BCG Game Preview—Governor Livingston @ St. Thomas Aquinas—October 22, 2021

Fifth Ranked Trojans Taking on Highlanders in BCC Crossover in North Edison on Friday Night

NORTH EDISON, NJ—On Friday night, Big Central Gridiron will be taking in portions of two games involving teams from the Big Central Conference.  First, BCG will head over to St. Thomas Aquinas High School to watch the first half of action between the Trojans and the Highlanders of Governor Livingston from Berkeley Heights.

Afterwards, BCG will head over to A.L. Johnson Regional High School in Clark to take in the contest between the hometown Crusaders and North Plainfield in another BCC Crossover contest.  First, we will preview the first crossover contest between the Trojans and the Highlanders.  Following its 41-0 win over Middlesex last Thursday night, St. Thomas Aquinas climbed to 5th in the latest Big Central Gridiron Top 10.

The Trojans, now 6-0, are still yet to be scored upon this season.  They have outscored their opponents by a combined total of 247-0, or by an average of 41-0 per contest.  Aquinas, now in the Non-Public B playoff section, is currently seeded 5th behind Hudson Catholic, which defeated Watchung Hills in Week 1 (13-7).  Top seed in the section is Red Bank Catholic while DePaul is seeded 2nd.

With Woodbridge, North Brunswick, and Old Bridge losing in Middlesex County on Friday night, the Trojans jumped up to the top spot in the latest BCG Middlesex County Top 10.  In addition, the Trojans moved up to the top spot in the latest BCG Small School poll after Delaware Valley fell to Hillside last Saturday (21-19).  Aquinas is also currently 4th in the Big Central Conference in terms of Strength Index with a 79.67 rating.

Meanwhile, Governor Livingston, which had a solid season a year ago with an overall record of 4-2 including an upset win over Hillside in Week 2 (16-14), has yet to win a game (0-6) in 2021.  The Highlanders, competing in Division 2A, are coming off a 42-26 loss at the hands of North Plainfield at home last Saturday.  Other than its loss to the Canucks and its opening weekend defeat at Voorhees (27-14), Governor Livingston has only scored 14 points including shutout losses to Hillside (35-0) and Summit (33-0).

Coming into Friday night’s game, the Highlanders have been outscored by a margin of 219-54, or by an average of 37-9 per contest.  Governor Livingston last won a game on Halloween 2020 when it defeated Roselle (29-8).  These two teams have only played each other twice previously entering Friday night.  

The first meeting between the two schools was in 2006 when the Highlanders scored a 6-0 shutout of the Trojans.  The last meeting occurred in 2008 when the Trojans won 27-6.  This contest marks the first time Governor Livingston is playing a Middlesex County school since 2018 when it defeated Carteret (28-25) on November 1st, and then downed Spotswood (42-27) on November 8th.

Since Middlesex County schools, as members of the Greater Middlesex Conference, began playing Mid-State 38 schools in crossovers in 2018, St. Thomas Aquinas has gone 3-1 versus schools from Middlesex County including two wins over Roselle.  Two of those victories came earlier this season when the Trojans shut out Roselle in its 2nd game of the season (43-0) and then A.L. Johnson (46-0).

In its season opener, St. Thomas Aquinas had its closest game of the year against Woodstown from South Jersey, and the West Jersey Football League.  Since defeating Woodstown (6-0), the Trojans have not scored less than 41 points while scoring as many as 59.  In addition, the win over the Wolverines got added credibility when Woodstown, now 5-1, defeated Penns Grove (42-8) at home on October 1st.

Back in Week 0, Penns Grove took on Bernards in the Battle at the Beach in Ocean City, and won by a score of 40-20.  Bernards then beat Hillside (14-7) a little more than a week later at the Rumble on the Raritan played at Rutgers Stadium, and then the Comets edged previously undefeated Delaware Valley (21-19) at Woodfield Stadium to result in tri-champions in the Big Central Conference’s Division 2A.

On top of that, the Trojans also performed impressively in a pre-season scrimmage versus South Brunswick on August 26th in North Edison.  In that exhibition, St. Thomas Aquinas led 35-0 after one quarter, and dominated in a 49-0 showing in just two quarters of play between the varsity squads.  So, the Trojans have a legitimate argument to be at least considered among the top teams in Middlesex County, and the Big Central.

In the victory over Middlesex last week, Aquinas got its sixth straight shutout while getting another solid performance out of its running game and its passing game.  BCG’s Player of the Game, junior Joel Marelis, rushed 16 times for 144 yards.  Combined with the defense, Marelis helped set up fellow running back, Sherrod Hudson for three touchdowns while rushing 10 times for 51 yards.

Jayden Young turned in another solid performance at QB by completing 5 of 8 passes for 93 yards and 2 TDs while rushing once for 13 more yards and another touchdown.  Villanova commit, Jonathan Wyatt, caught 3 passes for 58 yards and 2 TDs.  Israel Bey led the defense with 9 total tackles including seven solos.  Steve Coghan chipped in with 6 total tackles including four solos.

Governor Livingston is led by senior QB Connor Tracy, who has completed 35 of 88 passes for 441 yards and 4 TDs.  Fellow classmate, Joe Riggi, leads the Highlander rushing attack with 66 carries for 304 yards, and 2 TDs.  Jake Woods also contributes in the ground game with 46 carries for 196 yards and a score.  Junior Vincent Fabio leads the team in receiving with 14 catches for 235 yards and 4 TDs.

Sophomore John Fajardo leads the Highlanders on defense with 45 total tackles while Riggi ranks 2nd with 39 and also has two forced fumbles and an interception.  Sophomore Matt Shaffer leads the Governor Livingston special teams with 15 kickoff returns for a total of 247 yards including a long of 96 yards while Riggi has returned 11 kickoffs for 203 yards including a long of 97 yards.

Junior placekicker, Liam Quigley has made 2 of 3 field goal attempts and all five of his extra point tries.  Sophomore Jack Joyce has made 4 of his 5 extra point attempts for Aquinas after making one of two in the win over Middlesex last week.  Of the 24 rushing touchdowns scored by the Trojans this season, the trio of Hudson (11 TDs), Marelis (6 TDs), and Kendall Jordan (5 TDs) has 22 of them.

Young has completed 57.9 percent of his passes for the season, and averages about 15.1 yards per completion while rushing for about 9.2 yards per carry.  Wyatt is averaging about 20.5 yards per reception, and accounts for about 73 percent of all of Aquinas’ touchdown receptions.  Najee Lovejoy, who is second on the team in receptions with 13, had all 4 of his punt returns on the season last week versus Middlesex for 43 yards.

These two teams have not played a common opponent, but Governor Livingston lost to Hillside on October 2nd (35-0).  The Comets recently defeated Roselle (42-14) two weeks ago, and Aquinas beat Roselle by 43.  The Trojans should win here, and head into next week’s showdown with Delaware Valley undefeated.

Prediction:  St. Thomas Aquinas wins, 38-0.