Tag: Big Central

Phillipsburg holds, Aquinas rises, Ridge rejoins, Westfield and Watchung Hills debut in a topsy-turvy Big Central Week 5 Media Poll

In a week where half the Big Central Conference’s undefeated teams fell for the first time, there were big shifts throughout the Week 5 Media Poll, except at the top, where Phillipsburg again took four of the first place votes to hold at No. 1, with North Brunswick picking up one vote and staying at No. 2.

Beyond that, all bets were off after Week 5 of play.

St. Thomas Aquinas took the third spot in the rankings away from Hillside with a 17-10 home win in North Edison Friday night. North Hunterdon jumped six places to No. 4 after knocking off 8th-ranked Colonia at home 33-7, bouncing the Patriots from the rankings, though they did get votes this week.

Hillsborough held in fifth, while Hillside dropped three places to No. 6, and Sayreville moved up to No. 7.

After a weeks’ absence, Ridge is back in at No. 8, while Westfield and Watchung Hills debut for the season, tied at No. 9. The Blue Devils handed then-No. 7 St. Joseph-Metuchen its first loss of the season Saturday, a 14-0 decision at Kehler Stadium in Westfield, knocking the Falcons from the polls. Watchung Hills won at then-No. 6 Montgomery, blanking the Cougars 33-0 in Skillman Friday night, bouncing them from the rankings as well.

After the media poll had narrowed to only see 14 teams getting votes in Week 4, down from 19 in the preseason, 16 teams got votes this week.

Below are the full rankings for the Week 5 Big Central Media Poll:

Everyone else does the shuffle, but Phillipsburg and North Brunswick remain 1-2 in CJSR Top Ten

With four of the Big Central Conference’s undefeated teams losing in Week 5, and a sprinkle of other games factored in, the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten saw a big shuffle among all the teams but two, as Phillipsburg – which got both first-place votes – and North Brunswick remain No. 1 and No. 2.

While the Stateliners (5-0) and North Brunswick (5-0) continued to win, ranked teams like Hillside, Montgomery and Colonia suffered their first losses of the season, while St. Joseph-Metuchen suffered its second loss in a row.

What it all meant was an opportunity for several teams to move up.

Hillsborough – after a shutout at P’burg two weeks ago – got back on the winning track, edging out Union at home to improve to 4-1, and move up two spots in the poll to fifth. North Hunterdon took a huge leap with a win over previously unbeaten and then No. 6 Colonia – which dropped out – 33-7 in Annandale; the Lions climbed from tenth to fourth.

St. Thomas Aquinas knocked off previously-undefeated Hillside, and the win got the Trojans to fifth, up three spots. Sayreville moved up two spots to sixth, tied with the Comets.

Three new teams fill out the last three spots in the rankings.

Westfield (4-1) joins the group at No. 8 this week after beating previous-No. 7 St. Joseph-Metuchen at home Saturday afternoon, 14-0, the Falcons second loss, which also dropped them from the rankings.

In ninth is Watchung Hills, which is 4-2 after knocking a 33-0 win at No. 3 and previously-unbeaten Mongtomery, bouncing the Cougars from the rankings. The Warriors’ only league loss is to North Hunterdon; their other defeat is to Morris Knolls.

Tied with Watchung Hills is Ridge, debuting at 3-2. The Red Devils’ only losses are to Phillipsburg and Hillsborough.

Montgomery and Edison also received votes.

Following are the full Week 5 Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings:

INSTANT REPLAY: No. 10 North Hunterdon 33, No. 6 Colonia 7

North Hunterdon runningbacks Kente Edwards and Alex Urinyak combined for close to 300 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the 10th-ranked North Hunterdon Lions defeated the 6th-ranked Colonia Patriots 33-7 on Friday, September 30, 2022.

Click below to listen to Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino call all the action from Annandale, NJ:

1st Half

2nd Half

Rough night for (most of) the Big Central unbeatens, as four of seven playing Friday night go down

The Big Central Conference had eight teams boasting unblemished records heading into Week 5 of the high school football regular season.

Half those teams went down Friday night – Colonia, Hillside, Johnson and Montgomery – with one more still to play Saturday afternoon, when South Plainfield (4-0) visits Governor Livingston (3-2), winners of their last three games.

First, the good news: top-ranked Phillipsburg and No. 2 North Brunswick picked up convincing wins Friday night, while Brearley won as well.

Though they only led 7-0 at the half, Phillipsburg scored twice to take a 21-0 lead on Hunterdon Central, eventually winning 21-7 in Flemington. Xavier Moore opened the scoring and Jett Genovese threw a pair of touchdown passes to Matthew Scerbo, Jr. Now 5-0, the Stateliners host Bridgewater-Raritan at Maloney Stadium next Friday night.

North Brunswick allowed just its third and fourth touchdowns of the season in a 34-14 road win at Franklin. A fourth-quarter touchdown came when the game was out of hand. The Raiders are 5-0 as well, and take the short trip down Livingston Avenue to New Brunswick next Friday night.

Phillipsburg and North Brunswick both led their respective Group 5 playoff supersections – North and South 5 – heading into the weekend, but they won’t meet in the regular season. They could only play if they both reached the first-ever Group 5 state final this December at Rutgers.

As for Brearley, the Bears blanked South Hunterdon 14-0, their third shutout in five games this season. QB Matt Sims rushed for a three-yard touchdown in the second quarter, while Brendan Fitzsimmons scored on a nine-yard TD pass from Sims in the fourth quarter. The Bears are 5-0.

Now, to the downside, and the four teams that went down for the first time all season.

If it wasn’t the least surprising result, it might have been on paper, at least according to the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten rankings. In a battle of ranked teams, 8th-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas edged out Hillside in North Edison, 17-7. The Comets fall to 4-1, while the Trojans are now 5-1, undefeated in Big Central play, with their only loss coming to Timber Creek of the West Jersey Football League in Week Zero. The highlight for Aquinas was a 100-yard pick six by Najee Lovejoy late in the first quarter.

Montgomery’s 5-0 season came to a crashing halt with a 33-0 home loss to Watchung Hills. The Cougars didn’t help their cause losing two fumbles. Click here for a recap and postgame reaction from Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Chris Tsakonas.

In the Big Central Game of the Week on Central Jersey Sports Radio, No. 6 Colonia got dominated as well, as runningbacks Kente Edwards and Alex Urinyak combined for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-7 home win for No. 10 North Hunterdon over the Patriots in Annandale. Click here for a recap and postgame reaction from Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko.

And Johnson, off a 4-0 start – its best start since a 5-0 mark to begin 2017 – suffered its first loss of the season, with a 27-14 loss at New Providence, which has won two straight to improve to 3-3 as they figure out life post-Charlie Barth. Ben Gullo led the way for the Pioneers with three touchdowns and 124 rushing yards. The Crusaders fall to 4-1.

Watchung Hills blanks No. 3 Montgomery, hands Cougars first loss in ’22

It was all Warriors in Skillman Friday night, as unranked Watchung Hills knocked off No. 3 Montgomery 33-0 on the road, to give the Cougars their first loss of the season.

At 5-0, Monty was off to the program’s best start ever in its 21st season of existence. But it all came apart against the Warriors, who improved to 4-2 with the win and will pick up a lot of power points to help with playoff positioning.

Watchung Hills struck first late in the first quarter, with running back David Dubas finding the end zone on a 17-yard touchdown run to cap off a seven-play, 55-yard drive with 1:41 left.

Nirio Garcia doubled the lead to 14-0, punching it in from 4 yards out with 8:42 left in the first half. A 36-yard field goal from Riley McCann sent Wachtung Hills to the locker room with a 17-0 halftime lead.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Warriors put it away early in the fourth off a 1 yard touchdown run from Dylan Moffat. Joey Bechtle made it 31-0 off a 2 yard run with 4 minutes to play, and a safety on the next Montgomery drive turned it into a 33-0 finish.

Click below for postgame reaction from Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Chris Tsakonas:

Watchung Hills RB David Dubas
Watchung Hills RB Nirio Garcia

No. 10 North Hunterdon runs over No. 6 Colonia, handing Patriots first loss

Kente Edwards got the better of Jaeden Jones in a matchup that featured two of the best rushers in the conference.

Colonia’s junior quarterback Jaeden Jones entered the game with over 900 rushing and 500 passing yards, with 10 TDs on the ground. But the night belonged to Edwards, the North Hunterdon senior, who had over 800 yards on the ground and 9 TD coming in.

Edwards carried 17 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns, while his backfield mate Alex Urinyak, who rushed 12 times for 112 yards and a score, in a 33-7 win on Friday night in the Big Central Game of the Week heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Neither could be brought down easy on a night where the Lions unofficially outgained the Patriots on the ground 271-67.

Jones managed only 36 yards on seven carries before coming out of the game with an injury in the third quarter, as the North Hunterdon defense put pressure on the athletic signal caller all night.

The win puts North Hunterdon at 3-0 in the Big Central Conference’s Liberty Silver Division, and in sole possession of first place ahead of Montgomery, which fell to 1-1 in the division after a 33-0 home shutout at the hands of Watchung Hills.

The victory is a big boost for the Lions’ playoff standings, worth 25 power points, almost double its season average through five games. They’re having their best start to a season since going 11-1 in 2017 en route to a North 2 Group 4 championship game win over Phillipsburg.

Click below for postgame reaction from North Hunterdon’s big win over Colonia:

North Hunterdon senior runningback Kente Edwards
North Hunterdon head coach Kevin Kley

Sayreville adjusts, perseveres, aims to keep it going on visit to East Brunswick

Injuries could’ve derailed Sayreville’s hopes of a big year before the Bombers’ season opener was over.

Instead — one on-the-fly reinvention later — Sayreville enters the second half of its campaign as the No. 8 team in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten, and still in the position to achieve the team’s annual goal: making a run in the postseason.

Aiming to climb back above .500, the 8th-ranked Bombers (2-2) will visit the East Brunswick Bears (0-4) Friday night in the Big Central Game of the Week on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with kickoff from Jay Doyle Field scheduled for 7:00 pm, and pregame at 6:45.

Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the action; click here to listen.

More than anything, Sayreville’s string of injuries has impacted the team’s Gun Wing T offense. Over the first four weeks of the season, the Bombers have dealt with injuries to their starting quarterback, one of their top running backs, and multiple starters on the offensive line.

The Week 1 injury to senior QB Mike Colonnello prompted an offensive reshuffling that moved WR Caidan Holmes under center. The play-calling has also become run-first, giving Holmes and junior RB Zaimer Wright the chance to spark the offense on the ground.

Despite the adversity, Holmes and Wright have shined, combining to average more than 200 all-purpose yards per game and score five of Sayreville’s six touchdowns on the season.

The Bombers’ defense has done its part to keep the offense in games, allowing just 12 points-per-game. It’s also held Edison and top-ranked Phillipsburg to their lowest scoring totals of the season.

Click below to listen to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Dom Savino talk with Sayreville head coach Chris Beagan about the 2022 Bombers:

East Brunswick seeks first win when Sayreville visits Friday night

The long series between the teams hasn’t always been kind to East Brunswick.

The Bears have had their moments against Sayreville, like a great revenge win in 2019, avenging a regular season loss with an upset of the top-ranked Bombers in the semifinals of the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs en route to East Brunswick’s second state title under longtime head coach Marcus Borden.

Now, one of his many proteges will try to get his team’s first win of the season against a Sayreville team jockeying for position in the middle of the North 4 playoff race.

The Bears (0-4) and 8th-ranked Bombers (2-2) will square off in East Brunswick Friday night in the Big Central Game of the Week on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with kickoff from Jay Doyle Field scheduled for 7:00, and pregame at 6:45 pm.

Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the action; click here to listen.

East Brunswick has struggled to put points on the board this season, but has been in all but one of its four games. After dropping their opener on a Thursday night in Hillsborough, 42-6, they were within ten points in a loss at Monroe, 15 in a home loss to South Brunswick, and lost 17-7 last week at Old Bridge in the Battle of Route 18.

While last year’s group was a senior squad with experience (read: many two- and three-year starters), this year’s senior-laden group has less time under their belt, and that’s shown. Fourth-year head coach Andy Steinfeld is just focused on them getting better, and avoiding costly and untimely mistakes.

Running an option with some spread, the BEars are easily led offensively by Ben Solimini, a senior quarterback who’s more of a threat to run than pass. He’s the team’s leading rusher with 506 yards in four games – three over 100 – and has scored five touchdowns, the only rushing touchdowns the team has.

He’s only thrown for 123 yards and one touchdown this season, and his longest connection went for 17 yards.

Click below to listen to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with East Brunswick head coach Andy Steinfeld about the 2022 Bears:

Tropeano’s 400+ passing yards power Elizabeth to huge win, earns Week 4 Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week honors

Through the first three games of the season, Vito Tropeano, Jr. had not thrown for more than 128 yards in a game, and that coming in a 28-21 loss at Hunterdon Central in Week Two.

One school of thought might say that’s about what to expect, but the other might say he was due for a big game.

Saturday afternoon, he had that big game.

Tropeano threw for 409 yards on 18-of-24 passing in a dramatic 23-21 road win over previously-No. 4 and undefeated St. Joseph-Metuchen, earning him Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week honors for Week Four.

Tropeano will receive a custom football at the end of the year with his statistics from the game, and one of the Player of the Week winners will receive a $500 scholarship from Bellamy & Son Paving.

“Vito was consistent throughout the game,” said first-year Elizabeth head coach John Fiore, who is working to rebuild the Elizabeth program after spending eleven seasons at Montclair, where he won four state title and had three unbeaten teams.

Tropeano had an even game: 193 passing yards in the first half, and 216 in the second. With the score tied at 7 in the third quarter, he engineered a scoring drive that included a stretch of eight straight pass completions for 206 yards.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Elizabeth junior quarterback Vito Tropeano, Jr:

Honorable Mentions

  • Connor Laverty, Bernards – The junior quarterback helped his team win a big game at Del Val, 17-14, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio Friday night. He threw 12-of-23 passing for 155 yards and a TD to Enzo Britez, but it was his game-on-the-line two-yard dive into the end zone with 2:40 to go that perhaps was even more impressive. Laverty ended up with six carries for 51 yards, including the two-yard score. Read more about the game and hear our postgame interview with Laverty here.
  • Chiekezie Ogbuewu, Dunellen – An honorable mention for the second week in a row, the junior RB/DB carried 32 times for 369 yards and six touchdowns in a 43-42 overtime loss to Middlesex. His touchdown runs were 3, 3, 5, 40, 42 and 77 yards, adding a pair of two-point conversions for a total of 40 points scored.
  • Kente Edwards, North Hunterdon – The senior runningback and safety carried ten times for 106 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-13 win at Plainfield Saturday. He also had a 52-yard touchdown catch, and an 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. On defense, he logged five tackles, plus an interception.
  • Will Deady, Ridge – In a 35-7 win over Hunterdon Central Friday night, the junior fullback carried 24 times for 208 yards and three touchdowns, while also hauling in two passes for 64 yards. At safety, he made five tackles, had one TFL and a pick.
  • Anthony Christian, Spotswood – The senior was responsible for three touchdowns, three different ways, in a 28-21 win over arch-rival South River Saturday afternoon at Chargers Stadium. He had a 20-yard pick-six, a 31-yard rushing touchdown, and a 55-yard passing touchdown on a throwback to their quarterback Trey Lazar. Overall, he rushed for 81 yards on 17 carries. Hear more about Spotswood’s thrilling win here, as Mike Pavlichko talked with Chargers’ head coach Chris Meagher Saturday afternoon.

Other Nominations

  • Isaac Levitan, Voorhees – The junior QB/LB stood out on both sides of the ball for the Vikings in a 41-6 win over Bound Brook. He was 2-of-2 passing for 131 yards and touchdown passes of 77- and 54-yards, while also carrying six times for 79 yards and a score. On defense, he had six tackles, and one TFL.
  • Gavin Guidette, Montgomery – The Cougars aren’t 5-0 for the first time in program history without players like the senior linebacker/runningback. In a 41-2 home win over Hamilton Friday, Guidette – “the QB of the defense,” according to head coach Zoran Milich – helped hold Hamilton to 117 yards rushing and just four yards passing with his physical play, including four solo tackles, a TFL and a fumble recovery. On offense, he rushed nine times for 84 yards and a score.
  • Nino Garcia, Watchung Hills – In a 38-14 win at Bridgewater-Raritan, the senior runningback carried 20 times for 102 yards and a touchdown, while adding two catches for 26 yards.
  • Dylan Wragg, Westfield – The senior runningback – in a 30-0 win Saturday at home against Scotch Plains-Fanwood – carried 15 times for 202 yards (that’s 13.5 yards per carry!) and three touchdowns. He also had a 30-yard reception.
  • Ryan Schnall, Summit – The junior runningback scored twice in a 20-0 home win over Rahway, the Hilltoppers’ first victory of the season. He carried 17 times for 105 yards in the game, which moved Summit to 1-3 on the season.
  • Selbin Sabio, Edison – The senior linebacker impressed on defense and on special teams as the Eagles, kicker in a 34-7 win over Franklin. He registered 16 tackles and 2 TFLs on defense, while kicking three of four extra points and sending two kickoffs for touchbacks.
  • Erminal McNaully, Hillside – In a 42-7 win over New Providence, the junior strong safety has 12 tackles, two TFLs, a sack and two pass breakups. Head coach Barris Grant calls him a “tackling machine.”
  • Dom Parenti, Middlesex – In a 43-42 overtime win over Dunellen, the sophomore QB aired it out to the tune of 89 yards and two touchdowns that came at critical moments. The first ultimately tied the game in regulation, while the second tied it in OT, winning it on the PAT. He was 5-of-12 passing, while adding a two-point conversion, and rushed eight times for 92 yards and another score.
  • Zahmir Dawud, North Brunswick – In the No. 2 Raiders’ 22-0 win over then-No. 4 Sayreville, the senior wide receiver was quite the hybrid. He had a nice five catches for 65 yards but took 12 carries, too, for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Michael Green, South Plainfield – In a 48-22 win over JP Stevens on Friday, Green scored three times: twice on the ground, with a third on a kick return.

The computers agree: Phillipsburg is tops in the Big Central, but on the rest? Not so much

There’s no mistaking who the computers say is the No. 1 team in the Big Central Conference at the midway point of the season: the Phillipsburg Stateliners.

Their Strength Index rating of 90.44 is by far the highest in the league, 10.75 points higher than the next closest team, Hillside, which has a 79.69 SI value. It’s also the largest gap between teams in the league.

Statewide, Phillipsburg is the only team in the Big Central in the top 25 for SI, sitting in sixth, behind only Red Bank Catholic (97.7), Ramapo (94.06), Don Bosco Prep (92.94), Toms River North (92.77) and Donovan Catholic (91.28), making it the third-highest ranked public school in the state.

Since Strength Index doesn’t take into account group size, or any “large school bias” that can sometimes occur in human polling, the math says Hillside is the second strongest team in the Big Central, with a rating of 79.69, just ahead of North Brunswick at 79.29 and St. Thomas Aquinas at 78.79, and Hillsborough with a 78.28 Strength Index value. Ridge is right behind the Raiders with a 77.16 SI.

Essentially, all these teams are considered “even,” essentially within a field goal of each other for calculation purposes.

Interestingly, Union – with just one win, having just beaten Somerville to improve to 1-3 – is in the top ten, mainly based on their strong rating at the start of the year, which is where they ended 2021. Union was a favorite to win its playoff section until COVID cost the team its season.