Pioneers Dominate Tigers in Rivalry Renewal Behind Desedrio and Miller
SOMERVILLE, NJ—For the first time since 1998, South Plainfield battled Somerville as the teams renewed a rivalry that had essentially ended in 1985 when the Pioneers defeated the Tigers, 33-22 at Jost Field in the last regular season meeting between the two schools. The Pioneers continued their dominance in the rivalry as running back Cookie Desiderio and quarterback Michael Miller led the way.
Desiderio scored four touchdowns while rushing twice for 113 yards and collecting four receptions for another 98 yards, and Miller completed 12 of 17 passes for 256 yards and five touchdowns as Somerville jumped out to a 22-0 first quarter lead, and rolled to a 50-12 victory. The victory was the fifth straight by the Pioneers over South Plainfield since 1982, and the 2nd largest margin of victory ever over the Tigers.
Somerville’s win exceeded that over South Plainfield in the opening round of the 1998 Central Jersey Group 2 State Playoffs. The then top seeded Pioneers had defeated the eighth Tigers 42-6 in those playoffs before losing in the semifinal round. Manasquan ended up winning the section after Somerville lost to Raritan (20-14), and the Warriors defeated the Rockets for the sectional title (28-14). Carteret and J.F. Kennedy were two other GMC schools that qualified for the 1998 CJ Group 2 playoffs in the first year of expanded tourney play to 8 teams.
The Pioneers victory on Friday night still ranks second behind The Ville’s 40-0 victory over the Tigers in 1983. Somerville, which lost to Rumson in the Central Jersey Group 3 Championship in 2018, and fell to Camden Wilson in the 2019 CJ Group 3 Semifinals (54-30), appears to be one of the top teams again in the newly formed Big Central Football Conference. Meanwhile, the Tigers are looking to overcome a 1-8 season from a year ago.
Both of these teams almost met in 2016 when playing in the Central Jersey Group 3 Playoffs. While Somerville lost to Rumson at Brooks Field (21-13) in the semifinal round, South Plainfield shut out Ewing on the road (26-0) before giving Rumson all it could handle before falling in a thrilling Championship Game on December 3rd at Rutgers University (27-22).
Since that time, South Plainfield has only gone 11-19 overall with only one playoff appearance, in 2018, when the Tigers upset North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 favorite, West Essex (17-16) on the road before falling at Rahway (28-7) in the sectional semifinals. Meanwhile, Somerville continued to ascend with a 32-4 overall record and back to back finals appearances in 2017 and 2018.
The Pioneers (1-0) now hold a 17-5 edge in the overall series with South Plainfield dating back to 1967. The two teams, which were old rivals from the original Mid-State Conference, which became the Skyland Conference, and eventually, the Mid-State 38 Conference, opened their football seasons with games against each other until the mid 1980s when South Plainfield joined the Greater Middlesex Conference.
Somerville has outscored South Plainfield by a margin of 479 to 240 all time in the series, or by a 2 to 1 margin with 21.8 points per game versus the Tigers 10.9 points per game. The last time SPHS defeated the Pioneers was opening night of the 1982 season when the Tigers recorded an 18-0 shutout at Brooks Field. Those Tigers would open the season with three straight shutouts, and finish 8-3 after losing to Wall Township in the 1982 Central Jersey Group 3 Championship.
Jake DelVecchio and Michael Green accounted for the two South Plainfield scores as DelVecchio rushed 6 times for 34 yards while Green caught a TD pass for 33 yards. Tyler Balent completed 5 of 7 passes for 40 yards while Kyon Simonson rushed 9 times for 45 yards and Julian Medina ran 5 times for 35 yards. Ethan McNair caught 5 passes for 66 yards and two TDs while Jamien Bryant had 3 receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown.
With the victory, Somerville opened the season at 1-0 and will travel to Madden Field in Rahway to take on the Indians on Saturday, October 10th. Rahway opened its season with a surprisingly dominant performance on the road at Summit (40-14). Meanwhile, South Plainfield begins its season at 0-1 and hosts Warren Hills at Jost Field next Friday night.