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And then there were 17. There are 17 Morris Sussex teams that made the playoffs this season that make up 8 separate brackets. So there is a potential for 8 state titles representing our area. Last season there were three so that is the benchmark to beat. Check out how we think it’s all going to go down this weekend and see if we picked your favorite team to advance to the next round.

North 1, Group 1

6 North Warren (7-2) @ 3 Cedar Grove (7-2) – Fri. 7pm

LAByrne: Cedar Grove is going to try passing the ball in this game and North Warren will have an answer in Darian Redmond and Conor Frehill. And, NW has a formidable run game that’s going to keep pounding until the job is done. PICK: NW 28-21
Brian Kaes: Wow this is going to be a great game. I really think that North Warren can pull this one out, even on the road. My money is on NW pulling it out, between Thornton and Heinz on offense and Baldwin and Durling on defense (and Heinz too, the kid had a bunch of tackles and two sacks last week!). North Warren will pull a big upset over the Grove. PICK: NW 21-17
George Muha: Cedar Grove coach Ed Sadloch has been coaching forever. He was actually my brothers’ coach when they were at Bailey Ellard in the early 80’s. He’s got a collection of rings and has no intention of dropping a first round playoff loss. But it doesn’t matter what his intentions are because Big Bad Baldwin will tackle everyone in sight and Nick Heinz is going leave a trail of red behind him (not blood, ketchup). Redmond has been way too quiet these days. I bet he has four catches for over 100-yards in this one. PICK: NWR 35-18

7 Saddle Brook (6-3) @ 2 Boonton (8-1) – Fri. 7pm

LAByrne: Boonton’s ones will be on the bench by halftime. PICK: Bombers 35-10
Brian Kaes: Boonton has their hands full with the Brook this Friday but I think they will handle their first round game with relative ease. Look for Mean TJ Green and Gage Cabalar to run for at least one TD each before the hometown fans. PICK: Boonton 28-13
George Muha: I got some bad news for you Saddle Brook. Yeah, and its in the form of a 6-2, 220-pound linebacker who literally breathes fire out of his nose and goes by the name Quinn Sweeney. Good luck with that! PICK: Boonton 50-21

North 1, Group 2

8 Kittatinny (5-4) @ 1 Glen Rock (6-2) – Sat. 1pm

LAByrne: This is going to be a lot closer than it might seem. The Cougars will get plenty of productivity with Josh Klimek running the ball so I think it’ll come down to whether or not the Cougars can slow down Glen Rock’s stacked offense. I’m worried for our Kittatinny players. PICK: GR 28-10
Brian Kaes: Kittatinny had a decent year this year and they unfortunately got a rough seed in the playoffs. While Josh Klimek will run for over 100 yards at the end of this one the Rock will have landed on Kittatinny. PICK: The Rock 34-20
George Muha: This is a winnable game for Kittatinny. I know they’ve been struggling with injuries all season. But I am loving how Klimek is running these days. I smell an upset in this one. PICK: Kittatinny 28-27

5 Sussex Tech (4-5) @ 4 Hawthorne (7-1) – Fri. 7pm

LAByrne: Hawthorne is stacked. Defense, offense, special teams—they’re a tough, tough team and I think ST’s season will end—darn it. PICK: Hawthorne 35-14
Brian Kaes: I’m going to miss all the great names on Tech but their season will end this Friday. I expect Dylan Beebe, Brandons Bendes and Boyd and Dylan “Dee” Synder to go down fighting. Look for Mr. Outland to run for over 100 as well in a battle. PICK: Hawthorne 35-13
George Muha: I visited every single team in the summer for our preseason preview. Sussex Tech was one of my favorites. These players had a funny way about them. They had a sense that they didn’t take themselves too seriously but at the same time you knew they meant business. Nobody wants them to advance more than me. But I think Hawthorne is too much. I hope I am wrong. PICK: Hawthorne 32-18

6 Westwood (6-3) @ 3 Pequannock (8-1) – Fri. 7pm

LAByrne: This is when life gets really, really cool for this Pequannock team. This is what they’ve been training for all year: to own a team in the playoffs at home. I can’t wait to see the victory pic. PICK: Pequannock 35-7
Brian Kaes: Pequannock is on a tear and is coming off a shutout of Kittatinny. They are on a mission this year and there is no way Westwood is slowing them down. Look for Sean Klimek to run for 200 yards and two scores while Tommy Crooks runs for over 100 and one score. Give the Pequannock O-line their props, they are paving the way for the backs on offense. PICK: Pequannock 38-21
George Muha: I love it that the strongest kid on this Pequannock team is QB Tommy Crooks. Unfortunately, Westwood will not be loving it this Friday night. PICK: Pequannock 40-19

North 1, Group 3

5 Sparta (6-3) @ 4 Garfield (6-2) – Fri. 7pm

LAByrne: A tough loss to Randolph last week, and Sparta will be prepared for this Garfield team. Look for Gannat to pound the ball through the Garfield defense. PICK: Sparta 28-10
Brian Kaes: Sparta can and should win this game. Yes, Garfield has a better record. Yes, Garfield is at home. No, Garfield doesn’t want it as much as Sparta does. Plus Garfield doesn’t have Matt Maute at QB. Look for him to throw for 300 yards and 3 scores in this one. PICK: Sparta 28-21
George Muha: Dean Gennat should get a job as a headmaster of a school. So when you get caught lighting firecrackers in your locker, one of the nuns will say, “Go see Dean Gennat so you can receive your lashings.” Then when you go see him he’ll be like the cool principal who’ll be cracking jokes and such. Okay, I’m totally stalling. Sparta’s totally got this. PICK: Spartans 40-30

North 1, Group 4

5 Wayne Valley (8-1) @ 4 Morris Knolls (7-2) – Sat. 1pm

LAByrne: I know I’m supposed to pick teams on their merit—the staff at MSS is competing for money on their percentages this year and it’s getting SERIOUS around here—but getting behind this Morris Knolls team is easy, regardless of how good Wayne Valley looks. MK leaves it all on the field every week, AND my son tells me he knows Dean and Luke Drugac and they are awesome: hard workers, good guys, super talented. Okay, okay—so my son knows them through wrestling. But, as I always say, wrestler/football players are among the best on the field. Dean and Luke Drugac don’t want their season to end and they’re going to be the difference makers, along with production from an offense that just doesn’t quit. PICK: Knolls 28-21
Brian Kaes: Morris Knolls has their hands full in the first round of the playoffs and it’s going to be rough. I think that it would not surprise anyone if Wayne Valley wins this game. All that being said, I think the Knolls D will step up in the final quarter and cause a turnover to ice the game. Look for Nicky “V” Vittorio to score at least one TD in this one. PICK: Knolls 21-20
George Muha: Fun fact – every team Wayne Valley beat this year has a sub-.500 record. Put that together with the fact that they’ll likely have no idea how to handle Morris Knoll’s triple option and I think this is going to be a blowout. PICK: MK 40-7

6 Indian Hills (7-2) @ 3 West Morris (7-2) – Fri. 7pm

LAByrne: Central has a solid QB in Cooper Sloan, a strong run-game with Solomon Holzworth and Bryce Sokolowski, a solid line and lockdown defense. And, they’re well coached and true team players that have each other’s backs. I don’t see them losing anytime soon. PICK Wolfpack 38-7
Brian Kaes: Another tough game for the higher seed! West Morris has played great all season, and has surprised me once or twice. I think Cooper Sloan is going to have to go to the air more in this one, and he can do it. It’s going to come down to the final minutes in this one. PICK: WM 14-10
George Muha: I remember when I was in high school playing for Hanover Park and driving out to West Morris for Friday Night games. It was insane. First off, it felt like we were driving out to the middle of Pennsylvania. Secondly, their fan base goes crazy for Friday Night Lights. I don’t think Indian Hills will be able to get past the 12th man thing that the Wolfpack’s got going for them. PICK: Wolfpack 32-21

7 Wayne Hills (7-2) @ 2 Roxbury (8-1) – Fri. 7pm

LAByrne: Every now and then I like to watch video of this team because they define team-play. Sure, QB Grant Dixon is nearly NFL-ready. But he also has multiple reliable targets, like Jack Clevenger, Tucker Voelbel and Stephen Loreng. And can we just talk about Jack Clevenger for a second longer? This guy is insane on both sides of the ball. He’s a nightmare for opposing teams, racking up tackles and sacks, then walking down the field, turning around, and catching everything tossed his way. Roxbury is going to destroy Wayne Hills. PICK: Gaels 42-6
Brian Kaes: For a 7 seed Wayne Hills has a good record and they are not going to be a push over for Roxbury. Of course, Roxbury is more determined than Rocky was in Rocky IV so I’m going with Roxbury all the way. How about this kid Grant Dixon? He did it on offense at QB and he even had a pick on defense last week. He is going to have to bring his A game from here on out, because teams are going to be gunning for him. He will rise up to the challenge I’m sure, and his O-Line has his back. PICK: Night at the Roxbury 24-14
George Muha: I know Wayne Hills is good. But they’ll have no idea what to do with defensive lineman Brandon Yaw and the Roxbury Gael defense, much less their offense. PICK: Rox 48-18

8 Hackettstown (4-5) @ 1 Lenape Valley (8-1) – Fri. 7pm

LAByrne: Hackettstown has had an amazing season with more talent and tenacity than we’ve seen from the Tigers for a long time. But Lenape Valley has this guy Ralph Hall—and I know I’ve talked about him before—but he’s a BEAST and I think he could literally eat a few Tigers for lunch. PICK: LV 21-10
Brian Kaes: I always hate when two conference teams have to play each other in the playoffs. H-Town had a decent season this year and I was surprised they lost last week. This week, I won’t be too surprised when they lose to the Valley. The Valley hasn’t turned back since their loss to HP earlier in the season, and they are heading into the playoffs with a full head of steam after crushing Parsippany last week. Look for Brandon Bready to find the endzone once on this one, but it’s a total team effort for the Valley in a big win. PICK: LV 42-13
George Muha: LV’s Greg Cooper told me early in this season that there was nothing that was going to get in their way this season. I believe him. Michael Josephs will be the X-Factor in this game. PICK: LV 35-30

5 Mountain Lakes (6-3) @ 4 Madison (6-2) – Sat. 1pm

LAByrne: I can’t get to this game and it’s literally KILLING me. I am going to be glued to my twitter feed to watch for score updates so someone PLEASE tweet them @labyrnewriter . Do you remember a few years ago when the Seahawks crushed the Broncos in the Superbowl? That’s the kind of defense Madison is playing, and that’s going to be the difference-maker in this matchup. PICK: Dodgers 21-10
Brian Kaes: I think the highlight of the season for Madison was beating up on cross-town rivals Hanover Park last week. However, it may be downhill from there. I am not sure how the Dodgers are going to stop the three-headed rushing monster of Jake Spagnola, Jordan Kern and Dylan Gottesman, who ran for a billion yards total last week for the Lakes. Their offensive line just brought it last week. That being said, Madison is no joke, they have their own defensive and offensive weapons, Zach Shupe on offense to name one of them. On defense their secondary was lights out last week, but the cousins Dalena (Justin and Mike) will be making more tackles then picks this week for Madison. It’s going to be a close one, but I think the Lakes wins by a point. PICK: Lakes 28-27
George Muha: I must admit, I hated watching Madison manhandle my Hornets last week. But they convinced me they are a front runner in this section. I’m jumping on their bandwagon! PICK: Madison 21-20

6 Caldwell (3-5) @ 3 Hanover Park (8-1) – Fri. 7pm at Parsippany Hills HS

LAByrne: I picked HP to win last week but I’m glad I was wrong. The Hornets are now ready to annihilate the next team they line up against. PICK: HP 35-7
Brian Kaes: How the heck did an 8-1 team fall to a 3 seed? It doesn’t seem fair. However, the Hornets should have an easy time with Caldwell in the first round. Last week was, at best, a wake up call. At worst, it was a sign that the Hornets are slowing down. I prefer to think it was a wake up call and was the best thing that could have happened to them. They will look back at the Madison loss and say, “This is when we realized that we need to leave it all on the field every play, game and for the rest of the season!” Look for their defense, anchored by Anthony Olivieri, (who had almost 2 dozen tackles last week), Mike Centanni, Rory DeLuca, Alex LaShell and Mike Radomski to step up big time this week and hold Caldwell to less than 10 points. On offense HP will be back firing on all cylinders and thanks to Donato Casolaro leading the way. PICK: HP 35-8
George Muha: Go ahead Caldwell and think that HP got handled last week that this is going to be a cakewalk. I dare you. There is no way HP doesn’t come out of the gate like a hurricane. PICK: HP 40-0

North 2, Group 3

6 Chatham (7-2) @ 3 Barringer (8-0) – Sat. 1pm

LAByrne: Chatham has been a favorite team to watch this season, starting from their first scrimmage against Mendham you just knew they had specialness all over the field. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m worried about our Cougars this week. 8-0 is a tough record to beat. PICK: Barringer 21-14
Brian Kaes: Chatham played really well last week against Morristown and is having a great year. Alex Sands had his best game of the year throwing for over 400 yards and 4 TDs. They should be very proud of their season. Unfortunately, I think that Barringer is too big and fast and at the end of the day they will outscore them in a close game. PICK: Barringer 35-28
George Muha: It must be nice to be undefeated by this point of the season. And it must stink to win every game and then drop a loss in the first game of the playoffs. I guess we’ll have to ask Barringer how that feels on Saturday night. PICK: Chatham 30-23

Non-Public, Group 3

5 Red Bank Catholic (7-2) @ 4 Pope John (7-2) – Sat. 1pm

LAByrne: I just watched the Pope John-Morris Hills matchup on our MSS video. Check it out. Did you see that huge, athletic, streak of lightening sizzling down the field? That was Berrell Neal. He didn’t even break a sweat in that game. PICK: PJ 28-14
Brian Kaes: Ugh. This is too close to call. I honestly think that Pope John can win this game and because I know a bunch of people that went there and it is at home I’m going to pick them. On paper either team has a shot. I think Berrell Neal and Ty Hranicka will each score a TD in this one as Pope John escapes Round 1 of the playoffs. PICK: PJ 24-21
George Muha: PJ has had a great season so far. But I think the magic runs out this weekend. But sophomores Ty Hranicka and Berrell Neal get some nice playoff experience. PICK: RBC 30-20

6 Bishop Eustace (5-3) @ 3 Delbarton (7-2) – Sat. 1pm

LAByrne: Last week Delbarton staged one of the best comebacks of the season. I might’ve stopped following the game if our own Andrew Papantonis weren’t tweeting it for us. You know Delbarton has always had talent, discipline, good coaching and smart players. This year they have something else too. What is it? I can’t figure it out! But it’s going to make this game a near blowout. PICK: 35-7
Brian Kaes: I think Delby will cruise this week into the second round of the playoffs. They won a nail biter against some rando NY team last week and are ready to light Bishop Eustace up. Look for Delby QB Matt Zebrowski to throw for 300 yards and at least 2 scores in this one. PICK: Delby 30-14
George Muha: Although the Eustace’s had shown some fight in them this year, Delby has momentum in behind them. Sammy Johnson will have a Pick-6 in this one. No pressure Johnson! PICK: Delby 30-11

How We Did Picking Them

Laura: 14-5
Brian: 14-5
George: 12-7

How We’re Doing So Far

Laura 128-44 (74.41%)
Brian 132-40 (76.74%)
George 121-51 (70.34%)

Last Year’s Prediction Percentages

Laura (67.54%)
Brian (68.21%)
George (70.19%)

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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