Author: Mike Pavlichko

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Week 4: Rumbling on the Raritan, Top Defenses

It’s Week Four – yes we’re almost halfway through the regular season for most teams – and time for another episode of “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” as veteran CJSR sportscaster Mike Pavlichko shares notes, stats, and observations on area high school football.

This week, we look at Sunday’s Rumble on the Raritan, Big Play Ray, the Phillipsburg/Montgomery game with almost four dozen penalties, top defenses, and a nearly 100-year-old rivalry played under the lights for the very first time.

Click below to listen to the Week Four edition of “The Big Central in Two Minutes”:

Phillipsburg still No. 1, Union makes debut in Week 4 Big Central Media Poll

For the fifth straight week, going back to the preseason, Phillipsburg is the unanimous No. 1 team in the Big Central Media Poll, while Union made its first appearance in the rankings, getting votes for the for just the second time this year.

The Stateliners are 3-0 after a 54-7 road win at North Hunterdon. Their next opponent is No. 7 Hillsbrough, which dropped five spots after a 28-7 loss to Ridge Thursday evening. P’burg and the Raiders will square off in the Rumble on the Raritan at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium in Piscataway in a noon game Sunday you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio, part of a doubleheader that also features North Brunswick and Sayreville, who will play in the second game at 3:30 pm.

Hillsborough and Somerville were the only two teams in the Media Poll to have lost this past week. The Pioneers dropped to 2-1 with a 27-21home loss to Montgomery Friday night, and fell out of the rankings, getting three votes from the five media members.

Union took the opportunity to move into the rankings at No. 10, winning three straight since a season-opening loss to Rancocas Valley in the Battle at the Beach at Ocean City High School in Week Zero.

The Farmers host Somerville Friday night at Cooke Field.

Below is the full Week 4 Big Central Media Poll:

Phillipsburg holds at No. 1, Bernards debuts in Week 4 Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten

Another week, another top finish for Phillipsburg in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Week 4 rankings. The Stateliners are 3-0 after a 54-7 win over North Hunterdon Friday in their first road game of the season.

P’burg is back in action Sunday at noon in the Rumble on the Raritan at Rutgers Univeristy’s SHI Stadium in Piscataway, part of a Big Central doubleheader that can be heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio. The Liners play Hillsborough at noon, while North Brunswick and Sayreville will follow at 3:30 pm.

Mewanwhile, previous No. 9 Colonia (2-2) was knocked out of the top ten with a loss this week, as was previous No. 10 Somerville (3-1).

Bernards (4-0) made its debut in the poll this season, after a 30-6 win over Voorhees on Thursday night.

Below are the full Week 4 Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings:

Who’s streaking? After three weeks, Spotswood holds Big Central’s longest active win streak

The Big Central’s longest active winning streak is now up to six games, but Spotswood is all alone.

The Chargers and Summit both had five-game winning streaks heading into Week Three, but while Spotswood blanked Highland Park in a rare home night game – they brought in temporary lights – the Hilltoppers fell to the juggernaut that is St. Thomas Aquinas, 44-20, for their first loss of the season.

There’s less of a chance to carry a long winning streak into another season these days, since the NJSIAA last year played its first-ever group championships. Before expanding to “regional championships” – essentially group semifinals without a group title game – in 2018, there were 20 public schools that could carry a winning streak to the next year after winning a sectional crown.

Now that those teams can potentially play two more rounds, only five public schools (who made the playoffs) can go into the next season on a win streak. (There are others, but more on that later.)

After Spotswood, no one in the Big Central has a five game winning streak, but six have won four in a row. The only streak of those six that carries back to last season is Phillipsburg, which is 3-0, and beat Easton in its last game of 2022 after getting knocked out of the state playoffs in the North 2, Group 5 title game by West Orange.

The others who have won four straight are all 4-0 this season, uncluding HUnterdon Central, Montgomery, Watchung Hills, Bernards, and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Statewide, Caldwell still owns the longest active winning streak in New Jersey, currently at 31 games. After winning their last three games of 2020, they went 13-0 last year and won the state Group 2 title over Rumson-Fair Haven, and are now 3-0 this year. The Indians host West Essex (2-2) Friday night.

The second-longest streak in the state ended Friday night when Toms River North lost 21-7 to Donovan Catholic. That streak ended at 17, and to add injury to insult, star quarterback Micah Ford went down with an injury, the extent of which is not yet known.

The next-closest streaks are nine games, owned by three teams. Old Tappan won its last six last year en route to the state Group 3 title; they’re 3-0 this year. Woodbury – last year’s Group 1 champ – won its final five last year and is 4-0 this season.

Meanwhile, Fort Lee also has won nine-in-a-row. Though just 2-0 this year, they won their last seven games last year, en route to an 8-1 season. How?

They’re in the NJIC’s Ivy White division, a division allowed by the NJSIAA where struggling programs can play each other, but are not permitted to make the state playoffs due to the intentionally weak schedule they play. There are two such divisions in the NJIC and another two in the Super Football Conference.

As for losing streaks, Highland Park and JP Stevens remain the longest and second-longest statewide.

The Owls are at 45 games after a 34-0 loss to Spotswood Friday. They’re 0-3, and host Roselle Park (1-2) this Friday.

The Hawks are at 35, with an 0-4 record this season after a 34-0 loss THursday to Governor Livingston. They host South Plainfield (2-2) Friday.

Behind them is Ferris, whose streak swelled to 26 with a 43-8 loss at KEarny on Friday. They host Dwight Morrow/Englewood (2-0) on Friday.

Plainfield shakes off Williams’ absence to upset undefeated Carteret

Off the field, the Plainfield football team made the news this week for asking the NJSIAA to investigate – which they will – allegations of bias in the officiating of the Cardinal’s loss last week to Montgomery.

In that game, out of 44 accepted penalties, 36 were called on Plainfield, according to a report on Williams was thrown out of the game for arguing, and as a result had to sit this week’s game out.

Assistant Al-Majid Hutchins took his place, not that you would have noticed it.

That’s because on the field Saturday, the Cardinals were all business as usual, and improved to 2-1 with a 35-7 win over previously unbeaten Carteret, which fell to 3-1.

Plainfield’s defense did the job. They had seven sacks, and four interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns by Keiwan Kirkland, Joel Cordoba and Ethan Perry. Cordoba also had a touchdown catch, and E.J. Brown added a three-yard run in the win.

What happens in the NJSIAA investigation may be of consolation to Plainfield or not, but clearly the team put it behind them when they got to Hub Stine Field on a Saturday afternoon where, this time, everything seemed to go their way.

Click below for postgame reaction from Marcus Borden, presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

Late South Hunterdon score helps Eagles soar past Middlesex with 12-7 road win

A fourth quarter touchdown run by Ryan Rampel helped South Hunterdon get past Middlesex Friday night at Mountainview Park, 12-7, in a Big Central Conference Freedom Silver Division game.

Middlesex (2-1) got on the board in the first quarter with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Dom Parenti to Jax Jarvis in the first quarter, and South Hunterdon (3-1) got the equalizer in the second quarter on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Venettone to Aaron Zalescik.

Click below for postgame reaction from Marcus Borden with victorious South Hunterdon:

No. 6 Montgomery stands tall with backs to the goal line for wild 27-21 win at No. 10 Somerville

In a battle of undefeated, 3-0 teams, where both teams made big play after big play on offense, defense and special teams, it was Montgomery that made one more big play than Somerville.

After taking a 27-14 lead with two fourth quarter touchdowns – including a 66-yard pass play from Michael Schmelzer, Jr., to Matthew D’Avino – the No. 10 Pioneers got back to within a touchdown, held the Cougars to a three-and-out, and got the ball back with 1:36 left and a chance to win.

But for the second straight year, 6th-ranked Montgomery would not be denied. Almost, but not quite.

On fourth-down they got a huge pass play from Brenden Pacheco to Quinn Carran for 63 yards to the Monty 30, then worked their way to a first-and-ten at the 16 with 30 seconds left.

Pacheco’s first pass to Mitchell fell incomplete. Montgomery got called for pass interference on second down, leaving 9.4 seconds on the clock. Pacheco connected with Quinn Carran on second down again, but he came down out of bounds five yards past the goal line.

And on the final play of the game, Matt D’Avino broke up one last pass from Pacheco that would have tied the game, and given ‘Ville a chance to win it on the PAT.

The aerial attack was the story overall, with Pacheco and Schmelzer combining for 550 passing yards. Pacheco finished with 329 and two TDs, while Schmelzer had 221 yards and two TD passes, while running for a third.

Montgomery is off to a 4-0 start, while Somerville took its first loss and falls to 3-1.

Click below for postgame reaction with Mike Pavlichko presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

Montgomery senior QB Michael Schmelzer, Jr.
Montgomery head coach Zoran Milich

Bernards football coach Jon Simoneau honored as Coach of the Week by the New York Jets

Bernards is already 4-0, but after its 3-0 start to the 2023 high school football season, head coach Jon Simoneau was named Coach of the Week in the tri-state-area by the New York Jets of the NFL.

The program by the Jets and Gatorade is to recognize each week “a coach in the tri-state area who serves the best interests of the game through the teaching of sound football fundamentals, the motivation of young players to achieve, and the promotion of youth football by way of dedication to his community, his school and his student-athletes.”

Bernards is now off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2014, when the Mountaineers started 7-0 and finished at 8-2, with an opening round playoff loss to Lincoln. Quarterback Connor Laverty – a four-year starter who also trains with Matt Bastardi at CJSR sponsor Elite QB Football Training Academy – has thrown for 536 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions, while Bernards has three players each with at last 100 receiving yards, while three others have at least 100 rushing yards, including Laverty himself, who has rushed for 178 yards and five scores.

Bernards opened with a pair of road wins, 47-6 over Jefferson and 28-12 over Hillside. They are in the midst of a three-game homestand, winning the first two 42-7 over South River, and Thursday night 3-06 over Voorhees.

The Mounties have outscored their opponents 147-31 in their first four games.

They’ll close out the homestand next Friday night at home against Delaware Valley with the Big Central Conference’s Patriot Gold Division title on the line.

READ MORE: Click here for the story on Simoneau’s honor on the Jets website.

According to the Jets website, each winner gets a $2,000 check for their football program. A coach of the Year also is chosen at the end of the season, getting $4,000 and a Gatorade cooler cart from the Jets and Gatorade.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Jets High School Coach of the Week Jon Simoneau of Bernards:

Somerville to honor 1983 undefeated state champs, 40 years after CJ2 title

Somerville has had four undefeated seasons in its long and storied history, but the Pioneers’ most recent – which came in 1983 – will be honored tonight at Brooks Field as Montgomery comes to town in a battle of 3-0 teams.

The ‘Ville also was undefeated in 1979, 1953 and 1929. Technically, 1909 as well; they only played one game and beat Bound Brook 16-5.

But that 1983 team is one many still remember in town.

They beat West Windsor in the Central Jersey Group 2 final at muddy Brooks Field, 30-6, to cap off an 11-0 season.

“We have a great tradition and we can tee it up with anyone. This is one of the best team’s we’ve ever had here,” head coach Jerry Moore told reporters after the game. Moore is expected to be in attendance for ceremonies Friday evening.

Somerville was 4-5 the year before, in 1982, but they were considered the favorite to win the Mid-State’s Raritan Division over Bridgewater West, which graduated 18 players from their ’82 squad.

The year got started at Frank Jost Field, where the Pioneers crushed South Plainfield in a 40-0 shutout of a Tiger team considered one of the best defensive squads in the area. It was The ‘Ville’s biggest offensive output that season.

They then took out Bridgewater West two weeks later, and went into the four-team CJ2 playoffs at 9-0 as the top-seed.

It wasn’t easy in the opening round against fourth-seed Ridge, which cut a 7-0 lead to 7-6 with a second quarter touchdown, the first Somerville had allowed in the first half of a game all year long.

In the second half, the Red Devils again challenged, but lost a fumble on their opening drive, then Paul Gibbons picked up an interception to end another possession.

Somerville battles Ridge on November 19, 1983 in the Central Jersey Group 2 first round at Brooks Field. (Source:

The teams went into the final 12 minutes with ‘Ville still nursing a one-point lead before Pat Balunis threw a 55-yard TD strike to Pat Kelley on third-and-three from midfield, then got a 31-yard field goal with under five minutes left to seal the deal.

Somerville closed out the Raritan Division title with its 13th straight win, and tenth of the season, a 27-6 rout of Hillsborough, which had won a title just three years earlier. The Raiders scored first, in the second quarter, but the Pioneers responded with 27 unanswered points to win.

And the following week capped the perfect season. “We made the big plays all year when we had to, and it was a very good season,” Moore said after the title game.

Yes, it was.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko with former Somerville head coach Jerry Moore: