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The Top-Flight 21: Playoff Round 1 Predictions

Welcome to the postseason! Take a breath and enjoy this moment. Out of the 38 schools that play in Morris and Sussex Counties, 21 teams qualified for the state tournament. We at Morris Sussex Football are calling these teams the “Top-Flight 21”.  So let’s give a round of applause for Morris Sussex Football’s Top-Flight 21!  

Okay, now let’s cut out the fluff and get down to brass tacks! Look, there are 9 state sections that these remaining 21 teams are playing in. So that means there is a possibility that Morris Sussex could quite possibly represent nine state champions. To put this in perspective for you, last season Morris Sussex had four State Champions; Kinnelon, Roxbury, Madison and West Morris.

I know asking for 9 state titles may be a bit much, but I think we should have a goal. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there! So I think asking for one more state title than last year is not that lofty of a request. So the magic number the Top-Flight 21 needs to get me is five state titles!  Go git ‘er done.

Here’s how I am predicting the first round of the playoffs will go down.

North 1, Group 1

8 Hopatcong (6-3) @ 1 Hasbrouk Heights (9-0)
George Muha: I take pride in the fact that my predictions are correct 75% of the time. But there are times that I want to be proved wrong.  This is one of those times.  Hasbrouk Heights has buzzsawed through their schedule and has big time athletes at all the major positions. So Hopatcong will not beat them by out-muscling them. They will have to out play them because they flat out want it more. So here is my speech to Da Cong, “Look, you’re five foot nothing, a hundred and nothing and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. But you’ve earned your seat at the table with these guys and there is no reason you can’t win…no reason. You need to play with more heart than these guys and that’s it. If you play with more heart, the scoreboard take care of itself. Now go out there and let Hasbrouk Heights know how we play football in Morris Sussex!”
PICK: Hasbrouk Heights 34-0 (this score is meant to piss you off)

5 Butler (8-1) @ 4 Cedar Grove (7-2)
George Muha: Butler has so many superstars its insane! Here is my prediction, Ryan Cirillo will throw for 260 and three TDs, Nick Ballistreri will have 100 yards receiving and two TDs, Travis Canty and Glenn Reger will combine for 150 yards rushing and two TDs and Ryan Mack will have 8 tackles and an INT in a decisive win. No pressure!
PICK: Butler 45-21

North 1, Group 2

5 Lenape Valley (4-5) @ 4 Newton (4-5)
George Muha: I honestly feel this game could go either way. Lenape Valley coach Don Smolyn is not really a one and done kind of coach when it comes to the playoffs. But I keep hearing Week 3 Player of the Week Matt Hoberman (Hanover Park) insisting to me that Newton is a really good football team. I think Newton’s Ben Cramer is the bomb, but Smolyn is going to have Rylan Pangborn, Freddy Scharnikow and the rest of his Patriots well prepared to advance in the tourney.
PICKL: Da Pats 32-30

7 Kittatinny (4-5) @ 2 North Warren (7-2)
George Muha: Kittatinny, I give you a ton of credit for getting nodded into the party. But I am anticipating this is going to be the David Wilbur to Scott Palmer Show. I see the dynamic due connecting for 165 yards and two TDs through the air in a decisive victory for the Patriots.
PICK: North Warren 35-18

North 1, Group 3

5 River Dell (6-3) @ 4 Jefferson (7-2)
George Muha: There is no reason Jefferson can’t pull this one off. The Falcon’s basically man handled its regular season schedule with the exception of Dover and that little out of conference game against Hoboken (ahem, which we are trying to forget). But make no bones about it, the Falcons have the talent and the coaching to do some special things…but to win a state title, they need to keep playing with heart.  The playoffs will be an uphill battle for Jefferson but I see them advancing in Round 1.
PICK:  Jefferson 32-28

7 Englewood (6-3) @ 2 Sparta (8-1)
George Muha: I honestly do not know what to say besides don’t worry Englewood, it will be over quick. Lucas Faria will carry the load to keep the clock moving. I predict this game will take no longer than an hour and a half…tops.
PICK: Sparta 48-15

North 1, Group 4

6 Randolph (5-3-1) @ 3 Old Tappan (8-1)
George Muha: Brennan Corcoran & Connor Logoyda have been gelling like Megellan lately. Sean Murphy has been suspicously quiet lately and I see him having a huge game. Of course, Randolph has a secret weapon in their kicking game but I don’t see them needing to pull the Raggo card this early in the playoffs. I’m going for the Rams in a decisive victory.
PICK: Randolph 34-21

7 Morris Knolls (5-4) @ Paramus (6-2)
George Muha: Paramus is all the rage in Hudson County…or whatever county they are in. Although Knoll’s has the cards stacked up against them, they can win if 1) Paramus is not prepared for their Veer offense and 2) the Knoll’s Heads (Morris Knolls student section) can bring their 12th Man act on the road.  Even then, its going to be very tough.
PICK: Paramus 21-14

North 2, Group 2

5 Hanover Park (7-2) @ 4 Lodi (9-0)
George Muha: It’s been 23 years…23 years since Hanover Park won a state title. 23 FREAKING YEARS!!! Look Hornets, I don’t know what you’re waiting for but the time is NOW. Win three games and be a champion forever. You want a pep talk? Don’t even make it close…there’s your pep talk.
PICK: Hanover Park 28-14

6 Madison (6-2) @ 3 Lincoln (8-1)
George Muha: Madison’s Christian Scarpello did it all last week…he intercepted a pass, ran for a long TD, caught for a long TD, played in the band at halftime, did a 15 minute shift in the snack shack and drew up a couple plays as offensive coordinator. Congrats Scarp on such a big game! However, unfortunately I think this will be the end of Madison’s long string of state titles. Lincoln and their speed has been killing teams all year.
PICK: Lincoln 34-22

7 Dover (6-3) @ 2 Mountain Lakes (9-0)
George Muha: Uggh…I have no idea how to pick this one. Look, I know this Lakes team has a ton of talent and is well coached. But I only predict games with my heart…and my heart is telling me there is some kind of shift in the universe regarding Dover. Dover is starting to play like they are in a bad mood and that is what wins championships. I see Dover getting off the bus with the goal of taking care of business.
PICK: Dover 22-15

North 2, Group 3

5 South Plainfield (7-2) @ 4 Parsippany Hills (7-2)
George Muha: Just so you know, South Plainfield is no slouch. They actually scored the most points on St. Joes this year.  In case you don’t know this, St. Joes is like the second best team on the planet right now. My gut is telling me South Plainfield but I’m a big fat homer so I am going with Par Hills. You better prove me right Par Hills!
PICK: Par Hills 24-20

North 2, Group 4

6 Mendham (4-4-1) @ 3 Colonia (6-3)
George Muha: I’ve said this a thousand times this year; Mendham is REALLY good when they decide to play their own style of football and don’t play down to the level of their competition. Defensively they have very disciplined downlineman, hard hitting linebackers and an aggressive secondary. Offensively they have tough linemen, a strong running game, awesome receivers and one of the top quaterbacks in the area. They even have a very good special teams group. So what is the problem? I can’t figure out, nor do I want to. What I want is Mendham to start blowing teams out because they are totally capable.
PICK: Mendham 40-21

7 Morristown (3-6) @ 2 West Morris (6-3)
George Muha:  This is one of my favorite match-ups of the first round simply because of the long history between these two teams.  Every time they play there is always some little twist to it like a freak snow storm or something.  Take their matchup earlier in the year.  Motown won 3-0.   I didn’t even know you could score so few points.  As for this game, I have mad respect for the way this young Motown team has been fighting their hardest all season long.  But in the end, the Wolfpack have too many seasoned veterans to allow the Colonials to trip them up twice in one season.
PICK: WMC 30-21

Non-Public, Group 1

7 Mater Dei (5-4) @ 2 Morristown-Beard (6-3)
George Muha: It’s over for Grogg, Rella, McFadden and the rest of the Bearded Fatso’s…the silly losing streak they were on is over, that is! Mo-Beard is back and proved that by their 51-13 schilacking of Newark Academy last week. At the end of this one, Mater won’t Die but they will be on the losing end of a convincing win. There will be no funny business for Cole Steinfeldt’s defense as they keep the Deads to two scores.
PICK: 40-10

Non-Public, Group 3

6 Monsignor Donovan (4-4) @ 3 Delbarton (8-1)
George Muha: Dude, are you kidding me? Delbarton is so good on all sorts of levels. First, Brian Bowers is a brilliant play caller and his team is so well coached. Secondly, Aaron Slodowitz is disgusting on defense. The kid is just viscious. Thirdly, fullback turned runningback Rob Arancio literally looks like the second coming of Gale Saylers.  Against Pope John last week, the kid literally looked like he was the one going to Ohio State on a scholarship. I don’t see this one being close.
PICK: 40-17

7 Bishop Ahr @ 2 Pope John
George Muha: Pope John’s defensive lineman Noa Merritt is my new favorite player of all time! Last week against Delbarton, I just found myself keying in on him from the stands on every play. This kid has technique, power and a fire that is just a freaking pleasure to watch. At the end of the day, it will be Merritt that will be having Bishop gasping for Ahr.
PICK: PJ 39-14

How I did last week: 19-1 (95.00%)
How I’m doing so far this season:  132-39 (77.19%)

George Muha has been covering high school sports since 2006. He feels high school scholar-athletes are the most important part of the community and highlighting their achievements on the field, in the classroom and within the community is his personal mission.



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