Wallkill Valley hosts Kittatinny in one of the most hyped matchups of the early portion of the 2019 season. The Rangers defeated the Cougars, 6-2, in a hard-nosed contest a season ago on the way to claiming their first division crown in program history. Kittatinny would go on to win its first state title.
Last year at this time, Wallkill Valley at Kittatinny was a nondescript Week 2 matchup.
Both the Cougars and Rangers were without much success in recent history, and there was not a ton of evidence to suggest things were going to be different headed into last year. During a heavy rainstorm, Wallkill Valley squeaked out a 6-2 road win.
Little did anybody know just how big of a result that would turn out to be. Wallkill Valley won its first division championship in program history while Kittatinny ended up winning its first state sectional title in program history.
Now, as the rematch shifts to Wallkill Valley High School, the matchup at 1 p.m. on Saturday is one of the most hyped games of the 2019 season. The National Red Division implications should be huge once again.
"Our kids kind of think it’s a rivalry game, and it’s not a rivalry game until you beat someone," Wallkill Valley head coach Bobby Leach said. "They’ve owned us in the past few years, so last year was big. It was a dogfight. It was a war. I’ve been watching that game all week, and I thought it was well-played, well-defended and well-executed on both sides. I think it’s going to be a dogfight again. If you want to watch a hard-hitting football game on Saturday at 1 p.m., go watch this one."
"It’s a huge game for the second game of the year," Kittatinny head coach Joe Coltelli said. "Usually, the games get bigger as you go along, but this is a huge game for Week 2 because it has division implications as well as power points for the playoffs. We’re excited for Saturday. It should be a heck of a football game."
Despite the low-scoring game, Wallkill Valley quarterback Alex Mastroianni was a perfect 12-of-12 against Kittatinny for 144 yards and a touchdown. Of course, the story was the Wallkill Valley defense as it was most of last year.
The Rangers picked off James Franco three times and helped hold reigning Herald Player of the Year Jacob Mafaro to just 33 yards on 15 carries. Although, Mafaro was coming off an injury at the time.
The matchup of Mafaro going up against the dynamic Wallkill Valley linebacker unit that includes Ryan Nugent and Cole Weekley will be worth the price of admission.
"It’s going to be one of those football games where it’s a smash-mouth game on each side," Coltelli said. "Obviously, we have Jacob, and they have three really good linebackers. We’ll see how it all matches up at the end of the day."
Mafaro and Mastroianni being on the same field is something to look forward to, with both stars at the peak of their high school powers as seniors. However, the Rangers and Cougars have talent up and down their rosters.
"You go watch film and you scout them there is no question who Mafaro is, but they are more than just Mafaro," Leach said. "They got dudes on the field, big guys up front. And we got dudes too. That makes it fun. They're itching to get back at us for last year, and we’re trying to stake our ground to be division champs. It’s not just Mastroianni and Mafaro."
For Wallkill Valley, Weekley stood out last week in its 33-7 win over North Warren with 10 tackles. Junior Hunter Nolan had a breakout game with nine tackles and a sack, as did sophomore Bobby McMillan with eight tackles and an interception.
Adding to an already stout Rangers defense, Mastroianni’s debut as a full-time two-way player resulted in five tackles and two sacks.
"He played very sparingly last year on defense," Leach said. "He’s big, athletic and fast, so he can play both sides of the ball. He wanted to do it, and we’re a better football team when he’s on the field. So that was the move. Where we got him right now seems to be a good fit. He’s going to be good, but we still have some work to do."
On the other side, junior Tyler Sweatt really stepped up huge for Kittatinny in its 40-27 win in Week 1 over Vernon. He scored in all three phases of the game including a 47-yard interception return, a 83-yard punt return and both a receiving and rushing touchdown on offense.
Also, in his first varsity start, junior quarterback Luke Williams was efficient completing 9-of-11 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns while also adding 56 yards on the ground.
"I could not have been prouder of the way he played last week," Coltelli said. "It was his first varsity start and not only did he keep his composure, but he competed. He ran the offense. I could not have been happier with the way he played."
Whatever happens on Saturday afternoon, there is a good chance it will be remembered by season’s end.
Sussex Tech (1-0) at Fort Lee (0-1), 7 p.m.
This was a close 14-7 win for Sussex Tech last year, but these two teams seem to be going in opposite directions.
Fort Lee got demolished by Bergen Tech, 35-0, which stopped a 29-game losing streak.
Meanwhile, Bo Maroney was terrific in all three phases as Sussex Tech took apart Marist in a 52-0 win. He scored a touchdown on offense, defense and special teams and even added a safety for good measure.
North Warren (0-1) at Dover (0-1), 7 p.m.
This is a prime spot for North Warren to get a win and even its record at 1-1.
This was a game the Patriots won last year by a score of 27-6. North Warren lost its opener by a score of 33-7 to Wallkill Valley, while Dover lost to Hopatcong to begin the year after going winless in 2018.
Newton (0-1) at Pequannock (0-1)
Pequannock will be out for revenge after losing to Newton the past three meetings in their budding rivalry, although this is a much different Braves team that will take the field than in those games.
It’s a much younger squad, which showed in Newton’s 28-0 loss to Lenape Valley last week.
Turnovers were a huge issue offensively, but the defense held up pretty well. The injury to Peyton Nolan takes away a key offensive weapon.
Pequannock lost to defending state sectional champion Butler, 34-14, but had a 14-6 lead at halftime.
High Point (0-1) at Jefferson (1-0), 7 p.m.
This has been a fun matchup to watch over the past three years with it being a one-score difference each time.
Jefferson won two of those games and will be looking to make it three of four behind a high-flying offense with Mattie "Bam" Johnson slinging five touchdowns last week in a win over Hackettstown.
High Point hung tough against Group 4 Passaic Valley, but lost by a 14-7 score in the end on a fumble in the end zone. The Wildcats will have to figure out a way to handle the athleticism Jefferson has at the wide receiver position.
Hackettstown (0-1) at Lenape Valley (1-0), 7 p.m.
This has been a tight game the past two seasons with Lenape Valley getting revenge last year for when Hackettstown got the better of the Patriots in 2017.
With Lenape Valley wanting to run the ball out of the wing-T and Hackettsown the same out of the triple option, winning the line of scrimmage will be paramount.
Both teams feature numerous options in the run game with Nick Molinari, Gavin Coles, T.J. Lyons and Trey Kaplan leading the Patriots, while Jason Kuehner, Nick Gagliardi, Alejandro Castro and Zeb Burke offer stability for the Tigers.
Vernon (0-1) at West Milford (1-0), 7 p.m.
There may be no such things as moral victories, but Vernon definitely opened some eyes in a 40-27 loss to Kittatinny last week.
Vernon, a team that has won just one game in the last two years, was only down by a touchdown in the fourth quarter to the defending North 1, Group 2 champions. Quarterback Zack Waschek has some good options to throw to in Aden Moskovitz and John Kowalski.
West Milford squeaked by Indian Hills in overtime last week in a 20-14 win.
Roxbury (0-1) at Sparta (0-1), 7 p.m.
The dawn of a new era is upon Sparta with its new turf, scoreboard and jumbotron being unveiled at Cassels Field.
All of Sparta’s home games will be on Friday nights from now on with Roxbury set as the first opponent.
Sparta badly beat Roxbury last year in a 39-0 shutout in the second game of the season. The Spartans should be all kinds of fired up coming off a loss to Ramapo and with the grand opening of their new facility.
Parsippany (0-1) at Hopatcong (1-0), 7 p.m.
Hopatcong is looking to start off 2-0 for the second consecutive year following a 34-14 win at Dover in Week 1.
Michael Mastroeni ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. Jamal Williams and Anthony Rodriguez also scored rushing touchdowns.
Parsippany failed to score last week in a 7-0 loss to Kinnelon.
Pope John (0-2) vs. Iona Prep (N.Y.) (1-0) at MetLife Stadium, 1 p.m.
This will be a nice opportunity for Pope John to play a game at MetLife Stadium and help take its mind off the 0-2 start.
Defensively, it’s been rough for the Lions with over 50 points allowed in both games. Pope John quarterback Peter Delaportas received a scholarship offer from Boston College this week.
Iona Prep is ranked as the No. 9 team in the state of New York by MaxPreps.
The game is part of the Battle for the Bridge, which includes matchups between Delbarton and St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) and Cardinal Hayes (N.Y.) against St. Joseph Montvale in East Rutherford.