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Hillsborough caps 13-0 season by winning South Jersey Group V regional championship

The Hillsborough High School football team celebrates winning the NJSIAA South Jersey Group V Regional Championship with a 28-7 victory over Kingsway on Dec. 4 at SHI Stadium.

Legacies were made and milestones were set on Dec. 4 at SHI Stadium in Piscataway as the Hillsborough High School football team capped off its historic 2021 season by winning the NJSIAA South Jersey Group V regional championship.

Hillsborough roared to a 28-7 victory over Kingsway Regional High School of Gloucester County in the regional final, securing the program’s first regional championship and becoming the first team in program history to go 13-0 in a season.

“You can’t say more about going 13-0 and winning a championship here at Rutgers in convincing fashion, ” said head coach Kevin Carty after the game. “It’s been a pleasure for me to watch these guys play together all year. They are all business, but at the same time they have so much fun playing together. I am so happy for them.”

The victory over Kingsway marked Carty’s 100th career win as head coach of the Raiders.

“It’s better than I could have ever imagined,” Carty said of 100th career victory. “The way things worked out by winning 13 games this year is amazing. I love these guys.”

Hillsborough kicked things into high gear during the second quarter following a goal-line stand by its defense on Kingsway’s first possession of the contest midway through the first quarter.

The Raiders drove 98 yards to score the game’s first touchdown on a seven-yard run by senior tailback Tyler Michinard to go up 7-0 with 10:11 to go in the half.

Michinard’s 18th rushing touchdown of the season was the start of a 21-point dominating second quarter of play by the Raiders.

Following another change of possession on downs, Hillsborough quickly found the end zone again three plays later with 4:41 left in the half.

Senior quarterback Jay Mazuera completed two passes for 61 yards, with his last pass going for a 42-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Thomas Amankwaa to give the Raiders a 14-0 lead.

The combination of Mazuera and Amankwaa would strike again for Hillsborough just moments later.

On third and 19 from their own 47, Mazuera saw he had one-on-one coverage with Amankwaa on the outside and decided he was going to give his senior star receiver a chance to make a play.

Mazuera threw a deep ball up the right sideline to Amankwaa and the Rutgers University commit did the rest.

Amankwaa went up and made a great catch over a defender and then high-stepped up the sidelines and into the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown to put Hillsborough up 21-0 with 2:43 to play in the half.

“I have trust in Jay (Mazuera) and he has trust in me,” said Amankwaa of the 53-yard touchdown catch. “When he threw it up there, I knew I could go get it.”

Amankwaa had five catches for 129 yards and rushed for 111 yards on 12 carries in the game.

His two touchdown catches give Amankwaa 29 total touchdowns for the season. Amankwaa finishes his Hillsborough career as the all time-leader in touchdown receptions with 26 and his 50 total touchdowns are the most ever by a player in program history.

Hillsborough took a 21-0 lead into the half, but watched Kingsway cut it 21-7 on the first drive of the second half with Nate Maiers scoring the only touchdown of the day by the Dragons on a 25-yard score.

The Raiders answered right back on the following possession.

An eight-play, 65-yard touchdown drive ended with Mazuera scoring on a two-yard quarterback sneak to put Hillsborough up 28-7.

His three-touchdown performance gives Mazuera 27 total touchdowns for his senior campaign. For his career, Mazuera stands atop the charts with a program-record 39 touchdown passes

“When my number is called, I’m going to go make my plays,” Mazuera said. “That’s the best thing about all of us. All of us can make a play at any time.”

Hillsborough held Kingsway in check the rest of the way to rack up its seventh game this season of giving up one touchdown or less.

Senior defensive lineman Andrew Santa Barbara recorded a sack and six tackles in the victory, while senior defensive back Matthew Amofa recorded an interception for the Raiders.

Hillsborough stopped Kingsway four times on fourth down plays.

“The whole team on defense gels so well,” said senior defensive end Will Dixon. “We have a ton of athletes and we are all very smart. Our defensive coaches game plan perfectly and we know what plays are coming before they happen.”

Michinard gave Hillsborough two rushers over 100 yards in the victory with a game-high 130 yards on the ground.

Junior placekicker Sam Meechan went 4-4 in extra point attempts. Meechan finished the 2021 season with a single-season program record of 58 successful extra point attempts.

Overall, Hillsborough outscored its opponents 480-132 during its perfect 2021 campaign.

From day one of the preseason, the ultimate goal for the Raiders was to leave the Rutgers University football stadium with a regional championship.

That dream was fulfilled in a perfect end to a perfect season and one that everyone who was part of the 2021 Hillsborough High School football program will remember for the rest of their lives.

“We achieved our goal of going 13-0 and are up there as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, teams ever to play at Hillsborough,” Amankwaa said.

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