Three Union County Annual Holiday Rivalry Games on Tap on Thursday
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ—On Thanksgiving morning, Big Central Gridiron will be out and about in Union County as it covers a little bit of three different holiday rivalry games. First, BCG will travel out to Roselle Park High School and Herm Shaw Field to cover the annual clash between the Panthers and the Rams of Roselle.
Then, Big Central Gridiron will head west on Route 22 to Berkeley Heights to take in the holiday rivalry game between Governor Livingston and New Providence. Following the stay at Governor Livingston High School, BCG will head over to Hub Stine Field in Plainfield to see the Cardinals in action against its arch rival, Westfield.
Big Central Gridiron will only cover portions of these games. The intent is to cover some of each game to get a feel for all three rivalry days in the spirit of the WCTC 1450 AM Thanksgiving Day Round Robin. Only difference is that, there will be video, and BCG will not have coverage for the entire game. Let’s go ahead and take a look at each one of these contests:
Roselle @ Roselle Park
These two teams have met 103 times with Roselle Park holding a 53-42-8 lead in the series that began in 1908. Roselle has won 6 out of the last 10 including the most recent meeting between the two schools at Armino Field on November 28, 2019 (50-36). The two schools did not play in 2018 and 2020. Roselle enters the contest at 4-6 while Roselle Park comes into the game with a 1-8 mark.
Roselle, which finished second in the Big Central Conference’s Division 2B with a mark of 4-1, comes into Thanksgiving on a four game losing streak including both of its NJSIAA Regional Crossover Games to Keansburg (28-21) and Mendham (35-14). Meanwhile, Roselle Park has lost eight straight since its opening night victory over Dunellen (35-0) on September 3rd.
The Panthers have been outscored by a margin of 229 to 130, or an average of about 25 to 14 per game. Roselle Park ranks 45th in the BCC in terms of point differential, 50th in scoring, and 36th in points allowed. On the other hand, Roselle has been outscored by a margin of 225 to 201, or an average of about 22 to 20 per game. The Rams rank 33rd in terms of point differential, 33rd in scoring, and 32nd in points allowed.
Both teams can run the ball very well. Roselle Park has three solid backs in Chris Costa, Manny Faxas, and William Peay. Roselle has several solid backs as well with Emmanuel Lyles, Joshua Ruth, Niresse McDougald, and Tyshaun Techeira. The Rams, led by Adonis Abad, is stronger in the passing game, which gives them the edge in this contest.
Prediction: Roselle wins, 35-7.
New Providence @ Governor Livingston
A half an hour after things get started at Herm Shaw Field in Roselle Park, the Highlanders and Pioneers will get underway at Governor Livingston High School. The Highlanders and Pioneers didn’t originally play on Thanksgiving, but the two would eventually begin meeting on the holiday in 2002. New Providence leads the series 28-8-2 since it began in 1969.
The Pioneers dominated the series until 2010 with a 23-3-2 mark. Since then, the two schools have split the last 10 games with Governor Livingston winning 5 of the last 7 since 2014. New Providence won last year’s contest at Lieder Field (35-14) to finish the season 8-1. The Highlanders, which ended a COVID abbreviated 2020 with a 4-2 mark, enter Thursday’s contest at 1-8 while the Pioneers come in at 8-2 following their loss to Point Pleasant Boro (28-7) in the South Jersey Group 2 Semifinals on November 12th.
So far this season, New Providence has outscored their foes by a margin of 331-117, or by an average of about 33-12 per contest. The Pioneers rank 4th in scoring defense, 5th in scoring offense, and 4th in point differential in the Big Central Conference. Meanwhile, Governor Livingston 327-92, or by an average of about 36 to 10 per contest. The Highlanders rank 57th in the BCC in point differential, 54th in scoring offense, and 57th in scoring defense.
New Providence is led by the RB tandem of senior Charlie Barth and sophomore Ben Gullo. Barth enters the season finale with 183 carries for 1,785 yards, or 9.8 yards per rush and 25 TDs while Gullo has rushed 59 times for 439 yards and 6 TDs. Barth has rushed for over 5,000 yards in his four year career. QB Connor Tracy, RB Joe Riggi, and WR Vincent Fabio lead the Highlanders offense. Pioneers are a solid favorite to win here.
Prediction: New Providence wins, 38-6.
Westfield @ Plainfield
The late game of the three holiday contests in Union County will be at Hub Stine Field in Plainfield when the hometown Cardinals and Blue Devils of Westfield kick off at 11:00 AM on Thursday. Of the three games, the Turkey Day rivalry between Plainfield and Westfield is the longest at 115 meetings since it began in 1899. Westfield holds the series edge at 63-45-7, and has won 9 of the last 10 meetings (actually 9 in a row).
As a matter of fact, after Plainfield enjoyed an 11 game winning streak in the series from 1949 through 1959, Westfield has won the annual clash 44 times including a 15 game winning streak from 1968 through 1981. The Blue Devil streak during that period also included a 14-0 playoff win in 1976. Plainfield’s last win was in 2011. Westfield has actually won 13 of 14 since 2006, but the two teams didn’t play last year due to COVID.
Westfield actually only played two games a season ago while Plainfield finished 2-3. The Cardinals brought in a new head coach in former Roselle football coach, James Williams. Plainfield enters this contest with a 5-4 overall mark after finishing the season with wins over Perth Amboy (32-17) to end its regular season, and Monroe (45-44) in a regional crossover. Westfield comes in at 3-6 after losing to West Orange in the state playoffs.
Entering Thursday’s games, the Blue Devils have been outscored by their opponents 170-118, or by a margin of about 19 to 13 per contest. Westfield ranks 35th in point differential and 51st in scoring offense, but 18th in the Big Central Conference in points allowed. On the other hand, Plainfield’s offense is very explosive, and the Cardinals have outscored their foes by a margin of 253-232, or by an average of about 28 to 26 per game. Plainfield ranks 25th in point differential, 14th in scoring offense, and 38th in points allowed.
Plainfield is led by the tandem of RB Samir Cherry and WR Tahmir Ellis while others such as Aaron Roach and Jayden Whitaker. Sophomore QB Alameen Watkins can also air it out. Junior QB Trey Brown directs the Westfield offense while Justin Colby and Dylan Wragg spark the ground game at RB and WR Trey Constantinou is the top target in the passing game. Constantinou also is dangerous in the return game.
Of the three Union County Thanksgiving Games, this one looks to be the closest, and it could be the closest game between these two schools since Plainfield last won in 2011. Westfield has recorded four shutouts in the past 7 meetings, but the Blue Devils may give up some points here. However, Westfield has played a tougher schedule with the likes of Hillsborough, Ridge, and Phillipsburg for crossovers, and has given up fewer points on defense.
Prediction: Westfield wins, 20-19.