Hillsborough rumbles to first state sectional championship since 2000

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The Hillsborough High School football team celebrates winning the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship with a 35-8 victory over North Brunswick on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School quarterback James Mazuera scrambles up the field for a first down against North Brunswick during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship game on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough. Mazuera had three total touchdowns in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School wide receiver Thomas Amankwaa celebrates a 32-yard touchdown catch during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship game on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough. Amankwaa had three total touchdowns and an interception in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School defensive end Will Dixon tackles North Brunswick quarterback Frankie Garbolino for no gain during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship game on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough. Hillsborough won 35-8.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Hillsborough High School football team's 2021-2022 senior class celebrates winning the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School wide receiver Thomas Amankwaa cries tears of joy after the Raiders defeated North Brunswick 35-8 on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough to win the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Hillsborough High School football team celebrates winning the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship with a 35-8 victory over North Brunswick on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School quarterback James Mazuera scrambles up the field for a first down against North Brunswick during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship game on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough. Mazuera had three total touchdowns in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School wide receiver Thomas Amankwaa celebrates a 32-yard touchdown catch during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship game on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough. Amankwaa had three total touchdowns and an interception in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School defensive end Will Dixon tackles North Brunswick quarterback Frankie Garbolino for no gain during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship game on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough. Hillsborough won 35-8.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Hillsborough High School football team's 2021-2022 senior class celebrates winning the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School wide receiver Thomas Amankwaa cries tears of joy after the Raiders defeated North Brunswick 35-8 on Nov. 19 in Hillsborough to win the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

The unstoppable train that is the Hillsborough High School football team once again could not be derailed on Nov. 19 at the school’s Dan A. Noonan Field.

Hillsborough improved to a perfect 12-0 on the season and added some championship hardware in the process by taking down North Brunswick Township High School in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship game.

The Raiders took down their Big Central Football Conference for the second time this season, capturing their first sectional championship in 21 years with a 35-8 victory over North Brunswick.

“I’m so proud of the guys for the plays they made and the way they executed tonight,” Coach Kevin Carty said after the championship victory. “This is how I hoped it would go this year. This is always the ultimate goal every season and for these guys to be able to do it, I know they will always remember it, and I will too. I’m really happy for them.”

This is Hillsborough’s third sectional championship in school history.

Hillsborough will next face Kingsway Regional High School in the Group V Regional Championship.

If Hillsborough defeats Kingsway, it will be the first time in program history that a team has gone a perfect 13-0 in a single-season.

“To win the South Jersey championship and do something that our school has never done before are great goals for us,” Carty said. “We’re excited to do it.”

After North Brunswick took an 8-7 lead over Hillsborough to start the second quarter, the Somerset County Raiders team responded on their very next possession and didn’t look back.

The senior duo of quarterback James Mazuera and wide receiver Thomas Amankwaa shot Hillsborough back in front as Mazuera floated a perfect 32-yard pass to Amankwaa on a wheel route to put Hillsborough up 14-8.

Hillsborough got the ball back at its own 19-yard line with 3:16 to play in the first half and put together a stellar two-minute drive to add its lead going into halftime.

Mazuera was a big part of the Hillsborough drive, accounting for 58 yards and capping off the 14-play 81-yard touchdown drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Amankwaa.

“Somebody had to step up and make the big plays and my number was called,” Mazuera said. “I did it but I couldn’t have done it without my offensive line and my receivers.”

The senior quarterback tallied all three of his touchdowns in the contest during the first half, scoring the first points of the game with a three-yard touchdown run on a quarterback sneak in the first quarter. He now has 24 total touchdowns this season.

Having a big time performance in a championship game had Mazuera smiling ear to ear when he and his teammates celebrated winning their sectional title after the game.

“It feels amazing,” Mazuera said. “It’s really the best feeling in the world and I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to do it with.”

Amankwaa also dialed up a three-touchdown performance for the Raiders, adding more incredible stats to his outstanding senior campaign.

With two receiving touchdowns in the first half, Amankwaa tallied on a rushing touchdown on the first drive of the second half, scoring from five yards to extend the Hillsborough lead to 28-8. The senior star has now racked up 48 career touchdowns.

Amankwaa later on in the fourth quarter racked up Hillsborogh’s third turnover of the game with his fifth interception of the season.

Coming into the contest saying that he “wasn’t leaving this the field without a championship,” Amankwaa was crying tears of joy after helping bring a sectional championship back to Hillsborough.

“We knew from the first days of practices that this was a state-championship caliber team,” said Amankwaa. “It feels great to be on this field and win a championship with all these guys that I have been playing with since Junior Raiders. It means a lot to all of us.”

Senior Sal Volpe ran in the final touchdown of the night for the Raiders on a one-yard fullback dive with 2:32 to go in the third quarter, giving Hillsborough its tenth game this season of scoring 30 or more points.

Hillsborough is averaging over 42 points per game during its last six contests.

Junior placekicker Sam Meechan went a perfect five-for-five in his extra point attempts during the victory over North Brunswick.

When the clock hit double zeros, the Hillsborough Raiders were officially sectional champions once again and a goal that a talented 2022 senior class envisioned coming into high school was accomplished in front of the Hillsborough faithful.

“This means the world to me,” senior said lineman Ethan McLaughlin of winning a sectional championship. “We always knew our class was great. We knew if we went undefeated that we would have a chance to play for a state championship. It’s absolutely amazing to celebrate this with my brothers on this field.”