Category: Football Top Ten

Stateliners grab another first place vote, still lead Big Central Media Poll, as other teams shake up

Another week, another vote for first in the Big Central Media Poll for Phillipsburg.

The Stateliners picked up a season-high 48 points and got four of the five first-place votes in Week Four, ahead of North Brunswick, which got the other first-place vote.

The teams don’t play each other this regular season, and could only meet if they both make the inaugural Group 5 final at Rutgers’ SHI Stadium the first week of December.

Hillside climbed a spot to third, while St. Thomas Aquinas jumped three spots from seventh to fourth.

The poll saw a bit of a shakeup this week, with previously-third ranked Hillsborough dropping two spots to fifth after a 34-0 loss at P’burg Friday night. Previously-No. 7-ranked St. Joseph-Metuchen dropped two spots after losing to unranked Elizabeth Saturday, 23-21. And Sayreville dropped from No. 6 to No. 9 after a 22-0 loss to No. 2 North Brunswick.

Montgomery – 5-0 for the first time ever- continued its ascent, up two spots to fifth. Colonia (5-0) dropped a spot simply by other teams making gains, and North hunterdon – which got votes last week – entered the poll in tenth.

Ridge (2-2) dropped out as well.

The full Week 4 Big Central Media Poll is below:

Phillipsburg takes stranglehold on top ranking in Week 4 CJSR Top Ten

Thanks to a 34-0 home win over then-undefeated and third-ranked Hillsborough Friday night, Phillipsburg took both first place votes in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Week Four high school football rankings.

The Stateliners are still followed by North Brunswick, close behind, which has the same record through the first four weeks as P’burg: 4-0.

For the first time this season, no teams dropped out of the rankings, and there were no “Also Received Votes.” All ten teams that got votes are in the rankings, just in a different order.

Click below for the full Week Four Top Ten:

After a few weeks of play, the computer tells a different tale than human polls

Some teams have played three games already, most have played two. It’s still very early, and everyone’s rankings are different – especially in the seemingly wide-open Big Central Conference – but what does the Strength Index say about who are the best teams?

And who’s most improved?

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

Statewide, the top team in the Strength Index ratings is Bergen Catholic, at a 94.51, down just slightly from where they were to start the season, 95.36. Red Bank Catholic is just two-tenths of a point behind, followed by Caldwell – which is on the state’s longest active winning streak, now at 17 games – Donovan Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep rounding out the Top 5.

The highest-ranked Big Central Conference team would be Hillsborough, whose SI number has actually improved over last year, when they were 13-0. That makes sense, since they are 2–0 this season, winners of 15 straight. Their SI value is now 85.84, tenth best in the state. The next best BCC team is at No. 15, with St. Thomas Aquinas at 82.22, and Phillipsburg is down at 31, with a 78.36 Strength Index value.

Here are the top ten Big Central teams, by Strength Index:

  1. Hillsborough – 85.84, +.97
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas – 82.22, +9.38
  3. Phillipsburg – 78.36, +6.03
  4. North Hunterdon – 75.30, +5.81
  5. Hillside – 68.12, +7.15
  6. Ridge – 74.53, +.75
  7. Union – 73.22, -9.01
  8. North Brunswick – 71.86, +2.77
  9. Cranford – 71.76, -4.51
  10. Edison – 71.44, +8.92

In both the Central Jersey Sports Radio and Big Central Media polls, Phillipsburg is the top-ranked team, followed by North Brunswick. Again, it’s early, with last year’s success – or lack of – weighing a bit more heavily on SI values; that needs a full season to play out. But right now, the computers put Hillsborough first, and St. Thomas Aquinas – which debuted in both polls this week – second.

Phillipsburg is third in the Strength Index among Big Central teams, while North Brunswick is 8th.

North Hunterdon has debuted in both human polls, and there they are in the Top Ten of the SI numbers, as well.

Biggest Winners….

Who’s made the biggest gain from a year ago? By far, it’s A.L. Johnson out of Clark, having gained 15.64 in the Strength Index, to climb from a 42.86 at the start of the season to a 58.5. And if they keep winning as they have been, they’ll go even higher.

Remember, though, Strength Index isn’t what gets you seeded higher in the playoffs, it’s the Opponent Strength Index (or OSI), so this number is only relevant to the playoffs for the teams that play Johnson, not the Crusaders themselves.

The Crusaders are 2-0, having outscored their first two opponents – Governor Livingston and Bound Brook – a combined 84-6, scoring 42 points in each game, and shutting out Bound Brook at LaMonte Field last week. The Crusaders host Metuchen this Friday night and close out September with two straight road games, at Roselle and New Providence.

Here are the Most Improved teams in the Big Central, according to Strength Index:

  1. Johnson, +15.64 (2-0)
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas, +9.38 (2-1)
  3. Edison, +8.92 (2-1)
  4. Watchung Hills, +8.5 (2-1)
  5. Linden, +8.02 (1-1)
  6. Montgomery, +7.93 (3-0)
  7. St. Joseph-Metuchen, +7.5 (2.0)
  8. Hillside, +7.15 (2-0)
  9. South Hunterdon, +6.60 (2-0)
  10. Phillipsburg, +6.03 (2-0)

A lot of this makes sense, when you look at the numbers.

While Aquinas had a great year last year, this year has been a step up in competition, and they’re still 2-1, so that’s boosted their Strength value. Edison had a big win over Cedar Creek, which may be down a bit by later in the year, but the win, at the time, boosted their SI.

Montgomery is 3-0 for the first time since 2007, when the Cougars went 9-2, bowing out of the Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals to top-seed and eventual champion Howell. St. Joe’s is there because of Somerville’s high rating from years past when the Falcons beat them at Brooks Field Friday night.

And so on, and so on.

One more first place vote puts Stateliners atop Big Central Media Poll in Week 2

After Week One, North Brunswick got three first place votes and Phillipsburg two from the Big Central media, but after Week Two – despite both teams winning – they flipped, and now the Stateliners sit atop the Big Central Media Poll heading into Week Three.

The Stateliners got 48 points from the five voters, the most of any team so far this season; the Raiders got 45 last week.

After North Brunswick in second, Hillsborough climbed a spot to third, with Hillside up two to fourth, and St. Joseph-Metuchen making its debut – after receiving votes last week – at No. 5. All the top five teams are off to 2-0 starts.

Sayreville – despite a win – dropped to sixth, while North Hunterdon’s 3-0 start got them from the also-ran category to No. 7.

Edison held in eighth, despite its first loss of the season, which came at the hands of North Brunswick, but without starting QB Matt Yascko and wide receiver Malcolm Stansbury, due to injury. Ridge dropped from sixth into an eighth-place tie with the Eagles, while St. Thomas Aquinas – which also got votes last week – also made its debut.

Dropping out were #3 Somerville, #9 Bridgewater-Raritan and #10 Delaware Valley.

The poll also got a little tighter this week in that only 15 teams received votes. Last week, 16 got nods for the top ten from the Big Central Media, down from 20 in the preseason poll.

Below are the full Week 2 rankings:

Phillipsburg overtakes North Brunswick for No. 1 in the CJSR Week 2 Top Ten

A solid road win over Phillipsburg appears to have been enough for the Stateliners to just edge out North Brunswick, taking the top spot in the Week Two Central Jersey Sports Radio High School Football Top Ten.

Both teams got a first place vote in Week Two, but Phillipsburg had one extra point with Hillsborough also picking up a second place vote.

The Raiders held in third, while Sayreville edged up one place to fourth, and St. Joseph of Metuchen – one of three new teams to the poll – debuted at No. 5, off to a 2-0 start.

Hillside climbed one to sixth, and is tied with North Hunterdon, which moved up from ninth.

Colonia, which also received votes last week, made it in at No. 8, while St. Thomas Aquinas is in at No. 9, followed by Edison dropping a spot to tenth after a loss Friday night to then-No. 1 North Brunswick.

Previously No. 2 Somerville, No. 6 Bridgewater-Raritan and No. 8 Ridge dropped out, but the Red Devils also received a vote.

Below are the full Week 2 rankings:

North Brunswick moves into top spot in Big Central Media Poll

With a 19-0 win over South Brunswick in its season opener, North Brunswick picked up one more first place vote in the Week One Big Central Media Poll, and the Raiders used it to climb into the top spot.

Sayreville, which got one first place vote last week, fell to fifth after a 14-7 home loss to Phillipsburg in the season opener for both teams. The Stateliners got the other two votes.

It may be up to one or the other to trip up the rest of the way, as North Brunswick and Phillipsburg don’t play each other in the regular season. They’re also in separate playoff supersections, with the Raiders in South 5 and the Liners in North 5; the only way they could meet this year is if both won sectional championship and advanced to the NJSIAA’s first-ever Group Finals.

P’burg got two first place votes, just as they did last week, and came in second, up one spot. Somerville held in third. Hillsborough went up one spot to fourth.

After Sayreville, Hillside – ninth last week – and Ridge – number seven last week – tied for sixth. Edison and Bridgewater-Raritan held at eight and nine, respectively, while Delaware Valley jumped in at 10 after receiving votes last week.

Union, after a 7-6 season-opening loss to Bridgewater, dropped out.

The field of teams with votes also narrowed a bit after the first two weeks of play. The Preseason and Week Zero polls saw 20 teams get votes from the five voting members. This week, that number was down to 17.

Below is the full Week One Media Poll:

Raiders take both first place votes to lead CJSR Week 1 Top Ten

A season-opening 19-0 win over South Brunswick, coupled with a 14-7 Sayreville home loss to Phillipsburg in both teams’ opening games, has given North Brunswick both first place votes, putting them all alone in the No. 1 spot in the Week One Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten after being tied with the Bombers a week ago

The Raiders are followed by Somerville – up a spot from third – and two teams tied for third this week: aforementioned Phillipsburg, and Hillsborough, which blew out East Brunswick 42-6 on Thursday night in its season-opener.

Sayreville dropped to fifth with the loss. Three new teams entered the rankings in Week One, the first of them Bridgewater-Raritan, which gutted out a 7-6 road win over Union Friday night in the opener for both teams. The Panthers – who received votes last week – are in sixth.

Hillside held in seventh, while Ridge – despite a win – dropped to eighth.

Then Edison and North Hunterdon – neither of which received votes last week – tied for the ninth spot. Both teams are off to 2-0 starts.

Below are the complete Week One rankings:

North Brunswick moves into tie with Sayreville for first place in Week 1 Top Ten

Neither has played yet, but it was a numbers game in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Big Central Top Ten this week, as North Brunswick moved up into a tie with Sayreville for first place in Week One.

The reason obviously didn’t have to do with how they fared in Week Zero, since all they did was continue to prep for their openers. This Friday night, North Brunswick entertains arch-rival South Brunswick, while Sayreville hosts Phillipsburg for the first-time ever.

A loss by Bridgewater-Raritan, which dropped them out of the rankings, juggled the math so that Sayreville and North Brunswick ended up tied.

Otherwise, there was very little movement, as the Panthers and Somerville were the only ranked teams to play in Week Zero. Somerville was a 31-7 winner in Ian Pace’s debut as head coach over Mastery Charter H.S. of Camden.

Somerville and Hillsborough held in third and fourth, respectively, while Phillipsburg edged up a spot to sixth, and Ridge moved from No. 9 to sixth. Union held in seventh; Hillside tied for seventh, moving up from No. 8. East Brunswick went from a tenth-place tie to sole possession of ninth, while Cranford held in 10th.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Westfield, Bernards and South Brunswick again also received votes.

Below is the complete Week Zero CJSR Top Ten:

Just how wide open will 2022 be in the Big Central? Not even the statewide media can agree on the top teams in the league

by Mike Pavlichko

This is my 23rd season of covering high school football in New Jersey. The first 20 were spent covering the GMC and the Somerset County teams in the Skyland and Mid-State 39/38/Etc. Conferences. Two years ago, as we debuted this website, my “local” world expanded to Union, and Hunterdon Counties with the advent of the Big Central Conference.

In all that time, I’ve never been as confused and torn as I was this year when tasked with coming up with my preseason top ten. Everyone I talked to agreed: there were a lot of teams that could be in the top ten, but no clear-cut number one.

And now, it appears, the statewide media are just as confused as I was.

And that’s not to say any of us are wrong, but it speaks volumes that everyone has somebody different.

In the USA Today Network (MyCentralJersey) and rankings that came out today, shoot, they can’t even agree on the No. 1 team. Gannet has gone with Bergen Catholic at the top, followed by Don Bosco Prep. has it the other way around, the Ironmen first, then the Crusaders. (They’ll meet September 24th in Oradell, incidentally.)

But looking at the Big Central teams therein, there’s even more disagreement.

Who’s representing?

In the Top 20, Hillsborough is the only team to make it. They finished fourth last year, but lose their entire core of Tommy Amankwaa, Jay Mazuera, Will Dixon and Tyler Michinard, guys who played together essentially from youth football all the way up. The Raiders will be good, but will have to prove themselves this year.

They also picked five “on the fringe” teams, with one of them being North Brunswick. The Raiders made their second sectional final in five seasons under Mike Cipot last year, falling to Hillsborough, which in the end went 13-0 and won the South Group 5 Regional Championship. They were one of three Big Central teams to make state title games last year, and the only one not to win. But they have a veteran coming back in Frankie Garbolino, a senior who has two years as a starter under his belt, and a disruptive defensive end in Jared Tynes, an Honorable Mention CJSR Defensive Player of the Year, overshadowed on his own team only by the now-graduated Amari Macklin, who won the award.

And for what it’s worth, they were my vote for No. 1. They didn’t get it in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten the way the calculations worked out. That went to Sayreville, which got a first place vote from my colleague Justin Sontupe, who will be my main partner in the broadcast booth this season.

In CJSR’s Big Central Media Poll – which includes my vote and Justin’s, plus Marcus Borden and Harry Frezza of (a Gannett concern) – and Korbid Thompson of the King James Radio Network – North Brunswick did end up No. 1, getting two first place votes, while Sayreville got two. (Korbid Thompson was the other vote.)

And yet, Sayreville – which has a stud runningback in Zaimer Wright who rushed for over 1,400 yards last year as a sophomore and is the top returning back in the league – is nowhere to be found, in either statewide poll.

Are people sleeping on the Bombers? They were 8-3 last year after an 0-2 start and made the sectional semifinals of the playoffs. (They also knocked off North Brunswick when they were No. 1 last year.) They very well could be.

As for USA Today Network’s statewide rankings, three Big Central teams made it. But not Sayreville, North Brunswick or even Hillsborough.

Hillside checks in at 18, while Phillipsburg is No. 23, with Somerville right behind them, 24th in the state.

The Comets have two D1 commit running backs with Syracuse-bound Muwaffaq Parkman and future West Point cadet Kyon Simonson, who combined for 27 touchdowns and over 2,500 yards last year. Phillipsburg returns 11 starters but most key statistical contributors are gone; they could be very good, but they’re unproven. (They also got two first place votes in our media poll, from Borden and Frezza.) And Somerville has a new head coach outside the Jeff Vanderbeek/Dallas Whitaker realm for the first time in a while. They lose Jaimen Bryant and Ethan MacNair, but QB Mike Miller and athlete Hashym Hobbs-Harris are back.

Summing up?

Essentially, the USA Today Network’s consensus is that Hillside is the top team in the Big Central, followed by Phillipsburg and Somerville. says it’s Hillsborough then North Brunswick. Justin and I ended up with Sayreville, followed by North Brunswick Somerville and Hillsborough. And the Media Poll says North Brunswick, Sayreville, Phillipsburg and Hillsborough.

Four different polls, four different “Number Ones.”

Strap ’em on, folks! We’re in for a wild 2022 high school football season in the Big Central!

North Brunswick leads wide-open preseason Big Central Media Poll

One of three teams to get first place votes from reporters who cover the Big Central conference, North Brunswick takes the top spot in the 2022 preseason media poll.

The Raiders got 40 points in the poll, edging out Sayreville (38 pts) and Phillipsburg (28) points, both of whom got a pair of first place votes.

Twelve teams made the “top ten,” with Cranford, Edison and Hillside all tied for tenth with nine points, followed by eight more teams that also received votes. In all, 20 teams received votes for the preseason top ten, perhaps signaling a wide-open league in 2022.

The Big Central Media Poll includes five voters:

  • Central Jersey Sports Radio broadcasters Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe
  • former East Brunswick HS head coach Marcus Borden, analyst for
  • longtime Somerset County scholastic beat writer Harry Frezza of
  • Korbid Thompson, broadcaster at King James Radio Network

Below is the full preseason Big Central Media Poll: