MacNair’s 300-yard game propels No. 1 Somerville past game St. Joe’s-Metuchen

It took 300 yards and three touchdowns from senior Ethan MacNair to help No. 1 Somerville hold off St. Joseph Saturday afternoon at Brenner Family Field in Metuchen.

The Pioneers improved to 5-1 with a 47-26 win over the Falcons (2-4) in the Saturday Big Central Game of the Week, driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland.

MacNair was the workhorse for Somerville, carrying the ball 30 times in his newfound role. Last year, he was a tight end on offense, helping to pave the way for a lot of long Cookie Desiderio runs and touchdowns.

In fact, his role carrying the ball is so new this season, it’s only been of late that he’s been the main back. To wit, he had 322 rushing yards coming into the game against the Falcons, and nearly equaled that in one contest.

For his efforts, MacNair was named the Autoland Player of the Game, and he’ll receive a custom football at the end of the year, courtesy of Autoland.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Ethan MacNair down on the field after the game:

No. 1 Somerville and St. Joseph to meet for the first time Saturday afternoon in Metuchen

St. Joseph head coach Rich Hilliard his team isn’t afraid to play anyone. They don’t shy away from a challenge.

That’s a good mindset for his Falcons to have when they entertain top-ranked Somerville Saturday afternoon at Brenner Family Field in the Saturday “Big Central Game of the Week” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland.

The Pioneers come in with a 4-1 record, but have been dominant. Three of their four wins have been by shutout, and they have only allowed more than seven points once this season, that in a 32-20 loss to state-ranked Northern Highlands.

St. Joseph, meanwhile, is 2-3, but they’ve won two straight since losing three in a row to start the season, winning 31-7 at Piscataway, then beating New Brunswick at home last week 38-14.

Somerville is fast, and not just on foot. They run a tempo offense that puts teams back on its heels, and preparation on defense will be the key for St. Joe’s if they intend to win the game.

In fact, their best defense may be a slow, methodical offense, one that puts up some points.

Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the action this afternoon, with the game kicking off at 2 pm. Pregame is at 1:45. You can listen live by clicking here.

Click below to hear both head coaches preview the game:

Somerville head coach Dallas Whitaker

St. Joseph coach Rich Hilliard

Instant Replay: No. 7 Cranford 38, No. 4 Woodbridge 28

Click below to listen to the “Big Central Game of the Week” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland from Friday, October 15, 2021.

No. 7 Cranford handed No. 4 Woodbridge its first loss of the season, staying undefeated (6-0) with a 38-28 road win over the Barrons (6-1).

Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe call the action from Priscoe Field in Woodbridge.

1st Half

2nd Half

Brearley continues playoff push with huge road win, 34-20 over Bound Brook

Don’t give Brearley any bulletin board material. They don’t care. Never have, never will.

That seems to be the attitude of the 2021 version of the Bears, who snapped a two-game losing streak at the perfect time, beating Bound Brook on the road Friday night 34-20.

The win didn’t clinch Brearley a playoff berth, but it was their most highly-rated opponent remaining in their final three weeks. Without a win, they might not have a fighting chance at making the playoffs in North Jersey Group 1.

But they got that win, playing ball control offense and using a three-touchdown performance from senior Quinn Lonergan. The runningback not only had two touchdowns and 107 yards rushing, but he had 68 yards receiving, and a touchdown.

Click below for postgame reaction from Brearley’s win over Bound Brook Friday night:

Brearley senior runningback Quinn Lonergan

Brearley head coach Scott Miller

No. 2 Hillsborough rolls to 7-0 with 44-0 win over No. 5 Old Bridge, as Dixon scores twice

Tight end Will Dixon probably gets more attention for how disruptive he can be on defense.

It was Dixon, after all, who got in the face of Phillipsburg’s quarterback before Tommy Amakwaa picked off a pass in overtime to seal a win against the Stateliners.

On Friday night at Noonan Field, Dixon got into the act offensively for No. 2 and undefeated Hillsborough, with the first two-touchdown effort of his career, en route to a 44-0 win over fifth-ranked Old Bridge.

The win moves the Raiders to 7-0, while Old Bridge drops to 5-2.

Hillsborough travels to Piscataway next week, before North Brunswick comes to town on Week 9. Old Bridge will play at JP Stevens next week, then host Sayreville.

Click below for postgame reaction from Noonan Field with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Tim Catalfamo:

Hillsborough tight end/defensive end Will Dixon

Hillsborough head coach Kevin Carty, Jr.

Murray’s 205 yards, 3 TDs, help No. 7 Cranford hand No. 1 Woodbridge its first loss of the season

In a battle of undefeated teams Friday night at Priscoe Field in Woodbridge, it was the legs of senior runningback Colin Murray that made the difference.

His three touchdowns and 205 yards on the ground helped 7th-ranked Cranford beat No. 4 Woodbridge 38-28 in the Big Central Game of the Week driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Cranford remains undefeated, moving to 6-0, while Woodbridge drops to 6-1. It was the Barrons’ first regular season loss in three years; their last one came against Colonia on October 26, 2018. Their only two losses since then have been in the postseason – in the 2019 North 1 Group 4 title game to Northern Highlands, and in last year’s first pod game against Somerville.

Cranford scored the first two touchdowns of the game, and led 14-0 before Woodbridge tied it with 63 seconds left in the first half. But Cranford quarterback Shane Van Dam would run 34 yards for a score just 50-seconds later to give the Cougars a lead they would never relinquish.

VanDam finished the game with 30 yards rushing – despite being sacked five times – and was 5-of-13 through the air for 89 yards.

Murray was named the Autoland Player of the Game for his efforts, which included an amazing 57-yard touchdown run with 7:37 left to prvide the final margin.

Taking the handoff from VanDam, he hit the pile at the line of scrimmage, perhaps even backing into it. After a few seconds, when it seemed like everyone had given up on the play, Murray burst out of the pile and went untouched the last 50 yards into the end zone.

Click below to hear Dom Savino down on the field with Cranford postgame reaction:

Senior runningback Colin Murray

Head coach Erik Rosenmeier

Week 6 Group 1 Playoff Analysis: Brearley’s path to the playoffs; Manville’s playoffs have already begun

Though in the midst of a two-game losing streak, Brearley – on the strength of a 3-0 start – is in 15th in the North Group 1 supersection, and the only Big Central team with a hope.

And they do have hope. But much of it will ride on their game at Bound Brook Friday night. With Dunellen and Dayton in their final two games, Brearley may very well need to win out. Dunellen will get the Bears a minimum 20 OSI points, and probably ten power points. That’s a negative when your OSI is 36.58, although it would boost their power point average, currently an 8.

Bound Brook is the biggie, with an OSI of 49.08 and a power point value of 17. That’s a big jump when your power point average is 8; it would go to 9.5 to be exact. That would at least be enough the fend off any challenges from behind. After the top seven teams or so, the rest of the supersection is not necessarily weak, but let’s say there’s parity. Which means for Brearley, which at least is on the right side of the bubble – two spots in – a playoff spot is theirs for the taking; they control their own destiny.

Incidentally, Belvidere is in 19th. That’s only three places out of a playoff spot, but they’re 4.6 UPR points out of a playoff spot. With their remaining schedule, of Dayton, North Warren and Roselle Park – 4-11 combined – there may not be that much room for improvement.

South Jersey Group 1:

Paulsboro (4-1) and Woodbury (6-0) lead the pack here, followed by Shore (4-1) and Salem (5-1). Then you have to go all the way down to number eleven to find Middlesex, which is 2-3, and South Hunterdon, which is 5-1. The Blue Jays have the better OSI (39.08 compared to the Eagles’ 10.83) but South Hunterdon has the higher power point average (10.83 to Middlesex’s 8).

They should both solidly be in, barring a total collapse, but reaching the top eight might prove impossible, as there’s a lot of ground to make up. A half dozen teams behind the both of them would have to go on the world’s greatest tear, and the law of averages says that’s not going to happen. On the other hand, Middlesex has a 12.8 UPR and South Hunterdon has a 13.2 UPR. To get to an 8th seed right now they’d have to get that down to a 7.6, which is a lot of ground to make up.

Then, we come to Manville. With the destruction the town faced on a massive scale back in early September when Ida tore through, it’s amazing they’ve been able to play football, let alone so well. But the Mustangs – who only wound up cancelling one game, their opener, which goes down as a “no contest” – despite a 4-1 record are in 19th place. Can they make up enough ground? Perhaps.

Right now, their power point average is a 9.8, the highest of any team out of the top 16. Their OSI is a 30.59, the 22nd best team in the supersection overall. Can they gain? Well, if so, it won;’t be thanks to a win over Highland Park Friday night. The 0-6 Owls are worth 7 power points, and their 11.60 OSI will be set to a minimum of 20 for OSI calculations.

Their finale against Metuchen may turn out to be better than originally though, as the Bulldogs – who started 0-4, but have since won two straight – are worth 14 power points all of a sudden, and their OSI is a SI is a 36.16. That wasn’t the case two weeks ago. The Buldogs lost Spotswood this week after hundreds of students at SHS had to quarantine following a positive test from a student who attended a homecoming dance (per an NJ Advance Media story), but picked up Johnson, a team they lost to 16-6 on September 11th, but which is the Crusaders’ only win of the season.

If you’re a Manville fan, you’re a Metuchen fan the rest of the season, too.

And while the final stretch of the season really is a playoff for Manville – a loss would almost assuredly end their postseason chances – the big one is next Friday night at Bound Brook. The Group 2 Crusaders have three wins, and are a 17 power point game, plus provide a 49.08 jolt to their OSI.

And let’s face it, this is all dependent on what everyone else does, and it;s not out of the realm of possibility that they still might not make it, even if they finish 7-1.

But that would be a damn shame.

Week 6 South 2 Playoff analysis: Delaware Valley in range of a top seed; will Bernards or New Providence get a home game?

There are three teams ahead of undefeated Delaware Valley in the race for one of the top two seeds in the South Jersey Group 2 supersection, and the question is: Will they be able to catch two of them?

Winning out is their best bet, as they’ve already gotten through the easier part of their schedule, at least based on Strength Index. With an OSI of 49.8, they will get a big boost from two of their next three pponents, providing they beat them. Hillside is a 76.46 and St. Thomas Aquinas has a 77.35 SI. Even 3-2 Roselle, their middle opponent, has a 52.59 SI, all of which will bring up their rank.

And that’s good, because Point Pleasant Boro, which is in first, has an OSI of 51.95, while Camden has a 51.8 OSI. Del Val is right in range. But there are even more teams between they could jump, who are behind them in the standings but stronger in OSI rank, like Haddonfield (9th overall, 51.16 OSI) and Bernards (5th, 49.97). Passing four teams would drop 2.4 off Del Val’s UPR, giving them a 2.4, putting them in second – if no one else moves.

But, of course, they can. And the Shore Conference, in scrapping its plan for the in-season playoffs they touted in the off-season, has given its teams good games. Everyone Point Boro will play is in the low 70s, so they can pick up their OSI and UPR, too. Camden has Pleasantville (45.82), undefeated Cedar Creek (90.16) and Woodrow Wilson (81.53). Cedar Creek won’t be a gimme, though, to boost their average; the Pirates are 7-0 with four shutouts, and have not allowed anyone more than eight points in a game this year.

Bernards sits in 5th, and the question for the Montaineers is can they finish top eight and get a first-round home game? What about 4th, to get home field advantage at least guaranteed for the first two rounds of the sectionals? Well, their OSI won’t be helped by the remainder of the schedule. With an OSI of 49.97, even winning out might drop their OSI, with Voorhees (46.56), South River (48.25) and Middlesex (47.95) all potentially bringing their average down slightly.

The Mountaineers have an Strength Index value of 75.76, so they would do well to avoid beating any of those teams by more than 30 points. Keeping it in the high teens and low 20s would drive the other teams’ SI’s up, increasing Bernards’ OSI, or at least maybe keeping it steady. (The only week that won’t work is the final week of the season, when SI vales are locked in after Week 8 to avoid that kind of thing. But hey, isn’t that also good sportsmanship, and the whole reason the NJSIAA scrapped the Born Power Index in the first place?)

For New Providence (7th overall in the UPR standings) and Hillside (10th), their question is: Can they at least get into that top eight to get a home game?

The Pioneers can only win the games on their schedule, but they do them no favors with Roselle Park, and Governor Livingston a combined 1-14, bringing very little to the table in terms of power points or Strength Index. They might be at the mercy of what teams can pass them in the final three weeks, or benefit from teams ahead of them falling.

The same can be said for the Comets. What’s amazing about this section so far is that the top six teams include four with either two or three losses. The next ten includes one undefeated team (Nottingham) and six one-loss teams (New Providence, Hillside, Overbrook, Sterling, Monmouth, and Middle Township. It might be a crap shoot for Hillside if any one of these teams falters, assuming the Comets can keep winning.

Things will come into much more focus as we get closer to the cutoff.

And lest we forget about Bound Brook, the Crusaaders are 14th with a UPR of 14 (which means they’re 14th in both OSI and power points). Their power point average is 9.83 and their OSI is 39.95. They may very well need to win out to stay in the playoff chase. It all starts with a big one tonight against Brearley (3-2, 16 power points, 59.01 SI). Then there’s another one next week against Manville (4-3, 19 power points, 47 SI). Then Roselle is their cutoff weekend opponent, 3-2, worth 16 power points, and with a 52.59 SI. (Remember, power point values can increase between now and then as teams win more games.

A look at some of the best defensive seasons in Middlesex County over the last two decades

St. Thomas Aquinas is on an unprecedented shutout streak, still not having allowed a point all season through six games, following a 41-0 win at Middlesex Thursday night.

That’s 26 full quarters of football without anyone scoring on the Trojans.

Colonia quarterback Josh Oluremi was the last person to score on Aquinas, coming in the second quarter of a 16-14 Trojans win in the second round of last year’s postseason pod play.

It’s the most shutouts a Middlesex County school has pitched since Piscataway’s dominant 2004 season, one of the program’s – and the area’s – best ever. That year, Dan Higgins’ second as head coach of the Chiefs, led them to their third straight state championship, and a 12-0 record, logging seven shutouts along the way.

They blanked JP Stevens, South Brunswick, Edison, North Brunswick, Union, Linden and Franklin (on Thanksgiving) by a combined 274-0. Perhaps what was most impressive is that the whitewashes against Union and Linden came in the first and second rounds of the playoffs.

No, that’s not even it. The most impressive part of that team was that if featured three – yes, three! – future NFL first round draft picks: Anthony Davis, Kyle Wilson and Malcolm Jenkins.

The Chiefs in 2012 allowed ten or more points just three times, including 26 in an epic overtime win over Phillipsburg in the North 2, Group 4 title game. Piscataway won 27-26 when they stopped a Stateliners’ two-point conversion to win the game on their possession.

They outscored opponents that year by a combined total of 405-66.

In fact, Piscataway has had the most seasons with the most shutouts in recent times under Dan Higgins. To wit, they logged six in 2008 when they went 11-1 and beat Hunterdon Central for the North 2, Group 4 title.

And they logged five 2018, when they won the first-ever North 5 regional championship and became the first Middlesex County team to win 13 games in a season, going 13-0.

They also shutout five opponents each in 2014 and 2011. The only one of those years they did not win a title was 2014, falling in the North 2 Group 5 semis 16-6 to Elizabeth,

Among other Middlesex County schools, Sayreville shut out five in 2003 when they went 10-1, but lost in the sectional semifinals to Scotch Plains-Fanwood.

Dunellen had a dominant defense in 2010, though its ball-control offense was its best defense, known to sometimes hold the ball nearly an entire quarter. They had five shutouts that year – over Cardinal McCarrick, Keansburg, Mater Dei, South River and New Egypt. The Destroyers lost to Shore in the Central Jersey Group 1 title game at Rutgers that year.

And New Brunswick, in its heyday under John Quinn, logged five shutouts once, but in 2004, a year they didn’t win a title. The 2003 championship team with Dwayne Jarrett blanked four opponents.

Most Shutouts in a Season since 2000 by Middlesex County schools:

  • Piscataway, 2004 – 7
  • Piscataway, 2008 – 6
  • St. Thomas Aquinas, 2021 – 6 (all consecutive)
  • Piscataway, 2018 – 5
  • Piscataway, 2014 – 5
  • Piscataway, 2011 – 5
  • Dunellen, 2010 – 5
  • New Brunswick, 2004 – 5
  • Sayreville, 2003 – 5

St. Thomas Aquinas will have a chance to tie that mark by Piscataway next week when the Trojans host Governor Livingston, which has been shutout itself in two straight games heading into Saturday’s home contest against North Plainfield.

Should they pick up their seventh then, they’ll face a stiff challenge to make it eight in a row, as they face currently-undefeated and 10th-ranked Delaware Valley on the road in their regular season finale.

No. 4 Woodbridge looks to keep the ball rolling when No. 7 Cranford comes to town in the Autoland Game of the Week

Woodbridge and Cranford don’t have a long history, but this is one game many people had circled on their calendars at the beginning of the year.

And when the No. 4 Barrons meet the No. 7 Cougars tomorrow night on Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland, they will meet with both being undefeated, and looking for a boost in the playoff race.

With three weeks before the cutoff, Woodbridge is third in the North 4 supersection, and looking to pull into the top two to gain home-field advantage throughout the sectional playoffs. Cranford, meanwhile, sits atop their North 3 section, the only Big Central team to lead the pack at the moment, although several teams are in play for one of the top two seeds in other sections.

The similarities don’t end there, however.

Cranford has an experienced quarterback who is in his first year as a starter; Shane Van Dam split time with Dennis DeMarino last season. Woodbridge has Matt Stanton, who has turned his game around after moving with his family and transferring from St. Joseph-Metuchen to Woodbridge, where he’s cut down dramatically on the turnovers, and helped Barron Country believe there’s life after Anthony Santino and Ali Lee, Jr.

You can hear tomorrow night’s game on Central Jersey Sports Radio with kickoff at 7:00. Pregame begins at 6:45. Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the action from Priscoe Field; you can listen live and FREE by clicking here.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino talk with both head coaches about Friday night’s big matchup:

Mike Pavlichko with Woodbridge head coach Joe LaSala

Dom Savino with Cranford head coach Erik Rosenmeier