Tigers Playing Talented Westwood Squad at Jim Grasso Kickoff Classic
WESTWOOD, NJ – South Plainfield football starts the 2023 season just like it finished the 2022 season with a tough opponent. After having the first unbeaten regular season since 1965, the Tigers lost to a solid Camden Eastside program in the opening round of the South Jersey Group 3 playoffs. On Friday night, South Plainfield takes on the challenge of North Jersey Section 1 Group 2 sectional champion, Westwood High School in the finale of the Jim Grasso Kickoff Classic.
The Cardinals were 11-1 a year ago and defeated the likes of Hanover Park, Jefferson, and Rutherford to claim their sectional crown. Westwood only lost standout wide receiver, Colby Laughton to graduation, and has 6 starters back on offense and 7 returning on defense according to the PJR Sports Report. Leading the way will be senior QB, Robby Carcich.
A three-year starter at QB, Carcich has completed 205 of 278 passes for 2,595 yards and 25 TDs while only throwing 7 interceptions over the past two seasons. Carcich is also a threat with his legs. Over the last two years, Carcich has rushed 238 times for another 1,795 yards and 20 TDs. Combined Carcich has amassed 4,390 yards of offense and 45 TDs.
South Plainfield, which finished 9-1 in 2022 will counter with the veteran combination of senior RB Patrick Smith and Tight End, A.J. Perales. QB Ryan Balent replaces Joe Moroney, who graduated this past June. A year ago, Moroney completed 51 of 86 passes for 872 yards along with 6 TDs. Over his last two seasons, Moroney completed 71 of 121 for 1,128 yards, 7 TDs, and 2 INTs according to NJ.com.
A couple of other key losses from last year for the Tigers are Zach Bolesta and Jason Greer. Moroney and Bolesta hooked up for a couple of big pass plays to lift the Tigers past Monroe in their regular season finale. Bolesta also clinched the game with an INT. Greer, who also played basketball during the winter, rushed for 381 yards and collected 51 total tackles.
Westwood also has a trio of receivers returning including Tom Bussanich, Joe Klein, and Aidan Carrazanza. Carrazana also is a three-year starter in the defensive secondary for the Cardinals. Westwood is a bit inexperienced on the offensive line but has a ton of veteran leadership and experience coming back from last year’s championship squad.
In contrast, South Plainfield has a very young squad with a handful of seniors returning this year. One of those younger players is sophomore Dom Massaro, who is returning on defense. Junior Lorenzo Fuscoletti will start on the defensive line along with Perales. Justin Hannon is another senior, who will anchor the offensive line and the defense at linebacker.
Smith is the biggest piece to the South Plainfield puzzle. As a junior last season, Smith rushed 78 times for 786 yards and 11 TDs. In addition, he caught 11 passes for 165 yards and a TD. Smith is also a speedy and dangerous player as a return man on kickoffs and punts. Last year, he ran 8 kickoffs back for an average of almost 41 yards and a TD. Smith also ran back 8 punts for an average of 22 yards and another TD. South Plainfield will need this and more from Smith on Friday night.
South Plainfield’s game versus Westwood is the nightcap to a trio of games on Friday. There will also be a couple more games on Saturday to wrap up the showcase. The games were originally scheduled to be played at Vince Lombardi Memorial Field in Palisades Park. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the games were moved to Westwood High School.
The Tigers are the only team representing the Big Central Conference in this five-game showcase. Eight of the 10 schools competing are from the Super Football Conference. Wood-Ridge plays in the NJIC. Below is the schedule for the two days at the Jim Grasso Kickoff Classic:
Friday, August 25th
- Nutley vs. West Milford, 11:00 AM
- Walllkill Valley vs. Wood-Ridge, 3:00 PM
- South Plainfield vs. Westwood, 7:00 PM
Saturday, August 26th
- Clifton vs. Montclair, 2:00 PM
- Cedar Grove vs. Ramsey, 6:00 PM
For more information on the Jim Grasso Classic, check out the Super Football Conference’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SFCFootballNJ?mibextid=9R9pXO. You can also watch the games live on the NFHS Network.