Author: justinsontupe

Old Bridge a win away from first sectional final berth since 2019

Much has been made – a good deal by us, and rightly so – about the quality of the GMC Red Division.

Matt Donaghue disagrees with our assessment that it may be one of the best in the state. The Old Bridge coach says it is the best in the state.

So what does it mean when Old Bridge is the only team in the Red to have beaten every single one of its divisional opponents?

The Knights didn’t sweep anyone, but they have a win each against East Brunswick, South Brunswick, St. Joseph, South Plainfield and Monroe, and swept North Brunswick – which wound up winning the division.

So, in an all-GMC Red Division semifinal, the top-seed Old Bridge (18-8) has just as good a chance as anyone else to win it all. On Tuesday evening, they take on fifth-seed East Brunswick (15-11) for a trip to Friday’s sectional finals. It would be the Knights’ first since 2019, as they seek their first title under Donaghue, who took over as head coach in 2018.

First pitch is set for 6 pm; pregame begins at 5:45 with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the action. Click here to listen.

Both teams are hitting about the same, though East Brunswick has been coming on of late at the plate, while Old Bridge has gotten better pitching all year.

On Tuesday, he’ll throw his No. 1 starter in Frank Papeo (5-2, 1.71 ERA). He’s become a bit more of a strikeout pitcher in 2023, even though his ERA is up about a half a run. Part of that came in two slugfests with St. Joseph-Metuchen and Sayreville, games which they won 10-8, and 7-6, respectively.

Click below to learn more about Old Bridge as head coach Matt Donaghue talks with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Justin Sontupe:

Jones brings QB vision back to hardwood for Colonia, while pouring in more points

It’s hard to believe Colonia point guard and leading scorer Jaeden Jones is still just a junior.

It might be because of his multiple monster games on both the hardwood and the gridiron. It might be because of his maturity on and off the floor.

Ask him, though, and it might just be because all he really wants to do is help his team win.

And so, it is another year, another tight race in the GMC Red Division, and another pivotal game in the Colonia-St. Thomas Aquinas rivalry. A win by Colonia sews up the division nice and neatly, with the Patriots holding the trophy all alone at the top.

Follow Sportsplex at Metuchen on Instagram for the latest on open gym sessions on their courts and turf!

Will the magnitude of the game, the intensity of the Aquinas crowd in their loud, band-box gym have any impact on Jones?

Probably not, and he will say, that’s just how he likes it.

Jones started at point guard for the Patriots as a sophomore last season, but often deferred as a lead scoring option to veterans Saivon Pressley and Billy Anderson. This season, Jones is shouldering a bit more of the load, averaging 15.5 points per game. He dropped a career-high 29 in a December win at St. Joe’s.

But part of what makes this Patriots team so dangerous is the depth and balance on the offensive end. Jones (15.5), senior big Noah Taylor (14.1), freshman wing Aiden Derkack (10.5), and senior wing Anthony Gooden (10.5) all average double-digit points per game.

Colonia (10-1) looks to bring home a banner and improve to 8-0 in the GMC Red Division Thursday night at St. Thomas Aquinas (11-1, 6-0 GMC Red). Coverage begins approximately 6:35 with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe on Central Jersey Sports Radio. Click here to listen.


Click below to hear Justin Sontupe talk with Colonia junior point guard Jaeden Jones:

Colonia will need to snap long streak tonight at Aquinas to win GMC Red crown

Colonia controls its own destiny, as they say.

A win for the third-ranked Patriots (10-1) at top-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas (11-1) Thursday night would give Colonia the GMC Red Division title outright, and very likely the top overall seed in the league tournament next month.

But to do it, they will need to stop a very long streak.

To be clear, it’s not necessarily one of their own.

While the Trojans won all three meetings between the teams last year, Colonia did beat STA in the finale of the GMC’s Karl-Anthony Towns/Jay Williams Pod in 2021, the top mini four-game pod in the COVID-shortened season.

No, we’re talking about the St. Thomas streak of 52 straight wins in divisional play, which has continued this year despite a move up to the GMC Red Division, along with Colonia.

This will be the first meeting between the teams this year, and it could be the only one of their two games to count toward the Red Division title, thanks to a one-year pilot program approved last spring by the GMC. That pilot only mandates one game against every divisional foe, with a second matchup optional. And only the first go-round through the schedule will be considered to determine the division champion.


Since Colonia already beat St. Joseph in triple overtime back in December, a win tonight would clinch the division. Should Aquinas win, they could win outright Tuesday if they beat St. Joseph in Metuchen. If Aquinas wins tonight, but St. Joe’s wins Tuesday, all three would be co-champs, making things a little more complicated, as the second matchups would then come into play at the seeding meeting in a few weeks.

Follow Sportsplex at Metuchen on Instagram for the latest on open gym sessions on their courts and turf!

Tonight’s game on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the action. Pre-game starts at approximately 6:35, with tip-off at 7:00. Click here to listen to the live broadcast for free.

Nonetheless, Colonia has been having a fine season. The Patriots’ lone loss came out-of-conference to Westfield in the LeGrand Holdiay Jubilee. But they won their last two games in that tournament between Christmas and New Year’s, and have won six-in-a-row since that defeat.

Balanced scoring has been the name of the game for Colonia, which has four players – Jaeden Jones, Noah Taylor, Anthony Gooden, and freshman Aiden Derkack – scoring between 10 and 16 points per game, with Jones – the football team’s quarterback this past season – leading the pace with 15.5 points per contest.

Derkack has been a big plus, leading the team in steals (27) and pulling up right behind the starting point guard, Jones, with 43 assists; Jones has 47.

Click below to hear Colonia head coach Jose Rodriguez talk about his team and the matchup against Aquinas:

Balanced Montgomery attack looking for good start to New Year at Hillsborough tonight

As the calendar turns from 2022 to 2023, Montgomery boys basketball finds itself in an unfamiliar position: below .500. It has been six years since the Cougars (3-4) last finished with a losing record, and almost a decade-and-a-half since they finished December in such an unenviable position.

With a Skyland Conference road game against 4-1 Hillsborough up next tonight, the road does not get any easier.

But pay no attention to the record for now, urges head coach Kris Grundy, in his 18th season. The Cougars have held fourth quarter leads in six of their first seven games, including narrow losses to still unbeaten Immaculata and Watchung Hills, and are still overcoming the preseason injury to junior guard Steve Donahue. Freshman Ethan Lin was forced into action earlier than anticipated, and seniors Luke Smith, Matt Levy, and JT Simborski are adjusting to shouldering a heavier load.

The Cougars have absorbed their fair share of punches during the first few weeks of the season, but that should only make them stronger as they enter the meat of the schedule ahead of February’s postseason. Four players — Lin, Levy, Smith, and junior point guard Josh Moore — average at least nine points per game. As a team, Montgomery, which often spreads the floor with five guards, makes more than eight three-pointers per game.

Montgomery’s last loss to Hillsborough came in 2017, and the Cougars will look to get back on track against the familiar foe Tuesday night. Led by second-year head coach Tim Palek, Hillsborough has started 4-1 after finishing last season by winning 8-of-13 and are looking to keep it rolling. 


You can hear Tuesday night’s game live on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with pregame set for 6:40 pm and tip-off at 7 in Hillsborough. Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe will have the call; click here to listen to the broadcast.

Click below to listen to Justin Sontupe talk with Montgomery head coach Kris Grundy ahead of Tuesday’s game.

Tradition-rich Shore will be tough opponent for Manville in Mustangs second-ever playoff home game

Mark Costantino knows a thing or two about winning games toward the end of the season.

In his 31st season as the head coach at Shore Regional, Costantino has coached in eight title games for the West Long Branch school and won four of them. Now looking to capture the eighth state title in school history this season, meaningful late-season football is the norm for the Blue Devils.

“We are used to this kind of stuff,” Costantino said. “It’s what you get done in practice. If you don’t practice well, you will not play well. We’ve won seven state championships here, and [the kids] want to leave their mark on the program.”

For Manville, it will be a new experience: their last playoff berth was in 2017, when they lost to Point Pleasant Beach – another Shore Conference foe – in their first-ever home playoff game. It was only the third postseason berth in school history.

The Blue Devils have 15 players that will see action on both sides of the ball. This is embodied by a trio of key players: running back Lucas Rosa, who leads the team with 511 total yards and 10 touchdowns, quarterback Ty Koch, who has thrown for 6 touchdowns and run for 3 more, and 6’4″ tight end/defensive end Jackson Whitacre, who leads the team with 219 receiving yards and 8 tackles for loss. All three guys start on both sides of the line of the scrimmage.

But Shore Regional expects to have its hands full when it visits Manville Friday night in South Jersey Group 1 playoff action in the Big Central Game of the Week. Manville’s star running back Shawn Purcell – the state scoring leader with 170 points and a whopping 28 touchdowns – is atop the scouting report.

“We’ve faced a number of quality running backs so far this year, and he’s right up there with any of them,” Costantino said. “That’s the guy. We’re going to try to contain him and limit the big plays.”

You can hear Friday night’s game with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling the play-by-play starting with pregame at 6:45 and kickoff at 7:00 from Manville’s Ned Panfile Stadium.  Click here to listen.

Click below to hear Justin Sontupe preview the Manville-Shore first-round playoff game with Blue Devils’ head coach Mark Costantino:

Bernards clicking ahead of “Mountain Valley” rivalry game at Delaware Valley

Bernards head coach Jon Simoneau is well aware of what lies ahead Friday night as his Mountaineers visit division rival Delaware Valley: the 30-mile trip, an elite home field advantage, and an explosive Terriers’ offense. But make no mistake, Bernards is embracing the challenge.

“We kind of like that,” Simoneau said. “It’s fun to be the bad guy sometimes.”

The Mountaineers (3-1, 2-0 Big Central Patriot Gold) are clicking ahead of Friday’s Big Central Game of the Week against Del Val (3-0, 1-0 Big Central Patriot Gold). In back-to-back weeks, Bernards captured 35-0 road wins over South River and Voorhees.

Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe will call all the action, with pregame at 6:45 and kickoff at 7:00. Click here to listen.

Junior quarterback Connor Laverty tossed three touchdown passes at South River, and then bested it with four at Voorhees. The defense hasn’t allowed a score since the fourth quarter against Hillside — three weeks ago.

But undefeated Delaware Valley will provide a stiff challenge. Bernards has beaten Del Val just four times in 15 tries, and all four wins came between 2018 and 2020, the latter of which is their only “W” in Alexandria. Last season, Bernards turned the ball over six times in a two-score loss off Senator Stout Road.

For the Mountaineers, it’s going to take a complete performance. Laverty is off to an outstanding start to the season under center, and he has numerous weapons at his disposal. Running back Nick Kouflie (5 touchdowns) and wide receiver Enzo Britez (3 touchdowns) are threats to score any time they touch the ball.

On defense, linebackers Charlie Gonnella and Kai Dallimore lead a unit that has allowed more than 6 points just once this season.

Click below to hear Justin Sontupe talk with Bernards head coach Jon Simoneau:

It’s Pace’s program as new ‘Ville coach looks to rebound off enigmatic start

Ian Pace’s journey to becoming the head coach at Somerville is a bit of a winding road. An offensive lineman at Fordham then an assistant coach for 12 years at the college level, Pace found his way to The ‘Ville almost by accident. While on a recruiting trip for Division 3 St. John Fisher, he heard of the open position, knocked on the front door to the high school, and was led upstairs to the athletic offices. That day, Pace says he got a feel for how great an opportunity this would be. Eight months later, that feeling has only gotten stronger.

“It takes a village to run The ‘Ville,” Pace said, emphasizing the unbelievable community support surrounding the Pioneers football program. “It’s our program. It’s the community.”

Click above to find out more about Freedom Martial Arts, with locations in Bridgewater and Hillsborough.

Somerville has been a juggernaut in Central Jersey for the better part of a decade. Shouldered by a 57-8 run since 2016 under Jeff Vanderbeek (2016-17) and Dallas Whitaker (2018-21) that featured three state finals appearances, this isn’t a reboot or a rebuild for Pace; he’s just receiving the baton.

Third-year starting quarterback Mike Miller has thrown for almost 3,500 yards and nearly 40 touchdowns in his career. Senior Hashym Hobbs-Harris (178 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns) and sophomore Terrell Mitchell (156 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns) are dynamic in the backfield. Senior slot receiver Wes Hack (14 catches, 236 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns) has emerged as the Pioneers’ main target through the air.

One of the Big Central’s most explosive offenses, Somerville has tallied 88 points in its three games. But after a forfeit in the season opener and a loss to St. Joseph-Metuchen last week, the Pioneers have just one win, 42-33 at Old Bridge on September 2, through three games. They will look to get back to .500 in the Big Central Game of the Week Friday night at Montgomery.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the game live with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling the play-by-play. Kickoff is at 7 pm at Montgomery High School, and the pregame show begins at 6:45. Click here to listen.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the game live Friday night, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the play-by-play. Kickoff is at 7 pm at Montgomery High School in Skillman, and the pregame show begins around 6:45. Click here to listen.

Click below to hear Justin Sontupe talk with Somerville head coach Ian Pace about the Pioneers and the upcoming matchup with Montgomery:

Mantz, Panthers all business as Bridgewater-Raritan hosts rival Hillsborough

As Rick Mantz prepares for his first home game as Bridgewater-Raritan’s head coach, it would be easy for him to get lost in sentimentality. Not only will Friday night be his first time coaching from the home sidelines at John Basilone Memorial Field, but it will be against Hillsborough, his alma mater, and first ever head coaching job.

Click above to find out more about Freedom Martial Arts, with locations in Bridgewater and Hillsborough.

Mantz kicked a game-winning field goal to win the Raiders a state title in 1980, and coached them to a tile in 2000; those were their only crowns before last year’s dominating 13-0 season, which Mantz was excited to see.

“It’s always hard. I grew up there. I went to school there. I coached there. Hillsborough is always going to be a special place to me,” Mantz said. “But when it comes down to it, they’re the next team on the schedule. It’s not about all that other stuff. It’s about our kids lining up and playing ball.”

In a vacuum, it’s another opportunity for the ninth-ranked Panthers (1-1) to make a statement in the Big Central. After falling to Passaic Tech in the season opener, Bridgewater-Raritan rallied to defeat Union (previously sixth in the media poll), 7-6, behind a fourth quarter touchdown run by Antoine Hinton. It doesn’t get any easier with No. 4 Hillsborough (1-0), the 2021 Central Group 5 and South Jersey Group 5 Regional Champs, whose last loss came almost 22 months ago, making the short trip north in the Big Central Game of the Week on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe will call all the action from John Basilone Memorial Field, with kickoff slated for 7 pm. Pregame coverage begins at 6:45. Click here to listen live.

Click below to hear Justin Sontupe talk with Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Rick Mantz:

Ridge dominates Woodbridge wire-to-wire on strong run game from Olivo, stout defense

Woodbridge might have known it was in trouble from the opening kick.

Sixth-seed Ridge, playing on the road in the opening round of the North 1, Group 4 playoffs, figured why not try an onside kick to start the game. And that was the beginning of the end for the third-seeded Barrons.

The Red Devils recovered the kick, and on the ensuing drive scored their first touchdown of the game in a 38-0 win over Woodbridge (7-3) to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Ridge (7-2) got 164 rushing yards on 13 carries from quarterback Mike Olivo en route to the “upset,” if you want to call it that.

The Red Devils’ only two losses this year came to two of the best teams in the Big Central: Hillsborough and Phillipsburg.

Ridge was dominant on defense, picking off Barrons’ QB Matt Stanton three times. But they also excelled on offense, scoring on every posssesion except the ones that ended the first half and the game.

Ridge now moves on to play next Friday night at 7 pm up at 2nd-seed Ramapo, which beat 7th-seed Chatham 47-21 Friday night at home.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from Justin Sontupe down on the field after the Ridge win:

Ridge quarterback Mike Olivo
Head Coach Andy West

Resurgent Westfield can make a big statement with a win Friday night over No. 2 Union

Every team looks for that signature win.

For Westfield in 2021, this could be it.

The Blue Devils Friday night will get their shot at the No. 2-ranked team in the Big Central Conference, when they visit Union at Cooke Field on the Big Central Game of the week, driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland, on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Coverage begins with the pregame show at 6:45, followed by kickoff at 7 as Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe have the call. Click here to listen to the live audio broadcast for free.

Union leads what has been a tight series throughout the years, one which began in 1930. There were a a couple of long stretches where they didn’t play, but they’ve met every year but two since 1973 (2014 and last year, when Westfield managed only two games due to COVID shutdowns).

Union leads all-time 31-26, and has won the last two in the series. The Blue Devils’ last win at Cooke Field came in 2017, a 7-6 road victory en route to their third straight North 2, Group 5 championship, a stretch that saw Westfield win 36 straight games in three years, and was part of an overall 37-game winning streak.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Justin Sontupe talk with Westfield head coach Jim DeSarno: