Tag: Brearley

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Playoff Edition: And Then There Were Two

Well, the Big Central has two sectional champions in 2022, just like it did in 2021, just the teams are different. Congratulations to Edison and North Hnterdon, Central 5 and North 2 Group4 trophy-winners, respectively! Veteran sportscaster Mike Pavlichko looks back at the sectional finals on “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” why schools like Edison and North Hunterdon have had success, and looks ahead to this weekend’s group semifinal matchups for the Eagles and Lions.

Click below to listen to the Group Semifinals Playoff edition of “The Big Central in 2 Minutes”:

Championship Weekend (#1) Recap: Edison, North Hunterdon carry the torch for the Big Central

No league goes perfect on Championship Weekend. Some are heavy underdogs, some will pull off upsets. Some will be upset, and others will win like they’re supposed to.

The Big Central had most of that in its second playoff season of existence, with five teams vying for titles this past weekend, a league best after three played for titles last year – with one featuring an all-BCC matchup).

And there’s still another Championship Weekend to go.

But first, we start with the winners: Edison and North Hunterdon. But to look at Edison, we also need to look at what happened to Phillipsburg.

Edison and West Orange – P’burg’s opponent – were both 6th-seeds, and the lowest seeds to reach the sectional finals this year. And the similarities don’t end there.

Both missed starting quarterbacks for a good chunk of time. Though West Orange was 3-1 without Amir Stewart in the first four weeks of the season, Edison was 0-2 without fourth-year starter Matt Yascko. That certainly made a difference having both play in their respective three-game championship runs.

The Eagles, however, had still more at play in winning the Central Jersey Group 5 title, with a 28-14 victory at top-seed Lenape Friday night, as heard live on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

To begin with, they remember coming down here in 2019 – when Yascko was a freshman starter – and getting blown out of the water by the Indians. Yascko, Adekunle Shittu, Malcolm Stansbury and Israel Rodriguez are all key starters who played varsity as freshmen. And that loss was still fresh in their minds on the bus ride down to Medford.

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Not only was a title won Friday, but demons were vanquished.

READ MORE: Yascko, Edison defense help knock off top-seed Lenape, bring home trophy for first time in 31 years

Toms River North is a different kind of beast than Lenape, 12-0 and with a major D1 recruit who’s a junior playing quarterback, but that analysis is for another time. Suffice it to say, you’d be a fool to count out Edison just based on their toughness, and we’ll leave it right there for now.

North Hunterdon – which won the North 2, Group 4 title Saturday, also in a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio – is somewhat of a similar situation to Edison: guys who have played together all their lives. And they have a lot of weapons, not just Kente Edwards and Alex Uryniak on the ground. I was asked by someone, “Who knew Martini had that kind of arm?”

READ MORE: North Hunterdon wins 4th quarter shootout over Randolph on career day from Martini, as Lions claim North 2 Group 4 trophy

Well, Randolph does now, and so does the entire state, as Martini threw TD passes for the Lions’ first five scores of the game. Bombs, too. Not to mention two more bombs on the same possession that got called back for holding and an ineligible man downfield.

Northern Highlands is up next, Saturday in Franklin, and surely presents a challenge. Whether they’re the dominating team that beat Woodbridge in 2019 for their first of three straight sectional titles remains to be seen.

Now to those who lost.

Sure, Phillipsburg was the No. 1 seed in North 2, Group 5, and maybe you could or couldn’t see it coming, but West Orange played with a purpose, and the Stateliners just didn’t play their best game on the biggest stage.

Or was it? No doubt, a state title is nice, but there’s a reason they say stamp #BeatEaston on everything around there. They still have that game in two weeks, and should they win it, anyone on this side of the Delaware within miles of Maloney Stadium will say, “What West Orange game? What?!”

What may hurt so much for Phillipsburg is the high expectations, and maybe the strain of that didn’t help either. The same could be said for Hillside, which maybe didn’t get the statewide recognition, despite having two D1-bound runningbacks in 2022, thousand-yard rushers in 2021 who returned for this season: Mu Parkman – who’s going to Syracuse – and Kyon Simonson, who’s headed to West Point. They were solid this year, their lone loss to St. Thomas Aquinas.

Bottom line? Both teams expected to win that game Saturday: Hillside and Old Tappan. Only one could. And Old Tappan did.

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And Brearley: In the North 1, Group 1 final against Mountain Lakes Saturday, it was close, but the Herd play good defense, and came out with a 16-6 win. But what else can you say about Matt Sims?

An all-world dual-threat QB like that doesn’t come around every day in a district like Kenilworth, and he took them on a spectacular ride: the Bears were 25-6 in his last three years as the full-time starting quarterback. And they swept the regular season, winning the Freedom Gold Division, their first division title since winning the Mid-State 38’s Union Division in 2019.

Those are the things you remember.

But now it’s on to the Group Semifinals for the Eagles and Lions (oh my!) for the first time ever, and a trip to the inaugural Group Championships – state championships, really – at Rutgers the first week of December.

I’m not sure it’s really sunk in what’s up for grabs there yet. This was still Championship Weekend for everyone that hoisted a trophy. And it may take a couple of years for that to become the event that it is in other sports. Or it might not. We’ll find out in a few weeks.

MORE COVERAGE:

Brearley, Hillside fall in Saturday sectional title games

While North Hunterdon earned the Big Central its section sectional championship Saturday – and fourth in two seasons for the fledgling league – both Brearley and Hillside lost their title tilts up in North Jersey.

North 1, Group 1 Final: #1 Mountain Lakes 16, #4 Brearley 8

Mountain Lakes struck first in the game, with a five-yard TD run from Jordan Hernando late in the first quarter, but Brearley almost got it back near the midway point of the second quarter, on a Matt Sims-to-Brendan Fitzsimmons 15-yard touchdown pass. But they missed the game-tying two-point conversion.

And when Mountain Lakes responded on the next drive with a Gavin Anderson 45-yard touchdown catch, few could have predicted it would be the last score of the game. But it would be, and Brearley would suffer its first loss of the season.

Matt Sims closed his Brearley career with his best year: 1,706 rushing yards (including 173 Saturday) and 1,131 passing (including 68 Saturday). He also threw 11 TD passes, but just one interception.

Brearley finishes the season 11-1.

Click below for postgame reaction from Chris Tsakonas with Brearley head coach Scott Miller:

North 1, Group 3 Final: #1 Old Tappan 28, #2 Hillside 14

Old Tappan got three touchdown runs from Aidan Heanay to beat Hillside 28-14 at home to win its first sectional title since 2017.

A Caleb Salters touchdown for the Comets with just under four minutes left got them to within two scores, but unlike in the first two rounds of the playoffs, a comeback was not in the offing for Hillside, which tried an on-side play on the ensuing kickoff, but saw the ball go out of bounds.

Syracuse-bound Mu Parkman scored the first Hillside touchdown, to get them within 21-7 with just over four minutes to go before halftime.

The Comets’ season ends at 9-2. Their only other loss came to St. Thomas Aquinas in Week Five.

Who’s left?

The only Big Central teams remaining in the playoffs are Edison and North Hunterdon.

The sixth-seeded Eagles won at top seed Lenape Friday night to take the Central Jersey Group 5 title. They will play in the South Group 5 semifinals against unbeaten Toms River North (12-0). The top-seed and South Jersey Group 5 champion next Saturday or Sunday at Cherokee High School in Medford – just a 15-minute drive from Lenape – with the day and time to be announced this weekend by the NJSIAA.

The top-seeded Lions won the North 2, Group 4 title Saturday at home, 49-35 over 2nd-seed Randolph, and move on to the North Group 4 semifinals at Franklin High School next Saturday or Sunday, again with the day and time to be announced by the NJSIAA this weekend. They will face North 1 Group 4 champion Northern Highlands (8-3).

Championship Weekend! Everything you need to know about all five Big Central teams vying for state sectional titles

It’s not the last weekend of high school football in New Jersey, but it is Championship Weekend. Or at least “a” championship weekend.

Twenty public schools will be crowned sectional champions this weekend, but for the first time ever, there will be two more rounds to go after that, as the NJSIAA will play down to group champions in football. It’s a historic season, as statewide champs were never awarded in the sport – unlike all the others – for nearly a century.

Winners this weekend will go on to a round that has been held since 2018, but was only the final round. The former “bowl championships” and “regional championships” now are group semifinals, with North 1 and 2 teams playing at Franklin High School next Saturday and Sunday, and South and Central teams facing off at Cherokee High School on the same days.

After a week break for Thanksgiving – and the Non-Public finals at MetLife Stadium – the first-ever public school Group Finals will be held at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium in Piscataway.

You can read all about how the Group Championships came about here: In historic vote, NJSIAA members decide to play to Group Champs in football, starting in ’22

Read more about the history of football championships in New Jersey here: How far has New Jersey come in HS football? The evolution from declared champs to Group Finals in 104 years

But first things first: getting through this week. And there have been some changes due to the bad weather expected Friday due to the remnants of Hurricane Nicole, which made landfall Thursday in Florida.

Below, we preview each game. Some have yet to be written, so please come back to this page and follow us on Twitter for the very latest all weekend long, including game recaps and postgame audio from all five sectional finals involving Big Central teams.

One more thing: here are the sectional final histories of all five Big Central teams – and their opponents – in the sectional finals this weekend:

North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 Final
#6 West Orange (7-3) at #1 Phillipsburg (10-0)
Thursday, 7 pm at Maloney Stadium in Phillipsburg

Coverage: Chris Tsakonas will provide updates on Twitter (follow him here) and a recap and postgame reaction after the game on cjsportsradio.com.

How they got here: Phillipsburg defeated #8 Elizabeth 49-13 in the first round, and #4 Paterson Eastside 37-6 in the semifinals. West Orange won at #3 Watchung Hills 18-10 in the opening round, and at #2 Ridgewood 34-31 in the semifinals

Key Stats:

Phillipsburg sophomore quarterback Jett Genovese has thrown for 1,267 yards and 10 TDs on the season, but more importantly just one pick. He has found four different receivers for at least 10 catches and five for at least 120 yards on the year. Senior runningback Xavier Moore leads the way on the ground with 683 yards and 9 touchdowns. Junior Caleb Rivera paces the defense with five sacks, while senior defensive lineman Hunter Cleaver has a team-leading 10 tackles for loss.

For West Orange, senior QB Amir Stewart has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards, but has been turnover prone, which could be disaster against P’burg, which has logged 13 interceptions on the year, led by the half-dozen that have ended up in the hands of junior defensive back Cameron Bohal alone. Stewart has 11 touchdown passes, but has thrown seven INTs. Senior Jehki Williams is the leading rusher with 629 yards and seven touchdowns, while Saboor Karriem has caught 13 touchdown passes this season and has 862 yards receiving.

Preview: Phillipsburg and West Orange to tussle for North 2, Group 5 title one day earlier

Recap: Early West Orange TDs, turnovers do in top-seed, undefeated Phillipsburg in North 2, Group 5 title game

Past Phillipsburg coverage:

Bottom Line: Phillipsburg has been dominant all year, even when it looks like they haven’t. Balance on offense and a spirit-crushing defense have been the keys all year long. Don’t expect much different Thursday night.

Central Jersey Group 5 Final
#6 Edison (8-3) at #1 Lenape (6-4)
Friday, 6 pm at Lenape High School in Medford, NJ

Coverage: Live Broadcast with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe. Pregame begins at 5:40 pm. Recap and postgame reaction after the game on cjsportsradio.com.

How they got here: Edison defeated #6 Hillsborough 10-7 in the opening round, then rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat #2 North Brunswick 33-31 in the semifinals. Lenape blanked #8 Freehold Township 40-0 in the first-round, and escaped #5 Atlantic City with a 21-20 win in the semis.

Key Stats: Senior quarterback Matt Yascko is 34 shy of 5,000 passing yards in his scholastic career, with 38 touchdown passes, and almost 1,200 yards rushing. But he about more than just numbers. He is the guts of this Edison team. He also takes care of the football: just two picks against his 13 touchdown passes. Nyekir Eato the top rusher (1,207 yards and 15 scores) while Yascko’s favorite target through the air is Malcolm Stansbury (570 yards, 4 scores), but four different receivers have at least 21 catches. Defensively, a dozen players have logged a total of 19 sacks, and the Eagles have 86 TFLs as a team. They have eight interceptions as a group, as well.

“Just know No. 8” one of the Edison coaches told us at practice Tuesday. That’s Zyaire Fleming, senior running back, who’s rushed for 1,186 yards this year to go along with 14 touchdowns. No one else even comes close for the Indians, so if Edison can curtail his numbers, that would be nice. Trouble is, in eight games played, only St. Augustine was able to hold him under the century mark. Quarterback Jalen Mins is a thousand-yard passer. On defense, senior linemen Angelo Gola and Nagei Ringo have been the most disruptive, combining for 7 1/2 of the team’s 19 sacks on the year.

Previews:

Past Edison Coverage:

Bottom Line: Edison can win the close game – with a 3-point and a 2-point win in the playoffs – and can win the blowout, as their regular season wins came by an average of 28 points. In fact, their last two games – int he first round and semifinals of the sectional playoffs – are their only two wins all year to be decided by fewer than 21 points.

North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 Final
#2 Hillside (9-1) at #1 Old Tappan (9-1)
Saturday, 1 pm at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan High School
(originally scheduled for Friday, 6 pm)

Coverage: Chris Tsakonas will provide live updates during our broadcast of Edison-Lenape, and will have updates on Twitter (follow him here). A recap and postgame aduio will follow after the game on cjsportsradio.com.

How they got here: Hillside has come from behind in both playoff games: an opening round 33-28 win at #7 Parsippany Hills, and a 33-13 win over #3 River Dell in the semifinals, both played at home at Conant Street Park. Old Tappan routed #8 Lincoln 42-8 in the first round, while topping 2021 sectional finalist and #4 Sparta 37-14 in the semifinals.

Key Stats:

Hillside’s two D1 runningbacks get a lot of attention, and deservedly so. Mu Parkman is going to Syracuse, and Kyon Simonson will be headed to Army. Both rushed for 1,000 yards a year ago. This year, Simonson is at 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Parkman has rushed for 536 yards and 6 scores. And they continue to throw the ball, too with senior Caleb Salters racking up his third thousand-yard passing season, and second straight over 1,300 yards, to go along with 13 TDs this year. Three receivers have at least 300 yards catching the ball, including Al-Jamir Davis (402, 4 TDs), Darvens Tunis (363 and 4 scores) and Marcus White (300, 3 TDs) – and all three are juniors. The Cmets can get after it on D, too, with 16 sacks – a quarter of them coming from McNaully Erminal, a junior D-back – and 87 TFLs. Fellow D-Back Marcus White, a junior, has five of the team’s 12 interceptions, with two of the team’s three pick sixes.

Old Tappan’s schedule hasn’t been the most challenging, but it’s also not filled with cupcakes; no winless teams on this year’s slate. That being said, their defense has registered three shutouts, and held six different teams to single digits. They get to the quarterback, with 22 sacks (Dennis Delaney has eight) and 63 TFLs. The Golden knights will throw it just as much as they run it: QB Tommy Caracciolo has completed 100 of 141 passes this year for 1,699 yards and 23 touchdowns, with just 7 picks, while Aidan Heaney leads the ground game with 1,112 yards.

Past Hillside Coverage:

Bottom Line: The Comets are well-tested, and have an especially-recent tradition of excellence that can’t be overlooked. Both teams have guys than can put up numbers, but playing in the rugged Big Central is a big plus.

North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 Final
#2 Randolph (9-1) at #1 North Hunterdon (9-1)
Saturday, 12 noon at Singley Field in Annandale

Coverage: Live Broadcast with Mike Pavlichko and North Hunterdon alum Shane Dunn. Pregame begins at 11:40 am. Recap and postgame reaction after the game on cjsportsradio.com.

How they got here: North Hunterdon beat #8 Middletown North 34-7 in the first round, then rallied from 14-0 down in the first quarter to beat #5 Morris Knolls 25-14 in the semifinals. Randolph topped #7 Rahway 42-7 in the first round, and #3 Wayne Valley 31-28 in the semifinals.

Key Stats:

The Lions will get their yards and points. Even in a loss to Phillipsburg, they scored three touchdowns and rushed for over 200 yards; the Stateliners were just a little bit better. Quarterback Luke Martini leads a senior-heavy group on offense with 1,736 yards passing and 17 TDs. But the ground game has pounded out 2,254 yards and 28 scores on the strength of Kente Edwards, who has 12 TDs and 1,138 despite missing two full games and the better part of four overall due to a lower body injury. He was bak last week and almost looked like his old self. Alex Uryniak, who head coach Kevin Kley says could be a starter on any other BCC team, has rushed for 942 yards and 12 TDs. They are the ground game. On defense, Greg Rayl is a beast up front and has seven sacks, while Hunter Vos has six on a team that has recorded an astounding 36 on the season, plus 80 TFLs. That’s got to be one of the best defensive groups in the state.

Randolph has a QB who’s thrown for even more yards than Martini: 1,878, with 23 TDs and nine interceptions. That’s senior Sean Clark, who has found found seven targets for over 100 yards each this season, with James Fusco being his favorite: 28 catches for 466 yards and five TDs, while James Kratochvil has a team-leading six touchdown receptions.

Previews:

Past North Hunterdon Coverage:

Bottom Line: It’s not easy to stop the two-headed monster of Edwards and Uryniak, plus the passing game as a change of pace for the Lions.

North Jersey, Section 1, Group 1 Final
#4 Brearley at (10-0) at #2 Mountain Lakes (9-1)
Saturday, 12 noon Wilkins Field in Mountain Lakes

Coverage: Chris Tsakonas will provide live updates during our broadcast of North Hunterdon-Randolph, and will have updates on Twitter (follow him here). A recap and postgame aduio will follow after the game on cjsportsradio.com.

How they got here: Brearley beat #5 North Arlington 50-16 in the first round at home, then beat #8 Kinnelon 45-14 in the semifinals. Mountain Lakes beat #7 Boonton 35-10 at home in the first round, and #3 Waldwick 27-21 at home in the semifinals.

Key Stats:

Matt Sims, the Brearley senior quarterback, puts up the big numbers in the air and on the ground. He’s passed for 955 yards and 9 touchdowns this season, with just one INT, while rushing for 1,355 yards and 26 scores. Amazing! Brendan Fitzsimmons has a huge chunk of the receiving yards with 740 and 6 TDs.

Preview: Brearley, Mountain Lakes looks like a test of wills for North 1, Group 1 title

Past Brearley Coverage:

Bottom Line: These teams might as well both be undefeated. Brearley is, Lakes has one loss. The Herd’s only defeat is to Caldwell, which has the state’s longest active winning streak, now at 25 games, going back to the tail end of the 2020 COVID-shortened season. In the end? It starts and ends with Sims. That’s it. If he can do what he does, Brearley will be just fine, and bring home another sectional title.

Here are the histories of all five Big Central teams – and their opponents – vying for sectional titles this weekend

Public school sectional championship games begin tonight across New Jersey, ending Saturday, and there’s still more to go after that, with the first ever group championships taking place the first weekend of December at Rutgers University.

But there are still champs to crown in 20 public school sections, with five teams from the Big Central looking to bring home some hardware: Phillipsburg, North Hunterdon, Edison, Hillside and Brearley.

We’ve compiled their histories in sectional finals, some longer, some shorter, as well as those of their opponents. Scroll down for a look.

NORTH 2, GROUP 5 – PHILLIPSBURG vs. WEST ORANGE

Phillipsburg (8-7 in finals)  (26th appearance, 40-17 overall)

  • 2018:  North 2, Group 4:  #1 seed, beat #3 Irvington 42-7
    • Lost to North 1, Group 4 champion Wayne Hills 35-21 at MetLife (10-3)
  • 2017:  North 2, Group 4:  #1 seed, lost to #2 North Hunterdon 21-20 at MetLife (10-2)
  • 2015:  North 2, Group 4:  #2 seed, lost to #1 Middletown South 35-7 at MetLife (9-3)
  • 2014:  North 2, Group 4:  #2 seed, beat #1 Colonia 28-21 in OT at Rutgers (11-1)
  • 2013:  North 2, Group 4:  #1 seed, beat #6 Mendham 39-0 at Rutgers (10-2)
  • 2009:  North 2, Group 4:  #2 seed, beat #5 Ridge 34-7 at Kean (10-2)
  • 2008:  North 2, Group 3:  #4 seed, beat #6 Rahway 20-6 (10-2)
  • 2006:  North 2, Group 4:  #1 seed, lost to #3 Elizabeth 14-9 (10-2)
  • 2005:  North 2, Group 4:  #1 seed, beat #2 Piscataway 15-6 at Rutgers (12-0)
  • 2004:  North 2, Group 4:  #2 seed, lost to #1 Piscataway 27-26 in OT at Rutgers (10-2)
  • 2001:  North 2, Group 4:  #5 seed, beat #2 Montclair, 10-7 (9-3)
  • 1979:  North 2, Group 3:  #1 seed, lost to #2 Rahway 14-6 (8-3)
  • 1978:  North 2, Group 3:  #3 seed, lost to #4 Rahway 23-16 (7-4)
  • 1977:  North 2, Group 3:  #2 seed, beat #1 Parsippany 26-0 (10-1)
  • 1975:  North 2, Group 3:  #2 seed, lost to #1 Morris Hills 7-0 (7-3-1)

West Orange – first appearance in a sectional final

CENTRAL JERSEY GROUP 5 – EDISON at LENAPE

Edison (2-0 in finals)  (13th appearance, 9-10 overall)

  • 1991:  Central 4:  #1 seed, beat #3 Middletown South 20-16 (11-0)
  • 1976:  Central 4:  #3 seed, beat #1 Woodbridge 19-0 (8-2-1)

Lenape (1-2 in finals) (12th appearances, 10-10 overall)

  • 2019:  South 5:  #2 seed, lost at #1 Williamstown 14-10 (10-2)
  • 2017:  Beat Rancocas Valley 10-7 at Rowan (11-1)
  • 2016:  Lost to Timber Creek 31-10 at Rowan (11-1)

NORTH 2, GROUP 4 – NORTH HUNTERDON vs. RANDOLPH

North Hunterdon (2-1 in finals)  (12th appearance, 9-9 overall)

  • 2017:  North 2, Group 2:  #2 seed, beat #1 Phillipsburg 21-20 at Rutgers (11-1)
    • Lost to Phillipsburg on 10/27 that year 20-7 at Maloney Stadium
  • 1978:  Central 3:  #4 seed, lost to #2 JFK 26-6 (8-3)
  • 1975:  Central 3:  #1 seed, beat #3 Franklin 27-18 (10-0)

Randolph (7-5 in finals)  (29th appearance, 28-21 overall)

  • 2010:  North 1, Group 4:  #2 seed, beat #4 Montclair 19-0 at New Meadowlands Stadium (11-1)
  • 1994:  North 2, Group 4:  #1 seed, lost to #3 Montclair 22-12 (10-1)
  • 1993:  North 2, Group 4:  #1 seed, lost to #3 Union 19-6 (9-1-1)
  • 1992:  North 2, Group 4:  #2 seed, lost at #1 Union 21-7 (9-2)
  • 1991:  North 2, Group 4:  #2 seed, lost at #1 Union 24-14 (9-1-1)
  • 1990:  North 2, Group 4:  #3 seed, beat #1 Montclair 22-21 (10-0)
  • 1989:  North 2, Group 3:  #1 seed, beat #3 Morris Hills 22-7 (11-0)
  • 1988:  North 2, Group 3:  #1 seed, beat #2 Nutley 15-12 (11-0)
  • 1987:  North 2, Group 3:  #1 seed, beat #2 West Morris 13-14 (11-0)
  • 1986:  North 2, Group 3:  #2 seed, beat #4 Summit 12-7 (10-1)
  • 1983:  North 2, Group 3:  #3 seed, beat #1 Linden 22-9 (10-1)
  • 1982:  North 2, Group 3:  #1 seed, lost to #3 West Morris 10-6 (10-1)

Randolph set NJ state records with 54 consecutive regular season and playoff wins, and a 59-game unbeaten streak from 1986 to 1991 (the streak being snapped in the finals with a loss to Union).  That record has since been broken by Paulsboro, which won 63 straight from 1992 to 1998.

NORTH 1, GROUP 3 – HILLSIDE at OLD TAPPAN

Hillside (4-1 in finals)  (13th appearance, 17-8 overall)

  • 2019:  South 2:  #3 seed, beat #1 West Deptford 14-10 on the road
    • Beat Central 2 champion Cedar Creek 25-3 at Rutgers (12-0)
  • 2018:  Central 2:  #1 seed, beat #2 Manasquan 36-10 at home
    • Lost to South 2 champion Haddonfield 17-7 at MetLife (11-1)
  • 2017:  Central 2:  #7 seed, beat #1 Point Pleasant Boro 20-13 at Rutgers (9-3)
  • 1985:  North 2, Group 2:  #2 seed, beat #1 Madison 13-12 (10-1)
  • 1983:  North 2, Group 2:  #1 seed, lost at #1 Butler 16-8

Old Tappan (3-5 in finals)  (21st appearance, 24-17 overall)

  • 2019:  North 2, Group 4:  #2 seed, lost to #5 Wayne Valley 21-17 (8-4)
  • 2018:  North 1, Group 4:  #2 seed, lost at #1 Wayne Hills 20-13 (8-3)
  • 2017:  North 1, Group 4:  #1 seed, beat #3 Mount Olive 31-28 at Met Life (12-0)
  • 2016:  North 1, Group 3:  #4 seed, lost to #3 River Dell 26-20 (OT) at MetLife (9-3)
  • 2015:  North 1, Group 4:  #1 seed, beat #7 Wayne Hills 17-0 at MetLife (12-0)
  • 2011:  North 1, Group 3:  #7 seed, lost to #1 Wayne Hills 15-12 at MetLife
  • 2010:  North 1, Group 3:  #2 seed, lost to #1 Wayne Hills 2-21 at New Meadowlands Stadium (11-1)
  • 1985:  North 1, Group 3:  #4 seed, beat #2 Wayne Valley 7-0(8-3)

NORTH 1, GROUP 1 – BREARLEY at MOUNTAIN LAKES

Brearley (5-4 in finals)  (24th appearance, 22-18 overall)

  • 2015:  North 2, Group 1:  #1 seed, lost to #2 Hoboken 34-12 at Kean (11-1)
  • 2006:  North 2, Group 1:  #2 seed, beat #4 Verona 21-20 (12-0)
  • 2005:  Central 1:  #2 seed, lost to #1 Florence, 19-6 (10-2)
  • 1991:  North 2, Group 1:  #4 seed, won at #2 Mountain Lakes 14-13 (8-2-1)
  • 1988:  North 2, Group 1:  #1 seed,lost to #2 New Providence 30-14 (10-1)
  • 1986:  North 2, Group 1:  #3 seed, beat #1 Roselle Park 28-7 (9-1-1)
  • 1985:  North 2, Group 1:  #2 seed, beat #4 Roselle Park 35-6 (10-1-1)
  • 1981:  North 2, Group 1:  #1 seed, beat #3 Roselle 17-14 (11-0)
  • 1977:  North 2, Group 2:  #1 seed, lost to #2 Glen Ridge 18-12 (9-2)

Mountain Lakes (6-8 in finals, declared in 1974 – no others eligible)  (38th appearance, 38-30 overall)

  • 2021:  North 2 Group 1:  #1 seed, lost to #2 Cedar Grove 15-7 (8-3)
  • 2014:  North 2, Group 2:  #1 seed, beat #3 Lincoln 36-28 at MetLife  (12-0)
  • 2013:  North 2, Group 2:  #2 seed, beat #1 Caldwell 26-6 at Kean (12-0)
  • 2012:  North 2, Group 2:  #2 seed, lost to #1 Madison 13-0 at Kean (11-1)
  • 2010:  North 1, Group 1:  #1 seed, lost to #2 Wallington 23-21 at New Meadowlands Stadium (10-1)
  • 2009:  North 1, Group 1:  #1 seed, beat #3 Butler 28-7 at Giants Stadium (12-0)
  • 2008:  North 1, Group 1:  #2 seed, beat #1 Glen Rock 35-21 at Giants Stadium (12-0)
  • 2006:  North 1, Group 1:  #6 seed, lost to #1 Bogota at Giants Stadium 28-0 (10-2)
  • 2002:  North 2, Group 1:  #1 seed, beat #7 Boonton 23-6 (12-0)
  • 1997:  North 2, Group 1:  #3 seed, lost to #1 Butler 30-7 (8-3)
  • 1991:  North 2, Group 1:  #2 seed, lost to #4 Brearley 14-13 (10-1)
  • 1987:  North 2, Group 1:  #1 seed, lost to #2 New Providence 29-0 (10-1)
  • 1976:  North 1, Group 1:  #1 seed, beat #2 Clifford Scott 24-14 (Clifford Scott merged with East Orange in 2002 to form East Orange Campus)
  • 1975:  North 2, Group 1:  #4 seed, lost to #2 Mendham 19-6 (7-2-2)
  • 1974:  North 1, Group 1:  Champion (only team eligible)

Nicole’s impending rain spreads out sectional finals; three Big Central teams have games rescheduled

“We’re Athletic Directors, not meteorologists.”

That’s what Hillside head coach Barris Grant told Central Jersey Sports Radio when asked if his Comets had been approached by Old Tappan – their opponent in the North 1, Group 1 title game – about moving the contest due to the heavy rain that’s possible Friday night, as the remnants of what will be Hurricane Nicole make their way past – and perhaps through – New Jersey.

Needless to say, the game is not being moved, and the two will square off as scheduled Friday night at 6:00 for the North 1, Group 1 title.

Also staying put is Edison’s game down at Lenape in the Central Jersey Group 5 title tilt. That’s also scheduled for 6 pm.

Decisions on start times and days rest with the home team, the higher seed, though moving it often winds up becoming a collaborative effort between schools, as it did with three other Big Central Conference teams.

The first to announce they were moving their game was Phillipsburg. That word came Thursday morning, when the Stateliners moved their North 2, Group 4 title game up a day. They will now face West Orange at the same time, just a day earlier, 7 pm Thursday at Maloney Stadium off Route 22.

Two other games, however, moved to Saturday. Brearley and Mountain Lakes will play for the North 1, Group 1 title at noon, as will North Hunterdon and Randolph for the North 2, Group 4 title.

The Friday forecast as of 5 pm Wednesday from The Weather Channel calls for evening thunderstorms, overcast later in the overnight hours with occasional rain, and the potential for heavy rainfall, with winds out of the south-southwest at 10-20 miles per hour across much of the state. There could be a little rain Thursday, and Saturday is expected to be in the mid-60s and partly to mostly cloudy.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will have postgame reaction from the Phillipsburg-West Orange game on our website Thursday night, and you can follow reporter Chris Tsakonas for live updates on Twitter by clicking here.

Live coverage begins Friday at approximately 5:40 pm in Medford, where Edison will visit Lenape. We’ll have live-play-by-play of that game at 6, with Chris Tsakonas providing live updates of Hillside-Old Tappan. Postgame reaction will follow on cjsportsradio.com.

Saturday, we’ll have two more games, with live coverage of North Hunterdon-Ramapo starting at approximately 11:40 am. Kickoff will be at noon, and Chris Tsakonas will have live updates of Brearley-Mountain Lakes. Again, postgame reaction will follow on cjsportsradio.com.

Click here to listen live to both Friday and Saturday night broadcasts.

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Playoff Edition: Will the Real Championship Weekend Please Stand Up?

It’s Championship Weekend in the public high school football playoffs. Or is it? Veteran sportscaster Mike Pavlichko rants about the snaking system on “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” then looks at each of the five Big Central teams left – Phillipsburg, Edison, North Hunterdon, Hillside and Brearley, and their chances at bringing home trophies Friday night.

Click below to listen to the Championship Weekend (?) Playoff edition of “The Big Central in 2 Minutes”:

Big Central having its best postseason (so far) in just its second year of playoff existence, now it’s time to bring home the hardware

The inaugural season of the fledgling Big Central Conference came at just the wrong time.

With so much excitement for the start of the new league following the 2019 season, the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to that. The NJSIAA took a calculated gamble and allowed fall sports to take place, but limited the season to six weeks plus two “postseason” weeks of pod play, or whatever each league decided to do.

That made 2021’s return to normalcy the real debut of the league, with a full schedule and postseason. And Cranford had a great year, winning a sectional title, with Hillsborough going all the way, winning Central Jersey Group 5 and then the South 5 regional championship, becoming the first Somerset County school to go 13-0.

Those were the only two teams to qualify for sectional title games last year, but in 2022, the league has at least five chances this Friday, and those are just the public schools.

In the parochial realm, St. Joseph-Metuchen was eliminated from the Non-Public Group A playoffs Saturday with a loss to Delbarton, but St. Thomas Aquinas has yet to start its postseason in Group B. The 5th-seeded Trojans visit 4th-seeded Holy Spirit of Absecon next Friday night.

That same night, five Big Central public schools will vie for sectional titles, and try to make it to the first-ever “official” group semifinals the following week: Phillipsburg, Edison, North Hunterdon, Hillside and Brearley.

We thought this weekend that with nine teams in action, we’d get at least four. We were guaranteed one, with North Brunswick and Edison facing each other. We got five. And after a somewhat disappointing opening round, though several games could have gone either way, the BCC has solid representation in the playoffs.

And all of them have a legit shot to bring home some hardware. To wit:

“Will anyone challenge Phillipsburg?” That’s the question I keep hearing around the league, wherever I go. Someone will. But will they beat them? That’s the million dollar question. They have the horses – a lot of them – and I don’t see them getting beat.

North Hunterdon looked in dire straits after a long drive, onside kick list and a short TD drive put them down 14-0 late in the first against Morris Knolls’ ball control offense. And all the Lions did was shut the Golden Eagles down the rest of the way and score 25 unanswered over the next 36 minutes of football to advance to the finals.

The other question I hear: “Is North Hunterdon that good?”

Yes, they are.

Those are your two top seeds. Discount them at your own peril.

I still don’t know what to make of Lenape, whether Atlantic City – which pushed them to the brink Friday – is that good, or what two of Lenape’s losses to St. Augustine and St. Joe’s-Hammonton tell us, but can you ever count out a team like Edison when they did what they did Friday night?

Just as a reminder, down 31-17, they scored a touchdown, recovered an inside kick, scored again, went for two for the win, missed, recovered another onside kick, and won it on a field goal. Selbin Sabio is a tremendous asset, and Matt Yascko has major onions.

Hillside has trailed in both its playoff games, and come back to win with multiple unanswered scores. With two D1 commits, that’s what they do. And they had three picks, including one for a score, Saturday against River Dell in the semis. They’re like Edison, just not as dramatic.

And Brearley has been a beast with Matt Sims all year long. Throw in a guy like Brendan Fitzsimmons, and as long as Sims keeps doing what he does, the unbeaten Bears can bring home another title.

Here’s a look at the Championship Weekend schedule:

North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 Final:
#6 West Orange at #1 Phllipsburg, Friday at 7 pm

Central Jersey Group 5 Final:
#6 Edison at #1 Lenape, Friday at 7 pm

North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 Final:
#2 Randolph at #1 North Hunterdon, Friday at 7 pm (LIVE on CJSR)

North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 Final:
#2 Hillside at #1 Old Tappan, Friday at 6 pm

North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 Final:
#4 Beearley at #2 Mountain Lakes, Friday at 7 pm

Next week will be the Group Semifinals. North 1 and North 2 winners will play at Franklin High School, while South winners will play at Cherokee High School. Games will be Saturday and Sunday, with dates and times to be determined upon completion of the finals.

The playoffs will take a week off for Thanksgiving (though Non-Public finals will be held at MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands on Black Friday) with the first-ever Group Finals in football to be played at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium in Piscataway on Saturday, December 3 and Sunday, December 4.

Four Big Central teams punch their tickets to sectional title games, Hillside has a Saturday semi

Top-seeds Phillipsburg and North Hunterdon, along with Brearley and Edison, will play for sectional championships next weekend in the NJSIAA state high school football playoffs, after winning semifinal games Friday night.

Hillside, the ninth team that advanced int he first round, still has to play a semifinal game in North 1, Group 3, as the second-seeded Comets host third-seed River Dell at Conant Street Park at 1:00 Saturday afternoon.

In North 2, Group 5 action, Phillipsburg remained undefeated with a 30-7 win over fourth-seed Paterson Eastside at Maloney Stadium. Click here for a recap and audio from the Phillipsburg game.

In North 1, Group 5, third-seed Westfield saw its season come to an end with a 20-14 loss at second-seed Union City.

In Central, Group 5, sixth-seed Edison stunned second-seed North Brunswick, 33-31 on two touchdowns and a field goal, all in the final four minutes, aided by two onside kick recoveries. Click here to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with reporter Chris Tsakonas, who was at the game, and had postgame reaction.

In North 2, Group 4 – in a game heard live on Central Jersey Sports Radio, North Hunterdon fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter to visiting 5th-seed Morris Knolls, but came back to win 25-14. Click here for a full recap and postgame reaction with Mike Pavlichko.

Meanwhile, in North 1, Group 4, third-seed Ridge was eliminated with a 34-27 loss at second-seed Ramapo.

In North 2, Group 3, Cranford was knocked out, as the 2nd-seeded Cougars lost 14-7 at third-seed West Essex.

And in North 1, Group 1, Brearley made it to its first final since 2015 as the fourth-seeded Bears ran past 8th-seed Kinnelon, 45-14 in Kenilworth. Click here for postgame reaction form head coach Scott Miller and quarterback Matt Sims.

Here are Friday’s results in the sections with teams remaining:

North 2, Group 5:
#1 Phillipsburg def. #4 Eastside (Paterson), 37-0
#6 West Orange def. #2 Ridgewood, 34-31 (2OT)
Final: #6 West Orange at #1 Phillipsburg, Friday at 7 pm

North 1, Group 5:
#1 Passaic Tech def. #4 Clifton, 21-14
#2 Union City def. #3 Westfield, 20-14
Final: #2 Union City at #1 Passaic Tech, Friday at 7 pm

Central Group 5:
#1 Lenape def. #5 Atlantic City, 21-20
#6 Edison def. #2 North Brunswick, 33-31
Final: #6 Edison at #1 Lenape, Friday at 7 pm

South Group 5:
#1 Toms River North def. #5 Marlboro, 42-6
#2 Kingsway def. #3 Cherokee, 41-14
Final: #2 Kingsway at #1 Toms River North, Friday at 7 pm

North 2, Group 4:
#1 North Hunterdon def. #5 Morris Knolls, 25-14
#2 Randolph def. #3 Wayne Valley, 31-28
Final: #2 Randolph at #1 North Hunterdon, Friday at 7 pm

North 1, Group 4:
#4 Northern Highlands def. #1 Irvington, 17-14
#2 Ramapo def. #3 Ridge, 17-13
Final: #4 Northern Highlands at #2 Ramapo

North 2, Group 3:
#1 West Morris def. #5 Warren Hills, 49-15
#3 West Essex def. #2 Cranford, 14-7
Final: #3 West Essex at #1 West Morris

North 1, Group 3:
#1 Old Tappan def. #4 Sparta, 37-14
#3 River Dell at #2 Hillside, Saturday at 1 pm

North 2, Group 1:
#4 Brearley def. #8 Kinnelon, 45-14
#2 Mountain Lakes def. #3 Waldwick, 27-21
Final: #4 Brearley at #2 Mountain Lakes, Friday at 7 pm

North 1, Group 1:
#4 Cedar Grove def. #1 Wood-Ridge, 17-10
#2 Weequahic def. #3 Butler, 45-28
Final: #4 Cedar Grove at #2 Weequahic, Friday at 7 pm

Brearley does what it does best, led by Sims and Fitzsimmons, to punch its ticket to a final

If it wasn’t for the fact that the win put Brearley in a championship game for the first time since 2015, the result might have drawn a yawn.

After all, it’s what Brearley has done time and time again this season: let Matt Sims run the ball, let him get the ball to his receivers, and the score will take care of itself.

That’s been the recipe eight previous times this season – plus a forfeit win over Dunellen – and it was the recipe Friday night as fourth-seed Brearley (well, mostly Sims) ran past eighth-seed Kinnelon 45-14 Friday night in the North 2, Group 2 semifinals in Kenilworth, to clinch a berth in next week’s title game.

They will play at second-seed Mountain Lakes, which was a 27-21 winner over third-seed Waldwick.

In his final game on the Brearley field, senior quarterback Matt Sims went a perfect 6-of-6 passing for 154 yards and two touchdowns, both to Brendan Fitzsimmons, who had five catches overall for 151 yards. Sims also ran 28 times for 199 yards and three scores.

Click below to hear postgame reaction with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

QB Matt Sims
Head coach Scott Miller