TASTY TIDBITS The highs and lows of high school football Prep wins and makes playoff plans, while Ferris loses chance at berth for third straight year

Two high school football teams met at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium last Saturday afternoon, and they were two squads heading in opposite directions.

For the Marauders of St. Peter’s Prep, it was a time for yet another celebration, because the 33-6 victory over Ferris gave the Marauders their remarkable ninth straight HCIAA championship, gave them their amazing 73rd win in row inside the league, and enabled the mighty Marauders plan for yet another trip to the NJSIAA state playoffs.

For the Bulldogs of Ferris, it was yet another trip down frustration alley, as the loss to the Marauders eliminated them from any chance of qualifying for the post-season.

For the third straight year, the Bulldogs went to the final weekend before the cutoff date and came up empty. In 2006, they missed out of the North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs by a single point. Last year, it was two points. This year, it will be a few more, but still, the Bulldogs had five wins – good enough to qualify in other brackets except for the one they reside in.

“It’s to the point where I don’t know what to do,” said Ferris head coach Wilbur Valdez. “It’s the definition of unfairness. I just hope that the kids learn from it. They have given their all for three consecutive years and they’ve been hurt by the system. Every team’s main goal is to make the state playoffs and it’s sad we keep getting shortchanged. It’s just not fair. These kids work hard for 11 months. We did everything we had to do.”

Valdez knew that his team was facing a tough task, trying to defeat a team that hadn’t lost a game inside the confines of Hudson County in eight years in order to make the state playoffs.

But for almost an entire half, the Bulldogs were right there. They trailed the state-ranked Marauders by only a single point, 7-6.

“We played them tough and it should have been only 7-6 at the half,” Valdez said. “Maybe our kids tried to do too much.”

However, the Bulldogs lost a fumble in the final minute of the first half and the Marauders capitalized, with Nyshier Oliver taking it in for the score that increased the lead to 14-6 at halftime.

The second half became then one-sided and the Bulldogs were done.

“We just got worn out,” Valdez said. “They were just too much for us. But we played with them. We weren’t intimidated by them at all. But give the kids credit. It was a tribute to them that they played with them.”

Incredibly, it was the third time this season that the Bulldogs surrendered a touchdown to an opponent. And in all three games, to Hudson Catholic, Hoboken and now St. Peter’s, the Bulldogs ended up losing the game. And those losses forced them to miss the state playoffs for a third straight year.

Meanwhile, the Marauders are moving on to the state playoffs for the 12th straight year, but there will be something different this time around.

For the first time in six years, the Marauders will play their first round playoff game on the road. The best the Marauders can do in the Non-Public (Parochial) Group 4 bracket is fifth, which will put them on the road to face either Notre Dame of Lawrenceville, Holy Spirit of Absecon, or quite possibly nationally ranked Don Bosco Prep.

But last Saturday meant a ninth straight league crown – and essentially the final HCIAA title in the school’s history, because the league will disband after this scholastic year due to the new NJSIAA realignment.

“It’s one of those things that you will be able to look back and appreciate it years from now,” Prep head football coach and athletic director Rich Hansen said. “You can look at this now as forever, because the league is done. It’s the last time we’ll win this league, so it’s a big event. You think that we haven’t lost a game in the HCIAA since 2000 and some of those wins came against some very good teams. I’m getting a little nostalgic that it’s coming to an end. How can you ever predict that you’d win nine county titles in a row? You have to be lucky and have to have great kids, along with administration and staff.”

It’s an amazing streak that apparently comes to an end with the dissolving of the HCIAA. The Marauders face Hoboken this weekend, but it’s as an independent game.

Hansen said that the Marauders have been tweaking things, both offensively and defensively, since the Marauders got off to an uncharacteristic 0-2 start.

“But the defense has been the one main constant throughout,” Hansen said.

Defensively, the Marauders suffered a tough loss, when Hansen’s son, senior linebacker Dan, suffered a major knee injury that required surgery and forced him to the sidelines for the season.

But players like linebacker Kenny Smith, defensive end Anthony Blake, and defensive tackle Darryl Greene have picked up the slack, making plays defensively.

Offensively, the Marauders have been utilizing a multitude of running backs, like Oliver (15 carries, 174 yards, three touchdowns against Ferris) and sophomore Savon Huggins (eight carries, 184 yards and a 91-yard touchdown versus the Bulldogs).

The Marauders have also regularly used two quarterbacks in senior Justin Perez and junior Raphael Ortiz. Both have been very effective. Most coaches might want to have just one signal caller making the plays, but Hansen feels comfortable with both Perez and Ortiz.

“Justin’s a better runner who has become better with the passing game,” Hansen said. “Ralph has made the most of his opportunities to throw the ball. I think having two quarterbacks makes us more dangerous in a strange way. Our kids are now used to playing with both guys. I’d much rather have two who can play than none. We’re going to continue to play both, because they both bring quality things to the table.”

So there you have it. Prep has the thrill of victory and with that victory come the spoils of being a county champion and a state playoff team. Ferris has to deal with another disappointing setback and a state playoff snub. Sometimes, high school football isn’t fair at all…

Speaking of the NJSIAA state playoffs, Hudson Catholic, Lincoln, Hoboken and Secaucus have all secured state playoff berths, while St. Anthony has to defeat Belleville this weekend to get in. We’ll have more about the state playoffs next week…

Congrats to High Tech, which captured the HCIAA Seglio boys’ soccer championship for the fifth straight year. The Lasercats have been downright dominant in that division for a very long time and ends that league play with another championship trophy…

McNair Academic won the HCIAA Seglio girls’ tennis title for the first time ever, knocking off perennial favorite County Prep in the final two weeks ago, giving head coach Mike Reilly his first tennis coaching title to go with all his wins as a boys’ soccer coach, baseball coach and basketball coach.

Reilly credited the play of second singles performer Yumi Hinnenkamp as the deciding factor in the Cougars’ 3-2 win over County Prep. Hinnenkamp won 21 matches during the course of the year…

The “Wolfpack” of Dickinson boys’ cross country team added the Hudson County Track Coaches Association championship to the litany of other championships they won so far this year. Dickinson had four runners (Gabriel Nunez, Jose Rivera, Jose Aguilar and Pedro Claudio) finish in succession, fifth through ninth, to secure the crown…

McNair Academic, led by Christina Nicholas’ second place finish, placed second as a team at the HCTCA meet behind defending champion Kearny. – Jim Hague

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