Big Match-Up in BCC’s United Gold as Aquinas Travels to Summit
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – On Friday afternoon, Big Central Gridiron continues its very arduous schedule for Week 3 with another trip to Investors Bank Field at Tatlock Park in Summit for a Big Central Conference United Gold contest between St. Thomas Aquinas and the hometown Hilltoppers.
Both teams have been climbing in the polls after modest pre-season rankings. The Trojans began the season ranked in the Middlesex County top five. However, after impressive victories against Paul VI of Haddonfield (42-7), New Providence (41-0), and Scotch Plains-Fanwood (35-0), Aquinas has leaped up to the top of the Middlesex County heap entering the contest.
Meanwhile, Summit has been moving up the polls as well. After starting in the fifth slot in BCG’s Union County Pre-Season Top 10, the Hilltoppers have climbed to the second spot this week. Summit’s offense has been averaging 46 points per game and soundly defeated Cranford by 33 on the road at Memorial Field in Week 2. BCG has already seen the Hilltoppers’ fast-paced, no-huddle offense up close in a Week 1 victory (46-36) over Woodbridge at Tatlock Park.
Summit lost 11 players to graduation from last year’s team that finished strong at 6-5. However, with the likes of Carter Shallcross, Ryan Schnall, Tyler Kessel, and Shane Walsh back, the Hilltoppers remain formidable. St. Thomas Aquinas also took some losses to graduation including QB Jayden Young (West Virginia Wesleyan), WRs Sherief Guinyard (East Stroudsburg), and Benjamin Bussiere (Lafayette). However, the Trojans have returned several key players to fill the void.
Leading the way is senior running back and team co-captain, Elijah Abass-Shereef. Through his three two games, Abass-Shereef has rushed 31 times for 248 yards, or exactly 8 yards per carry and 4 TDs. Two of those scores came in last week’s win over Scotch Plains-Fanwood. Chase Young also returns to the Trojan backfield. Young has rushed 34 times for 331 yards, or 9.7 yards per carry and 7 TDs.
Zacai Manigo, a standout hoops player at the JV level for the Trojans a year ago, also has contributed on offense. Although he has only caught two passes, both of them were for a total of 127 yards and 2 TDs. Manigo caught an 83-yard TD pass versus Paul VI and a 44-yard reception in the win over New Providence last week. Christian Magliacano anchors the team’s defense while also contributing offensively.
Magliacano, who played at St. Joseph’s the past two seasons, has caught 4 passes for 73 yards and a TD on offense while collecting 31 total tackles on defense including 10 for loss and two sacks. Magliacano also has a kick block among his accomplishments. The key to this game will be who wins the battle in the trenches.
Aquinas has developed a potent running game over the past several seasons. The Trojans are much more balanced offensively now. STA will need to have that running game in control of things today. It will keep Summit’s potent and efficient no-huddle offense off the field while keeping its defense well-rested and fresh for the entire contest.
Prediction: St. Thomas Aquinas wins, 38-30.