Category: Football

Flurry of football changes, some large, some small, approved by NJSIAA for ’22

The NJSIAA has made a host of changes to football regulations for the 2022 season, the most notable of which would allow an additional “multiplier” game to be counted toward power points, and require teams to have at least two wins to reach the postseason. Video replay in the playoffs also is out.

“Schools may receive multiplier values for two opponents – the two highest games will be used,” according to a memo from NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire, whose changes were approved by the Executive Committee this week.

Multiplier teams are non-public teams for which public schools are awarded an inflated, set amount of points, regardless of the non-public team’s record. They were instituted several years ago when some North Jersey non-public had difficulty filling out schedules with New Jersey teams.

Previously, a team could play as many multipliers as they like, but only claim the multiplier points for the game that earned them the most points. For example, if a team went 1-1 against multipliers of the same value, they’d get multiplier points for the win and traditional points for the loss.

In 2022, they’d get multiplier points for both.

The move could affect several Big Central schools, since some in the Shore Conference – which a source tells CJSR pushed for the change – typically play two multiplier schools. Manalapan, for example, played St. John Vianney and Red Bank Catholic last year. But they only got multiplier points for one of those games.

Had the rule been in place last year, they might have gotten both, and it could have bumped Hillsborough – the eventual South Group 5 regional champion – from the overall top seed.

Rumson-Fair Haven, Middletown South, Manalapan and Wall are all in the Shore’s American Division with Red Bank Catholic and Donovan Catholic, and those extra points could greatly affect any Big Central teams who are in playoff sections with those four.

As far as minimum wins to make the playoffs, the NJSIAA codified last year that all undefeated teams shall automatically qualify for the playoffs, regardless of UPR standing, and that no winless teams would qualify. Now, it’s upped that minimum to two games, though some reportedly pushed for that to be increased to three.

Teams had to have a .500 record or better to make the playoffs until that rule was scrapped in the early 2000s.

Each year, the NJSIAA has been evaluating and making tweaks to the complicated UPR system, which took effect in 2018 and has been in use for three seasons – there were no playoffs during the COVID year of 2020. And based on the changes after the last two seasons – that number could increase as more data from additional seasons becomes available to evaluate.

Video replay has now been nixed by the NJSIAA for postseason games, but a seventh official has been added to state tournament championship games. Two controversial calls last year – in the South 3 Regional Championship between Cedar Creek and Woodrow Wilson, and in the North V game between Clifton and East Orange – forced a review of the process. Both games were decided by replay late in the game.

Other changes were more minor, or at least seek to codify and adapt to changes in the playoff system. Teams now are allowed a maximum of 14 games, to accommodate for an extra round of state playoffs to crown overall Group Champions, which will begin this season. Since 2018, teams have been able to max out at 13, including the playoffs, which ended with Regional Championship – one North and one South in each group – essentially a de facto group semifinal.

A maximum nine regular season games are allowed: either eight before the cutoff plus a Thanksgiving game for a total of nine, or all nine before Thanksgiving. Due to its popularity, a Week 0 game is allowed; that will be the weekend of August 26th, allowing teams to have bye weeks during the season if they don’t play on Thanksgiving.

The NJSIAA also addressed the concern of schools “mutually” dropping late season games in order to help their UPR rating. “No scheduled game can be ‘mutually dropped’ by both teams. Games must either be played, or a forfeit be declared.” There will be a process for extenuating circumstances. Last year, some schools reportedly tried to find better opponents late in the season because weaker opponents would hurt their UPR, even if they won. The NJSIAA issued a warning at the time; now it has officially banned the practice in writing.

One complicated issue across all sports has been out-of-state opponents, and calculating power points for those teams. The NJSIAA has now adopted a rule for all sports that out-of-state games will not count toward power points. That would also seem to extend to football’s OSI ranking as well, which was inconsistent in its results since different formulas were used to find the values for those teams. The official football regulations are not due out until August.

The move will make the system much easier to follow for coaches, fans and the media, and even Gridiron New Jersey, the official calculator of football OSI, power points and UPR.

In the memo to the Football Sports Committee Meeting in January that led to the sweeping rule changes, Maguire also pointed out that Gridiron founder and operator Jon Fass often winds up trying to “hunt down” results of games, and stressed the importance of receiving timely and accurate results from teams. Maguire lauded Fass for his efforts – a difficult job, to be sure – especially leading up to cutoff weekend and the ensuing seeding meeting.

Bridgewater-Raritan Board of Ed. approves Rick Mantz as Panthers’ new football coach

When last we left Rick Mantz on Central Jersey Sports Radio, he was delving into the history of Hillsborough football, where he left a lasting impact on the program, winning championships both as a youth growing up in town playing for the Raiders – kicking the game-winning field goal in the 1980 title game – and later as a head coach, in 2000, over heavy favorite Sayreville.

All because Hillsborough was about to win another one, finishing the 2021 season a perfect 13-0, with Kevin Carty Jr. at the helm as head coach, his did on his staff, and Rutgers-bound Tommy Amankwaa joined by Jay Mazuera, Will Dixon, and a host of others.

Mantz later turned around programs in South Brunswick and Passaic, but tonight, officially finds himself on the other end of Route 206 in Somerset County.

Tuesday night, the Board of Education approved Mantz to be the Panthers’ new football coach, replacing Scott Bray, who was 79-73 from 2007 to 2021, including a pair of 11-1 seasons in 2015 and ’16, and three straight trips to the sectional finals from 2015-2017, where they lost all three times to undefeated Westfield.

Mantz is a football legend. In addition to his stellar record from his teen years to adulthood at Hillsborough, he also turned around South Brunswick, and spent two years in a rebuilding effort at Passaic. He’s 113-69 in over a quarter century as a head coach.

Mike Pavlichko got a chance to talk with the new Bridgewater-Raritan head coach shortly after the Board of Ed. approved his hiring, and Superintendent Robert Beers welcomed Mantz to the district:

St. Thomas Aquinas mourns sudden death of football coach Brian Meeney

In his third season with the Trojans’ football team, Brian Meeney had the young men who bought into the program, and it was all paying off, after a pair of four-win seasons, en route to a 9-1 record and the tying of a modern era shutout record, allowing just nine points the entire regular season, pitching seven shutouts in a highly successful 2021 campaign.

And just like that, he’s gone.

St. Thomas Aquinas High School announced on its website today that Meeney had died, leaving a huge hole in the school community.

“We are saddened to inform you of the passing of our football coach, Brian Meeney,” a post on the site said. “At this difficult time, please keep the Meeney family and the STA family in your prayers. Eternal Rest, Brian, eternal rest. May perpetual light shine upon Brian.”

Meeney was 46. NJ.com’s Mike Kinney reported Thursday afternoon that Meeney had a massive heart attack earlier that morning.

The school said counselors and Campus Ministry were available for students and staff throughout the day.

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Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with George Ross – NJ Recruit Look’s New Jersey representative – about how they can help make you marketable as a student-athlete, and find the best fit both athletically and academically, as well as about a special offer being made to listeners of Central Jersey Sports Radio:

Remembering Ron Mazzola, Mr. Old Bridge

The high school sports world – especially the Old Bridge community – is heartbroken over the loss of the man who always wore a smile, whether he was calling the PA at home Knights’ football games, organizing the wrestling tournament, gymnastics, or printing t-shirts, or minting trophies.

Ron Mazzola died Monday at the age of 61. A lifelong Old Bridge resident, he rooted for everyone to have success, and always had a positive word to say about everyone and anyone.

Tributes have poured in all over social media for Mazzola, and we caught up with some of them to pay their respects to – and share some memories of – the man who will forever be known as Mr. Old Bridge.

Click below to listen:

Tip: To download the tribute, right click on the player above, and choose “Save Sound As.”

Central Jersey Sports Radio caught up with Ron Mazzola for a “Sunday conversation” this past fall, talking to him about all manner of things he’s done in the high school sports realm.

Click here to read that story and hear our conversation with him.

St. Joe’s of Metuchen to face Top 5 NJ team Saturday in Hearts 2 Hands Invitational

Jan Cocozziello knows his St. Joseph-Metuchen team this year is a little undersized. Nick Mariniello knows his Hudson Catholic ballclub this year is on the young and inexperienced side.

The two will clash Saturday night at Roselle Catholic when the Falcons (17-4) face the Hawks (15-2) in the third of four games at the Hearts 2 Hands Invitational. Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the game, the first of a doubleheader on CJSR that also includes St. Thomas Aquinas and Gill St. Bernard’s as the headliner.

You can listen to both games starting with the pregame show at 6:00, by clicking here. Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe have the call.

St. Joe’s – the Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division champion for a third straight year – came out of Thursday morning’s GMC seeding meeting with the No. 2 seed, behind St. Thomas Aquinas, and will begin play in the first round next week. Senior Ethan Simmon leads the way with 19.1 points per game, while junior Josh Ingram scoring at a 15.3 clip.

Hudson Catholic, meanwhile, would be HCIAL American Division co-champs with St. Peter’s Prep – which they split with this year – if they can win Friday night’s game against Union City. Sophomore Tahaa Pettiford leads a balanced scoring attack with 17.8 points per game.

Click below for audio previews of the St. Joe’s-Hudson Catholic matchup:

St. Joseph-Metuchen head coach Jan Cocozziello
Hudson Catholic head coach Nick Mariniello

Entire Edison community mourns the loss of much-beloved youth sports leader “Mr. G”

The “G” might as well have stood for Giant, because that’s what he was to thousands of kids who grew up playing youth sports in Edison for the better part of three decades.

Forget Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. Last Thursday, January 13th, 2022 might as well have been “The Day The Music Died” for anyone who played baseball or football as a child in the 1970s, 1980s, and most of the 1990s.

That’s when the man they all know as “Mr G” – William Giampolo – passed away at the age of 82.

Mr. G coached the Edison Falcons and Jets of local youth football fame. He led the Edison Boys Baseball League from 1973 to 1998, a quarter-century run that saw great growth, including an achievement that stands to this day, the development of the baseball complex along Suttons Lane near the Highland Park border.

Everyone who pulls up their stirrups this Spring – whether for the high school Eagles or Hawks, or the youngest slammin’ tee-ball player – owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. G, whether they ever met him or not.

He was instrumental in the Edison Youth Sports Council, back when long-time six-term mayor Tony Yelencsics ran things.

The line is sure to be out the door Friday at Runyon-Costello Funeral Home in Metuchen, where services will be held from 4-8 pm, and again Saturday from 9:30 to 10 am. People in line who might never otherwise have met each other will trade stories about Mr. G., realizing their shared expereinces, even if they were 20 years apart.

To find out more, and read the full obituary, click here.

Brian Calantoni, current President of the Edison Boys Baseball League, wrote to Central Jersey Sports Radio about Mr. G:

“It is with sadness and regret that we announce the passing of a legend. Mr. William J. Giampolo has passed away. Mr. Giampolo was president of Edison Boys Baseball League for many years. Mr. G was the type of man every man aspires to be. A family man, a businessman, a man of the community. Cared about morals, rules, and traditions and passing them down. He’s the reason why most of us coach and volunteer. He was our coach and our leader from a young age and he was there for many generations. Thanks to him we have a place to play, he secured B Field at Suttons Lane for EBBL. He was the one who was on the youth sports council dealing with Mayor Yelencsics. Everything was for the kids. Everything we have at Edison Boys Baseball is because of him. He was a Godlike figure growing up. Coaching baseball, coaching football, president of the league… The man who got the most respect in town, and that never changed! Mr. G paved the way for all of us. He made the blueprint on how to run a youth organization and we followed. He is the reason that us kids volunteered when we get older. The reason why we had such a great experience was because of him and his ideas and his leadership. But the truth thanks, goes out to his family. To his wife, to his children, to his grandchildren. Thank you for lending him to us and for allowing him to make a difference in all of our lives. He is a man that will be emulated but never duplicated. The world lost a great human being but he will be remembered forever. Thank you Mr. G for everything you did for us. Condolences to the family. Mr. G was “Dependable”, the most “Dependable” man ever! We love you!!!!

Click below to hear Coach Calantoni talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio about the legacy of Mr. G:

Union’s Davison Igbinosun chooses Ole Miss over Rutgers, two other SEC schools

A week before the All-American Bowl, Union athlete Davison Igbinosun announced on Twitter he’d come down with COVID, and would be unable to play in the game. But it didn’t put a damper on his plans to announce it during the nationally televised contest.

In between the first and second quarters Saturday afternoon, Igbinosun – the most highly-touted recruit this year in the Big Central Conference – announced he would play at Ole Miss in the SEC.

He chose the Rebels over Tennesee, Kentucky and Rutgers. After a visit to Piscatway, he said Rutgers was the “home school” but called the SEC “big boy football.”

Igbinosun’s senior season came to an untimely end in the state playoffs, when the district’s Superintendent pulled the team from its second round game due to a number of positive COVID tests on the team, prompting a swift backlash from parents and fans. Igbinosun spearheaded a move by him and his teammates to get the team reinstated, but by then it was too late, and the plug was pulled.

READ MORE: National recruit Davison Igbinosun of Union says Farmers are “heartbroken” over playoff cancellation, vows to keep fighting

Igbinosun had several dozen Division I offers.

Old Bridge’s Lanzafama stepping down after 12 seasons with Knights

Saying “the time was right for a lot of different reasons,” Old Bridge head coach Anthony Lanzafama is leaving the program after a dozen highly successful seasons as just the school’s second head coach following the merger of Cedar Ridge and Madison Central.

Lanzafama took over for Bob DeMarco, who retired in 2010, but he wasn’t an outsider. In fact, he grew up in town, played youth football there, played high school football in Old Bridge, and worked as an assistant under DeMarco.

Promoted from within, Lanzafama went 72-47-1 in his 12 seasons, with just two losing records in that span. He had four eight-win seasons with the Knights, the most recent of which came in 2019.

He started with a 2-8 campaign 2010, then the Knights won the final three games of 2011 to go 5-5. But after that, Old Bridge ripped off a four-year run that included two eight-win seasons, going 29-14 overall from 2012-2015, including a berth in the Central Jersey Group 5 championship game at Rutgers. They would lose that game to South Brunswick, whose head coach Joe Goerge was officially hired Thursday to begin a second stint with the Vikings.

And when it came to their big rival, Lanzafama’s teams were nearly perfect. After losing to East Brunswick in the 2010 version of the “Battle of Route 18,” his first, the Knights have won eleven straight since.

Click below to listen to Anthony Lanzafama talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

Legendary football coach Joe Goerge returns to the South Brunswick, where he led Vikings to unprecedented success, and three state titles

Joe Goerge is back for a second run at South Brunswick.

The 67-year-old Goerge – who led the Vikings to unprecedented success in his seven-year tenure from 2012 to 2018, including a 63-17 record and the only three state titles in program history – was approved Thursday night by the South Brunswick Board of Education.

Goerge stepped away after the 2018 season. His sons Michael and Jason had been coaching with him for a decade-and-a-half, and their daily drive down during football season from their teaching jobs in Springfield and Elizabeth was getting to be too much.

At the time, the coach said he wasn’t retiring, and after a season as an assistant at Matawan with his sons, Goerge took the head coaching job at St. Joseph by the Sea in Staten Island. He began his coaching career in the early ’80s at Port Richmond on the Island, before coming to New Jersey and coaching at Franklin, where he won state titles in 1994 and 1996, presiding over a powerhouse that won titles before him with Len Rivers in 1984 and ’87, Charlie Weis in 1989, and Joe Stinson in 1990.

He later coached six years at Dayton, then came to South Brunswick, which hadn’t won a championship, but where Rick Mantz – who’d had great success at Hillsborough – began a rebuild that took the Vikings to their first playoff berth in 30 years in his debut season with a team that featured future Rutgers star and NFLer Mohamed Sanu.

Goerge arrived on the scene in 2012, and promptly won a sectional championship, winning two more in 2015 and 2017.

After a two-year run at Sea, Goerge has a career coaching mark of 226-146-4.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Joe Goerge about his return to South Brunswick: