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This is my favorite week of the season.  This is the time of year where you are so close to MetLife Stadium that you can almost taste it.  One game is the only thing that separates you from infamy (two games if you are in the North 1, Group 4 section – thank you for that Wayne Hills).  Out of the nineteen teams that made it to the postseason, only thirteen Morris Sussex teams remain in the playoffs.  We are calling these the “Mean Thirteen”.  The Mean Thirteen represent six state sections.  That means our area could potentially have six state champions in it.

What I love about this round of the playoffs is everyone starts to rally around our local teams.  There is nothing cooler to me than seeing a bunch of guys in Mount Olive varsity jackets sitting in the Randolph stands rooting for their regular season foe to advance.  Or Dover kids rooting on Madison, or Mendham kids rooting for West Morris, or Delbarton rooting on Pope John.  To me it just says, “we wear different color jerseys but we all bleed Morris Sussex”.

It is with that same spirit that we back our brothers as they battle opponents from different parts of the state in the hopes to advance for a chance to play in the Holy Grail – MetLife Stadium.  Below is how we see it playing out in our 2016 Predictions for the second week of the playoffs.

North 1, Group 2 – Semi Finals

8 High Point (6-3) @ 4 Westwood (8-2)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: Westwood put up 40 points against Waldwick in the opening round of the playoffs. Not much of a surprise as the Cardinals have done it three other times in the regular season. Look for the ‘Birds to punch their ticket and keep their season alive. PICK: Westwood 35-21
Brian Daniel: Wow High Point dominated last week and the game was over in the first half! I’m glad I was wrong, but I won’t make that mistake again. I see HP continuing their momentum and upsetting Westworld (great show on HBO by the way) this week! Jake “The Snake” Lisinsky will run for a buck twenty and two scores and Cliff “Throw them in the Gutter” Rutter will have a dozen tackles and two sacks on defense for the High Pointers. PICK: HP 20-14
George Muha: Westwood already has two state championships this decade in this section and these guys are no joke. If this game was Week 2 in this season, I’d be picking Westwood. However, HP has gotten better each week and this is a much different team than 10 weeks ago. Look for all parts of this Wildcats team work in unison to push their way into the state final. Storm Goralczyk, Cliff Rutter and Steve Eutermark will lock down the D while the law firm of Philip, Musilli & Lisinsky to continue to grind out the yards on offense. To me the X-factor will be kicker Grayson “Money” Sabo who seems to have ice in his veins when he lines up to kick. PICK: Wildcats 17-14

6 Pequannock (6-2-1) @ 2 Mahwah (9-1)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: Not surprised to see Mahwah here. I have said it before, they are one of the best public school football programs in North Jersey. It’s been a heck of a ride for the ‘Nock but the Thunderbirds roll as they look to make a second consecutive trip to MetLife. PICK: Mahwah 30-21
Brian Daniel: Wow I was kind of shocked that the ‘Quan beat Newton last week but they proved me wrong. Considering that Hanover Park beat Mahwah and the ‘Quan beat HP I think that there is no question the ‘Quan can win this one going away. And that’s what they are going to do. Look for Dave Jachera to throw for two scores and run for another two (along with over 100 yards on the ground) as Pequannock continues its’ charge to a championship. Let’s not forget Zach “Attack” Toback on defense for Pequannock.  He will record almost 20 tackles and a sack along with his buddies Matty “G” Gallo and Justin “No Muss” Fuss (10 and 12 tackles each, respectively), in a convincing victory. PICK: The ‘Quan 35-14
George Muha: How about the Pequannock fan base coming out in full swing to Newton. I am very impressed by the support and the 12th man factor they give their Golden Panthers. As for this game, no team is harder to prepare for than The Quan. QB Jachera and RB Klimek are two crazy athletes that are each tough to contain individually. The fact that either one of them can get the ball on any given play is trouble for the Mahwahonians.  It will be close by I’m doubling down on Pequannock.  PICK:  Golden Panthers 28-24

North 1, Group 3 – Semi Finals

4 Old Tappan (8-2) @ 1 Sparta (10-0)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: Old Tappan is a tough draw for the Spartans but I have made my bed and I am sticking with my pick. THIS IS SPARTA! PICK: Sparta 21-10
Brian Daniel: Holy heck Sparta dropped 55 points on Demarest last week and while they won’t top that number this week they sure as heck aren’t slowing down. Is it any shock that Matty Maute threw for 3 scores or that Alex Miliken ran for almost 250 yards and 4 TDs last week? No, it’s not. It’s almost expected. That’s how good their offense and offensive line is. Crazy. Old Tappan is a small obstacle in the way of Sparta (that they won’t ignore as they shut out a good Jefferson team last week) but they have their eyes set on another ring and I would be shocked if they don’t get it. As an aside I don’t expect Old Tappan to complete more than a couple of passes to their team. Most will go to Sparta, who picked off the opposing QB 4 times last week. PICK: Sparta 41-20
George Muha: I got a text from a coach this season after he was handed a loss from Sparta and it said, “I have never seen a better team than this Sparta team.” And this is from a coach who has a team that is still in the playoffs. Old Tappan is a VERY good team too. But Sparta is just playing in a different universe this season. Look for Spartan defender Anthony “Deion Sanders” Esposito to nab another interception in what will prove to be the nail in the proverbial coffin for the Taps. PICK: Sparta 55-34

North 1, Group 4 – Round 1

8 Roxbury (5-4) @ 1 Wayne Hills (8-1)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: This whole Wayne Hills situation is a mess. Its unfortunate. I’m really pulling for my Gaels. Nothing would be better than to see Wayne Hills one and done and have all this stuff put away. Let’s just play football. Coach Cos will have his guys ready and I know The Rox will be ready to rock. PICK: Roxbury 28-20
Brian Daniel: The ‘Bury getting it done! Maybe they were saving it all the playoffs after having a lackluster season. I would like to think so. I would also like to see them beat a Wayne Hills team that was already judged in the court of public opinion as guilty, so in that respect I feel kind of bad for them. The whole situation should have been handled better by everyone involved. Regardless, Roxbury could just be getting hot, so I’m going to go with the hot hand. Donovan Brady will get more yards in the air this week at QB while throwing for 2 scores. And Wayne Safreed will collect 20 tackles and 2 sacks on defense in the upset of the week. PICK: Roxbury 21-17
George Muha: Against Par Hills I saw Roxbury’s defense look like the ’85 Bears. They were just physically beating them up. Against Sparta, I watched Roxbury get handled easily. I think both of those experiences will pay dividends in this game. As good as Wayne Hills is, they are no Sparta. And Roxbury’s play-in game (that they had to play because of the Wayne Hills situation) gave them just the momentum they needed to come into this game on a high note. I know our prediction is making us look like a bunch of homers. But you be the guy to look Joey “Bag-o-Donuts” Badgley and tell him he’s going to lose. The Gael’s got this! PICK: Rox 30-25

5 Fair Lawn (7-2) @ 4 West Morris (8-1)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: A great challenge for the Wolfpack as they take on a Fair Lawn offense that has scored 30+ points in five games. West Morris will be prepared and ready to go. Their defense will be up to the challenge: PICK: Wolfpack 21-10
Brian Daniel: West Morris won a tough game last week and look for Ryan Finlay to throw for 200-yards and 2 scores in another win on WM’s quest for a championship. My main man Cole “Trickle” Draghi will run for a buck fifty and two scores as well. PICK: WM 34-28
George Muha: I love it how every year there is a player who kind of comes out of no-where and ends up being absolutely redonkulous. That player this year is without a doubt Cole Draghi of West Morris. This kid is a total gladiator and I have not seen a team that has been able to contain this guy for four quarters. On that note, I also give mad props (sorry I know that phrase is so 1992) to WMC quarterback Ryan Finlay. This kid has been masterful in the way he’s run this office and one of the key reasons DaPack is where they are right now. This team definitely has two games left to play. PICK: Wolves 39-22

6 Morris Knolls (6-3) @ 3 Wayne Valley (7-2)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: This game has the making of being a shoot-out. Both teams can light up the scoreboard. It is going to come down to who has the ball last. PICK: Morris Knolls 38-35
Brian Daniel: Knolls had a great season this year and I would not be surprised if they win this weekend. No matter what happens, I expect Patrick Gallagher to throw for 2 scores and he and the rest of his Knolls’ teammates will leave it all on the field! PICK: WV 27-20
George Muha: This type of game is why you pay coach Bill Regan the big bucks. I guarantee I know the game plan for Knolls. They will be running away from Wayne Valley’s stud defender Danny “The Sandwich” Sandowick the entire game and they will also be using their offense to keep WV’s QB Grant Ferrauilo (who has thrown for 29 TDs this season) off the field. This Golden Eagle’s team can ball with anyone and I BELIEVE THAT THEY WILL WIN! Plus they got my boy Nate “Thurston” Howell! PICK: Knolls 35-34

7 Randolph (6-3) @ 2 Irvington (8-1)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: This is going to be a tough task for Randolph. Irvington has scored 48 points in two of their last three games. That is not to sell Randolph short. The Rams have score 30 plus points in their last three games. Unfortunately, I do not think Randolph can keep up with the Blue Knights speed. They do not go against teams in Morris Sussex who will have speed like Irvington. PICK: Irvington 35-28
Brian Daniel: Justin Suarez has led the Rams all season and will continue to do so again throwing for 2 scores and almost 200 yards in this one. The Rams defense will hold Irvington to 20 points, but in the end that will be enough to best the Rams and end a decent season for them. PICK: Irvington 20-14
George Muha: This Randolph team has shown a ton of character this season. I love how the team pulled up their bootstraps after it was clear their star RB Carlo Zarro wasn’t coming back right away. Guys like Nick Zach, Nick Rampone, Nick Jung (how many Nick’s are there on this team?) and Justin Suarez rose to the occasion and showed themselves that as a team they can accomplish anything. Don’t get me wrong, Irvington is an A+ team but here are the two reasons you need to put your money on the Rams. One is TE Jeramie Simmons. When it is 3rd and long and Randolph throws to him, Irvington won’t be able to do anything about it. And the second reason, and the biggest X-factor in the game, is defensive tackle Chandler Boykins. This kid is 5-10, 240-pounds of pure crocodile. Once he gets his chops on you and starts spinning you around, it’s over. PICK: Rams 40-38

North 2, Group 2 – Semi Finals

4 Hanover Park (8-2) @ 1 Madison (9-0)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: I’ve been picking Madison all season long and there’s no stopping me now. PICK: Madison 28-17
Brian Daniel: Let’s face it, last week senior Rory DeLuca put this team on his back and carried them (33 times) to victory. He had over 230 yards rushing and 3 TDs (along with 8 tackles on defense). I think there is no question that he and his senior teammates want nothing more than to bring another (and only the second) championship to Hanover Park. These seniors don’t want to stop playing football (and who knows, for some of them it won’t be their last game, as college awaits). No matter what happens, they will leave it all on the field. But make no mistake, Madison is well coached and has a ton of experience, and they are planning for the DeLuca/Casolaro attack this week. HP will have their hands full with Mike Kearney passing (and running, he had two TDs on the ground last time the two teams played) the ball and The Mulcahy brothers running it for the Dodgers’ offense. HP will have to learn from its mistakes in their first meeting, but Madison will be mixing it up and giving them different looks anyway. I heard some rumblings about some injuries, but I think it’s all hands on deck for both teams in this game. My heart tells me to pick HP, but Madison is a beast this year and a likely state champ, and I would be very surprised, if not shocked, if they lose against the Hornets. But, that is why they play the game, and nobody ever said I wasn’t a “home team” type guy, so I’m going with the Hornets. If they get coached up enough and are in this game in the fourth quarter, they can win it. PICK: HP 28-27
George Muha: Last year my nephew Gareth Jones, who was a senior at Madison and a big part of their student section, told me that his school hated me. I was actually really surprised to hear that because I actually have a strong affinity for their program, always make sure I give them a ton of good press and even have a lot of friends over there. But as I write this prediction, I am starting to realize why some folks over there might not like some of the things I write. And before I give you the reasons why I think HP will win this game, I want to preface it by saying this prediction has nothing to do with the fact that I am a total homer for Hanover Park (Class of ’93 baby, black and gold forever!). Frankly, I don’t know how you stop the Mulcahy brothers, Brian Bradley and Mike Kearney. Nor do I know how you get around the blocking of Max Downing and Yiakos Kostidakis (who are redonk this year). Or how you tame the energy that comes from nose tackle Griffin Meister. Or outsmart their mad scientist coach Chris Kubik. To me, Madison has all of the makings of a state championship team. But sometimes you just get something in your gut that you just have to go with. PICK: Hornets 31-28

3 Lenape Valley (9-1) @ 2 Rutherford (8-1)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: This is the game of the week. No doubt, this will be Lenape Valley’s toughest task but Coach Smolyn will have his team ready as always. PICK: LV 28-27
Brian Daniel: Rutherford beat a decent Whippany Park team last week and face a tougher test against the Valley this week. Khalid “Eric” Dickerson and Troy Dupont will combine for over 200 yards on the ground and 3 scores for the Valley. Will it be enough to beat Rutherford? I honestly don’t know, and my prediction record has been pretty bad this year. But I’m going to go out on a limb, because I believe in the Valley, and they can get it done. PICK: LV 34-29
George Muha: I don’t know how you prepare for Lenape Valley if you are Rutherford. The fact that the Pats can hand it off to Stevie Leyden, Troy Dupont, Steven Sylvester and Khalid Dickerson on any given play has got to be a challenge. Not to mention if they can slow down this run game (which they can’t), Coach Smolyn will unleash a seldomly used but very potent passing attack as they did against Madison in Week 1. If you recall, QB Jay Pruden passed for over 300-yards and 4 TDs. Trust me, this Patriot team is much more dynamic than any of us really even know and they definitely have two games left to play this season. PICK: Pats 40-32

North 2, Group 3 – Semi Finals

4 Par Hills (6-4) @ 1 West Essex (7-3)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: This is my ‘toughest pick’ of the week. A number one seed needs to really have a tough opponent for me to pick against them and that is the problem here. Hills is rolling on a four-game winning streak and are one of the hottest teams playing in the post season. I’m rolling with the four seed here. Let’s go Vikings! PICK: Par Hills 17-10
Brian Daniel: Wow this is going to be a good one. There is no question that WE earned their number one seed. But Par Hills has the experience, grit and the coaching to pull off an upset. Wilson “Not One and” Done will run for over 150 yards and 2 scores in this one. Nick Verducci will throw for a TD and run for another as well. In the end Vinnie Bianchi or Justin Gurth will do something on defense to put Par Hills over the top in a huge win. PICK: Par Hills 35-28
George Muha: You can count on Wilson Done, Nick Verducci and Nick Ho to git’er done on offense for Par Hills. The key will be on the defensive side of the ball because Wessex can run up the score in a hurry. But that is why we pay My Cousin Vinny Bianchi, Dylan “Mr Team USA” McDonald, Kevin “Not Late to the Party” Minardi, Marco “Polo” Falivene, Billy “The Kid” Taylor, Mike “Punch’em in the Belly” Bettelli and Big Ben Walek the big bucks! PICK: Vikes 33-30

7 Orange (6-4) @ 3 Morris Hills (7-3)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: Both teams are riding on a three-game winning streak and usually you go with the hot hand but which hand is hotter in this match-up? Great question! Looking at both teams statement of work (who they have played), I think Orange has the advantage. With that being said, I say they survive and advance. PICK: Orange 21-17
Brian Daniel: The Hills are still alive! They smoked GL last week and are looking to carry that momentum when they deal with a tough Orange team. Daymon Fleming only threw the ball 4 times last week, so look for him to throw more this week (along with 2 scores). Dajon “Dave” Chappell will run for almost a 100 yards and a score as well as the Hills continues on their way a chance at a state championship. PICK: Hills 33-24
George Muha: Yeah, Fleming, Walls and Chappell get all of the headlines. But the reason you can’t help to root for this MoHills team is they play like 11 as 1. This is a true team effort. I predict Devin Caruso and Sam Valerio having big time games and the foot of kicker Damian Gonzalez playing a factor. Look for the Red Knights to get coach Mike Sabo back East Rutherford to finish where he left off 9 years ago! PICK: MoHills 44-40

Non-Public, Group 3 – Semi Finals

3 Pope John (6-4) @ 2 DePaul (5-5)

Dan Exter from Layups 4 Life: DePaul is probably one of the best 5-5 teams in the playoffs right now.The Lions offense has been electric in their last two games, scoring 40 plus points. Not sure if that will happen against the Spartans. PICK: DePaul 42-28
Brian Daniel: Pope John exploded offensively last week and dominated on defense (for the most part) as well while beating Red Bank Catholic. They will have their hands full against a good DePaul team but I think they can win. To do so, Berrell Neal is going to have to keep being Berrell Neal. He rushed for 250 yards and 2 scores last week and another 200 and 3 scores this week isn’t out of the question now that he is healthy again. Combine that with Ty Hranicka throwing a couple of TDs for the Johnnies and they will win it. PICK: PJ 42-34
George Muha: When Pope John runningback Berrell Neal gets the ball the faster he seems to run. He seems to demoralize opponents the more he wears them down. Look for the Nealinator to rush for nearly 200-yards while Christian “Rich” Izien and Brian Dolan combine for 150-yards through the air. Defensively Denucci, Wade-Perry, Hemmingway and Porter combine for 35 tackles 4 sacks and an INT in an effort that advances them to MetLife. PICK: Pope John 29-24

How We Predicted Them Last Week

Dan: 9-5 (64.28%)
Brian: 9-5 (64.28%)
George: 11-3 (73.33%)

How We Predicted Them This Year So Far

Dan: 164-58 (73.87%)
Brian: 155-67 (69.81%)
George: 157-65 (70.72%)

About the Predictors

Dan Exter spent eight years as a producer for MSG Varsity and is the founder and director of Layups 4 Life, a non-for-profit that uses a wildly popular 3-on-3 basketball tournament to raise money for cancer research.

Dan Exter is a Roxbury HS alumni that spent eight years as a producer for MSG Varsity and is the founder and director of Layups 4 Life, a non-for-profit that uses a wildly popular 3-on-3 basketball tournament to raise money for cancer research. Have an opinion about Dan’s picks?  Tell him what you think via his Twitter handles:  @d_exter15 and @Layups4Life

Brian Kenney

Brian Daniel is a Hanover Park alumni who really has nothing to do with high school sports.  But he’s George Muha’s oldest friend and frequent crasher of his couch so George feels obligated to give him something to do. Have an opinion about Brian’s picks?  Tell him what you think via his Twitter handle:  @bdk29

George Muha is a Hanover Park alumni who has been covering high school football for nine years.  George is the founder of MSS and is also on the board of the Greater Morris Chapter of the National Football Foundation.

George Muha is a Hanover Park alumni who has been covering high school football for nine years.  George is the founder of MSS and proud board member of the Greater Morris Chapter of the National Football Foundation. Have an opinion about George’s picks?  Tell him what you think via his twitter handle:  @UnrulyFan

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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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