Playoff Spot on the Line as Minutemen Visit Panthers
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – One of the key games in the Big Central Conference Week 7 schedule will take place at Basilone Field in Bridgewater on Friday night. A playoff spot will be on the line as Elizabeth travels to play Bridgewater-Raritan. Both teams come into this contest at 1-6 but are much better than their records indicate.
Elizabeth got its first victory of the season last Friday night with a 28-26 upset of previously ranked Union at Williams Field. The Minutemen have lost all 6 of their games by a total of just 26 points. The three losses in BCC American Gold divisional play have been by a margin of just 7 points. Elizabeth has only been outscored by a margin of 87-82 in its divisional match-ups.
Bridgewater-Raritan has had similar bad luck. After soundly defeating Edison (44-12) from the BCC’s National Silver Division in Week 0, the Panthers have lost six straight. However, only the most recent loss to Phillipsburg (42-19) had a margin of victory of more than 10 points. Four of the five defeats have been by 8 points or less. Bridgewater-Raritan has been outscored by a total of 118-71 in its four divisional games.
In the short history of the Big Central Conference, the teams that make up the American Silver Division (Bridgewater-Raritan, Hillsborough, Hunterdon Central, Phillipsburg, and Ridge) are probably the toughest in the league. However, the teams in the American Gold Division can make a good case for being the most competitive division in the BCC this year.
Looking at the schedule of both teams, Elizabeth and Bridgewater-Raritan have each played Union and Hunterdon Central. Both opponents produced very competitive contests for the Minutemen and Panthers. Elizabeth edged Union last week, and only lost to Hunterdon Central by seven in Week 2 (21-14). Meanwhile, Bridgewater-Raritan lost to Union in overtime (27-21) in Week 1 and fell to Hunterdon Central (17-7) in Week 3.
The Panthers have played out-of-division foes such as Edison, Union, and Watchung Hills (lost 14-7) in Week 4. Watchung Hills is currently ranked 6th in the latest BCG Top 10. Union had been ranked the previous two weeks before dropping out this week. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has played Linden, Plainfield, and Hunterdon Central outside of divisional play. Linden was in the BCG Pre-Season Top 10 and currently ranks 2nd in Union County while Plainfield ranks 4th.
Hunterdon Central, which began the season at 4-0, was ranked as high as 5th in the BCG Top 10 in Week 3 before losing its last three games. As mentioned earlier, a playoff spot is on the line in this contest. Both teams are battling for the final playoff spot in the always-tough North Group 5 Supersection. Bridgewater-Raritan is tied for the 16th and final spot while Elizabeth is ranked 19th. A win will boost either team’s chances of qualifying.
Leading the Minutemen is led by freshman QB, Arique Flemming. So far this season, Flemming has completed 78 of 135 passes for 1,120 yards and 9 TDs. Flemming has also rushed 57 times for another 116 yards. In the victory over Union last week, Flemming completed 13 of 18 passes for 150 yards and 2 TDs.
The tandem of Nireese McDougald and Jamad Lyles has led Elizabeth’s ground game. McDougald leads the Minutemen in rushing with 56 carries for 275 yards along with 2 TDs. Lyles has also rushed 56 times but for 232 yards and 5 TDs. McDougald had 10 carries for 48 yards including a 21-yard run in the victory over Union last week.
Ibn McDaniels leads the Minutemen in receiving with 34 receptions for 592 yards, or 17.4 yards per catch along with 4 TDs. McDaniels is also a perfect 2 of 2 passing for another 24 yards, and has contributed on defense with a team-leading 2 interceptions. One of those interceptions was returned for a TD in the win over Union last week.
Isaiah DeRosa and Daivon Davis lead Elizabeth on defense. DeRosa has 69 total tackles on the season to date. Of those 69 total tackles, 36 of them have been solos including 4.5 for loss and a sack. Davis, who has 43 total tackles, leads the team in sacks with two and has the most tackles for loss with 6. David Lazo handles the placekicking duties for Elizabeth and has made 12 of 15 extra-point attempts while missing his only field goal attempt of the season.
On the other side of the field, Bridgewater-Raritan is led by senior QB, Jack Bray. So far this season, Bray has completed 99 of 190 passes for 1,252 yards and 16 TDs. Bray has also rushed 19 times for another 11 yards. Bray’s best game of the season was in the loss to top-ranked Ridge. In that game, Bray completed 24 of 44 passes for 264 yards and 4 TDs.
Devin Goldberg leads the Panthers’ ground game with 53 carries for 229 yards, or about 4.3 yards per rush along with a TD. Dane Sorensen also contributes to Bridgewater-Raritan’s ground game with 18 carries for 197 yards and 2 TDs. Frankie Verano is another option with 35 carries for 162 yards. As a team, the Panthers average 4.2 yards per carry.
Sorensen is an even bigger threat in the passing game, where he leads the team in receiving yards. Through Bridgewater-Raritan’s first 7 games, Sorensen has collected 35 receptions for 580 yards and 5 TDs. Combining his rushing, receiving, and return yardage, Sorensen has averaged 14.9 yards per touch this season. Joe Spirra is a contributor on both offense and defense.
Spirra leads the Panthers in total tackles with 71 including 68 solos, 7 for loss, and a sack. Spirra has also contributed offensively as well 4 of 6 completions for 36 yards and 27 rushes for another 74 yards at QB. Junior defensive lineman, Chris DelSantro leads Bridgewater-Raritan with 3 sacks while Sorensen, Colin Woodring, Logan Krizan, and Cameron Kurdyla each have an interception. Kurdyla returned his for a TD in the overtime loss versus Union in Week 1.
Handling the placekicking duties for the Panthers is Joe Squicciarini, who has converted 8 of 9 extra points while missing his only field goal attempt. Don’t be fooled by the records of these two teams. Especially with a playoff spot on the line, this contest should be a very good one. Elizabeth gets BCG’s nod for this one, but it could go either way. Follow Bridgewater’s James Olivola via Twitter @MrOlivola for updates during the course of this contest.
Prediction: Elizabeth wins, 26-23.