South Brunswick High School’s football team will put its 10-game winning streak on the line Dec. 5 when it meets Old Bridge High School (7-3) in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group V championship game at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers University.
Both teams hail from the Greater Middlesex Conference’s (GMC) Red Division and previously played Sept. 25 in a game won by the Vikings, 20-9. The Vikings earned a berth in the finals with a 27-21 win over Manalapan High School Nov. 20.
Third-seeded Old Bridge, which defeated East Brunswick High School, 21-7, on Thanksgiving, downed New Brunswick High School, the second seed, 26-12, in the semifinals. The Knights’ Nick Sodano and Jake Esposito each scored a pair of touchdowns in the win. Old Bridge also boasts a talented junior quarterback of its own in Artur Sitkowski.
“It’s always tough to play a team twice,” South Brunswick coach Joe Goerge said. “They played well against us, and we were fortunate to come out with the win. This is it. The championship game. We have to be at our best.”
In what could be considered a tune-up for the championship game, South Brunswick easily downed North Brunswick Township High School, 41-14, for the sixth straight time in the annual Thanksgiving Day game between the two teams. North Brunswick (2- 8) still leads the series, however, 23-16-1.
The host Vikings got out of the gate a little slower than usual and found themselves down, 8-7, in the first quarter. It was pretty much all South Brunswick from there. By the time the opening quarter was over, the Vikings were up 14-8. Fullback Phil Campbell opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run. After the Raiders took the lead thanks to a 65-yard scoring run by Max Emmanuel, South Brunswick bounced back as quarterback Josh Liao got into the end zone on a 9-yard keeper.
Mo Jabbie’s 62-yard punt return extended the lead early in the second quarter. Liao scored again on a 20-yard run before the visitors scored again when Dylan Seel connected with Elijah Hicks for a 59-yard touchdown pass.
South Brunswick (10-1) scored two more times in the third quarter. Liao found Justin Shorter for a 56-yard scoring pass, and Wendell Allen closed out the scoring with a 7-yard run.
The victory sends the top-seeded Vikings into the Old Bridge game on a positive note. In their previous meeting during the regular season, the Vikings made two big plays that turned out to be the difference. Jabbie returned a punt for a touchdown and Liao found Shorter for a 46-yard touchdown pass.
Previously, the Vikings got three touchdowns from Campbell but needed a big fourth quarter drive to defeat fourth-seeded Manalapan, 27-21, in the semifinals. Facing a fourth-and-goal, the game ended with Liao finding Jabbie all alone in the end zone as time ran out. Liao had kept the drive going with a 32-yard completion to Allen.
Earlier in the quarter, the Braves (6-5) had come from 14 points behind to tie things up and take the momentum. An uncharacteristic turnover led to Manalapan’s tying touchdown.
“Our guys kept their poise and focus,” Goerge said. “You have to give Manalapan credit for coming back; they have a very strong team. All the teams that are still playing at this time of the year are strong. We settled down, though, and made some big plays on that last drive.”