Hall offense was dominant in their second half against Delbarton, but has not been able to be consistent since. Running back Luigi Pantone will have to break through a great defensive line to even move the ball. Bergen Catholic felt disrespected coming into opening weekend after last year’s historic season, and have proceeded on a path of destruction across the country since. The boys from Oradell are battle tested and have a monstrous defense led by Texas-bound Sydir Mitchell and program sack leader DJ Samuels, who is a Maryland commit and the reigning NJGridiron defensive player of the year. Their offense is just as dynamic, as Delaware commit Saeed St. Fleur cannot be stopped and their QB duo of Dom Campanile and Jack Duffy always keeps the opposing defense guessing. Seton Hall’s chance in this game is to hope that their defense can continue to hold down the fort and their offense line limits the damage of the Crusader’s rush.

Passaic Tech (3-0, 7th in Group 5) vs 13 West Orange (2-0, 2nd in Group 5):

Passaic Tech has performed well so far, starting out a pristine 3-0. They will face their first real test of the season, against a 13th ranked West Orange team. This game is detrimental to playoff seeding, with both teams currently in a playoff position and looking to climb as we get into the thick of the season. West Orange has been riding their defense to a 2-0 record. They are averaging three sacks a game and have four total turnovers. The biggest difference maker is their ability to score on defense. They have a pick-six and have returned two fumbles for touchdowns so far in their two games. Players like Zekhi Wimberly (4 sacks, 5 TFL), Jhenson Touze (4 TFL, 19 tackles), and Emmanuel Kales (1 INT, 10 tkls) are big contributors. Passaic Tech comes into this matchup with something to prove. They want to show the state that they are the real deal this year. With Trashon Dye manning the halfback position, they would establish themselves with a win over West Orange. Their secondary is dangerous, with seven interceptions so far. The turnover ratio will decide this game when the clock hits zero.

Iona Prep *NY* (1-1, 1st in Catholic AAA) vs 2 Don Bosco Prep (2-1, 2nd in Non-Public)

One of the best teams in New Jersey will meet one of the best from New York in an interstate clash in Ramsey. Don Bosco Prep has had a strong season so far, with an explosive offense. Quarterback Nicholas Minicucci has made his case to be the best in the state, throwing for almost 400 yards and rushing for even more in a shootout win over St. Joes (Mont). He has thrown for 858 yard with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7-1. If that wasn’t enough, he has helped Ronnie Heath pace the ground game. Heath has rushed for 215 yards and 3 touchdowns and Minicucci has 164 and a score. They employ four solid options at wide receiver, with Nolan James (273 yards, 1 touchdown), Dan Parisi (241, 3), Omaree Walker (163), and Nasim Cosby (120, 1). Texas A&M commit Chase Bisontis anchors the offensive line, which creates more time for this explosive offense. If they can exploit the Iona Prep defense like Archbishop Hoban (OH) did, they will put plenty of points on the board.

Iona Prep sits at 1-1, letting a game against Ohio powerhouse Archbishop Hoban slip away in the second half before beating fellow Catholic AAA team Cardinal Hayes 27-0. Running back Colin O’Garro has rushed for 223 yards in their 2 games, with three total touchdowns. Their ground game is balanced with their passing attack as QB Ajani Sheppard can air it out. Iona Prep’s real question is which defense will show up? The dominant one from last week against Cardinal Hayes or the one from the second half of the Archbishop Hoban game.

West Essex (2-0, 6th in Group 3) vs Wayne Valley (3-0, 5th in Group 4):

West Essex runs on the ground game. They have had 10 different players take a handoff, totaling 670 rushing yards through 2 games. The run game has run straight through Maryland opponent Mount Carmel and Passaic Valley. The dominance of senior Mike Maglione has propelled a defense that is allowing an average of only 12 points a game. Maglione’s 23 tackles, 4 TFLs, and 3 sacks all pace the team. With a dominant ground-and-pound approach, a Group 3West Essex will attempt to overpower a strong Group 4 Wayne Valley team. 

Wayne Valley plays a more balanced game, though relying on their run game. Running back Danny Smith and quarterback Alex Scheuplein have combined for 358 yards on the ground. Scheuplein has also thrown for 376 yards. His ability as a dual-threat quarterback will be needed in this game, as mobility in the pocket will allow him to try and escape West Essex’s pass rush. Wayne Valley has a stout defense as well, and these two teams are going to have to fight for yards all night. Look for a fast pace game, because teams that run the ball always allow you to leave the bleachers at a reasonable time.

Cherokee (1-2) vs Shawnee (3-0, 8th in Group 4):

Another matchup in the WJFL - American and another fierce rivalry down in South Jersey. Cherokee has had a tough go out of the gate, losing two close games before scraping away with a tough win over St. Augustine. Shawnee is on the opposite side of the spectrum, going undefeated through three games and only one was particularly close. Josh Peluse has anchored a solid Shawnee defense, creating havoc behind the line of scrimmage and in the open field. Jimmy Potter has paced the Shawnee run game out of the backfield, but quarterback Joe Papa leads the team in rushing and passing by a wide margin. Papa has a great connection with receiver Ethan Krauss, and they are able to find each other in coverage. The dual-threat abilities of Papa will cause problems for the Cherokee defense. On the other side of the sideline, Cherokee is pretty even in the run and pass game. With 313 yards through the air and 318 on the ground, a balanced attack is what coach Brian Glatz is rolling with. Cherokee needs a win to get back in the right direction while Shawnee is trying to climb the Group 4 ladder. 

*All rankings determined by NJ.com