Annual Holiday Rivalry Clash Between Cardinals and Blue Devils Completes 2022 BCG Season
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ—On Thanksgiving morning, Big Central Gridiron will head out to Kehler Stadium in Westfield for the annual Turkey Day clash between the hometown Blue Devils and their arch rival, Plainfield Cardinals. Both teams come into this game looking to finish with a win. Plainfield has a little extra motivation since a victory would clinch a winning season.
Last year, the Blue Devils and Cardinals battled it out at Hub Stine Field and it took a late TD by Westfield to put the game away in a 14-0 win. Westfield’s victory increased its lead in the long time series to 64-45-7. The Blue Devils have won each of the last 10 meetings, and 45 times over the past 61 years. Both schools have played each other every year since 1944.
Like a season ago, this game will likely come down to how Westfield’s defense can handle Plainfield’s offense. Westfield, which finished atop the American Gold standings at 4-0 while entering this year’s game at 7-3 overall, has yielded an average of just 13 points per game. Meanwhile, Plainfield which finished last in the uber competitive Liberty Silver Division, and is 5-5 overall, has scored an average of just under 30 points per contest.
Plainfield enters this year’s holiday clash with plenty of momentum though. The Cardinals have won four straight and 5 of their last 6 after starting the season at 0-4. Over the last four games, Plainfield has averaged almost 46 points per game. In the last 6, the Cardinals have put up 41 per contest. However, the Cards also were about as hot last year, and ended up being shut out by the Blue Devils.
After starting the season at 0-3 in 2021, Plainfield won 5 of its next 6 going into Thanksgiving. During that stretch, the Cardinals averaged about 27 points per game including three victories with 40 points or more. However, Plainfield does have the added fact that it won the 2022 NJSIAA North Jersey Group 5 Invitational Tournament with wins over Livingston (41-0) and Bloomfield (48-8).
Westfield qualified for the North Jersey Section 1 Group 5 playoffs, where it defeated Bridgewater (28-7) in the first round, and lost a tough one at Union City (20-14) in the sectional semifinals. The Blue Devils, led by QB Trey Brown, won five straight after losing its season opener at Watchung Hills (17-7). The only other regular season loss was a 31-3 decision at Ridge on October 14th.
During that five game winning streak, Westfield held its opponents to an average of 8.8 points per game including shutout victories over Scotch Plains-Fanwood (30-0) and Somerville (37-0). The Blue Devils also limited Watchung Hills to just 17 points in its season opening loss. In its last two victories over Hillsborough (17-12) and Bridgwater-Raritan, Westfield allowed an average of less than 10 points per contest.
Both teams have played common opponents in Watchung Hills and Elizabeth. Westfield is 1-1 versus those two teams with a 38-20 victory over Elizabeth on September 16th. Plainfield lost both of its games to the Warriors and Minutemen by a combined total of just 10 points. The Cardinals competed in a Liberty Silver Division that was perhaps the most competitive top to bottom in the BCC with all four teams coming into this game having records all above .500.
Westfield played in an American Gold Division that only had two teams with records at or above .500, but all five division members qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs. Liberty Silver did have the likes of North Hunterdon (North Jersey Section 2 Group 4 champion) as well as Watchung Hills and Montgomery that were both ranked in publications in the BCC’s Top 10.
The Blue Devils key players on offense are Brown, Dylan Wragg, and Peter Del Re. Brown has completed 72 of 139 passes for 765 yards and 6 TDs, but has also thrown 7 INTs. Brown adds to the Westfield rushing attack with 125 carries for 775 yards and 7 TDs. RB Wragg is the Blue Devils leading rusher with 1,057 yards on 193 carries, or about 5.5 yards per rush. Brown averages 6.2 yards per carry.
Del Re is Westfields leading wideout with 15 catches for 238 yards and 2 TDs. He is complemented in Westfield’s passing game by basketball standout Peter Meixner (14 receptions for 164 yards and 2 TDs) and Alex Tilyou (14 receptions for 124 yards and a TD). Aidan Harper also contributes to the offense’s ground game with 39 carries for 149 yards and 2 TDs.
On special teams, Del Re and Enzo Ferrero lead Westfield’s return game. Del Re averaged 30 yards per return during the season including a 95 yard run back for a touchdown. Ferrero has two returns for a total of 52 yards including a long of 44. Placekicker, Henry Hipschmann can also be a difference maker. Hipschmann made all three of his field goal attempts this season including a long of 25 yards versus Somerville while also converting 15 of 19 PATs.
Meanwhile, Plainfield has a variety of weapons to go to on the ground and in the air. The Cardinals feature junior QB Alameen Watkins and freshman signal caller Kamai Lowery. The Cardinals rushing attack is led by Yasir Wyatt, Samir Cherry, and Watkins. Plainfield’s receiving core consists of Cherry, Jaden Castro, Al-Khabir Bethune, and sophomore Joel Cordoba.
Watkins enters today’s contest with 60 completions in 110 pass attempts for a team leading 1,178 yards along with 13 TDs and 2 INTs. Lowery has completed 2 of 4 passes for 107 yards and a TD. Wyatt leads the ground game with 63 carries for 438 yards and 6 TDs. Cherry has 34 carries for 280 yards and a TD while also leading the team in receiving with 33 catches for 721 yards and 7 TDs.
Cherry averages about 14.9 yards per touch on offense with 8 TDs. Watkins has 263 yards on 46 carries and 6 TDs on the ground. Castro has caught 11 passes for 194 yards and a TD while Bethune has 9 receptions for 172 yards and a TD. Cordoba has hauled in 6 catches for 123 yards and 2 TDs along with a team leading 38 tackles and 4 INTs including two returned for TDs on defense.
Jayden McIver and Keiwan Kirkland are two other key performers on defense with 25 and 19 total tackles respectively. In the kicking game, Armando Avril made his only field goal attempt against Carteret as well as 6 of 7 extra point attempts. The key to this game again will be who wins the battle between Plainfield’s offense and Westfield’s defense. Westfield should have the edge there, and get the win.
Prediction: Westfield wins, 28-14