Tag: Bridgewater-Raritan

Former Montgomery standout, Somerville assistant DJ Catalano takes over the reins at Bridgewater-Raritan, after a year under Rick Mantz

When Rick Mantz over the Bridgewater-Raritan football program for the 2022 season, he had his kids doing things they’d never done before, or even just the same things in ways they’d never been done before. DJ Catalano, who joined his staff from neighboring Somerville, took notice of all the little things.

Now, he’s fully in charge of the program.

Catalano, who was left in charge in the interim after the sudden departure of Mantz shortly after his first season due mainly to health issues, was approved to take over full-time back on Tuesday by the Board of Education. And in a wide-ranging interview with Central Jersey Sports Radio, was effusive in his praise for so many of the people he has worked with and under over the years, all of whom are great influences on the coach he’s become today, and hopes to continue to become.

There’s Mantz, who also was at Rutgers while Catalano was there as a defensive quality control coach. There’s Dallas Whitaker, whom he coached under at Somerville, along with a number of other Rutgers products. And Zoran Milich, Montgomery’s first and only football coach, who was instrumental to Catalano’s formative years as a player.

Catalano takes over a Panthers program with a new Athletic Director, Bill Deniz – who came over from Delaware Valley after the retirement of longtime AD John Maggio, and with a tremendous amount of resources and excitement among the student body. Bridgewater went 4-6 last year, but isn’t all that far removed from three straight appearances it made in the North 2, Group 5 Finals from 2015 to 2017.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko’s interview with new Bridgewater-Raritan head coach DJ Catalano:

Mantz resigns after one season at Bridgewater-Raritan due to “personal health and family issues”

Less than a year after becoming the new head football coach at Bridgewater-Raritan, Rick Mantz has stepped down due to “personal health reasons and family issues.”

The news was announced Friday afternoon by the Bridgewater-Raritan School District.

Mantz led Bridgewater-Raritan to a 4-6 season in his inaugural campaign after coming out of retirement to take over for longtime head coach Scott Bray back in early April of this year.

For the time being, the district says Assistant Head Coach D.J. Catalano is running the off-season conditioning program, while also assisting student-athletes with college recruiting. The early National Letter of Intent Signing Period is coming up later this month, on December 21st.

Mantz informed Bridgewater-Raritan High School Principal Dan Hemberger of his decision via letter.

In the district’s statement, Hemberger wrote “Rick Mantz has made a significant contribution during his brief time as head coach. He has restructured the internal operations to resemble a college program, elevated expectations for our student-athletes both on and off the football field, and energized he coaching staff and overall football community.”

Superintendent Bob Beers added, “Rick was an outstanding coach and leader of young men during his tenure. … He has set the program on the right path and i wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

Before coming to Bridgewater-Raritan, Mantz had most recently been Director of High School Relations at Rutgers from 2016 through 2020.

Mantz won a state championship as a player in 1980, kicking the winning field goal in the title game, then won another as head coach at his alma mater in 2000, defeating heavily-favored Sayreville for the Central Jersey Group 4 title. He was 81-39 in 16 seasons with the Raiders, and also had a successful run at South Brunswick, snapping a three-decade playoff absence in 2008. He’s coached future NFL players like Shaun O’Hara (at Hillsborough) and Mohamed Sanu (at South Brunswick).

Westfield uses ground game and its usual stellar defense to top Bridgewater-Raritan, move on to North 1, Group 5 semis

The Westfield defense might not hold its next opponent to seven points.

But they did in the first round of the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 5 playoffs, as the 3rd-seeded Blue Devils topped 6th-seed Bridgewater-Raritan Saturday afternoon at Kehler Stadium in Westfield, 28-7.

Dylan Wragg rushed for 163 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Trey Brown rushed for another 123 yards and two scores ,also throwing a touchdown pass. The Panther offense was held to just 107 yards of total offense, 53 on the ground and 54 through the air.

Defense has been a calling card of Westfield for years under Jim DeSarno. And Saturday afternoon was no exception. It’s the fifth time this season the Blue Devils (7-2) have held an opponent to 12 points or fewer, while they also have two shutouts.

Bridgewater falls to 4-6, having played one of the toughest schedules in the entire Big Central Conference.

Next up for Westfield is second-seed Union City, which plays on the roof of its Hudson County high school. The 2nd-seeded Soaring Eagles – now 8-1 – beat 7th-seed Union at home Friday night 62-20 to make it to their ninth sectional semifinal since 2010.

Westfield is looking to make it to a sectional finals for the first time 2017, when they won the last of three in a row, all over Brigdewater-Raritan, in a stretch that saw the Blue Devils go 36-0 from 2015 to 2017.

Click below for postgame reaction from Chris Taskonas who was in Westfield for today’s game:

Senior RB Dylan Wragg

Head coach Jim DeSarno

Bridgewater-Raritan has gutted out tough schedule, led by QB/LB Spirra

Getting a new football coach mid-way through your high school career isn’t an easy transition. When is name is Rick Mantz it might be even more difficult.

When Mantz took over at Bridgewater-Raritan, he added new challenges and demands of his players they hadn’t previously seen, and though his team is 3-and-5, they have had one of the toughest schedules in the Big Central Conference.

And it’s a big reason why they’re No. 11 overall in the latest North Group 5 supersection standings just a week before Cutoff Weekend.

Another big reason? Junior Joe Spirra. The junior hasn’t put up gaudy numbers like a Jaeden Jones at Colonia, but he’s been a steadying force on both offense and defense, helping to get the ball where he needs to while playing quarterback, and stifling the opposing run game when he’s playing middle linebacker.

Saturday afternoon at Williams Field in Elizabeth, his late 61-yard touchdown pass to Colin Woodring with under three minutes left helped stun the Minutemen, giving the Panthers a critical third win that likely helped them clinch a playoff berth.

But they’re not resting on that laurel. They go for a fourth victory this Friday night when Old Bridge (5-3) comes to Basilone Field. They may have opposite records, but Spirra expects a victory, and nothing less – the mark of a leader.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Bridgewater-Raritan junior Joe Spirra:

North Group 5 Playoff Analysis: Phillipsburg appears locked in as overall top seed

Cutoff Weekend is just a few days away, and we’re taking a look at every team in the Big Central to see where we think they’ll end up in the playoffs.

We’re not looking at tiebreakers just yet, we’re looking at where we think teams will fall in the top 16. Tune in to our Playoff Projection show Saturday at 6 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio for all our unofficial pairings.

Below is our analysis, with each team’s current ranking in the UPR standings noted.

(Click here for official standings on Gridiron New Jersey)

#1 Phillipsburg: Even if the Stateliners were to suffer their first defeat of the season this week at winless East Brunswick, we believe they would still be the overall top seed. That’s even if Passaic Tech, Ridgewood, Clifton, Union City, Westfield and Watchung Hills all win behind them, and assuming all those teams get all possible residuals. Phillipsburg would be the top-seed in the North 2, Group 5 section.

#5 Watchung Hills: Can the Warriors make the top four, which would get them one of the No. 2 seeds in the sectionals and first-round through at least the sectional semis? We thought so, but they’d have to beat Elizabeth Friday night at home, and would need losses by Union City and Clifton – who, unfortunately for Watchung Hills, play each other. A loss, and they could drop as low in seven. We project they’ll be a top eight finish, meaning they will at least open up the playoffs at home.

#7 Westfield: The Blue Devils can get no higher than sixth place overall, which is still good for a top eight finish. That’s even with losses by the teams above them. If they lose, they might be able to finish in the top eight, but if things break the wrong way, they could drop as low as No. 9, meaning they’d start the playoffs on the road as a five-seed.

#8 Piscataway: We think the Chiefs top out at No. 8 if they beat New Brunswick in their finale this Friday afternoon at home – a good possibility – and they get losses from Eastside, East Orange and Bridgewater. It looks like all four need to happen, or else they’ll be a nine or lower and start the playoffs on the road.

#11 Bridgewater-Raritan: The Panthers could reach as high as No. 8 overall, even if Piscataway wins Friday, since New Brunswick is a weaker opponent than Old Bridge. But they would need some help. The Panthers would have to not only beat the Knights at Basilone Field Friday night, but also get losses from West Orange, East Orange, Eastside (Paterson) and Montclair. Ultimately, wherever they end up, if Briddgewater and P’way both win, we think the Panthers move higher because of the strength of their opponent.

#14 Union: Our initial inkling was that Union was a likely playoff team, and we still hold to that. If they beat Ridge Friday night, they’re in, and could finish as high as 11 overall if they also get losses from Montclair, Bridgewater-Raritan, and Piscataway. If they lose, it looks like wins from Elizabeth and Bayonne would send them outside the top 16, and into the consolation tournament, a new feature this year.

#16 Elizabeth: We think if the Minutemen can win at Watchung Hills Friday night – no easy task, mind you – they’re in, due to the strength of their opponent. And if Bloomfield, Bayonne, Columbia, Morristown, Montclair and Dickinson all lose, they could end up anywhere from 16 to 14 overall. Those six teams probably won’t all lose, though. In fact, Bayonne losing to North Bergen (0-7) would be a shocker in and of itself. So, they probably end up in one of the last two spots. What if they lose? We think that will leave them out, because the only way they could get in is if Bayonne loses to North Bergen.

UNOFFICIAL: North Group 5 Playoff Standings Update

With a number of teams yet to play this weekend – ten of the 27, to be exact – there weren’t too many changes in the North Group 5 playoff standings. Here are Central Jersey Sports Radio’s unofficial playoff calculations after Friday night’s Week 7 games:

Phillipsburg‘s win over Union Friday night kept them in the top spot, a solid 1 (first in power points, first in OSI) while Ridgewood’s loss – dropping them to 5-2 – moved them down from a solid 2 to a 2.4 UPR, giving the Stateliners a little more breathing room. Passaic Tech, however, last week a solid 3, is now a 2.6, and inching closer. The 6-1 Bulldogs visit 3-3 East Orange Saturday.

Westfield dropped from 5th to 7th with the loss at Ridge Friday night, but still in the top eight, which would guarantee a first-round home game in the sectionals. Watchung Hills – which is at St. Joseph-Metuchen Saturday – held in 6th, but could move up if they beat the Falcons.

Piscataway inched closer to the top eight, moving up two spots with a 23-power point win over Sayreville Friday night. The Chiefs could be in line for a first round home game. Depending how the rest of the weekend shakes out, we’ll see if a win over 1-win New Brunswick next weekend will be enough to do the trick.

Bridgewater-Raritan – which has one of the toughest schedules in the league – visits Elizabeth Saturday, and could make a push up the standings as well, with a win. But it’s also a game Elizabeth needs, sitting in 15th place, having dropped a spot based on what other teams did Friday night. Union also dropped, but not much – one place to 15th – with a loss at Phillipsburg Friday night.

Bottom Line: We think Phillipsburg will end up a top seed, 1 or 2 overall. Too close to call now whether Watchung Hills or Westfield get a top 8 finish. Piscataway could get there. Bridgewater is likely in the playoffs. Union and Elizabeth are on the right side of the bubble.

Group 5 playoff analysis: Have Phillipsburg and North Brunswick weathered the storm?

There are only three Group 5 football teams in the entire state of New Jersey with unblemished records, and two of them are in the Big Central. Phillipsburg and North Brunswick both are 5-0, as is Toms River North.

On paper, both have made it through the toughest stretches of their schedules. But will they be able to hold off the teams behind them?

With just three weeks of play until the state playoffs are seeded, let’s take a closer look.

NORTH 5 (Click here for official standings)

We start with Phillipsburg, which is 5-0 with three games remaining. They have a UPR of 1, ahead of Ridgewood (2 UPR), and the goal is to get either one of these. There’s not much real difference being the one or two overall seed since each gets a top seed in their section. With the brackets snaked, the seeding is even. But it looks like the Stateliners have a good shot at No. 1 overall.

A closer look shows they’re significantly ahead in the power point category, with a 20.6 average, almost four points ahead of Ridgewood (17), followed by Clifton (16.6) and Passaic Tech (15.33). It’s tough to take a huge jump this late in the season.

Sure, P’burg could take a significant dip with winless East Brunswick on their schedule cutoff weekend, so if you’re a Liners’ fan, you want to root hard for their upcoming opponents – heck all of them throughout the season – these last three weeks. Beating good teams helps, because you know Hillsborough, North Hunterdon, Ridge and Sayreville will pick up some more wins along the way as well.

On the OSI side, they look pretty safe, too. They’re at 72.95, a nearly eight point advantage over Ridgewood, and more than 15 points higher than third-place Passaic Tech. This will be an even tougher hill to climb for anyone behind them. Not only is it the highest OSI in the state among public schools, but it’s easily the biggest gap from No. 1 to No. 3 in the any supersection in the state. Even with East Brunswick (53.75) on cutoff weekend, P’burg should be able to hold court. As long as they continue to win, we think the Liners will be the overall top-seed in this section.

Westfield (4-1) remains in fifth, but has improved its UPR from 5.8 to 5.2, climbing one more spot in the OSI category (each rank position is worth 0.6 UPR points as 60% of the formula). All three opponents coming up have a higher SI than their OSI average, which means winning them all would boost them even further. A sweep could put them in play for a top-four seed. Ridge would be the biggest win, but it could come down to Hillsborough, a 2:00 kick at home on Saturday afternoon of Cutoff Weekend.

Watchung Hills (4-2) sits in 7th, dropping slightly this week even after handing then 5-0 Montgomery its first loss of the season. But it has nothing to do with that. Union City had a bigger gain with a win over Irvington, which has a stronger SI that Montgomery coming into the weekend; the Blue Knights are still over 80 in that department – they’re worth a lot. It happens. But if the Warriors keep winning – Plainfield, at St. Joe’s, Elizabeth – they should at least keep one of the top eight seeds, and at least earn a first-round home game.

Piscataway (3-2) continues its climb up the standings: 16th last week, 11 this week. When you have a couple of losses, as they do, every win gets magnified, and that’s what’s happening with the Chiefs. Road games at East Brunswick and Sayreville, then home to New Brunswick is how they close the regular season. A clean sweep could even put them in the top eight. Take two of the three – even if they come against the Bears and Zebras – and they should have a playoff spot locked up, their first since 2019.

Right behind the Chiefs is Bridgewater-Raritan. The Panthers are 2-4, one of six sub-.500 teams currently in the top 16 (two are tied for 16th). They play a mighty strong schedule, with – guess who? – Phillipsburg up next at Maloney Stadium Friday night. A loss, though wouldn’t hurt them that much, dropping their OSI and power point averages a bit.

Of course, the Panthers won there last year, 17-7, but this is a different Liners’ team, so it’s a tall task. To stay firmly in the playoff chance, Bridgewater would at least have to win at Elizabeth next week, and at home against Old Bridge on cutoff weekend.

Elizbaeth (2-3) is right behind Bridgewater, with an increasingly challenging stretch ahead: at Union Friday, home to the Panthers next Saturday, and at Watchung Hills Friday night of Cutoff Weekend. Two of three for the Minutemen also should do them well, but one loss would hurt them a bit more than Bridgewater, since there’s no one as strong as Phillipsburg on the schedule.

On the bubble, we’ve got Union at 1-4. The Farmers have a 16.4 UPR, tied with 2-3 Bloomfield, and 3-2 Dickinson is on their tail with a 17 UPR. The NJSIAA has a new rule this year that teams have to have a minimum two wins to qualify for the playoffs, so Union has to at least win one more, and can’t skate in on the weakness of other teams, so that’s the first step. The schedule isn’t easy. After Elizabeth this Friday night at home, the Famrers visit Phillipsburg then host Ridge on cutoff weekend. This Friday night may be their best chance for a win, so let’s call this a must-win, a play-in game – even though more may be needed – for Union.

SOUTH 5 (Click here for official standings)

As mentioned above, North Brunswick (5-0) sits atop the standings, but the Raiders’ lead is a bit more precarious than Phillipsburg’s. They actually have a greater lead, though, in the UPR over Cherokee, the next team back, at 2.8 compared to North Brunswick’s 1.4 UPR. But their lead over third-place Hillsborough (4-1) is a bit slimmer: a 2.4 advantage compared to a 1.8 edge.

This is a wonky section because of the double-multiplier, which has already been completed by Cherokee; that’s the good news. Toms River North (6-0) in fourth doesn’t have any, nor Hillsborough.

In power points, Cherokee is already ahead of North Brunswick, with a 20.8 average, while North Brunswick is at 18.6, and Marlboro is next with a 15.2, then Toms River North at 15 and Hillsborough at 13.2. The point is, even though Cherokee is behind North Brunswick, there’s nowhere to go with power points. They certainly could climb in OSI, which currently at 57.65 has them fourth. That’s if they sweep their next three opponents, all of whom are very good. They have Lenape (75.58), Kingsway (77.78) and Millville (82.42). That would do some damage. But with a loss, factor a 37-41 SI in there somewhere and they will drop, or at least negate any gains made by the other two wins.

In short, North Brunswick may not have the top-seed locked up even if they win-out, considering their schedule of a road game at New Brunswick this week and a home game against East Brunswick next week (they’re a combined 1-10), though 3-2 Cranford on cutoff weekend up in Union County could be a big win. But they should be good for a top-two seed, thus guaranteeing one of the top seeds in either section, and home field through the sectional finals.

Does Hillsborough have a shot at one of the two No. 1 seeds? We like their schedule, with Hunterdon Central this week, at Somerville next week, and the aforementioned Saturday Cutoff Weekend late kickoff at Westfield. But they still may need some help from the teams above.

The next team down the standings is South Brunswick (3-2) in tenth place. The Vikings have a tough final three games, but that’s the good news. Sweeping those would give them a big boost; inotherwords, a top eight seed and a first-round home game is certainly within their reach, and South controls its own destiny. They have Ridge this Friday night, visit Edison next Friday, and close with Somerville at home on the Friday night of Cutoff Weekend.

Edison (4-2) is in 13th, and save for a two-game hiccup have been very good. QB Matt Yasco and receiver Malcolm Stansbury are back in the lineup, so the Eagles just need to do what they do.

A top-eight seed may be out of reach, but remember: last year’s Edison squad was a 7-seed in South 5 and went on the road in the opening round, coming back across the Driscoll Bridge with a 23-20 upset win over 2-seed Manalapan. They won a huge game against Cedar Creek in the Battle at the Beach in Ocean CIty this year in front of a hostile crowd. Point is, just point them in the right direction, this team can go win a ballgame, if healthy, with so many three-year starters (and a fourth-year at QB).

Edison has a good schedule to get it done: this Friday at St. Joseph-Metuchen (7 pm on CJSR), then next Friday home to South Brunswick, and – perhaps the biggest challenge of all – Friday of Cutoff Weekend at St. Thomas Aquinas, which on the strength of two solid campaigns back-to-back has an 80.97 Strength Index value. (For what it’s worth, Aquinas has won 14 of its last 16 games going back to the start of last season.)

A promising season for Hunterdon Central (2-4) has slowed, with the Red Devils on a three-game skid since a 2-1 start that included a season-opening loss to North Hunterdon. They’ve lost to Bridgewater-Raritan, at Ridge, and home to Phillipsburg. Those are no cupcakes, but they need wins. At Hillsborough this weekend will be a tough one, so to prove they’re a playoff-worthy team, they’ll probably at least need to beat Franklin next Friday and win at Perth Amboy on Friday night of Cutoff Weekend.

They may also have to worry about the teams behind them. With a 16.4 UPR, Cherry Hill East (3-2) is right behind them at 16.6 (any move up in either power points or OSI by one position would jump Central) and Old Bridge (3-3). The Knights have a 17.6 UPR and are in 18th, but have a chance. It’s been win, loss, win, loss, win, loss for Old Bridge, but they close with home games against Monroe and New Brunswick – which have three wins combined – this week and next, then visit Bridgewater-Raritan Friday night of Cutoff Weekend. They will likely have to win all three. Time to put the brakes on the skid!

Group 5 playoff analysis: Phillipsburg and North Brunswick hold top spots overall in North and South, but will it hold?

With the second half of the high school football season officially kicking off this weekend, it’s time to examine the playoff races with a closer eye. Here’s a look at where the Big Central teams in Group 5 North and South stand, using official standings calculated by Gridiron New Jersey.

NORTH 5 (Click here for official standings)

There’s little surprise here that Phillipsburg, which has established itself as one of the top teams in the state this year, is leading the pack in the supersection. In fact, they have the top OSI in all of Group 5. Only Cherokee has a better power point average, but that’s because they have played two multipliers already, Holy Spirit and St. Augustine. (More on that when we get to South 5).

The Stateliners are 4-0 with a UPR of 1, OSI 74.01 and an 18.5 power point average. Right behind them is Ridgewood, also 4-0, UPR 2, OSI 70.13 and an 18.25 power point average. Should they keep winning, P’burg should be able to hold on to at least one of the top two spots. The ‘Liners and Maroons are the only undefeated teams in the section. The schedule is favorable, having played their first four games all against ranked teams (Sayreville is 8th, Ridge has been previously ranked, North Hunterdon is 10th and Hillsborough is 5th). The last four are at Hunterdon Central, home to Bridgewater-Raritan and Union, before closing at East Brunswick on the Friday of Cutoff Weekend.

That’s could be a good news/bad news scenario for the Stateliners – or maybe not – when it comes to the overall No. 1 seed. Ridgewood’s first four games were weaker than P’burg’s. Their next three opponents (Eastside Paterson, Wayne Hills and Montclair) are all 2-2, while Ramapo is 4-0. If both teams win out, it’ll come down to who has the stronger schedule the rest of the way.

The next Big Central teams down the list, after Passaic Tech third and Clifton fourth are Westfield in fifth (3-2, 5.8 UPR) and Watchung Hills (3-2, 6.6 UPR) in sixth. With a decent gap between them and the number nine teams Morristown and Bridgewater-Raritan, with 10.6 UPRs – following Union City and West Orange – if the Blue Devils and Warriors keep winning, they will likely finish in the top eight, which would guarantee at least a first-round home game. A top-four seed could be in play as well, depending on how well they do down the stretch, and if any of the teams above them slip.

Bridgewater-Raritan is having the epitome of an up and down season; at 2-3 they’ve yet to win back-to-back games. To get to a first-round home game, they’d have to string a couple of wins together. They have Ridge, then visit Phillipsburg and Elizabeth, before a Cutoff Weekend home matchup with Old Bridge.

Speaking of which, Elizabeth – on the strength of Saturday’s massive win over St. Joseph-Metuchen – jumped from 16th to 11th in the standings, now with a UPR of 10.8. At 1-3, a few wins in a row would boost them even further. The Minutemen have a shot, with Somerville this weekend, then at Union, Bridgewater-Raritan home, then a Cutoff Weekend Friday night visit to Watchung Hills. All of those teams have Strength Index values well above their current OSI, so anything would be a big boost.

Union and Piscataway are in the last two playoff spots at the moment.

The Farmers are 15th at 1-3 with a 15.4 UPR. But, remember: a minimum two wins are needed to make the playoffs, so even if they finished there, they would still need to win one more game to even be eligible. Union has games at Hillsborough, home to Elizabeth, at Phillipsburg and home to Ridge – a tough slate.

The Chiefs are 2-2 and in 16th place. They have a decent schedule upcoming: Old Bridge this Friday, followed by road games at East Brunswick and Sayreville, then home to New Brunswick in a game originally scheduled for Friday night of cutoff weekend, but which has been moved to Saturday afternoon.

Both teams will have to win a few, and try to hold off the teams behind them.

SOUTH 5 (Click here for officials standings)

North Brunswick is now at the top of the pile in the supersection, breaking a previous tie with Toms River North, which – of all things – had at least something to do with Cherokee leading – by a wide margin – the power point rankings, due to the new double-multiplier rule this year; two are allowed by the NJSIAA, and the Chiefs took full advantage with Holy Spirit and St. Augustine on the schedule.

The Raiders are 4-0, with a 1.4 UPR, a full point ahead of Toms River North (5-0). But whether their strength of schedule is good enough the rest of the way to hold onto that spot is another story. Their next three opponents – Franklin, New Brunswick and East Brunswick, are a combined 1-12, which does no favors for their power point average. It’s an 18.25, but right now, Franklin and East Brunswick are only worth 11; New Brunswick is worth 14.

Cherokee – at just 2-2 – is in third (UPR 2.8) – with Hillsborough alone in fourth, despite a loss to Phillipsburg last Friday night. Those Raiders are still a pretty good bet for a top-four seed, which would guarantee home field through at least the sectional semifinals, as long as they get back to their winning ways. Their schedule is strong enough, at least from a Strength Index perspective, that they could make a push forward, with Union, Hunterdon Central, Somerville and Westfield ahead.

It’s a long trip down to the next Big Central team, with Washington Township in fifth, followed by Rancocas Valley, Kingsway, Atlantic City, Marlboro, Southern and Lenape. Then, three BCC teams: Edison 12th (3-2, UPR 13), South Brunswick 13th (2-2, UPR 13.6) and Old Bridge 14th (3-2, UPR 13.8). Those teams all could go truly any which way. A top-eight seed and a first-round playoff game would be a challenge; it’s highly unlikely all three could end up there, anyway. They could get close, but any of them could also miss the playoffs if they don’t win some games down the stretch.

And then there’s Hunterdon Central. The Red Devils are seeking their first playoff berth since 2018, when they bowed out in the opening round to 5th-seed Manalapan. At 2-3, they have a 16.4 UPR, one point behind the two teams tied for 15th – Cherry Hill East and Howell – with 15.4 UPRs each. Central is a bubble team right now, just on the outside looking in. If they could pick up a win the next two weeks – either this Friday night at Stewart Field against top-ranked Phillipsburg, or next Friday night at Hillsborough – then take care of business the last two weeks with wins at home against Franklin and at Perth Amboy, the Red Devils should be in. Going 2-2 with wins in those last two games may not be enough.

INSTANT REPLAY: No. 3 Hillsborough 17, No. 6 Bridgewater-Raritan 6

Hillsborough got a scoop-and-score touchdown from Tyler VanCleef, a 41-yard field goal by Sam Meechin, and the third TD connection of the year from QB Ryan Tasetano to slot receiver Shane Donoghue en route to a 17-6 win against Bridgewater-Raritan on Friday, September 9, 2022.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe call all the action live from Basilone Field in Bridgewater:

1st Half
2nd Half

Hillsborough strikes first, guts one out, holds off arch-rival Bridgewater-Raritan

For most of the first half Friday night, the 41-yard scoop-and-score by safety Tyler VanCleef was responsible for more yardage than the combined offensive totals of both Hillsborough and Bridgewater-Raritan.

But early in the second quarter, the Raiders’ embarked on a 66-yard drive than took 13 plays and 7:30 off the clock, ending with a 41-yard field goal by Sam Meechin. It was just the second of his career – and, in fact, just the second he’s attempted in the last two years – and it gave Hillsborough enough to withstand the answer touchdown from the Panthers before the teams went in the locker room.

Add a 59-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Tasetano to slot receiver Shane Donoghue with just under nine minutes to go – their third such connection in the first two games this season – and No. 3 Hillsborough came out with a hard-fought 17-6 win over Bridgewater-Raritan.

Click above to find out more about Freedom Martial Arts, with locations in Bridgewater and Hillsborough.

There were a lot of three-and-outs in the first half, but it was less about offenses that couldn’t get going than aggressive defenses. Both teams went after the QBs and had several tackles for loss.

Against the triple-option offense of Bridgewater-Rartian, the Raiders were disciplined, with eight sacks. They also had two fumble recoveries – including VanCleef’s for a score – and an interception late in the game by sophomore Jackson Jankowicz.

Hillsborough (2-0) has now won five straight in the series, taking an 18-13-1 lead all-time. Bridgewater-Raritan (1-2) last won in 2017.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from the Big Central Game of the Week:

Senior slot receiver/defensive end Shane Donoghue
Head coach Kevin Carty, Jr.