This Year’s Edition of Battle of Exit 12 a Must Win for Both Ramblers and Indians
CARTERET, NJ—On Friday night, Big Central Gridiron resumes its 2021 New Jersey High School football coverage with a contest from BCC’s Division 3 as Carteret hosts Rahway in the latest installment of the Battle of Exit 12. The Ramblers, which defeated J.P. Stevens in its opener on August 27th, will be looking for its first win since then while Rahway is still searching for its first win of the season.
Both teams recently played division favorite, Somerville, on the road at Brooks Field. Well, actually, Carteret’s game with the Pioneers on September 10th was moved to the Torpey Sports Complex in Bridgewater. Nevertheless, both teams lost with the Ramblers falling 47-0 while the Indians lost 45-7. Rahway also lost to New Brunswick (42-27) while Carteret lost at Perth Amboy (19-14). Both the Zebras (35-14) and Panthers (42-6) went on to lose to East Brunswick.
With both teams below .500 approaching the midpoint of the season, this contest is an important game if either team has any aspirations for making the state playoffs. This season, both teams are playing for a spot in the South Jersey Group 3 playoff super section. Currently, the Ramblers have 4.75 power points while the Indians only have 2.33 power points. As of last week, the only two teams in the section that were mentioned in Central Jersey Sports Radio’s latest analysis were Somerville at No. 5 and South Plainfield at No. 18.
Even with a victory, the road to a state playoff berth will still be difficult for both teams. However, this game is a lot more to these two schools than just a chance at a playoff berth. It is neighborhood bragging rights. Both Carteret and Rahway have met regularly over the past few years in boys basketball although they didn’t play this past season due to the pandemic shortened schedule. The last time the Ramblers and Indians met on the gridiron was on October 5, 2018 at Rahway River Park, where the Indians won handily, 61-15.
The 2018 season was a tremendous year for Rahway with the Indians finishing 10-2 overall. The only two losses suffered by Rahway was to Somerville in its season opener (42-31) and in the North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 championship to Summit (36-14). The Indians also defeated another current BCC Division 3 rival, South Plainfield (28-7) in the N2 Group 3 semifinals. Since arriving in Rahway in 2015, head coach Brian Russo, who previously coached at Woodbridge, has compiled a record of 39-23.
Although this will be Carteret head coach, Kevin Freeman’s first time coaching versus Rahway, he understands the importance of this game to his kids and the Rambler community. The last time Carteret defeated Rahway was in the 2007 Central Jersey Group 2 Semifinals, 19-14 en route to upending Rumson for the sectional championship at Rutgers (20-14). The Ramblers have only played the Indians twice since the 2003 season, but that is going to change since the two teams now reside in the Big Central Conference’s Division 3.
Believe it or not though, the two schools actually have a longstanding rivalry that dates back to the 1926 season when Rahway defeated Carteret 20-0. The two schools played 10 times from 1926 to 1939. Then, they renewed acquaintances again for 9 straight seasons from 1952 to 1960. The last time the neighborhood rivals squared off before their CJ Group 2 semifinal meeting in 2007 was in 1981, which ended in a 6-6 tie. Rahway had won the year before, 27-21, and leads the all time series 13-8-2. The only playoff meeting was that CJ Group 2 contest in 2007.
Carteret went 6-3-1 in the first 10 meetings between the two schools before Rahway dominated during the 1950s by winning 8 of the 9 contests played during that period. Four of those wins by the Indians were shutouts. Over the 23 games played in the history of this rivalry between the two schools, Rahway has outscored Carteret by a margin of 359-246, or an average of 16 to 11 per game.
This year, Carteret has returned to the gridiron after not playing at all a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ramblers along with Piscataway, were the only two Middlesex County schools not to play football in 2020. The Ramblers don’t have as much numbers or experience as they did in 2018 or 2019, and have kept things basic with running a wing style offense similar to that played at Dunellen. So far this season, Carteret has been led by the play of Marc Gonzalez and Kanye Groover on offense and Antwaun Jackson and Jehu Andrews on defense.
On offense, Gonzalez (38 rushes for 246 yards and 2 TDs) and Groover (38 rushes for 225 yards and 3 TDs) have combined for 471 yards, or 6.2 yards per carry and 5 touchdowns, and accounted for 78.1 of the Ramblers total rushing yards. Jackson, a sophomore, and Andrews have combined for 22 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks. Gonzalez and Groover has also contributed on the defensive side of the ball as well with 15 tackles combined, 1 tackle for loss, and an interception returned for a touchdown (the last two courtesy of Gonzalez).
Other players to watch for Carteret include QB,RB, and LB Yaniel Ruiz (6 rushes 23 yards and a TD and 2 of 6 completions for 10 yards), Sophomore Jeremiah Serrano (8 carries for 54 yards), and freshman WR/DB Jakir Thomas (7 carries for 37 yards as well as 2 receptions for 10 yards). Senior WR/DB Jordan McQueen, and sophomore WR/DB, Asi Powell. The last time BCG saw Carteret in action was at a pre-season scrimmage versus Matawan, in which the Ramblers dominated.
Meanwhile, for Rahway, the Indians lost a great deal from the team it had a year ago that defeated the likes of Summit, Watchung Hills, and St. Joseph’s. Only one key player returned from that group in junior wide receiver, Kyle Hall. So far this season, Hall leads the team in receiving yards with 179 on 10 catches, or an average of 17.9 yards per reception along with 2 TDs. Hall has also rushed 11 times for 45 yards and another TD. Zion Laney leads the team in rushing with 275 yards on 48 carries, or an average of 5.7 yards per rush along with a touchdown. Leaney also has 8 catches for 75 yards.
Indians’ QB Amir Robinson has completed 45 percent of his 64 passes this season for 328 yards, or an average of 5.1 yards per pass, and 11.3 yards per completion. Robinson has thrown for two scores as well. Junior Joshua Tilton has anchored the defense with 33 total tackles while Hall has 32 including 22 solo tackles and 2 tackles for loss and an interception. Junior Jaylin Barnes has 17 tackles including 9 solos and one for a loss while senior Savion Gallemore has 15 total tackles including 5 solos.
Through 4 games, Carteret has scored 51 total points, or an average of just under 13 points per game. However, the Ramblers have not scored since the 2nd quarter of its game at Perth Amboy. Meanwhile, Rahway, has totaled 47 points through 3 games, or an average of just under 16 points per game. The Indians have been shut out in 6 of the 12 quarters they have played thus far this season. Defensively, Rahway has given up 121 total points in its three games, or just over 40 points per game. Carteret, on the other hand, has yielded 101 through four games, or an average of just over 25 points per contest.
Prediction: Rahway wins 24-13.