by Jeff Fisher
Growing up in Easton, Pennsylvania, right on the Delaware River, I had the pleasure of watching not only great eastern Pennsylvania high school football action, but also New Jersey high school football. In fact, WEST-AM 1400 – where I started working as a teenager – covered teams on both sides of the Delaware, including rivals Easton (Pennsylvania) and Phillipsburg (New Jersey).
The brands of football were very different, starting with the fact that the Garden State started practicing and playing several weeks later than my home state of Pennsylvania. As a teenager, I thought that New Jersey didn’t take its football as seriously as Pennsylvania, because the late start meant that teams in Jersey would only play eight regular season games, as opposed to our ten. I did think New Jersey had it going on back then, because Pennsylvania didn’t have a state playoffs system and New Jersey had Sectional Championships. Little did I know then that Pennsylvania would soar past New Jersey with a true state championship playoff system. For those of you reading this outside of New Jersey, the Garden State is still struggling with finding a way to crown true state champions – the sectional championships are alive and well with 29 “champs” being crowned this year.
Aside from the sectional championships, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that The Star-Ledger is still THE choice when it comes to high school sports coverage in the state. I love the real deal newspaper, plus the paper’s website.
Earlier this week, the paper came-out with its preview edition, so if you want to get ready for the season that starts this weekend, click here to get the best statewide coverage anywhere.
Who is the best in the state?
The answer is usually found in the Big North United Division where Bergen Catholic, Don Bosco Prep, DePaul, Parmaus Catholic and St. Joseph’s Regional (Montvale) slug it out. This year though, High School Football America and many of our fellow national ranking colleague think that St. Peter’s Prep is ready to be the top dog in Jersey.
The Marauders, who play in the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League’s National Division, are ranked #19 in our Top 25. SPP has dominated the league having won 106 consecutive games against Hudson County opponents.
Head coach Rich Hansen, who is entering his 27th season with a record of 214-56-1, has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball starting with Penn St. commit Brandon Wimbush, who competed this summer at the Elite 11 quarterback competition at Nike Headquarters in Oregon. On defense, the Marauders have cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has committed to Alabama.
Last year, SPP got off to a 6-0 start before losing to St. Joseph (Montvale). The Marauders rebounded to win four straight and advance to the Non-Public Group 4 championship game where it lost to Paramus Catholic 13-6.
St. Peter’s Prep opens the season this Saturday against Wise High School from Maryland.
As far as the heavyweight in the Big North United, Don Bosco Prep is getting looks from some of the other national ranking services. We’ll find-out a lot this weekend when the Ironmen play St. Joseph’s Prep from Philadelphia. The Hawks are ranked #10 in our national Top 25.