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The dominant storyline in Week 4, obviously, is the decision of Warren Hills to continue its healing on the football field. The tragic death of quarterback Evan Murray (found to be caused by a lacerated spleen) has brought together the Hills community, and it is certain the Blue Streaks will put their best effort forth on the field Saturday night despite enduring a week no high school students should ever have to.
Meanwhile, in a significant matchup that seems far less significant in light of the events in last week’s Warren Hills-Summit game, Florida’s IMG Academy will look to knock off the top team in the Vita Athletics-Gridiron New Jersey Top 20 for the second time this year. IMG showed just how explosive its offense was against Bergen Catholic several weeks ago, and it will be interesting to see how the stingy defensive of St. Joseph of Montvale handles its attack.
Week 4 may have the most big-time matchups of the year thus far, and with the race for power points heating up, it will surely be a wild weekend.
Let’s look at some picks.
LAST WEEK: 7-3
#1 St. Joseph (Mont.) (4-0) @ IMG Academy (FL) (4-0)
IMG, ranked 11th in the USA Today Super 25, knocked off Bergen Catholic, then #1 in the Vita Athletics-Gridiron New Jersey Top 20, 59-47, on Sept. 17. Former Passaic Valley head coach Bill Johnson has been impressive as Joe’s new defensive coordinator, with the Green Knights having allowed just 10 points per game against top-level competition.
The Pick: IMG Academy (FL)
#7 Paramus Catholic (1-2) @ #3 Bergen Catholic (2-2)
BC quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has accounted for 13 touchdowns (7 pass, 6 rush) for the Crusaders, who are on a two-game skid. The Paladins are looking to get their groove back, having been drubbed by Eastern Christian (MD) and Gilman (MD) in two of their first three games.
The Pick: Bergen Catholic
#10 Delsea (3-0) @ Paul VI (3-0)
Wide receivers Stefone Moore-Green and Lonnie Moore provide a strong group of playmaking threats for the Eagles. The Crusaders are rolling, knocking off ranked teams in back-to-back games in Camden and #12 Timber Creek.
The Pick: Delsea
#14 Jackson (3-0) @ Brick Township (3-0)
In a contest that could decide who wins the Shore Conference A South title, the Jaguars will be looking for another big game out of quarterback Dan Barker, who is playing at a very high level. Even with all of its weapons, Jackson will have a tough matchup against a Green Dragon defense that has allowed just six points this year.
The Pick: Brick Township
Wayne Hills (4-0) @ #16 Pascack Valley (3-0)
Indians quarterback Colin Dedrick has passed for 464 yards this year, throwing 6 touchdowns to just 1 interception. Wayne Hills has been scoring points seemingly at will, putting up 182 in four victories.
The Pick: Wayne Hills
Cranford (3-0) @ Summit (3-0)
It was a year ago that the Cougars upset the Hilltoppers and ended what was then the state’s longest winning streak at 27. Summit needed a failed Warren Hills conversion attempt with 3:09 on the clock to slide by the Blue Streaks last week.
The Pick: Cranford
Union City (2-1) @ Lincoln (3-0)
Keyshawn Jones completed every pass he threw last week against Marist, and has led the Lions to three victories over struggling opposition. A win by Union City would quiet any concerns that the Soaring Eagles are merely a product of a weak schedule this year.
The Pick: Union City
Sayreville (2-1) @ South Brunswick (2-1)
Vikings quarterback Josh Liao has passed for 444 yards and six touchdowns thus far. Sayreville won the last game these teams actually played on the field, 35-13, in 2013.
The Pick: South Brunswick
Passaic County Tech (3-0) @ Hackensack (2-1)
The Bulldogs have been steamrolling their opponents, but the talented Comets will be their first big test of the year. Running back Justin Marin needed just four carries to tally 104 yards and two touchdowns against Passaic last week.
The Pick: Passaic County Tech
Voorhees (3-0) @ Warren Hills (1-2)
It will obviously be an emotional scene, a week after the tragic death of Blue Streaks quarterback Evan Murray. Warren Hills will most certainly aim to bring their best to honor their teammate, and could be poised to pull off an upset over a good Voorhees squad.
The Pick: Warren Hills
Tom Szieber can be reached by emailing [email protected]