TASTY TIDBITS Rutgers’ big night has local flavor; playoff prognostication update

Even the biggest of skeptics and doubters, this reporter included, had to admit one thing Friday morning, a day after the “pandemonium in Piscataway.”

The Rutgers University football program is definitely for real.

The Scarlet Knights’ thrilling 28-25 victory over previously No. 3-ranked Louisville not only catapulted Rutgers into the national spotlight, but enabled the undefeated Scarlet Knights to climb into the Top 10 in the national rankings and Bowl Championship Series standings.

Rutgers now stands at No. 6 in the BCS standings and the Scarlet Knights are ranked No. 7 in the country according to Associated Press. The ESPN Coaches’ poll has the 9-0 Scarlet Knights at No. 8.

So anyway you slice it, Rutgers is for real and the Knights are bound for a major bowl come late December or early January.

National championship? Although it still may be somewhat of a fantasy, the Knights are still one of only a handful of teams that can lay claim to that national title.

The team definitely has a Hudson County flavor, with three locals holding important roles for the team.

Junior Pedro Sosa of Union City, the former Union Hill standout, is a starter at offensive tackle. Sosa threw a series of excellent blocks Thursday night for running back Ray Rice in the final game-clinching drive.

Freshman Kenny Britt of Bayonne and Bayonne High is a starter at wide receiver. Britt set up the touchdown that brought the Scarlet Knights closer with a brilliant 65-yard catch and run. Britt had two huge receptions for almost 100 yards in the win.

And senior Joe Radigan of Hoboken and Hoboken High is the team’s punter. Radigan currently ranks No. 2 in the nation in punt average and net yards.

So as Rutgers continues to gain national recognition, it’s refreshing to know that three of the Scarlet Knights come from our own backyard…

There’s no way to dance around this fact, but the first round of the NJSIAA state football playoffs proved to be a major bust for the Hudson County schools.

Sure, St. Peter’s Prep and Hoboken won and advanced, but both teams were heavily favored and expected to win.

But North Bergen’s 15-8 loss to Clifton was inexcusable and frankly embarrassing. The Bruins have now lost in the first round of the state playoffs in each of the last nine seasons. Something’s not right there. And the Bruins were the top seed in the bracket, losing to a team that was making only its second playoff appearance ever.

For some reason, the Bruins just didn’t seem to be particularly motivated to face Clifton. Perhaps playing the game on a Friday night, instead of Saturday afternoon, proved to be disastrous for the Bruins. The students were off from school on Friday due to the state teacher’s convention. Maybe they lost a little focus, waiting around all day to play.

Secaucus’ undefeated season came to a crashing halt against a good Verona team. But after having defeated a good St. Mary’s (Rutherford) team earlier in the year, one would have figured the Patriots had more in the tank to take on Verona. Instead, they fell, 33-20.

And Hudson Catholic seemed to have the ingredients of a state sectional champion, but the Hawks fell to Holy Spirit of Absecon in the first round last weekend, 21-6.

So Hudson County went 2-5 in the state playoffs last weekend. Not impressive.

The wide mound of renowned, the Great Hagueini, was a mediocre 4-3 with his playoff picks last week, putting too much trust in the Bruins, Hawks and Patriots.

Here are this week’s selections, both of which didn’t take much rubbing of the crystal ball and not to many waves with the magic wand. Remember, don’t use these selections for any monetary wagers, unless it’s for a liverwurst sandwich and a Fresca with your Uncle Looie:

Seton Hall Prep at St. Peter’s Prep: It’s absolutely mind boggling that Seton Hall Prep could be actually talking trash about the mighty Marauders, with the upstarts from South Orange truly believing that they can knock off the state’s No. 1 team. Did they happen to notice the results from last week? Here’s a reminder: St. Peter’s 63, Bergen Catholic 14. It was 49-0 at the half. Yes, THAT Bergen Catholic.

At least Hagueini got the 14 part right in his pick last week. The 63 part? Never thought it was possible. And the Pony Pirates are bragging that they’re taking the Marauders down? It’s nice to have positive beliefs, but these kids and coaches obviously believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny as well. Plain and simple, it ain’t happening. St. Peter’s Prep 49, Seton Hall Prep 12.

Verona at Hoboken: While the first game involving the locals will be a non-contest, this one will be closer than some people expect. Verona, nicknamed the Hillbillies (tee, hee), will come to the Mile Square City very prepared and motivated after losing to Hoboken a year ago in the state finals. This will be a dogfight. But Hoboken has way too many weapons to falter here. It’s on to Giants Stadium once again for the two Hudson superpowers – but before they go to Mecca, they’ll meet at Caven Point next weekend, both with 22-game winning streaks on the line. Hoboken 21, Verona 14.

McNair Academic’s Tauqeer Qazi, last week’s Athlete of the Week, advanced to this weekend’s Cross Country Meet of Champions by finishing 10th in the All-Group I championships last week at Holmdel. Qazi will be the standard bearer for Hudson County boys’ cross country runners this weekend…

The sixth annual St. Anthony Coaches versus Cancer Clinic will be held Sunday, Nov. 26 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Golden Door Education and Recreation Center, located at 180 Ninth Street in downtown Jersey City.

Some of the coaches participating in the clinic are new St. Peter’s College head coach John Dunne, St. Benedict’s Prep head coach Dan Hurley, Seton Hall University assistant coach Geoff Billet and Rutgers University assistant coach Darren Savino. Check-in and registration is slated for 8 a.m., with lunch being served at 12:30 p.m.

After watching a St. Anthony team practice is at 1 p.m., there will be closing remarks scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

Registration is $10 for Jersey City residents and $25 for non-residents. If you wait to register on the day of the event, the cost rises to $30. The proceeds go to the Coaches Versus Cancer Fund. For more information, call the Jersey City Recreation Department at (201) 547-5269… — Jim Hague


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