Tag: Big Central Conference

This Week in the Big Central – Episode 5: The Double Week

Two Big Central Games of the Week highlight Episode 5 of “This Week in the Big Central,” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland.

We take a closer look at Sayreville’s upset of top-ranked and undefeated North Brunswick, and look at the hot start by Cranford.

Dom Savino catches up with former Edison standout Noah Stansbury, now at New Hampshire, then joins Mike for a look at the Top 10 slate, and we preview the rest of the weekend action.

This Week in the Big Central – Episode 4: The Mr. Old Bridge

A pair of big wins for a pair of Raiders, and the Big Man in Old Bridge.

Those are some of the highlights of Episode 4 of “This Week in the Big Central,” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland.

We take a closer look at the top-ranked North Brunswick’s big win at Old Bridge, thanks to a big night from Marqis Perry. Then Hillsborough came up with a statement win over Phillipsburg in overtime.

Later, host Mike Pavlichko talks with Bellamy & Son Paving Big Central Player of the Week Tommy Amankwaa, and sits down with Mr. Old Bridge, Ron Mazzola, to talk about his PA work for Old Bridge and Spotswood, work with GMC wrestling and gymnastics, and great moments in Knights’ football.

Then, Dom Savino slides into the chair across from Mike to preview Week Three action in the Big Central.

Del Val wins fourth straight against North Plainfield

Statistically, Delaware Valley and North Plainfield were fairly even at halftime, but even though the Terriers were up just two scores, you got the young men from Frenchtown were in control.

Del Val (2-0) scored three more times in the second half to pull away for what would be a 35-6 road victory over the Canucks, in the Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland on Central Jersey Sports Radio Friday night.

It was Del Val’s fourth straight win over North Plainfield.

Junior quarterback Jack Bill threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns, while also running for a 14-yard touchdown. Bill was named the Autoland Big Central Player of the Game, and will receive a custom game ball at the end of the season.

The two TD passes came in the first half, 12 yards to senior Logan Blake, and 21 yards to junior Patrick Garlinghouse out of the backfield.

North Plainfield (1-1) moved the ball with ease on its first possession, but the drive sputtered out after a false start penalty and bad snap forced them into punting territory. And the Del Val defense got stronger as the game went on.

Blake scored two touchdowns on the game, his second coming on a 48-yard pick-six early in the third quarter.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from Delaware Valley’s win Friday night over North Plainfield:

Junior quarterback Jack Bill

Head coach Mike Haughey

The 2021 season driven by Autoland continues next Friday night when #4 Old Bridge visits South Brunswick. Kickoff is 6:00, coverage begins at 5:45 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio. Listen live at cjsportsradio.com!

Click here for the full broadcast schedule.

This Week in the Big Central – Episode 3: The Flood

This year was supposed to be about getting back to normal in New Jersey High School Football.

Week One was anything but.

In Episode 3 of “This Week in the Big Central,” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland, we look at how the remnants of Hurricane Ida – and the residual flooding – played havoc with the high school schedule, even moving the Rutgers-Temple season-opener and forcing an audible on the weekend “Rumble on the Raritan” showcase at RU’s SHI Stadium.

This Week on TWiBC, Mike Pavlichko looks at how the Top Ten fared, and looks ahead at the Week 2 slate with Dom Savino, and is joined by several coaches and players.

But the feature story is the flood, and how it affected Manville. Not just the community, but the football team, and how the Mustangs, in turn, took care of their teammates, and their whole town.

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.

Week Zero is in the books; Big Central goes 1-3 in Battle at the Beach, while Carteret begins new era with a big win

Only ten of the 60 teams in the Big Central opened their seasons on Week Zero, and only one of the four that played in Ocean City this weekend came home a winner.

But perhaps the biggest pleasant surprise was Carteret, which shutout JP Stevens in its first game since November of 2019.

The Ramblers got three first-quarter touchdowns from senior Kanya Groover, who carried five times in the game for 112 yards, en route to a 37-0 shutout win over JP Stevens at “The Pit” Friday night.

It was a night of firsts for the Ramblers:

It was the Ramblers’ first win since October 25th, 2019, and the first victory for new coach Kevin Freeman.

It was their largest margin of victory in almost five years, since a 40-0 win over North Brunswick on September 23, 2016. That was also their most recent shutout win before Friday night.

Down at the Battle of the Beach in Ocean City, a showcase put on by the West Jersey Football League Coaches Association, Woodbridge was the only one of four league teams to earn a win, beating Winslow Township 26-14 Sunday.

Scotch Plains-Fanwood dropped its opener Sunday 52-0 to Cedar Creek, while on Saturday, Union battled Millville to a tough 38-21 loss – in which both teams reeled off a number of big plays – and Bernards got doubled up 40-20 by Penns Grove.

In other area action…

Somerville blanked Olney Charter of PA Friday night 25-0 down in Philly.

And on Saturday, new South Plainfield head coach – and Tiger alum – Bill Hamilton picked up the first win of his tenure, a 35-14 win over South River at Denny Stadium.

READ MORE: Smith, South Plainfield ground game tame South River, 35-14

Central Jersey Sports Radio’s coverage of Big Central Conference football kicks into high gear Friday night, with the season debut of “The Big Central Game of the Week driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland,” as Piscataway comes off its one-year COVID hiatus, hosting #6 Phillipsburg, with game time at 6:00, air-time at 5:45 with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the action.

And don’t forget to catch our podcast, “This Week in the Big Central driven bu Autoland,” which drops on Thursday. We’ll have a look at the week gone by, a preview of Week One games, interviews and analysis, hosted by Mike Pavlichko.

Click here to subscribe at any one of your favorite podcast sites, including Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

This Week in the Big Central – Episode 1: The Introductions

With the season opener just over 24 hours away, it’s time for the debut of “This Week in the Big Central,” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland.

Every week, TWiBC – as we’re affectionately calling it for short – will be hosted by Mike Pavlichko with contributions by Dom Savino and our team of reporters.

On this week’s show, Mike and Dom welcome you to the 2021 season, complete with a full slate, no fan restrictions, and playoffs.

We check in on some of the top teams like including Piscataway, North Brunswick, Union, Somerville, New Providence, and South Brunswick, and players such as Jai Patel, Davison Igbinosun, Jaimen Bryant, Mike Miller, Frankie Garbolino and Charlie Barth, plus coaches Dan Higgins and Mike Cipot.

Then, it’s Central Jersey Sports Radio’s preseason Top Ten, as well as the media poll, and a look at some of the Week 0 games coming up, with ten of the Big Central’s 60 teams getting an early jump on their season.

Somerville leads the pack, a unanimous pick in preseason Top Ten

The Somerville Pioneers closed out the COVID-shortened 2020 football season as Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Team of the Year, a unanimous Number One pick in the final rankings.

They start 2021 right where they left off.

Despite the loss of CJSR Offensive Player of the Year Cookie Desiderio and Defensive Player of the Year A.J. Pena, the ‘Ville is expected to have enough talent and explosiveness on offense to still be a championship contender this fall, led by runningback Jaimen Bryant and quarterback Mike Miller.

READ MORE: Miller, Bryant ready to lead Somerville air attack

Nipping at their heels at No. 2 is North Brunswick, led by Frankie Garbolino at QB and a host of other returning offensive players.

Below is the Central Jersey Sports Radio Preseason Top Ten:

Note: There will be no new rankings after the Week Zero games, since only a fraction of league teams participated. New rankings will be out following Week One and all subsequent weeks, except during the state playoffs.

Somerville also was a unanimous No. 1 in the Big Central Media Poll, getting all six first-place votes. The Media Poll includes votes from Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino, MyCentralJersey football analyst Marcus Borden, longtime Courier News sportswriter Harry Frezza, Big Central Gridiron’s Greg Machos, and the King James Radio Network’s Korbid Thompson.

Below is the preseason Big Central Media Poll:

More than a dozen Big Central football teams do the shuffle in new NJSIAA public school classifications

Though the NJSIAA has not publicly posted on its website the new football classifications that will begin being used in 2021, a draft proposal that several athletic directors say is official shows 14 Big Central Conference public school teams moving to new supersections this season.

Of those, only four teams are moving down to a lower group, while just two are moving up.

The NJSIAA reclassifies schools every annually, though it has not done so since 2018. That was in part due to wanting consistency with a new playoff formula, and – last year – due to COVID-19 and the lack of NJSIAA playoffs.

Classifications are based on the sum of students in grades 9, 10 and 11.

Movin’ On Up…

Making the jump from North 1 to South 2 are Bound Brook and New Providence, both of whom saw enrollment increase by about 20 students. They had been the two largest schools in that section.

Now, the Crusaders and Pioneers will join a supersection that includes fellow Big Central members A.L. Johnson, Spotswood, Delaware Valley, Metuchen, Roselle, South River and Hillside.

Bound Brook and New Providence are division-mates in Big Central Division 1A along with Middlesex, Roselle Park and Brearley.

Brearley and Dayton are the lone remaining Big Central teams in the North 1 supersection, thanks in part to other changes. (See “Lateral Moves” below.)

Going Down, Down…

The four teams dropping down a group are Ridge, Sayreville, North Hunterdon and Cranford.

Ridge – which saw its enrollment drop by about 100 students – will move from North 5 to North 4, the first time it has been a Group 4 school since the NJSIAA expanded from four to five groups for the start of the 2012 season. The Red Devils won the North 2, Group 5 title in 2013.

Sayreville only saw enrollment drop by a couple dozen or so, but is back in Group 4 – and also moving up to the North – after three seasons in Group 5. When the NJSIAA added the extra group, the Bombers stayed back in Group 4 while rivals like Piscataway moved up to Group 5. They won the North 5 title three seasons ago, beating North Brunswick for the sectional title, then Williamstown in the inaugural South 5 “Regional Championship.” (Those games become group semifinals when the NJSIAA introduces Group Championships next season, in 2022.)

Sayreville and Ridge will be together in North 4, along with Montgomery, Woodbridge, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Colonia, and JFK out of the Big Central.

North Hunterdon and Cranford will follow each other from North 4 to North 3.

North Hunterdon saw a precipitous drop in enrollment, from 1,188 to 866, a fall of more than 300 students. Cranford, smaller than all but six schools in its old supersection, saw enrollment drop by 104 students.

The two will join Voorhees and Governor Livingston out of the BCC in that supersection. They will be one of the largest schools in that group.

Lateral Moves…

Another eight schools will move either north or south this year, but will stay in the same group size.

How is that possible?

In the 1990s, the NJSIAA moved away from having unbalanced sections. That is, if there were five or six more teams in North 2, Group 5 than in North 1, Group 5, that’s just the way it worked out. But as the playoffs expanded, the NJSIAA evened out all sections so that teams would be competing for postseason berths against a similar number of teams.

Geographical sections are determined by Northing numbers, a measurement of how far North or South a school is. So, if North gets overloaded, for example, with schools that saw enrollment, grow, some schools might get pushed to the South, or vice versa.

If it sounds confusing, it is.

Be that as it may, seven of the eight Big Central schools making lateral moves for 2021 are going to the South.

Perth Amboy is moving from North 5 to South 5, joining fellow BCC members South Brunswick, Old Bridge, East Brunswick, Hunterdon Central, Monroe, Hillsborough, Franklin, Edison, and North Brunswick. Fully one-third of the 30 teams in the supersection are from the Big Central.

Carteret, South Plainfield, North Plainfield and Rahway are all moving from North 3 to South 3. Previously, Somerville was the only team in that supersection, so now the Pioneers will have some company. In fact, the Ramblers, Tigers and Indians are division-mates as well, which could add some juice to those matchups.

Bernards will move from South 2 to North 2, and the Mountaineers will be all alone in the supersection. Head coach Jon Simoneau is thrilled with the move, believing he’ll be competing for a playoff spot with schools that play similar schedules.

In South 2, many teams play more difficult schedules or larger schools, putting his team at a disadvantage when it comes to qualifying for the playoffs. The numbers bear him out; in 2019, the Mountaineers were 7-1 and struggled to get a third seed in their section.

Finally, in Group 1, Dunellen and Roselle Park move from North to South. They’ll join Middlesex, Highland Park, Manville and South Hunterdon in the supersection. And their departure will leave Brearley and Dayton Regional as the only two Big Central teams in North 1.

Some Big Central teams will have it easier than others on the road to the NJSIAA playoffs

All schedules are not created equal.

That’s the takeaway from a deep dive into the NJSIAA’s Strength Index numbers, and what it will take to get into the first state playoffs in two years, and the last before the state begins to crown overall group champions in football.

Of course, no team wants to just get into the playoffs. That’s just the first goal.

After that, you shoot for a home game. Then, you take a run at a top seed, guaranteeing you home field advantage through the sectional finals.

But you can’t get any of that without qualifying for the first place. Every team has an assistant who’s a math whiz, and would try and figure it out in the preseason, based on how they thought teams would fare, and some power points projections.

The system has gotten much more complicated in the past few years with the use of Strength Index, OSI, and UPR.

But the Strength Index, and the resulting Opponent Strength Index, can actually be a good preseason predictor of who will make the playoffs. How good, we don’t know, since it’s only been used once (in 2019).

But here’s the concept:

Take a look at your playoff section, and see what was the highest OSI of a team that got left out of the playoffs. Then find the next highest OSI, which should be a team that got in the playoffs. That would be the minimum, or “Target OSI.”

For example, in the North Group 5 supersection in 2019, the 16th seeded team was Bayonne, with an OSI of 39.08. However, Kennedy (Paterson) got left out at 39.94. So we can’t say Bayonne’s OSI would get you in. The next highest above Kennedy is 40.20 for Paterson Eastside. So, that would be the “Target OSI” for playoff qualification.

Below is the Target OSI for each supersection with a Big Central Team:

  • North 5 – 40.20
  • South 5 – 43.69
  • North 4 – 42.74
  • North 3 – 41.56
  • South 3 – 41.23
  • South 2 – 37.63
  • North 1 – 37.33

Some notes here:

Middlesex, Highland Park and Manville are moving from South 1 to North 1, so we didn’t include South here. For the record, its 36.98, pretty similar to the North.

Bernards is now in North 2, where no Big Central teams were before, which means we don’t have tracking data. Based on the other sections above and below them, we estimate it to be between 37.00 and 39.00.

IMPORTANT: We used the NJSIAA’s draft 2021 Football Classifications, a copy of which has been obtained by Central Jersey Sports Radio. These may or may not be official, but they haven’t yet been posted on the NJSIAA website as of this time.

The Step Method

This theory was first introduced to me by John Thompson, a longtime volunteer assistant at Piscataway who has been my sounding board for all things power-point, Born Index, and OSI/UPR-related for many years now. His theory was that you could determine how many OSI points each win in a season was worth.

Go back to Strength of Schedule for a moment. The way we calculate is: the average SI of all your opponents (OSI) – regardless of wins or losses. That would be the maximum OSI you could get, if you went undefeated. But there’s also another number: the minimum you could get, which would be if you lost every game.

The simplest example is, if you played all teams ranked exactly at 60, the best OSI you could end up with is 60, having won all your games. (Of course, team values change week to week, so this isn’t practical, but it’s a simple example.)

If you lost them all, you’d end up at 30; half the value of all opponents you lose to.

How do you figure out how much each game is worth? Well, if it takes 30 points to get from your lowest to highest possible OSI, divide that by the number of games. For the sake of easy math, let’s say you played ten games (not allowed by NJSIAA, but play along). Divide 30 points by 10 games and you’d get 3. That’s how many points you’d gain for each win.

Go winless, your OSI is 30. Win one game, it’s 33. Win two, it’s 36. All the way up to winning all ten games and getting 60.

Again, it’s not the truest method, since some opponents have higher SI values, and some have lower values. Just like power points, some games are worth more than others. But it’s a good start. And we’ll know more as the years go on and we have more data. But for now, it’ll do.

Who has the easiest path to the playoffs?

In our analysis, we looked at the minimum number of wins to get to or just above the Target OSI. Only a handful of times, we went below the Target, if it was close enough, off by say two-tenths of a point or so.

There are seven teams we believe could qualify for the playoffs with one or two wins. And while it’s a good bet almost all of them will have a lot more than two wins.

We believe Bernards, Bridgewater-Raritan, Phillipsburg, Piscataway, Union, Westfield and Somerville all could qualify for the playoffs by just winning two games. Whether power points would change that is another story, but one thing is common among all those teams: they play among the toughest schedules in the conference, and even losses will generate them some power points.

Again, here’s how we calculated: Piscataway’s OSI – if they lost all their games – would be a 34.13. One win would get them to 38.39, and two wins would get them to 42.66. Since the Target OSI for North 5 is 40.20, we say two wins would likely get them in the playoffs.

A third win would put their OSI at 46.92, making them almost a lock. There were five teams in the 16-team North 5 supersection in 2019 that had OSIs lower than 46.92; they’d be a shoo-in.

Also figure: if Piscataway were to go 3-6 in their 9 games, likely the teams they played would go up in value, so their OSI would be even higher, maybe closer to a 48 or 49.

Here are the minimum wins for the rest of the Big Central Teams:

Three wins (4 considered a “virtual lock”): Cranford, Governor Livingston, Summit, Voorhees, Linden, Ridge, Sayreville, Elizabeth, Watchung Hills, Delaware Valley, Hillside, Carteret, Rahway, Franklin, Hillsborough, Hunterdon Central, North Brunswick

Four wins (5 considered a “virtual lock”): Middlesex, Roselle Park, North Hunterdon, Warren Hills, Colonia, JFK, Montgomery, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Woodbridge, JP Stevens, Plainfield, Roselle, South River, North Plainfield, South Plainfield, Edison, New Brunswick.

Pausing here, we’ll note that under the “old” traditional power points system, a team had to be .500 or better through eight games to make the playoffs. That changed years ago, but for you old-timers (like me) that means the majority of teams would have to go .500 or better to get in; our analysis found 24 of the Big Central’s 60 teams would have a good shot getting in with fewer than four wins.

Five wins (6 considered a “virtual lock”): Brearley, Bound Brook, Johnson, New Providence, East Brunswick, Monroe, Old Bridge, South Brunswick

Six wins (7 considered a “virtual lock”): Dayton, South Hunterdon, Metuchen, Spotswood, Perth Amboy

The rest: Belvidere would need a minimum 7 wins to be on the cusp of the playoffs, but 8 to be a lock. That means likely only 8-1 would guarantee them a playoff spot. That’s a tough spot to be in. Perhaps the County Seaters deserve to be in a division with some stronger opponents? Stronger opponents means higher OSI.

Dunellen would need seven, but at last check only had seven games on their schedule. Thus, the Destroyers would likely have to go undefeated to get in the playoffs.

Highland Park would need to win 7, and 8 to guarantee it. They’d also have to go 8-1 to be considered a “virtual lock.”

And Manville would have to win 8 to be on the bubble, 9 to guarantee it, since all undefeated teams automatically qualify for the state playoffs.

Below is a PDF document of the probable minimum wins each Big Central team wold need to qualify for the playoffs, with the minimums for each supersection listed at the bottom. Please note non-public schools such as St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Joseph-Metuchen are not included since they generally are either seeded by committee (the math doesn’t always play a role) or do not have enough teams to fill out a full eight-team bracket, and most teams are included.