Category: Football

DeSarno not hitting the panic button as Westfield heads to Scotch Plains for first-ever meeting under the lights

For a team that went 8-3 a season ago, including 4-0 in Big Central American Gold Division Play, it would be easy to panic following an 0-2 start. But at Westfield, under head coach Jim DeSarno in his 18th season, that’s just not in their nature.

After suffering two tough losses to open the season to teams currently ranked in the Big Central Media poll (No. 5 Watchung Hills and No. 10 Union), the Blue Devils bounced back last week with a 23-21 win against a very talented Elizabeth team.

Westfield (1-2) looks to make it two-in-a-row with a short trip to Scotch Plains-Fanwood (1-3) Friday night, for the first-ever night meeting between the schools. It’s the 60th meeting, with the Blue Devils ahead 43-13-3.

The first meeting came back in 1929, and while they didn’t play again until 1961, they’ve played all but five years since.

Quarterback Max Cho, in his first season as a starter, has thrown for over 500 yards and three scores. His classmate and backfield partner, running back Josh Caramagno, has run for nearly 300 yards and totaled four scores. Caramagno carried the ball for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns in last week’s win over Elizabeth.

Coverage begins at 6:40 from Perry Tyson Field in Scotch Plains on Central Jersey Sports Radio. Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe will have the play-by-play call, with kickoff at 7:00.  Click here to listen.

Listen below to hear Westfield coach Jim DeSarno and Justin Sontupe preview Friday night’s game:

Raiders looking forward to historic matchup with Westfield under the lights for the first time

The history of the matchup goes back to 1929, when Westfield beat Scotch Plains-Fanwood in their first football tussle, 20-0. The teams wouldn’t play again until 1961, but from that point on would meet every year except one (1990) through 2017.

After a brief break, the rivalry was renewed last year, but in all that time, the series has never featured a night game.

That is, until Friday night.

That’s when the Blue Devils (1-2) come into Scotch Plains for a 7 pm matchup with the Raiders (1-3) under the lights, which you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio, starting at 6:45 with the pregame as Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe call all the action. Click here to listen.

It’s the 60th meeting between the schools, with the Blue Devils’ up 43-13-3 in the series.

Westfield’s Kehler Stadium has never had lights. Nor did SPF’s home field until a few years ago, when they were installed in the midst of the series’ hiatus.

Scotch Plains-Fanwood is looking to snap a three-game losing streak, while Westfield dropped its first two games, but picked up a victory last week over Elizabeth, 23-21.

The Raiders will be led by interim head coach Bobby Swercheck, an assistant who takes over the program after Tuesday night’s resignation of Austin Holman, in the middle of his fifth season as head coach.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Scotch Plains-Fanwood Offensive Coordinator and veteran coach Tony Maglione about the Raiders, and the matchup with the Blue Devils:

Chiekezie Ogbuowu’s long journey back to Dunellen boosts Destroyers’ offense

Their first game of the year went well enough.

Dunellen beat Dayton at Columbia Park 17-8 on opening night to start the season 1-0, a feat they had not accomplished since 2018.

When Chiekezie Ogbuowu came back, he helped the Destroyers score 50 points against Highland Park, and they needed every last of those points in a 50-44 road win.

On the road again last week at Belvidere, the Dunellen put up a 44-25 win over the County Seaters.

So it’s a good thing Ogbuowu is back, but there are many other reasons why.

Chiekezie grew up in the U.S., but his family is from Nigeria. His parents are there, and he had not seen them in five years, living here with his older siblings as he gets an education and plays football for Dunellen.

So, he visited there this summer. And while he was there, in late July, there was a coup, the fourth there since 2010. No one knew if he’d come back.

Ogbuowu arrived back in the states August 31st. He was on the sideline for the opener against Dayton, but couldn’t play since he hadn’t yet had the required number of practices to begin a season.

He got them in for the game against the Owls, and now the offense has dropped 94 points in two games. Chiekezie has rushed for 448 yards in just two games, with eight touchdowns. That’s a tremendous pace. He had four scores each against Highland Park and Belvidere.

His story is an inspiring one. He never played sports until sixth grade. He wants to be a computer or software engineer. And he’s had an incredible journey.

The next step on that journey is trying to get Dunellen to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2011. It would also be their first four-game win streak of any kind since 2014.

That’s if they can get past 2-1 Middlesex tonight at Columbia Park.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko speak with Dunellen’s Chiekezie Ogbuowu:

Gameday with Marcus Borden: Week 4

Oh, the games are getting good, now … and the matchups are getting bigger! As we approach the halfway point of the season, Marcus Borden touches on it all with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko!

On this week’s show, Coach Borden’s trip to see South Hunterdon and Middlesex last weekend, as well as Plainfield’s win over Carteret minus their head coach, James Williams. We talk about Dunellen’s newfound success and matchup Thursday against the Blue Jays, who the best defenses are that he’s seen this year, and then delve into the four games Marcus will see this weekend, including Ridge at Hunterdon Central Thursday, and Spotswood at South River Saturday, before heading off to Piscataway Sunday for the Rumble on the Raritan, with Phillipsburg and Hillsborough battling at noon, followed by North Brunswick taking on Sayreville at 3:00.

Click below to listen to the Week Four edition of “Gameday with Marcus Borden”:

Schemlzer’s big plays in a big game earn him Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week honors

When Montgomery and Somerville played Friday night, quarterbacks Michael Schmelzer, Jr. and Brenden Pacheco of the Pioneers combined for 565 passing yards.

Pacheco threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns, while Schmelzer threw for 223 yards and two scores, plus an interception. But Schmelzer’s team came out on top, and having seen the game in person, it was clear that whoever won the game, that QB would likely be the Player of the Week.

And so, the Week Three Bellamy & Son Paving honors go to Michael Schmelzer, Jr., of Montgomery.

Last year, as a junior, he threw for 1,658 yards and 21 touchdowns. This year, he’s at 763 and 8 touchdowns in four games, on a pace to throw for about 1,900 if he plays in as many games as he did last year (10).

What was impressive against The ‘Ville is he got the ball to four different receivers, three of whom had at least four catches apiece. Matt D’Avino is typically his favorite target; he had 4 grabs for 95 yards and a touchdown, but he also involved Trey McFadden (4 catches for 54 yards) and tight end Ethan Golubitsky (4 catches, 54 yards and a touchdown) while Brian Giambra caught two passes for 18 yards.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko’s interview with Week Three Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week Michael Schmelzer, Jr. of Montgmery after Friday night’s thrilling win over Somerville:

The Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week is chosen from nominees by Big Central coaches. At the end of the season, one player will be chosen to receive a $500 scholarship courtesy of Bellamy & Son Paving. As we did last year, we will recognize a few “Honorable Mentions,” and include all other all nominees in our weekly story.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Jake Caldwell, Bernards: Caldwell did everything put play the tuba during the halftime show. At wide receiver, he caught seven passes for 63 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed for 10 yards. On defense, he logged four tackles from his strong safety position, and also had 57 yards on punt returns.
  • Owen Chait, Governor Livingston: In Thursday’s 34-0 win over JP Stevens, the senior runningback carried 12 times for 80 yards, while he also had a 25-yard catch. But his best work may have been done on defense, where he contributed nine tackles, seven solo, with 2 1/2 tackles for loss, all part of a team effort that allowed just 83 yards of offense to the Hawks.
  • Na’Quavere Thomas, Manville: In a 41-7 win against Dayton on Thursday night, Thomas carried 14 times for 177 yards and touchdown runs of 16 and five yards, with a long run of 57. From his middle linebacker position, he contributed five tackles, three solo.
  • Laivon Balthazar, Perth Amboy: The junior quarterback/wide receiver literally did it all on offense: he threw 2-for-3 for 45 yards, caught a pass for a 15-yard touchdown, and carried six times for 61 yards and a touchdown. Then, at defensive end, he made seven tackles, had two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
  • Will Deady, Ridge: The senior fullback rushed 25 times for 185 yards against previously undefeated Hillsborough en route to a 28-7 Red Devil win. He had a 21- and a one-yard touchdown run, plus a 21-yard touchdown catch for 2016 yards of total offense.

Other Nominations:

(in alphabetical order, by school)

  • Kyle Blew, Belvidere: The junior quarterback was 8-for-13 for 175 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-25 loss to Dunellen last Friday. He also carried seven times for 107 yards and a touchdown.
  • Jack Garbolino, North Brunswick: The junior linebacker was a force on defense again, making 14 tackles – including one for a loss – while also getting some touches on offense, The tight end carried twice for five yards, and made three catches for 72 yards.
  • Quinn Carran, Somerville: The senior had four catches for 190 yards in a 27-21 home loss to Montgomery Friday night, including a 64-yard conversion on fourth-and-long on the final drive of the game that ended in a goal line stand by the Cougars. The safety also had an interception on defense.
  • Jeylon Billups, South Brunswick: The sophomore runningback carried 13 times for 170 yards and three scores, including a long run of 74, giving him av average of 13.1 yards per carry. He was part of an overall 389-yard performance by the Vikings’ offense.
  • Trey Lazar, Spotswood: In a 34-0 win over Highland Park last Thursday night – a rare home game under the lights for the Chargers – the senior QB threw 3-of-4 for 95 yards, including touchdown passes of 25 and 30 yards. He also rushed ten times for 115 yards, including a 67-yard TD run.
  • Christian Magliacano, St. Thomas Aquinas: In a 44-20 win at Summit last weekend, he recorded an eye-popping 21 tackles, five for a loss, and also forced a fumble.
  • Carter Shallcross, Summit: The senior rushed for 136 yards and had 109 receiving yards – scoring a touchdown both ways – against a solid St. Thomas Aquinas defense in a 44-20 loss last weekend. IN fact, he scored more points himself (12) than Aquinas had given up in its first three games (7).
  • Brayden Kelly, Watchung Hills: In a come-from-behind 31-24 win at Morris Knolls, Kelly had six catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns, while also contributing six solo tackles on defense. He also forced two fumbles, and had one recovery.

Week 3 “Elite Performers of the Week” with Coach Matt Bastardi

We’re getting closer to the halfway point of the season, and it’s time for another installment the of Elite QB “Elite Performers of the Week.”

Founded by Matt Bastardi, a former high school and college quarterback who has either played the position or coached it for over 40 years, Elite QB trains players at all position levels, with an emphasis on QBs.

Click here to visit Elite QB’s website and find out more
about how to train with Matt Bastardi at Elite QB.

Each week of the entire 2023 season, Matt will highlight the key stats for players under his tutelage at Elite QB, which include quarterbacks and other skill position players

Click below to listen to the Elite QB “Elite Performers of the Week” for Week 3:

Who’s got the best defense in the Big Central Conference? A closer look through Week Three

There are a half-dozen teams in the Big Central Conference with 4-0 records through Week 3 – go ask the NJSIAA about the math – and all of them reside in among the top 15 out of the 59 teams in the league in terms of scoring defense.

Through four games, the Spotswood Chargers have allowed the fewest points, averaging 5.5 per game allowed, just under the 6.8 St. Thomas Aquinas has given up. Both teams are 4-0, and each has pitched two shutouts. Put another way, they’ve each blanked half their opponents so far.

Spotswood shut out Bordentown in Week Zero and Highland Park last week. Aquinas has blanked New Providence in Week One and Scotch Plains-Fanwood the following week.

Also at 4-0 is Bernards, which checks in at third on the list at 7.8 points per game, although the Mountaineers haven’t shut out anyone yet. The most they’ve allowed this year in a game is 12 to Hillside, while allowing seven to South River and six each to Jefferson and Voorhees.

The only top ten teams to have logged a shutout on the year are St. Thomas (2) and Sayreville (1).

Seven teams are allowing fewer than 10 points a game at the moment, with North Brunswick next on the list at eight, Governor Livingston at 8.8, Phillipsburg at 9.3 and Union at 9.8 points per game.

Ridge has the highest defensive scoring average among teams in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten. But that doesn’t mean the Red Devils are giving up a lot of points: just 11.4 through three games, with 21 of the total 35 points they’ve allowed being scored in their lone loss, by Phillipsburg.

Big Central Scoring Defense thru Week Three

North Brunswick alum Swercheck poised to take over as interim football coach at Scotch Plains-Fanwood after Holman resignation

On Monday, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood gymnastics team squeaked out a the narrowest of wins over Hillsborough.

Tuesday afternoon, the boys’ soccer team dominated state-ranked No. 8 Delran in a 4-0 win.

There was some good news around the high school this week, that’s for sure.

On the other side, football head coach Austin Holman officially resigned Tuesday evening, paving the way for assistant Bobby Swercheck to be named the interim head coach. That’s expected to be made official at the Board of Education’s regularly scheduled meeting this Wednesday night.

Swercheck’s name first appeared on Tuesday afternoon in the space for the head coach’s name on Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s page on Gridiron New Jersey. The site is responsible for running all of the NJSIAA’s official playoff qualification formulas, and has a page for every team in the state with their schedule and results.

Swercheck is a North Brunswick alum who played defensive tackle and tight end for the Raiders, and was later an assistant there prior to the arrival of current head coach Mike Cipot, who coached him there as an assistant under Mark Zielinski in 2007.

He later played at Kean and was a freshman on the 2009 team that 9-2 and was the ECAC Southwest Bowl Champions, as well as a junior on the 2011 team that was 10-2, NJAC Champions, and made the second round of the NCAA Division 3 Tournament.

Holman coached his team’s first three games, after which the team was 1-2. He did not coach last week’s loss at Rahway, and told Central Jersey Sports Radio in a text message this morning when reached to prepare for a broadcast of Friday’s game against Westfield that he “had to step away from (the) team for personal reasons.”

Athletic Director Ryan Miller told Central Jersey Sports Radio Holman’s official resignation was tendered until Tuesday evening.

Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Westfield will meet for the 60th time this Friday at 7 pm, the first meeting in the series ever to be played under the lights. You can hear the game on Central Jersey Sports Radio beginning with pregame at 6:45, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe on the call. Click here to listen.

Austin Holman out as football coach at Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the middle of 5th season

In the middle of his fifth season as head football coach at Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Austin Holman is out, and an interim head coach is expected to be named later this week.

Holman – in a text message to Central Jersey Sports Radio – says he “had to step away from (the) team for personal reasons.”

CJSR had reached out to him as part of the typical game week prep for our Friday night broadcast, which has the Raiders (1-3) hosting Westfield (1-2) at 7 pm for the first-ever night game in their long rivalry. Click here to listen.

Holman said he could not comment further.

His Twitter bio says he is the head track and field coach at Elizabeth High School, but no mention is made of Scotch Plains-Fanwood football. And the Twitter page for the Raider football team (@SPFRaiderFB) was offline as of 12:30 Tuesday afternoon.

Holman did not coach last Thursday’s game at Rahway, a 27-12 loss.

But just two weeks ago, both Holmans coached in what had come to be known in recent years as “The Holman Bowl,” the fourth meeting between the brothers as opposing head coaches at various schools. Aquinas won the game, and now each has two wins against the other.

READ MORE: Sibling rivalry sparks Holmans as Austin’s Raiders, Tarig’s Trojans get set to meet Friday night

Reached for comment, SPF Athletic Director Ryan Miller said in an email, “I cannot comment about our head coach at this time.”

However, Miller did say, “We will have a coaching staff in place,” in reference to Friday’s game. He said he could not comment on an interim head coach “until the Board of Education meeting which is Thursday, the 21st, but that’s just two days away, and before Friday’s home game against Westfield.

Holman took over a 1-8 Scotch Plains team from Mark Ciccotelli in 2019, and went 4-6 that first year, winning five games each in 2020 and 2021, then going 2-8 last season.

In four-and-a-half seasons, Holman’s Raiders went 17-25, qualifying for the playoffs once – in 2021 – but they were ineligible after an early-season brawl resulted in numerous player disqualifications that also made them ineligible for postseason play, per NJSIAA rules.

Bound Brook football getting tremendous support from administration, hits paydirt with first win since ’21

Following an 0-9 season in 2022, there was no doom and gloom around the Bound Brook football program.

That could have easily been the case, but it wasn’t.

To start, the administration already had planned upgrades to LaMonte Field, which got its turf replaced this summer and also installed new LED lights that can put on a show whenever the team scores.

Well, they got to do that plenty Friday night in a 35-13 win over South River, the Crusaders’ first victory since late October, 2021, when they beat Roselle 20-14.

The other positivity came from kids in school. The ones who came out last year – some of whom who were being taught things like “once we punt, we’re on defense,” and “four downs to get ten yards” – stuck around and hit the weight room. Basketball players came out for football, in a true sense of school spirit.

Now, three games into the season, the streak is history, and Bound Brook will try and get on a two-game win streak – something it last did in the first two games of 2021 – when the Crusaders play host to Voorhees (1-3) this Friday night.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk to Bound Brook head coach Dave LePoidevin about ending the streak, and strengthening the Crusader program: