A wide and varied Top Ten: Counting down the most read stories of our inaugural football season on Central Jersey Sports Radio

by Mike Pavlichko

Well, we can’t really look back at the top stories of the year on Central Jersey Sports Radio because… we weren’t around for the whole year?

It only seems like it.

But seriously, folks. We launched our site August 14th, and are nearing 31,000 page views as we head into 2021, with high school basketball right around the corner.

But it still interests us to know: What were the Top 10 stories we covered since our launch?

Here’s a look, starting at the bottom of the list. Click the link for each entry to take you back to the original story.

10. Mock UPR for South Group 2 shows disparity between Power Points and OSI

November 15 – Like everyone else, we were just happy to have a football season in 2020. But one of my favorite things was always tracking power points and playoff standings. There was no playoff in 2020, and for good reason. Six regular season games (and in some cases only five, four or even as few as two, in the case of Westfield) was simply not enough of a sample size to seed teams into any type of meaningful playoff.

But we still did mock UPR standings to see what things would have looked like, and this peek at the South Jersey Group 2 supersection drew a good deal of attention because – even in a pandemic – it showed the differences in how traditional power points and OSI could affect different teams.

9. Edison’s Danny Maurath “blitzes” competition to run away with Highlight Reel Play of the Year

Edison’s Danny Maurath

December 23 – It’s not easy to make the Top Ten stories for the year in just a week. It might be as difficult as perfectly timing a safety blitz so that you don’t even have to stop at the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped to avoid an off-side call. But that’s exactly what Edison’s Danny Maurath did, and he ran away with the top prize in a fan vote that saw his play against Summit get more than half the votes cast. Well done!

8. A disruptive force, Somerville’s A.J. Pena named Defensive Player of the Year

December 23 – This was another meteoric rise to the top for a story about our pick for the best defensive player in the Big Central Conference this year. But then again, A.J. Pena has always liked busting things up, specifically opposing quarterbacks. The 6-3, 240 pound hybrid DE/LB has been called “the most dominant player I have seen in six years of coaching high school,” by his coach Dallas Whitaker. We agree, and apparently you did, too.

7. Circle these dates: Our (new) list of intriguing Big Central Matchups in Year One

September 3 – I had done a list at my previous employer where I looked at the best games of the inaugural 2020 Big Central season as soon as the schedule was formulated last winter. Of course, COVID led it to be stripped down and shortened, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some fun games to look forward to, even if some of them never got played.

6. Olivo and West talk Ridge crossover win over Hillsborough

Ridge QB Michael Olivo talks with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Dom Savino after the Red Devils defeated Hillsborough.

November 7 – Red Devils junior quarterback Michael Olivo and head coach Andy West offer postgame reaction following a 35-21 win over Hillsborough heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

5. How the Big Central cans schedule a postseason that’s fair, competitive and balanced, with trophies, too

November 1 – I had an idea for the 2020 postseason, once we learned the NJSIAA wouldn’t be involved: take a page from the NJIC and hold playoffs with four-team pods featuring the best teams in each division or group of divisions squaring off for titles. The NJIC did their usual thing, while the West Jersey Football league picked the best teams across the entire league and put them in pods.

The Big Central did a little something different, simply putting together good Week 7 matchups, but pre-selecting Week 8 matchups that weren’t dependent on prior results. We got Somerville-Woodbridge, as everyone wanted, and even Somerville-Phillipsburg… although it got whacked after the Pioneers’ had a COVID case on the team.

4. Monroe senior QB Aidan McLaughlin credits his teammates for his record-setting performance

Monroe senior QB Aidan McLauighlin

October 13 – McLaughlin helped the Falcons score a school-record 63 points against Perth Amboy, by throwing for an individual school record 315 yards in a 63-18 win over the Panthers on October 9th. Central Jersey Sports Radio spoke with him that week after the game.

The record wouldn’t last for long, though. McLaughlin shattered it November 13th when he threw for 370 yards in a 35-10 win against South Brunswick.

3. Somerville is Central Jersey Sports Radio’s first “Team of the Year”

December 1 – Woodbridge held the top spot all to themselves for all six weeks of the regular season (they shared in the preseason Top 10 with Union) but got knocked from the perch when the Pioneers’ beat them 39-26 on November 20th. Somerville was 7-0 and a win away from a prefect season, with Phillipsburg looming. But as mentioned before, that game got whacked, and it kept Somerville perfect. They finished as the Number One team in our final Top Ten, clinching the title of “Team of the Year.”

2. After all these years, Spotswood-South River rivalry remains relevant

October 7 – With the schools getting set to meet for the 44th time on October 10th at Bill Denny Stadium, I asked Chargers head coach Andy Cammarano if the rivalry between Spotswood and South River – borne out of Spotswood kids leaving South River High School to get their own high school in 1976 – was still fresh.

The answer was a resounding yes, and our readers enjoyed hearing about it.

1. Who’s the “strongest” team in Central Jersey?

December 3 – So after all was said and done this season, who was the strongest team in the Big Central? No human polls here. We strictly used the Strength Index, or at least, our unofficial calculations of Strength Index. In a normal season, this number would be centered up or down around a midpoint of 60 and be used to start next year, when calculating OSI for teams to help create the UPR that seeds the postseason.

Unfortunately, we uncovered an error in our program that does the calculations, and had to recalculate. The revised Strength Index numbers – still unofficial, mind you – have been calculated, and you can click here to find the new article on our website.

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