West Essex-Caldwell Will Be Rekindled And Verona-CG Also Back On SFC Slate

By Anthony Sorce


Among SFC officers and coaches, MIke Quick had on podium with him were, in photo, athletic directors Joe Piro of Nutley, Rich Hansen of St. Peter’s Prep and Denis Nelson of River Dell

One of the best local rivalries in Essex County will be rekindled as Caldwell visits West Essex on Sept. 23, and the ‘Hatfields vs. The McCoys’ (a.k.a. Verona vs. Cedar Grove) is also back as well on Oct. 7 in The Grove after a 1-year absence as two of the highlighted 2022 contests unveiled during the first Super Football Conference Schedule Release Show held Thursday evening, Jan. 20, at the Franklin Steakhouse and aired ‘live’ on the SFC’s youtube channel.

Irvington, which like Caldwell, Cedar Grove and East Orange Campus, is coming off a regional playoff championship season, has one of the more intriguing schedules for any public-school gridiron squad in the state as the Blue Knights will face South Jersey state power Millville (Sept. 2), EOC (Sept. 9), Seton Hall Prep (Sept. 23) and West Orange (Oct. 21) among its 2022 slate of foes.

The Franklin Steakhouse filled its parking lot to capacity and a good-size crowd of more than 100 coaches were on hand along with athletic directors, players and members of the media to enjoy the interviews and unveiling of schedules for the nation’s largest scholastic football conference during a program hosted by Mike Quick, who is well known for his longtime New York-New Jersey Metropolitan Area high school football show that aired for more than 30 years on the MSG Network.

There are 113 schools formatted into 20 divisions across seven counties (Essex, Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Sussex,

Mike Quick chats with coaches Ralph Cinque of Clifton and Wayne Demikoff of Wayne Hills

Morris and Warren) in the SFC which was formed in 2016.

Along with the Caldwell-West Essex and Verona-Cedar Grove matchups, another much-anticipated game to highlight on the 2022 North Jersey football calendar is when East Orange Campus travels to meet Clifton on Sept. 1st or 2nd. The game will be a rematch of the memorable North, Group 5 regional championship game at Rutgers SHI Stadium this past December when the Jaguars won in an exciting and very topical finish over the Mustangs.

While a reloading Verona team will have an arduous American Gold Division schedule in 2022 with games including Weequahic (Sept. 9), at Caldwell (Sept. 16), vs. Morris Catholic (Sept. 23) and at Mountain Lakes (Sept. 30), coach Kevin Batty’s Hillbillies will certainly look forward to the restored regular season game with Cedar Grove after the two neighboring rivals didn’t meet this past fall causing must frustration both east and west of Pompton Avenue and environs for the two bordering Essex County communities which both love their football.

Another much-anticipated matchup with a nice, local feel is Bloomfield vs. Belleville as the Bengals and Buccaneers have not met since 2014.

Vito Campanile of Bergen Catholic and Greg Russo of Paramus Catholic during Jan. 20 Super Football Schedule Release Show at Franklin Steakhouse. BC and PC will do battle during week 8 of the 2022 season. Campanile a former standout QB at Paramus Catholic in 1992, coached Russo as a player in the late 90s, before they would both having NJ Head Coaching Stardom in the 21st Century.

Belleville coach Jermain Johnson, a former standout Bloomfield player, took over the reins of the Bucs in 2017 and the program has been improving each season.

It will be Johnson vs. his former coach Mike Carter when the two teams meet in the final regular season game on Oct. 21 at Foley Field.

A North Jersey parochial clash with a real family feel will be ‘The Campanile Bowl’ on Sept. 30 when Vito Campanile’s Bergen Catholic Crusaders meet Nick Campanile’s DePaul Spartans.


Seton Hall Prep will take on Bergen Catholic in Oradell, Sept. 16, and host Irvington on Sept. 23 in West Orange. The Pirates travel to Monmouth County to take on defending Non-Public B champion Red Bank Catholic on Sept. 30, before an appetizing October that includes a home game vs. St. Joe’s of Montvale on Oct. 21, and a return to Jersey City and Caven Point on Oct. 28 to take on rival St. Peter’s Prep.

The Pirates lost two very close games against the Marauders at Caven Point in 2021, including in the Non-Public A quarterfinals.

West Essex, which has been one of North Jersey’s most successful programs for many years, has plenty of juice in its 2022 slate, highlighted by the resumption of the rivalry with Caldwell, which is coming off a perfect 12-0 season.

“West Essex vs. Caldwell is always a great event,” said Knights veteran coach Chris Benacquista who was one of the coaches at the SFC schedule release show. “The boys are very familiar with each from their youth football days and the rivalry brings out great passion and excitement from the student body.

“(Coach) Tom (Lamont) and his staff do an outstanding job and they’ll certainly present a huge challenge for us.”

West Essex and Caldwell last met in 2019 with the Knights winning for the seventh straight time over the Chiefs, 55-14. Caldwell’s last victory in the rivalry was 23-14 back in 2010.

West Essex will also take on Wayne Valley on Sept. 16, which provides plenty of added significance for Benacquista

Chris Benacquista of West Essex and Jermaine Johnson of Belleville discuss the 2022 NJSFC Schedule, The Knights and Buccaneers will meet in week 7 of the 2022 season.

and his family.

‘Living in Wayne and having a daughter at Valley will certainly make things interesting on a personal level,” said the Knights head mentor. “But, more importantly (Coach) Roger (Kotlarz) always has his teams prepared and playing hard so it will be another real tough opponent that will be a measuring stick game for us.”

And, in a game which will rekindle when Group 3 West Essex competed among the ‘Big Boys’ while facing a large-school slate of foes in 2014 and 2015 in the Super Essex Conference, the Knights will entertain Group 5 East Orange Campus in a very attractive matchup at Travis Field on Oct. 21.

“We were definitely surprised to see East Orange on our schedule, but at the same time we are excited for the challenge,” said Benacquista. “Obviously, they have a great program there and playing them late in the season will hopefully toughen us up for the playoffs.”

NOTES- Along with great steaks, the Franklin Steakhouse is also known for its Freestyle Club Music and Sunday NFL Ticket…The SFC also had an occasion at MetLife Stadium on Jan. 19 when the first Steve Gregorio Young Man of the Year awards were presented with the overall award recipient being Joe Grasso of Ridgewood High School…DiGregorio, Sideline Chatter’s Essex County Coach of the Year at Nutley in 2020, passed away in 2021 following a valiant battle with cancer…Among the individual school ‘Young Men of the Year’ award recipients were Chris Corbo (Dartmouth) of West Essex, Pat Capozzoli of Caldwell and Zakeem Crawford-Patterson of Irvington.                             



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