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Hillside, led by its junior running back Brian Ugwu (1) and second-year head coach Barris Grant, clinched its first playoff berth since 2008 with this past Saturday's 49-8 win over Delaware Valley as Comets improved to 5-2 on season (4-1 in Mid-State 38-Valley Div.). (Photos by JR Parachini)
Sophomore James Louis (right) helped propel the Hillside ground game vs. Delaware Valley
Standout junior running back Brian Ugwu and the Hillside Comets watch action from sidelines
Hillside head coach Barris Grant (left) relays play to his senior quarterback Tajae Irby (7)
Hillside's very potent offense, with QB Tajae Irby about to take the direct snap, is on the move vs. Delaware Valley during Saturday's impressive performance by the home-standing Comets.
Hillside coaches and players share the moment of a post-game prayer on Saturday afternoon
Strong Hillside Clinches Playoff Berth
HILLSIDE – Seeking to produce an historic day, one the program has not seen in some time, Hillside was prepared to throw everything it had at Delaware Valley.
The last three years the teams met as members of the Mid-State 38 Conference the Terriers of Hunterdon County had Hillside’s number.
Delaware Valley outscored Hillside 114-18 in beating the Comets the past three seasons. The last time they played at Hillside it was Delaware Valley that won 41-0.
This past Saturday at John Zappulla Field at Woodfield Stadium, Hillside did everything it could to reverse past scores against Delaware Valley.
Behind the running of backs Brian Ugwu, James Louis, Tajae Irby and Nahree Biggins – among others – the Comets succeeded in meeting their goal for the week.
Hillside had four backs rush for touchdowns and produced seven total. The Comets had already rushed for 292 yards by intermission and went over the 300-yard mark before the mercy rule running clock started in the third quarter.
This time it was Hillside defeating Delaware Valley 49-8 in the final Valley Division game for both. Hillside, which won its second straight and was victorious for the fifth time in six games, improved to 5-2 overall and concluded 4-1 for second place in the Valley Division.
Delaware Valley lost for the second straight time to drop to 3-4. The Terriers finished fourth in the five-team Valley Division at 2-3.
Delaware Valley ’s three previous wins over Hillside were 42-12 at DV in 2014, 41-0 at Hillside in 2015 and 31-6 at DV last year.
This time not only did Hillside reverse the score, but the victory clinched the program’s ninth playoff season and first since 2008.
“We had a big win last week, but we’re going to keep on coming,” said Ugwu, one of Union County’s top juniors. “We never want to take our foot off the pedal.”
Ugwu carried the ball eight times (just once in the second half) for 156 yards and a team-leading three touchdowns. He scored Hillside’s first two touchdowns on runs of 25 and 76 yards.
“We executed our game-plan and our offensive line did a great job,” said Ugwu, who also from his linebacker position produced two sacks.
“When I first met Brian he was a soccer kid only,” Hillside second-year head coach Barris Grant said. “This is his first year at running back and only his second year playing football. He will just get better and better.”
Ugwu has a presence on the field with a 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame that is not only difficult to bring down, but also not easy to get past.
“Brian has the rare combination of size and speed,” Grant said. “He’s a football guy. He studies film, is always on time and practices well.”
Louis led Hillside in rushing with 202 yards. He carried the ball nine times (just twice in the second half), including touchdown runs of 80 and 82 yards.
Biggins had four carries for 98 yards, including a 92-yard touchdown run down the right sideline in the third quarter.
In the first half, Irby carried the ball four times for three yards and one score, which was a seven-yard run on the right side where he dove in the corner of the end zone, knocking the pylon down.
Irby also completed two-of-three passes for 26 yards in the first half, with junior Charles Amissah catching one for 11 yards and junior Shadon “oodie” Willis the other for 15.
It was reported by the game’s announcer in the third quarter that Irby passed the 1,000-yard mark in passing this year.
Delaware Valley was held to just 69 yards offense in the first half, six rushing on 15 carries and 63 passing on seven-of-11 thrown by senior Jared Pershyn.
The Terriers avoided getting shutout when Pershyn scored on a 13-yard run against Hillside’s reserves with 47 seconds remaining.
“This is week 8 and whoever executes the best wins,” Grant said. “By this time there are no surprises.”
Also producing sacks for Hillside were junior outside linebacker Najee Peele and junior defensive end Aboubakar Diaby.
Hillside ’s first three tackles came from Peele, junior cornerback Emmanuel Sass and senior middle linebacker Kwabena Ennin-frimpong.
Hillside will next play at Cranford Friday night at 7 at Cranford’s Memorial Field. Cranford is 4-3 and coming off a 38-0 win at Gov. Livingston. The Cougars need to beat Hillside to have any chance of qualifying for the North 2, Group 3 playoffs.
Hillside has lost its last five games to Cranford, including the last three seasons and also in 2010 and 2011. The teams did not face each other in 2013 and 2012.
Hillside last defeated Cranford in 2009 – winning 14-7 at home – and last beat the Cougars in Cranford in 2008 by the score of 28-0.
A win by Hillside over Cranford will clinch the program’s first winning season since the 2008 squad went 8-3 and reached the North 2, Group 2 semifinals.
NOTES: Hillside qualified in Central Jersey, Group 2 for the first time.
Since the NJSIAA went to re-classification in 2003, no Union County team has won a state championship in the Central Jersey section.
Delaware Valley will not qualify in Central Jersey, Group 2 for the second straight season. The Terriers reached the semifinals in 2015, one year after reaching the final in 2014.
Delaware Valley has not won a state championship in the playoff era. The only championship game it reached was the 2014 CJ, G2 final at Kean, which defending champion Rumson-Fair Haven won 21-0.
Delaware Valley has made the playoffs 10 times and has a record of 5-10.
Hillside ’s playoff record in its previous eight appearances is 5-7. The Comets are 1-1 in championship games, both in North 2, Group 2. Hillside lost in the final in 1983 and won it in 1985.
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-VALLEY DIVISION
Delaware Valley (3-4, 2-3) 00 00 00 08 - 08
Hillside (5-2, 4-1) 07 21 14 07 - 49
Hillside – Brian Ugwu 25 run, Hugo Carrico kick (H 7-0)
6 plays, 62 yards, 2:21 used
Hillside – Brian Ugwu 76 run, Hugo Carrico kick (H 14-0)
1 play, 76 yards, :13 used
Hillside – Tajae Irby 7 run, Hugo Carrico kick (H 21-0)
7 plays, 67 yards, 3:04 used
Hillside – James Louis 80 run, Hugo Carrico kick (H 28-0)
1 play, 80 yards, :11 used
Hillside – Nahree Biggins 92 run, Hugo Carrico kick (H 35-0)
3 plays, 87 yards, 2:00 used
Hillside – Brian Ugwu 23 run, Hugo Carrico kick (H 42-0)
2 plays, 27 yards, :34 used
Hillside – James Louis 82 run, Hugo Carrico kick (H 49-0)
Delaware Valley – Jared Pershyn 13 run,
Joey Beljan pass from Jared Pershyn (H 49-8)
SATURDAY AFTERNOON OCT. 21 SCOREBOARD:
Summit 55, North Plainfield 22 – at Summit
Hillside 49, Delaware Valley 8 – at Hillside
Hillside clinches first playoff season since 2008
and qualifies in Central Jersey, Group 2 for the first time.
Comets clinch second-place finish in Valley Division of
Mid-State 38 Conference (4-1 final league mark).
Roselle vs. Dayton – at Dayton
Roselle Park 32, New Providence 6 – at New Providence
Follow JR Parachini on Twitter @parachini_jr
Hillside junior defensive end Aboubakar Darby (60) receives instruction while taking breather on Comets' bench on warm Saturday afternoon at John Zappulla Field at Woodfield Stadium.
Hillside second-year head coach Barris Grant patrols the Comets sideline vs. Delaware Valley
The scoreboard located on Hillside's John Zappulla Field at Woodfield Stadium would find many more points being put up to signify dominance of Comets in eventual 49-8 win over 'Del Val.'
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