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***Highly-touted Passaic Tech is certainly public school to watch in 2023 as Bulldogs proved in rolling past West Orange in SFC contest!

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***Cedar Grove and MKA aim to keep improving each day on pitch after tie in SEC girls soccer action. Learn more in "Feature Articles"

***Montclair's promising soccer team is led by second-year captain Tomer Salamon whose clutch play helped lead the way in recent win vs. state power SHP and is latest Parisi/SC AOW. Read "The Buzz"

Weequahic's highly-productive running back Rashawn Marshall (24) is just one of the talented players to watch in a loaded North, Group 1 field as top-tier teams begin to emerge with the playoffs not far down the line come October. (Photo by Mustafa Hooten

North, Group 1 Certainly Intriguing Section
With Public School Playoffs Not Far Off

By Steve Tober

New Jersey high school football coaches wanted much of what we have now, which is an earlier start to the season and an overall, major emphasis on the playoffs which now culminate with group state champions.

What is perhaps most noticeable to those who still remember when the Jersey scholastic football season began on the third weekend of September, is that with it now being a late August commencement to the pigskin campaign, the playoffs start earlier than ever; and with the NJSIAA’s emphasis on fostering a clean break between the fall and winter sports seasons, everything – highlighted by those group state finals - will be completed before the start of December.

Which brings us to an early forecast of the North publics’ power structure that is developing in groups 1-5. The teams to watch appear to already be clearly established as we’re still looking ahead for a number of more days until the start of October.

In North, Group 1, there are three clear favorites to continue to keep an eye on in Cedar Grove (4-0) and defending sectional champions Weequahic (3-0) and Mountain Lakes (2-0), who won N2G1 and N1G1 titles, respectively, last November, before The Herd edged the Indians, 29-23, in the Group 1 state semifinals at Franklin.

After that trio one could also include a still-evolving Shabazz team (2-2), which has a bevy of transfers now meshing at an ascending level under the guidance of first-year coach Naz Oliver, and Park Ridge (2-0), which was a N1G1 sectional champ in 2021.

Cedar Grove, which has been very impressive in the first half of its regular campaign, survived a close contest at Shabazz (25-24, Sept. 10), but has been otherwise dominant and coach Rob Gogerty’s explosive Panthers have one of Essex County’s top quarterbacks in junior Stepehen Paradiso in addition to a number of other potent weapons in their arsenal such as veteran receiver and rusher Nick Iannacone, WR Jackson Morrice and RB Anthony Tronio.

Cedar Grove, which lost at Weequahic, 21-10, in last fall’s N2G1 final at Untermann Field in Newark, has to have its collective sights set on an Oct. 13 regular season home game vs. local rival Caldwell (3-0), which is currently in the midst of a state-best 31-game winning streak.

It is a good bet that both the Panthers and Chiefs will still be undefeated when they meet in The Grove on the 13th and expect Gogerty’s crew to continue to be a tough handle for anyone, including perhaps even the vaunted Chiefs, who handled the Panthers, 28-7, last October at Bonnel Field.

Weequahic has not been tested as of yet, and may not be stressed until the start of the playoffs with a schedule it should be able to handle fairly comfortably. Veteran coach Brian Logan’s Indians have their own talented offensive weapons spearheaded by precocious sophomore QB Paul Jones III, explosive senior running back Rashawn Williams and versatile senior wide receiver-DB Elijah Motley.

Mountain Lakes, which is expertly guided by 14th-year coach Darrell Fusco, a former assistant for the legendary Doug Wilkins, has a number of key returnees from the squad that lost to a very good Woodbury team (31-7) in last fall’s inaugural Group 1 final.

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