Three local squads head to state football playofs

Photo by Jim Hague/ Lyndhurst running back Danny Nahra.


By Jim Hague

Before the high school football season began, Lyndhurst head football coach Scott
Rubinetti called his good friend, Rutherford head coach Andy Howell, and joked about the future.

“I called him and told him that since they dropped down to Group I, maybe we could meet in the state playoffs,” Rubinetti said.

After all, at the time, it was a little bit of a stretch, considering Rutherford had been a fixture in the North 1, Group II bracket. With the dip in enrollment, Rutherford was placed in the same bracket with Lyndhurst in North Section 2, Group I.

But the Golden Bears had not been a state playoff participant since the 2004 season, so Rubinetti’s words to Howell didn’t exactly have a lot of steam behind them.

However, as it turns out, Rubinetti was more like a prophet than anything. That’s because the Golden Bears did qualify for the North 2, Group I playoffs and who do the Golden Bears get as a firstround opponent Friday night? None other than the neighboring Bulldogs.

“I think it’s pretty ironic,” Rubinetti said. “I never thought we’d end up facing them in the playoffs. When I said it to Andy, it was more like a joke.”

Lyndhurst is one of three local teams headed to the postseason and all three will have to be road warriors. Nutley, which made it all the way to the North Section 2, Group III finals last year, has qualified once again and will travel to Parsippany to take on Parsippany Hills in the first round of the state playoffs on Saturday.

Queen of Peace, which had not qualified for the states since 2005, makes a return
appearance in the Non-Public Group 2 bracket. The Golden Griffins will face Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, more than likely on Saturday as well.

The NJSIAA had not made the official statement about days and times for the first round playoff matchups by press time Monday.

For many years, Rutherford- Lyndhurst was a long standing rivalry, because of their general proximity.

“It brings back an old football rivalry,” Rubinetti said. “I told our kids that Rutherford and Lyndhurst was once more of a rivalry than what we have with North Arlington. There was a trophy that went to the winner of the game every year.”

Rubinetti, whose team lost to Garfield last Friday night in their final game before the playoffs to drop to 7-2 overall, doesn’t mind facing the old foe and his good friend in the first round.

“I can’t think of us having a better situation in the playoffs,” Rubinetti said. “We’re not traveling far to a place like New Providence. We’re happy to be playing Rutherford. It’s
a nice, easy commute for us and our fans. It’s going to be exciting. I know they’re a very good football team, but we’re ready for the challenge. The kids are excited and the town is excited. It’s going to be a great night.”

Rubinetti isn’t worried that his team enters the playoffs off a loss.

“I wish we could have executed a little better,” Rubinetti said. “I would have liked to
see us play a little better going into the playoffs. It was a little bit of an emotional letdown, knowing we were already in the playoffs. Not making any excuses, we would have liked to win the game. But Rutherford is coming off two losses, so maybe we can catch them being a little down.”

The Golden Bears had been receiving great play from quarterback Danny Kesack
and running back Danny Nahra of late. The Danny and Danny Show had led the Golden Bears to the state playoff berth and will have to be at top performance this weekend against Rutherford.

“We’re looking at it as a onegame season,” Rubinetti said. “We just want to play well and live to play another day. It’s been a great experience.”

Rubinetti said that he didn’t fully realize the Golden Bears were indeed in the state playoffs until he saw the bracket posted on the bulletin board.

“Then it hit me,” Rubinetti said. “The bracket looked awesome with our name on it.”

Rubinetti has enjoyed the state playoffs before, as a head coach at Northern Valley/ Demarest and as an assistant coach at Ramapo, but this is special because it’s his high school alma mater. Rubinetti played in the state playoffs for Lyndhurst and now gets to take a Lyndhurst team there as head coach.

For Nutley, the Maroon Raiders earned the fifth and last spot in the North 2, Group
III bracket. Only five teams qualified with .500 records or better. The top three teams, West Morris, Colonia and Cranford, all earned byes in the first round.

The lone first-round game in that bracket is the Maroon Raiders facing the Vikings of Parsippany Hills.

It’s the fourth straight NJSIAA playoff appearance for the Maroon Raiders and head coach Steve DiGregorio, who is also coaching at his alma mater. The Maroon Raiders enter the tourney on a bit of a roll, having defeated Barringer and Irvington in consecutive weeks after three straight losses.

The Golden Griffins of Queen of Peace, who lost a tough one to St. Mary’s of Rutherford over the weekend, make their return to the state playoffs, hoping that Torre Johnson can perform some of his magic in the postseason. Johnson had another 200-yard performance against St. Mary’s and now has an amazing 1,667 yards and 13 touchdowns for the season.

It won’t be easy, considering MKA is 8-1 this season and defeated rival Montclair Immaculate, 49-7, last weekend.

But there are three local squads with the hope of being crowned a state champion
come the first week of December.

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