The game of the year in New Jersey up to this point is on tap for Friday night when St. Joseph visits Wayne Hills looking to snap the state's longest winning streak at 55 games.
Oh, you didn't know this game was going on? Don't mind my sarcasm, considering everyone wants to see how North Jersey's premier public school program over the last decade measures up to what the Green Knights represent on the non-public side of the ledger.
Everyone will make predictions, and as you'll see, many of those will be made along public/non-public lines. Go ahead and tell me I'm pushing an agenda, but the more people I talk to, the more I'm convinced people would rather judge this game on that bias and not what we've seen on the field so far this year.
No one has followed Wayne Hills closer than me, considering I have followed the Patriots since 1998, when I took over the football beat at the Herald News. And no one has more respect for what Tony Karcich has done on the football field, and especially at St. Joseph, when you consider the Green Knights are at an enrollment disadvantage vs. Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco.
When you size this game up, tradition will certainly add to the emotion of the game, of course; but from an X's and O's perspective, I think the breakdown of this game is pretty simple. Wayne Hills MUST assert itself up front on both sides of the ball -- and everyone else will tell you that, too -- but I think the game hinges on the Hills defense preventing St. Joe's from gettiing any sort of rhythm.
If the Patriots' secondary is left out there high and dry, it will be a long night, and I don't mean just in the passing game. Tackling St. Joe's playmakers in the open field is a difficult task.
Wayne Hills did not overlook Wayne Valley, but there's no way the Patriots were fearful of losing that game, probably not until Pete Savastano completed that long pass downfield Anthony Verrilli early in the fourth quarter. Tonight, there's no way Wayne Hills takes the field unafraid of losing to St. Joseph.
Sometimes that's the difference in a big game, and that fear forces you to focus a little more, show a little bit more determination, pick up a half-a-step here or there. Of course that fear also adds to the pressure of the event, which is what makes this fun. I'm going there expecting Wayne Hills to win its 56th in a row, but would not be shocked if the streak ends, either. Two good teams, let's play some ball.