by Marcus Borden
As the football analyst for Central Jersey Sports Radio, it is my pleasure to introduce the 24 players, one from each Middlesex County football-playing school, who I have selected to the 9th annual Bellamy & Son Paving “Borden’s Ballers” football team.
It is now up to the readership and football fans to choose one winner from the 24 nominees to be named the “Borden’s Baller of the Year.”
All may cast their vote on the ballot found at the end of this story. Voting will open at 12:00 am on Election Day, Tuesday, November 7th, and close on Sunday, November 12th at noon.
The player with the most votes will be featured in a story that will appear online at cjsportsradio.com as well as posted on Twitter. In addition, the player will receive a special commemorative football courtesy of Bellamy & Sons Paving.
All players will receive an Adidas long sleeve t-shirt with the Borden’s Ballers logo on the front and their name and school on the back. Metro Team Sports and Elite Custom Apparel have graciously provided their services to our 2023 awardees.
These 24 players and their teammates have been challenged since the early season openers on the weekend of August 25-27 up through the end of the regular season on the weekend of October 20-21 and the start of the playoffs on October 27 which will finally culminate with the crowning of overall Group Championships the week after Thanksgiving.
The 2023 Borden’s Ballers have learned to adapt and to not take for granted the time spent with teammates in off-season conditioning, summer workouts, game preparation and finally the weekly thrill of competition.
The selection process was not easy as there are so many outstanding players in Middlesex County. Therefore, I have recognized an honorable mention list which can be found at the end of the player profiles.
The following criteria was used to select each of these weekend warriors who make up Borden’s Ballers Class of 2023:
- Performance: an athlete who has played at a high level throughout the season
- Leadership: a player who epitomizes the adage, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”
- Camaraderie: a teammate who can be relied upon as a positive influence under any situation
- Intangibles: someone who thrives in crunch time, represents his or her program and school well, is coachable and has what I call, “ganas,” heart or an intense desire
Below are notes on each player. All candidates are grouped by division, then alphabetically by team.
Big Central Football Conference American Gold
St. Joseph – Jeremy DeCaro: A two-time winner of this award, DeCaro has done everything for the Falcons except drive the team bus. Jeremy epitomizes what it is to be a great team captain. He deflects the media attention while reminding all of us that it is a team game and that his success is the result of those who battle with him. This consummate leader has had an impact in every phase of the game whether it be returning a kickoff for a touchdown, catching a 93-yd. TD pass, scooting 67 yards for six or soaring down the sideline to paydirt after snaring the opposition’s pass. This Falcon has left his indelible mark.
Big Central Football Conference National Gold
East Brunswick – Ryan Bennett: The Bears emotional leader on and off the field, Bennett was the glue who kept the team focused throughout the season. Whether he was carrying the ball or catching it, the senior co-captain fought for the tough yard no matter what the scenario. He led the team in total all-purpose yardage as well being East Brunswick’s top defender with over 160 tackles in his career and 3 interceptions.
Monroe – Salvatore Marchione: A Jack of all trades, Marchione tossed a 47-yrd TD pass on his only throw of the season, rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns, caught 38 passes for nearly 400 yards and two scores but made his presence known as a fierce tackler on defense. The 3-year starter embodied toughness and was the consummate leader for his rookie head Coach Nick Isola.
Old Bridge – Brody Nugent: Sophomore Brody Nugent stepped into the starting quarterback role for Old Bridge early in the season, as the Knights took advantage of his ability to be a dual-threat as a runner and passer. The youngster responded by amassing 2000 yards of total offense while managing the on-the-job training required for his position. The future looks bright for this athletic and tough competitor who got better every time he stepped on the field!
Piscataway – De’Shaun Stephens: This mighty mite, whose track speed has electrified the Chiefs offense, defense and special teams reminded the opposition that the game can change quickly when the ball is in his possession. A sure-handed receiver, Stephens routinely made the improbable catch out-leaping the defender or he baited the opposing quarterback by playing off the receiver only to close on the throw while taking it to the house in front of the home team’s bench. By the way, let’s not forget he was one of the league’s top kick returners too.
South Brunswick – Braden Paulmenn: South Brunswick’s return to the playoffs in 2023 can be directly attributed to Paulmenn’s tough and spirited mentality which was on display both offensively and defensively. As the team’s quarterback in the option offense, he made the decision to give the ball or keep it. Defensively he made the calls and adjustments as a safety while filling the alley like a linebacker. A Type 1 diabetic, Braden never let his condition get in the way of his dream to be one of the state’s top javelin throwers or one of Middlesex County’s top football players!
Big Central Football Conference National Silver
Edison – Sebastion Vera: The two-way returning Eagle lineman was in an integral piece of the puzzle that helped Edison capture the Central Jersey Group 5 Sectional Championship in 2022. However, is biggest challenge this year was serving as a role model for the younger players who were forced into the limelight while being an easy target for the opposition as the defending champs. Vera exemplified what it is like to perform at a high level while leading his team defensively over the past three years with 100 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, 3 forced fumbles and a safety.
New Brunswick – Stanford Williams: A three-year starter for New Brunswick, as well as a captain, Williams led his team on the offensive line and as a linebacker. He recently completed his senior season with 105 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss and 4 quarterback sacks. This physical Zebra was a leader on and off the field for his rookie head coach Steve. Gluchowski who looks to rebuild the once proud Hub City football program.
North Brunswick – Samaad Hicks: Hicks led the 8-1 Raiders in all 3 phases of the game as a dynamic athlete who aligned in the backfield, at wide receiver, defensive back, and kick returner. The team’s leading receiver and second in rushing yardage, Hicks was a threat to go the distance every time he touched the ball. He led the team with 11 rushing touchdowns, 5 through the air and 1 kickoff return for a score as most teams avoided kicking to him. Another fun fact for the fans, he scored 11 two-point conversions on the season!
Sayreville – Connor Walsh: As a 4-year starter for Sayreville, Walsh has played at a high level as the Bombers have been dominant in the running game and on defense as they look to compete in the state playoffs. The smart and athletic defensive tackle can stuff the run on fourth and goal from the one-yard line or make the play for a loss near the opponent’s sideline on a quick hitch to the wide receiver! You can be sure of this, Connor will be playing college football at a FCS program next season.
Big Central Football Conference Liberty Gold
Colonia – Jaeden Jones: The Monmouth University commit is a 2-time Borden’s Baller awardee as well as a 4-year starter for Colonia. He has accounted for over 6000 rushing yards, averaging 7.4 yards per carry while scoring 49 touchdowns on the ground. As a receiver he caught 45 balls for 399 yards and 3 scores. While playing quarterback his last two years, Jones completed 150 passes for 2260 yards and 15 touchdowns. Yes, he did play defense and will display those skills at the next level for the Hawks. He averaged nearly 9 tackles per game, had 11 interceptions, 9 fumble recoveries and 342 career tackles for the Patriots!”
J.F. Kennedy – Miguel Alvarez: This tough and physical Mustang 2-way interior lineman has been a leader for the rebuilding of the J.F. Kennedy football program under his second-year head coach. Alvarez was a mentor to the predominantly underclassmen team, while leading the Kennedy defense with 51 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks in his senior season.
Perth Amboy – Jahmeil Brown: Brown was a 4-year starter for the Panthers spread offense playing quarterback and running back during his career. As a passer he accounted for over 700 yards and 8 touchdowns while carrying the ball for over 800 yards and 13 touchdowns. Defensively he played safety for Perth Amboy and had 44 tackles and 2 tackles for a loss and one sack. An emotional leader, Brown brought the intensity day in and day out.
Woodbridge – AJ Bosch: The 2022 Borden’s Baller of the Year, Bosch has left his mark as one of Middlesex County’s elite players! Not only was he a dynamic player who could change the game in a second, his leadership skills are what separate him from the rest. On the ground the speedy Barron averaged 6.6 yards a carry while hitting paydirt 11 times. It was as at receiver, however where he did the most damage to opposing defenses with 1998 yards in receptions for 14.8 yards per catch while scoring 27 touchdowns. If you dared kick to him, he might just take it to the house adding to his nearly 700 career yards as a punt and kickoff returner. Bosch should make a great slot receiver for some lucky FCS school!
Big Central Football Conference United Gold
St. Thomas Aquinas – Christian Magliacano: The returning All-Area linebacker just might be one of the best who I have seen over the last four years! He can dominate the game defensively and, in my estimation, should be on the radar of BCS and FCS schools! Just this season, in 9 games, he has 86 solo tackles, 47 assists, 30 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 interception for a TD and 1 blocked kick. Occasionally you’ll see him lined up at running back with 21 carries for 231 yards and 3 scores. Of course, he can play tight end and has 7 catches for 136 yards and 1 touchdown. With a playoff home game on Friday November 10. You can be assured he’ll be adding to his 2023 season statistical totals!
Big Central Football Conference United Silver
Carteret – Antwaun Jackson: Jackson was one of the talented 2021 super sophomores who helped the Ramblers rebuild their proud program which regularly made the playoffs. They did just that in 2023. The athletic linebacker was a one-man tackling machine as he spent much of his career in the opposition’s backfield! He posted 24 sacks and 62.5 tackles for a loss coming off the edge for Carteret. His 175 total tackles, 7 forced fumbles, 4 recovered fumbles and 1 for a touchdown, 1 interception and safety make him a good bet to receive post-season honors.
J.P. Stevens – Marquise Webb: Marquise played the toughest position in the Hawks new offense which incorporated the spread and option schemes. Under new head coach Jason Goerge, J.P. Stevens progressed steadily throughout the season! Webb as the quarterback was raw and inexperienced in the beginning of the season but looked comfortable as the signal caller in the team’s tenth game at Spotswood in late October. The 5’8 150 lb. junior showed poise and composure as he led his team down the field the late in the 4th quarter by scoring with 1:22 remaining in the game and then tossing the game-tying 2-point play which gave his team a chance to secure a victory. The future is bright for Webb and the Hawks as they look to bring back that proud tradition to the Northside of Edison.
South Plainfield – Patrick Smith: As one of Middlesex County’s top kick returners in 2022, the shifty diminutive back was electric with the ball in his hands on punts or kickoffs! His nearly 1300 return yards as a sophomore and junior with three scores had the opposition kicking away from him in 2023. A workhorse in the Tigers backfield, Smith rushed for over 2500 yards with 23 rushing scores and tallied 550 more in receptions during his career. Defensively he registered over 80 career tackles for South Plainfield.
Big Central Football Conference Patriot Gold
South River – Gavin Staffa: One of only a handful of seniors on the field for South River in 2023, Staffa was the emotional leader for a young Ram team which suffered through injuries and inexperience. The 5’8” 200 lb. offensive and defensive lineman played at a high level while fighting to the bitter end no matter what the situation. He was one of the team leaders in tackles, sacks, forced fumbles, recovered fumbles and safeties.
Big Central Football Conference Patriot Silver
Metuchen – Cody Cardillo: With the Bulldogs suffering early season injuries, Captain Cody Cardillo was able to lead his teammates to their best finish since 2017. The physical two-way performer carried the load on offense with 724 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns while catching 7 passes for 109 yards. However, the middle linebacker’s biggest impact was on defense with 60 tackles, 6.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, 2 forced fumbles and one pick six for Metuchen.
Big Central Football Conference Freedom Gold
Highland Park– Jowuan Keyes: Thursday night November 2, 2023, will forever be ingrained in the minds of the Owls as the burden of 51 consecutive losses to the small but proud program came to an end as Keyes and a handful of seniors who stuck it out defeated Point Pleasant Beach 46-29! Jowuan’s 37-yard over the shoulder catch and sprint to the endzone late in the first half helped Highland Park maintain double-digit lead for most of the game. Jowuan’s tears of joy and long embraces with coaches and teammates lit up the most memorable bus ride home in his 4-year football career!
Spotswood – Trey Lazar: Lazar was the catalyst behind the Chargers return to the playoffs in a must-win game versus Group 5 J.P. Stevens on the final Saturday of the regular season. With the pesky Hawks trying to make their own history by ending a painfully long losing streak, Trey took the ensuing kickoff nearly the distance and then bullied his way on the next offensive play to the 7-yard line losing his helmet in the fray. That play epitomized the grit and determination of Spotswood’s program under his leadership and his 3060 career all-purpose yards and 33 total touchdowns!
Big Central Football Conference Freedom Silver
Dunellen – Aidan Sangiray: The senior running back, and middle linebacker was a workhorse for the Dunellen football team which made the playoffs in a must-win game on the Thursday of cut-off weekend. Ironically, the 4-year starter had to sit out that game due to concussion protocol. All he did however, was coach up his replacement on defense allowing the Destroyers to win a close battle with Brearley. A punishing blocker in the single-wing offense, Sangiray made sure you remembered him on defense too. His leadership and 130 career tackles will be sorely missed by the hometown faithful.
Middlesex – Camren Robinson: Camren was a 4-year starter and two-way lineman for the Bluejays. The physical nature of his play on both sides of the ball allowed Middlesex to go 7-1 in the regular season while earning a home playoff game for the first time since 2019. An accomplished 3-sport player, he tallied 105 career tackles, 6 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss while causing 3 fumbles and taking one to the house for a touchdown. The 6’1 255 lb. Robinson will continue to throw his weight around on the mat, in the shot or discus and quite possibly next year for a college football program!
- Carteret – Tyrece Parrott
- Colonia – Joe Perosi
- Dunellen – Chiekezie Ogbuewu
- East Brunswick – Derick Christie
- Edison – Ricky Harvey
- Highland Park – Daniel Sanchez
- J.F. Kennedy – Grant Lorentzen
- J.P. Stevens – Hiven Biffot
- Metuchen – Matt Flood
- Middlesex – Danny Kannaley
- Monroe – Logan Fotiadis
- New Brunswick– Omari Williams
- North Brunswick – Payton Wieczerzak
- Old Bridge – Ryan Kuhl
- Perth Amboy – Lavion Balthazar
- Piscataway – Kiandre Dato-Snead
- Sayreville – Bryce Bouchard
- South Brunswick – Shawn Schneider
- South Plainfield – AJ Perales
- South River – Parker Lane
- Spotswood – James Curnal
- St. Thomas Aquinas – Jack Joyce
- St. Joseph – Daniel DeGennaro
- Woodbridge – Dean Fiore
Be sure to VOTE early and often. Remember, polls open on Election Day and close on Sunday, November 12 at Noon. Thanks for voting!