What a weekend of high school football, both in Alabama, which is where I spent three days with Don Bosco, and back here in North Jersey, where several programs put up pivotal performances that could set the stage for even bigger things down the road.
We're heading into what has the potential of being the biggest weekend of the season thus far, but before I go there, let's take a look back and put a bow on Week 3:
* As I wrote in my column off the Wayne Hills-West Milford game on Sept. 17 -- click here if you need a refresher -- emotion was going to play a huge role in the Battle of Wayne, won by Wayne Hills last Friday, 7-0. A lot closer than I'm sure many expected -- put me in that group -- but there's no doubt this was the most difficult spot Wayne Hills had been in since the beginning of its 55-game winning streak back in the 2004 playoffs (Ramapo and Demarest back-to-back in the semis and the final, both on the road, both had beaten Hills in the regular season).
Now that the Patriots have survived, they've got another challenge in St. Joseph this Friday night. Believe it or not, I think there was more pressure in the second half of the Wayne Valley game than Wayne Hills will face this week. There will be more pre-game pressure for this one, but I don't think Hills feared losing to Valley until Valley actually proved it could give Hills a game.
There's no doubt in my mind Hills fears losing to St. Joseph. The Patriots did not fare well in 7-on-7 against the Green Knights, so they are well aware of that offensive firepower. You could make the argument that this is the biggest regular season game Wayne Hills has played since the 1998 season when Ramapo, Chris Simms, Greg Toal Jr. and company came calling. Heck, I will say that it is rather matter-of-factly, and I'm guessing Hills will be plenty better from the Valley experience going forward.
It is scary to think, however, that Tony Karcich will have had 13 days to prepare his guys for Wayne Hills. I expect the best from both teams and we'll see what happens. This is one of those games where, if anyone tells you with certainty they know what will happen on the field and how the action will play out, they'll get lucky if it does.
* Bear with me as I make a few more points on Don Bosco, namely the false start penalties called in the third quarter that really helped Prattville get back in the game. Take it from someone who was there, that end of the stadium was the loudest I've ever heard a high school football game get. From what I was told by the Don Bosco players and coaches after the game, none of the linemen could hear the calls once the huddle was broken. It was a major issue and not a case of phantom flags from hometown refs or the two-quarterback system, as some have suggested in comments to previous posts.
* Defensively Don Bosco played a dominant first quarter -- especially Bryan Murphy, who was outstanding -- and the secondary of Chris Brady, Danny Chun and Andrew Parrilla really held their own against a quarterback in Sam Gibson that keeps corners and safeties on their toes with his presence as a dual threat. But the Ironmen really were held in check by Prattville from the end of the second quarter to the final six minutes or so of the game, when Paul Sakowski's interception all but clinched the victory.
For good measure, Murphy picked up another sack on one of the game's final plays, and there's no doubt his presence changes things for Don Bosco. But give Prattville credit -- the Ironmen did not have their way defensively -- again, after the first quarter -- until the offense went back in front. Ryan Cobb's catch and Tony Jones' run on the scoring drive that put Don Bosco ahead 29-24 were turned the game around and Sakowski's pick was the biggest defensive play of the night.
* Pascack Valley goes to overtime against Ramsey ... wow, didn't see that coming. Give the Rams a lot of credit.
* Paramus makes its case for being a true contender in North 1, Group 3, but now the Spartans go to Wayne Valley, the site of their semifinal loss in the playoffs two years ago. How do the Indians respond after being so close against Wayne Hills?
* Week 4 has shaped up rather nicely for the local football fan. Friday night: Hills-St. Joseph, Ridgewood-Bergen Catholic, Ramapo-Old Tappan, Westwood-River Dell, Emerson-Cresskill, Passaic Valley-Lakeland; Saturday: Paterson Catholic-Lodi and Tenafly-Ridgefield Park.