Tag: Alex Benitez

Central Jersey Sports Radio announces “Specialty Awards” for 2021

Last year, we decided our inaugural awards show had too few awards to recognize all the truly great student-athletes in the Big Central Conference, on or off the field. So besides Players and Coach of the Year, we decided to give out “Specialty Awards.”

And we’re back with more for 2021, so get ready for some fantastic stories!

Offensive Line of the Year: Cranford

They literally paved the way for Cranford’s third state championship in eleven seasons. The five guys up front kept quarterback Shane VanDam on his feet, and cleared a path for Colin Murray, who had a career-best 334 yards in the North 2 Group 3 championship game against Sparta.

Cranford offensive lineman Kevin Shriner holds up the NJSIAA trophy as he and his teammates celebrate a state championship. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Geoff Gretta, Kevin Shriner, Kyle Fay, Ryan Heesters, and Matt Fries – who signed his National Letter of Intent this week to attend the University of Illinois – were all instrumental in Cranford’s success. Four of the five – with the exception being center Kyle Fay – are at least 6-2 and 280 pounds.

“It helps we have a bunch of large humans,” head coach Erik Rosenmeier told us earlier this season.

It also helps they can all flat out play.

Listen below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with all five Cranford offensive linemen:

The “Nobody Scores” Award:

It took eight games for someone to score on St. Thomas Aquinas, and nobody threw a touchdown pass against them all year.

Those were the kind of dominant defensive numbers the Trojans put up on 2021, not an easy task considering they led most of their games pretty big this year, and a bunch of 16- and 17-year-olds could easily have lost their focus.

They didn’t, only allowing nine points the entire regular season, all of them coming in their finale against Delaware Valley, on a mud-soaked field in North Edison.

Villanova-bound senior Jon Wyatt has been an integral part of the Trojans’ success on both sides of the ball. (Mike Pavlichko)

Senior Jon Wyatt, who’s going to Villanova, was a lock-down corner. Barely anyone threw toward him – and if they did, they couldn’t complete a single pass. If they did manage to get a ball caught, it was in the hands of Wyatt.

Click below to hear Wyatt talk about how it all worked out for St. Thomas Aquinas:

“Rising Star” Award

Last season, sophomore quarterbacks were making an impact, whether it be Franklie Garbolino, Matt Yasko, or a host of others around the league.

In 2021, sophomore Zaimer Wright of Sayreville is one who had a big impact for his team, leaving a bright future for the Bombers.

Sayreville sophomore Zaimer Wright helped his team knock off No. 1 North Brunswick on September 17, 2021. (Source: Twitter)

Wright was a Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week earlier this year, and finished the season with 1,401 yards rushing, 25 touchdowns, and five two-point conversions, scoring 160 total points. He also starts at safety, contributing on defense, and returns punts and kickoffs, as well as runs down on the kick coverage team.

He’s been under the weather recently, so we didn’t get a chance to speak to him, but we think we’ll have plenty of opportunities the next couple of years. Feel better, Zaimer!

Mr. Versatility

There’s no doubt this award goes to Alex Benitez, a senior from Montgomery. He has played runningback, moved back to quarterback, then back to runningback while also playing outside linebacker on defense.

Montgomery senior QB Alex Benitez gets ready to throw a pass in preseason camp on Friday, August 27, 2021 at Cougar Stadium.

A four-year starter, Benitez didn’t miss a single game, and only fumbled four times in his career – three of them coming in his freshman year!

He also punts, kicks off, kicks PATs, long snaps and return kickoffs. He’d probably drive the team bus if it wasn’t an insurance issue.

Coach Zoran Milich calls him “the best all-around player in New Jersey.”

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with jack-of-all-trades Alex Benitez:

“Mentorship Award”:

With a strong influence in his own family, Jehu Andrews realizes that not every boy in Carteret is as lucky as he is.

So that’s why, in addition to being a leader on his own Carteret Rambler football team, and being a great asset to first-year head coach Kevin Freeman, he’s involved with youth football.

Jehu Andrews of Carteret (source: Twitter)

Sure, he helped pave the way up front on offense and defense to a three-win season after not playing at all in 202 because Carteret cancelled fall sports due to COVID

But he laid some of that knowledge on the 14-and-under Bulldogs in town, becoming a father figure to, perhaps, a bunch of future Jehu Andrews.

Click below to hear Andrews talk with Mike Pavlichko talk about his season, community involvement, and influences:

Perseverance Award

Sure, a lot of football players face obstacles in their seasons. Maybe it’s a nagging injury, a tough defeat, or just some bad luck.

How many have a fire destroy everything they own, save only their football jersey, and show up to play that night?

Matthew Ihemsie of Hillside (Source: Twitter)

Matthew Ihemsie of Hillside does, and to be honest, there are no words that can do it justice, except for his. So give a listen:

“Mr. Dynamic” (Most Electrifying Player):

He can run, he can throw, but his ability to inspire his teammates to great heights, quickly shift the momentum of a game, make Josh Oluremi of Colonia the obvoious choice for most electrifying player in the Big Central Conference.

Mr. Dynamic, Oluremi rushed for 1,594 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, while throwing for 954 and 6 touchdown passes. He also had 32 tackles and a pair of picks from his cornerback spot on defense.

Josh Oluremi of Colonia (Source: Twitter)

He almost single-handedly got Colonia past Edison on September 10th, rushing for four and throwing another touchdown in the game, a 38-7 victory over the Eagles.

For his career, he finishes with 2,000+ rushing yards, and nearly 1,800 passing yards, responsible for a total of 36 overall touchdowns.

Click below to hear Josh Oluremi talk about his season, career, and style of play:

Red-Hot Recruit of the Year:

Picking these awards aren’t always easy. Which means sometimes it is. In this case, it was a no-brainer.

Davison Igbinsoun of Union holds 30-plus Division I scholarship offers, and is still deciding where he’ll attend college, getting a lot of attention in the past week from Rutgers’ Greg Schiano – who arrived in a chopper for the second time this season – and Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin, who took him for a ride in a Porsche.

He originally committed to Rutgers, but withdrew that commitment after his recruiting ranting picked up a fourth star, though the Scarlet Knights remain in contention for him.

Union’s Davison Igbinosun (Source: Twitter)

One of the most dominant players in the area in recent memory, his numbers weren’t off the charts in 2021, but that’s because he’s an incredibly unselfish player, and the Farmers had a lot of athletes to go around.

This year, he had 18 total touchdowns, 76 carries for 903 yards and 12 touchdown, 20 catches for 405 yards and four touchdowns. On defense, he recorded 74 tackles, 4 picks, and two tackles for a loss.

He’ll be special wherever he goes.

Benitez, Cougars know a tall task awaits them in top-seed Northern Highlands

The last time Northern Highlands played in a playoff game, they beat Woodbridge to win the North 1 Group 4 championship in 2019.

Then came the pandemic, but the Highlanders (9-0) are right back at it: No. 8 in the state, and the second highest ranked public school in the NJ.com Top 20.

That’s the task that awaits the 8th-seeded Montgomery Cougars Friday night in the opening round of the North 1, Group 4 playoffs, although they may be one of the more deceptive 8-seeds in the state at 3-5.

The Cougars lost their first four games of the season, then won three straight after making a change at quarterback, bringing a newcomer into the fold and moving program guy Alex Benitez back to his natural runningback position (though they still have designed passing plays for him).

Click below to hear Montgomery head coach Zoran Millich talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about the Cougars’ season, as heard on CJSR’s special playoff projection show last Saturday night:

This Week in the Big Central – Episode 9: The Home Stretch

Episode 9 of “This Week in the Big Central,” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland, focuses on the push to the playoffs just one week out from Cutoff Weekend.

Mike Pavlichko looks back at the week gone by and the playoff implications of some of the Week Seven games, then examines who’s in – and who’s on the bubble – down the home stretch of the season.

We hear from founding sponsor Elite QB, with Coach Matt Bastardi’s “Elite Performers of the Week,” and a look at the Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week, Montgomery’s Alex Benitez, who caught the ball, ran the ball, kicked the ball and intercepted the ball in a win over Scotch Plains-Fanwood.

Mike wraps it up with a look at the Week Eight slate.

Benitez runs and catches, kicks and picks his way to Week 7 Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week Award

Throwing a pass was about the only thing Alex Benitez didn’t do Friday night for Montgomery. And he’s even done a little of that this season.

But everything else he did helped him pick up Week Seven Bellamy and Son Paving Player of the Week Honors, while helping the Cougars to their second straight victory.

What didn’t Benitz do? He had 16 carries and a rushing touchdown, as well as five catches on offense. He also kicked three PATs. On defense he had not one, but two pick-6s, and he also had a pair of 55-yard punts on special teams.

His two interception returns for touchdowns came on back-to-back possessions defensively, and were part of a four-minute spurt that saw Benitz score three times – the first of the TDs coming on offense – to put the nail in the coffin on Scotch Plains-Fanwood.

And the win has Montgomery – now just 2-4, but winners of two straight – on the cusp of a playoff berth. They moved from 20th to 19th with the win, and have a chance to get to .500 if they can pick up a win this week against JFK, and next week against Cranford. That’s a tall order – even at home – but even a loss might still get them in due to Cranford’s high SI value, currently at 79.51. Montgomery’s OSI is 39.61, meaning even if they lose and get just half of Cranford’s value, that would keep them even.

Click below to hear Alex Benitez talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about his Week 7 performance:

Honor Roll…

Sayreville’s Zaimer Wright – who won the award in Week Three – gets some “also ran” recognition in Week Seven. He was a workhorse going for 270 yards on 33 carries, scoring four touchdowns and adding a two-point conversion in a critical 29-16 win against South Brunswick that was the Bombers’ fourth straight victory.

Nasir McGlone of North Plainfield ran for even more yards on fewer touches Friday night. He averaged a whopping 21.5 yards per carry in a 42-26 win at Governor Livingston, the Canucks’ third straight win following a three-game skid.

Of his five touchdown runs, only one went for less than 40 yards – a ten-yard spring in the second quarter. The others were 70, 61, 48 and 44 yards. That’s a total of 233 yards on touchdown runs alone.

That’s a game for most good runningbacks.

Continuing the runningback theme, the final honorable mention goes to Ethan MacNair of Somerville, who had 300 rushing yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns in the Saturday Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland, a 47-26 win over St. Joseph in Metuchen.

This Week in the Big Central – Episode 2: The Sitkowskis

Week Zero is in the books, and the bulk of the Big Central opens up this weekend on Week One, unless Ida’s aftermath has anything to say about it.

Either way, it’s time for Episode 2 of “This Week in the Big Central,” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland.

This Week on TWiBC, Mike Pavlichko talks to former Rutgers and Old Bridge quarterback Art Sitkowski, who came off the bench to rally Illinois to a season-opening win over Nebraska.

Then, he’s joined by NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire to talk about her first year at the helm as we head into 2021-22.

Finally, it’s a look at the official NJSIAA football classifications, released Wednesday, and a peek ahead at the weekend’s games.

Mix of seniors and inexperience will lead Montgomery in wide-open Division 4

CORRECTION: Montgomery and Watchung Hills play their opener Thursday, not Friday.

A look around the Big Central Conference’s Division 4 seems to indicate wide-open race among the eight teams in what is the league’s largest grouping.

And that might be just the way Montgomery likes it.

That’s not to say it’s an easy division. Woodbridge, which dominated last year, has lost standouts Ali Lee Jr. and Anthony Santino, bringing more parity to Division 4.

The Cougars have a small senior core, and a lot of inexperience. But senior quarterback Alex Benitez believes there’s a good mixture down in Skillman, and head coach Zoran Milich agrees, saying that perhaps what the young ones don’t know won’t hurt ’em, and may even help them.

The Cougars’ season gets underway Thursday night when they host Watchung Hills in their first of two out-of-division matchups this fall..

Click below to hear Milich and Benitez preview the upcoming season.

Senior QB Alex Benitez:

Head Coach Zoran Milich: