BCG Game Preview—North Plainfield @ A.L. Johnson—October 22, 2021

Canucks Visit Crusaders in Another BCC Division 2 Crossover in Clark on Friday Night

CLARK, NJ—Following its first half coverage of the contest between Governor Livingston and St. Thomas Aquinas, Big Central Gridiron will get back on the road, and head over to Arthur L. Johnson Regional High School in Clark to take in another BCC Crossover between the Crusaders and North Plainfield.  The Canucks are looking to improve to 5-3 while the Crusaders are looking to move up to 3-5.

Both teams are coming off victories last week.  North Plainfield won a Big Central Conference Division 2A clash with Governor Livingston (42-26) in Berkeley Heights last Saturday while A.L. Johnson defeated Metuchen (17-13).  The Crusaders were originally supposed to play Spotswood, but the game with the Chargers was cancelled, and Metuchen, which originally had a bye, filled in.  

It was the second time this season that Johnson and Metuchen played each other.  Back in Week 2, the Bulldogs hosted the Crusaders in the Brainy Boro with the Crusaders also winning that one, 16-6.  North Plainfield took it on the chin early on this season with losses to Delaware Valley (38-20), Hillside (27-7), and Bernards (52-14), but have played better as of late, and have a chance at a second straight winning season.

Last year, the Canucks were competing against mostly Middlesex County schools in Division 2A while A.L. Johnson was battling the likes of Bernards, Hillside, and Governor Livingston in Division 2B.  This season, the teams have switched places with the Crusaders staying in Division 2B, but competing now against Roselle and Middlesex County foes like Metuchen, South River, Spotswood, and St. Thomas Aquinas.

North Plainfield has gone 11-4 over the past two seasons coming into Friday night’s game while Johnson has gone 3-8.  The Crusaders only played four games in 2020 due to issues with COVID while the Canucks managed to play 8 games and go 7-1.  The only loss suffered by the Canucks was to Linden in its final game, 30-14.

After going 1-10 back in 2018, the Canucks have gone 15-10 so they appear to be on their way back to respectability.  Playing in North Group 3 this year, North Plainfield has a strength index of 52.61, and 8.71 power points to rank 18th behind Demarest and Morris Hills for the final playoff spot.  Wins this week versus Johnson and at South River on October 30th could help the Canucks get that final spot.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders, now competing in the South Group 2 super section, have a strength index of 36.41 and 7.29 power points to rank 24th in the region ahead of South River although the Rams defeated ALJ, 26-7 in Clark on September 17th.  In all likelihood, Johnson Regional will not qualify.  However, with a win this week over the Canucks, and a victory over winless Governor Livingston, Johnson could have a shot at making .500.

These two schools are longtime rivals going back to the days of the Mountain Valley Conference.  The first meeting between A.L. Johnson and North Plainfield was back in 1968 with the Crusaders winning 14-7.  Johnson won the next two in 1969 and 1970 before North Plainfield won two straight in 1971 and 1972.  The Crusaders won 11 of the first 18 games played through 2010 with one tie occurring in 1974 (7-7).

Since 2010, the two schools have played five more times:  2012, 2013, 2016, 2017, and 2018 with the Crusaders winning 4 of the 5 games to lead the all time series 15-7-1.  Over the course of the 23 games, Johnson has outscored North Plainfield by a margin of 476-392, or an average of 21 to 17 per game.  This is the first time the two schools are playing each other since 2018 when the Canucks won at Krausche Field (32-14).

North Plainfield’s win in 2018 snapped a six game losing streak and was the Canucks only win of that season.  Entering Friday night’s game, the Canucks have been outscored by a margin of 197-141, or by an average of 28 to 20 per contest.  Meanwhile, the Crusaders have been outscored by a margin of 202-47, or by an average of 29 to 7 per game.

The Canucks are led at QB by senior Keiahn Grenald, who has completed 25 of 40 passes for 227 yards and 2 TDs while throwing only one interception.  Grenald has also rushed 28 times for 244 yards, or 8.7 yards per carry, and another TD.  Junior Nasir McGlone, who has been considered for Player of the Week honors each of the past two weeks, leads the team in rushing with 747 yards on 85 carries with 7 TDs.

McGlone has also caught 11 passes for 109 yards and another score to average 8.9 yards per touch.  Another potent weapon in North Plainfield’s arsenal is Khan-Yae Stevens, who has rushed 8 times for 165 yards and 2 TDs, and caught 10 passes for another 85 yards and one more score.  Giovanni Threatt leads the Canucks in receiving with 12 catches for 221 yards and a TD while rushing 43 times for 182 yards and a TD.

Sophomore Taeshaun Mallard is another contributor in the passing game with 12 receptions for 150 yards and 2 scores while senior Jordan Bird has 9 catches for 177 yards and a TD.  Bird also leads the team in total tackles with 67 including 31 solos, 10 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks.  Mallard leads the team in sacks with 4 while Bird, Xavier Boggs, Marvin Cruz, and Nfii Bannavti each have 3.

On special teams, junior placekicker Will Grabko has made his only field goal attempt of 29 yards while converting 4 of 6 extra point attempts.  Mallard leads the team with 3 two point conversion scores while Threatt and Jason Agyemang each have two.  Threatt, McGlone, and Stevens are all threats to take it to the house on returns with Threatt having the most return yards with 144, McGlone right behind at 142, and Stevens with 100.

For Johnson, senior QB Jasen Hernandez directs the offense and has completed 9 of 26 passes for 142 yards while rushing 54 times for 251 yards and a TD.  Hernandez leads the Crusaders in rushing while Vincent Pisano ranks 2nd on the team with 60 carries for 210 yards and 2 TDs.  Sophomore Brandon Brown is another option in the ground game with 34 carries for 164 yards.

Junior Matthew Froden leads the team in receiving with 4 catches for 60 yards.  Brown has two catches for 46 yards to average 5.8 yards per touch this season.  In addition to his contributions to the Crusader rushing attack, Pisano stands out on defense with a team leading 72 total tackles including a sack.  He also has a forced fumble, a fumble recovery for TD, and an interception.  Jason Greenbush leads ALJ in interceptions with 2.

On special teams, junior placekicker Brett Makowsky has made 4 of 6 field goal attempts including a season long of 43 yards while going perfect in all five of his extra point attempts.  Hernandez leads the return game with 85 yards on five kickoff returns.  Junior Thomas Woods also contributes in the return game with 5 kickoff returns for a total of 60 yards.

North Plainfield opened its season with a 30-26 win over arch rival, South Plainfield at Krausche on September 4th.  The Tigers began their season the week before with a 35-14 victory at South River in Week 0.  As mentioned earlier, the Rams defeated A.L. Johnson 26-7 in Week 3.  So, the Canucks appear to be a solid favorite to win this contest.

Prediction:  North Plainfield wins, 31-10.