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It’s been almost four months since we visited Chatham and Madison to preview their teams. They were hot August days on dusty fields. As we talked with coaches we could see players eyes peering through helmets while they drilled. Back then, neither Madison nor Chatham knew what was ahead. But after week one, Madison had ended a three-year win streak for Mountain Lakes and Chatham won in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion to beat a very good Randolph team.

Both teams had setbacks as Madison went on a two-game losing streak against Lenape Valley and Butler while Chatham had trials against Sparta and Pope John. But each team learned from the mistakes and seemed to get stronger and tougher with each subsequent win.

Going into the playoffs Morris Sussex had seventeen out of thirty seven teams make it to the postseason dance in Round 1. Then, only eight made it to the next round. After that, only two remain standing with a chance to bring a state title to our area.

A lot has happened since those dog days of August. Those boys who peered through their face masks back then are now men with a chance to take the ultimate prize back to their home towns. We rally behind them as we share with you how we think its going to play out.

Cranford (11-0) vs Chatham (9-2)

LAByrne: I’ve been spellbound by Chatham since their first scrimmage against Mendham. This team is special all over the field, a true band of brothers with multiple talents on offense, a brutally strong line with another favorite wrestler/football player in Kellstrom, and a lockdown defense in their linebackers as well as ‘backs. I stood on the sideline in the last game and felt the energy along the bench, on the field, and in the stands. This team can make this championship happen. Best part of all? They know they can. PICK: Cougars 21-20
Brian Kaes: Chatham has had an amazing year and no matter what happens in this game they should be proud of their season. Alex Sands and company are going to leave it all on the field in this one. Look for him to throw and run for scores in this barn burner of a game. Matt Nestler Crunch will also account for over 100 yards of offense. However, in the end, Cranford will prove a little too much for the Cougars and Chatham will lose in the final minutes. Again, they shut up all detractors this year and had an amazing season so they better hold their heads no matter what. Pick: Cranford 34-28
George Muha: Who’s got the waffle Chatham? You linemen do, that’s who! This game is up to you Nessy, Khan, Kellstrom, Zach, Barnett and LeMon. You guys already faced two of the toughest defensive lineman in the state in Par Hills’ Hill and PJ’s Wade-Perry. Let’s start this game like we’re annoyed we even have to play this game and not take the accelorator off until they hand us the NJSIAA trophy. You got this boys! PICK: Cougs 41-14

Madison (9-2) vs Rutherford (10-0)

LAByrne: The semifinals matchup between Lenape Valley and Madison was just another example of this team’s winning strategy: be prepared, stay focused and controlled, and play hard. It helps that they have insane talent. Dom Luppino is talked about in the MSS office by our interns more than any other player in thirty-seven programs—and that’s only when they’re not talking about Schupe, Dalena, Mobley and Mulcahy. I hate that LV was knocked out—I wanted that team to win too—but after the finals game, they’ll at least know that they were beat by state champs. PICK: Madison 28-7
Brian Kaes: Well this is my last pick of the year so I really want to get it correct!!! I have been so good all year. Ha ha I honestly think Madison is going to win. Their defense is firing on all cylinders and their QB Nick Coviello is getting better and better! He will throw for 2 TDs in this one and Dom Luppino will be making a difference on both sides of the ball again! Rutherford’s defense bent but didn’t break when they beat the Hornets, they won’t be as lucky this time against a Madison team that is on a roll. Coach Kubik is made for the post-season and he is going to show that again by coaching these kids to another state title. Pick: Madison 27-20
George Muha: Here is the dealio Madison: A few weeks back I was actually feeling sorry for you. I was certain my undefeated Hornets were going to bring you back to reality on their way to a perfect season. What did you do? You flat out embarrassed them and made an extremely talented team look amateurish. So what did I do? I jumped on the maroon-and-gold bandwagon. Dalena told me you guys went into that game with an attitude that losing was not an option. All you have to do is do the same thing for four more quarters and bring that NJSIAA back to where it belongs. Let’s do this! PICK: Madison 44-10

How We Did Last Week

Laura: 3-4
Brian: 3-4
George: 3-4

How We Are Doing So Far

Laura: 140-54 (72.16%)
Brian: 143-51 (73.71%)
George: 134-60 (69.07%)

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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