Tag: Eastside

Phillipsburg a win away from first sectional title since 2018

The Phillipsburg football team has answered all the question marks all year long, speaking with their play on the field.

They have been unselfish, with no ego, and have let their exploits on the gridiron speak for themselves.

That was the case again Friday night at Maloney Stadium, where the top-seeded Stateliners won their North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 semifinal game 37-6 over fourth-seed Paterson Eastside, with yet another balanced attack.

They will host 6th-seed West Orange next Friday night at 7:00, after the Mountaineers won at 2nd-seed Ridgewood Friday night in the other semifinal, 34-31 in overtime.

Their last title came in 2018, when they beat Irvington to win the North 2, Group 4 title, 42-7 over Irvington, finishing the season 10-3.

Again, it was all about balance, in a game that was never really in doubt. Phillipsburg had done all its scoring before the visiting Ghosts could get on the board.

That was with a 44-yard touchdown reception from Isaiah Jackson, a 15-yard touchdown run by sophomore QB Jett Genovese, a 31-yard field goal by Luke Brogan, and touchdown runs of six and eight yards by Xavier Moore. With 174 yards of rushing offense, no one had more than 56 (Moore) in a testament to the ‘Liners’ unselfishness.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from head coach Frank Duffy with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

OPINION: It’s hard for people to see everyone’s point of view on Union mess, but either way, the Farmers are winners

by Mike Pavlichko

The last 72 hours have been brutal for the 48 players, 12 assistant coaches, and the one head coach of the Union Farmers football team, Lou Grasso, Jr.

Less than eight hours before kickoff of their North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 semifinal game against Eastside Paterson, they learned there would be no game.

Their season was over. Just like that.

That’s a damn hard pill to swallow, especially considering they were (are) one of the top teams in the state, and a heavy favorite to win North 5, and maybe even the regional championship.

For those not paying attention, here’s what happened, in a nutshell:

Two symptomatic players tested positive for COVID last Thursday. Officials decided to test the unvaccinated players; those who already got the jab were not tested. Two more on the squad tested positive, but had no symptoms. The Superintendent sought guidance from local health officials, who initially thought it would be acceptable to play Friday, but upon further review suggested to halt the game. The Superintendent did so, but wanted to play Sunday or Monday. The NJSIAA has a rule in place addressing just that type of situation: the answer was no. Union withdrew from the tournament.

That unleashed a firestorm – politely and respectfully – from the student-athletes, who met with Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor to express their concerns, and ask questions, like why the players who couldn’t play because they may have been exposed were allowed in school Friday. Dr. Taylor said it was a “valid point” and he’d look into it and get back to them. (He has since told Central Jersey Sports Radio the kids students were allowed in school before health officials reversed course and suggested the game shouldn’t be played.)

#LetUnionPlay became the hashtag on Twitter, with numerous variations, with most directed at Mr. Taylor, but others at Colleen Maguire of the NJSIAA, whose organization’s Executive Committee in September approved a measure that would allow no room to reschedule the state tournament if a team couldn’t play due to a COVID-related issue.

So now Clifton and Paterson Eastside are getting set to play each other in the North 2, Group 5 Championship Game Friday night. Dr. Taylor told the Twitter-verse Sunday he’s had his attorneys file for emergent relief, basically trying to get the NJSIAA to let Union play Eastside now. But it’s way too late at this point of the game. It’s Monday night, and they’ve already been studying film of each other, and practicing. The pull the rug out now would be unfair to both teams.

Many on social media are taking this out on the Superintendent, calling for him to be fired or to resign, claiming he doesn’t care about the students, doesn’t understand the football culture at the school, and is relatively new in the district anyway.

That’s unfair. I don’t know the man. But whether I agree with the assessment of the risk of COVID spreading among a football team – or one football team to another – is irrelevant. He got medical advice that it wasn’t safe to play, and went with it.

In the end, there are myriad moving parts to this. So let’s look at each point of view on this.

Because no one else has.

Let’s start with the Superintendent: Dr. Taylor told me Monday in a one-on-one interview, when asked why the students who couldn’t play in the game were allowed in school on Friday, that his medical people had “additional information” that led them to reverse course. He did not ask what that information was, and let’s be clear: he should have. (We have a call out to the Union Township Health Director; we’ll let you know if we hear from him.) But whether he asked or not, he still would have listened to his health experts. Is that wrong?

Before you answer, consider this: if a Union kid did come down with COVID, and maybe not died, but “just” came down with severe symptoms and suffered long COVID for the rest of his life, I’d put money down in a hot minute that those parents would sue the district from here to Kingdom Come because they didn’t listen to the “experts.” Don’t even try to tell me I’m wrong.

Now, did he explore all avenues? What if the team only played with its 24 vaccinated players, who were not required to take a COVID test? Here’s where the players and coaches should be consulted. That didn’t happen.

Were the players’ parents asked to sign waivers? Absolving the district from any liability? No. Should they have been asked. It’s a legitimate option.

But you do have to look at the flip side. What if Eastside is not comfortable with it? What if they don’t think it’s safe? There are two teams playing here. Is it right to make them forfeit if they’re not comfortable when there are four COVID cases on the team they’re supposed to tackle and jump on for 48 minutes?

All that being said, even if you think the district should have at least postponed the game, remember, the NJSIAA said no. And not just in this case. They have had a rule in place for two months, since September 15th.

Should they have been more flexible? Should there have been some wiggle room? Was it just because Union was a heavy favorite? Would there have been the same outcry for Toms River South, which made the playoffs at 3-6 as the 16th overall seed and got blown out 58-0 by Millville, the top public school in the state? Be honest.

Then again, look at it from the NJSIAA’s perspective. If you do it for one team, you have to do it for everybody. And that’s why they’re not budging at all. And it’s a more than fair point.

Because right now, it’s just Union that has an issue, and after they delay the game a week until all is clear, what if Eastside had an issue this Thursday and couldn’t play until Thanksgiving? So your sectional semifinal is with turkey leftovers, the title game is the first week of December, and if there’s one more delay, you’re practically playing on Christmas Eve. This isn’t basketball, where playing back-to-back games often happen. These players need rest and prep time in between. Oh, and what about North 1, Group 5, which could have ended up with 2-3 weeks in between games? How is that fair to East Orange or Passaic Tech, to make them wait?

Even moving the game to Monday with another on Friday isn’t the best option. But could they have let Union play Sunday, then move next Friday’s games to Saturday? Probably. Maybe.

Then there’s the question of vaccination. This isn’t going to be a popular take, but remember: only the unvaccinated players were tested, and two additional players came up positive. So, what if all the players had been vaccinated? Would they have even bothered to test anyone? Would we even be having this conversation? Maybe not.

I feel terrible for the kids at Union. Just awful. They have – like everyone else – endured so much. Losing a good chunk of last season, and the playoffs. Maybe some lost friends or family members to COVID. They’ve lost so much of their childhoods to this dreaded virus. I’m ready to get back to normal, or as close as we can, aren’t you?

(By the way, the four kids who tested positive are fine, Dr. Taylor told me. Has anyone asked about them at all? I haven’t seen a single social media post about that over the last three days.)

Ultimately, this is like a nothing-nothing baseball game that’s in the 17th inning. It’s a shame someone has to lose.

Unfortunately, someone has to lose. And like any coach will tell you, you learn more about your team from a loss than you do from a win.

We’ve learned a whole helluva lot about the 2021 Union Farmer football team in the past 72 hours.

But mostly this: Every single one of them is a winner. Every one a champion.

Remember that.

Union school district’s board attorney seeking relief from NJSIAA to allow playoff game vs. Eastside to be played

Union Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor says the district’s attorney has reached out to the NJSIAA asking for it to allow the Farmers’ football team to play Eastside Paterson in its North 2, Group 5 semifinal game this week.

The move comes after the district cancelled the game Friday following four positive COVID tests on the team. After two initial tests among student-athletes who were symptomatic, their unvaccinated teammates were tested, and two more positive cases came up.

That prompted the district to cancel the game and withdraw from the tournament, since NJSIAA rules adopted in September for this school year do not permit the alteration of playoff schedules to accomodate teams with COVID-related issues.

But it’s also created an uproar among players, their classmates, parents, and others in the community who feel their season was simply taken away from them. Players met with the Superintendent on Friday afternoon after the cancellation was announced.

Click below to hear Union Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about the latest on Union’s push to play the game, and how the cancellation came about in the first place:

NJSIAA policy allows no wiggle-room for delaying or making up state playoff games due to COVID

Central Jersey Sports Radio has learned the Union High School football team would have no recourse to play its North 2, Group 5 semifinal playoff game at another date and time, after four players tested positive for COVID late this week.

Union – the top seed in the section – was considered a heavy favorite to win the section, and was scheduled to play Eastside Paterson Friday night at 7 at Cooke Field. But after two players came down with symptoms and tested positive for COVID Thursday, and two more among the unvaccinated members of the team tested positive, schools superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor made the decision to cancel Friday’s game, seeking an alternative date and time they could play.

Taylor says he was told by Colleen Maguire, the NJSIAA’s Executive Director, that a makeup would not be possible, citing policy recommended by her to the NJSIAA Program Review Committee, and adopted by the Executive Committee at its September 15th meeting.

In the meeting minutes, it is noted that “Once the tournament starts, brackets are locked. It is too much chaos on both NJSIAA staff and schools to make the last-minute changes in securing buses, officials, etc.”

The policy recommended by Maguire and later adopted states:

  1. NJSIAA will not delay or modify any state tournament schedule for a team that cannot participate due to COVID-19 issues.
  2. Once a state tournament officially starts, the tournament will progress as scheduled – this is regardless of a team’s first scheduled event in the tournament.
  3. For any team that cannot participate on the date scheduled, or play by date, then the opponent will advance.
  4. Prior to the official start of a state tournament, if a team cannot participate then NJSIAA will make every effort to replace the team with the next ranked team that did not qualify for the state tournament.
  5. If a team is replaced, the bracket will not be re-seeded. The team will be inserted into the bracket.

In an exclusive interview with Central Jersey Sports Radio, Dr. Taylor told Mike Pavlichko that if told the game could be rescheduled, “I would move mountains to make preparations to make this work.”

Dr. Taylor also praised the student-athletes who met with him Friday to discuss the situation, saying the represented themselves well.

Click here to listen to Dr. Taylor’s full interview with Mike Pavlichko.

The football players also have change.org petition, asking for a chance to play the game. It was about 100 signatures shy of its goal of 5,000 as of 4:45 pm Saturday. A link to the petition can be found here.

Click here to hear what Union standout Davison Igbinosun has to say about the cancellation.

Union Superintendent on COVID-cancelled Eastside game: “I would move mountains… to make this work”

Union Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor says he would love to have seen Union play Eastside Paterson – and he still would – despite four players on the Farmers’ football team testing positive for COVID this week.

But he says those efforts were rebuffed by the NJSIAA, citing its policy of not allowing games to be rescheduled if a team couldn’t play a playoff game due to a COVID-related issue.

Union was the top seed in the North 2, Group 5 section, and was scheduled to host Eastside in the sectional semifinals Friday night at 7 pm. The game was officially cancelled less than eight hours before kickoff, around lunchtime Friday.

Dr. Taylor says medical experts urged him to cancel the game, but he says he would have been OK delaying the game. However, he says the NJSIAA told him that would not be possible.

The NJSIAA policy regarding COVID and rescheduling was adopted September 15th by the Executive Committee, and can be found here.

Union football players have created a change.org petition to get the game played. Over 4,500 have signed on as of 4 pm Saturday, and you can find the petition by clicking here.

Click below to hear Dr. Scott Taylor talk to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

National recruit Davison Igbinosun of Union says Farmers are “heartbroken” over playoff cancellation, vows to keep fighting

On a team with many very talented players, Davison Igbinosun is high-profile nationally, getting Power 5 offers from all over the country.

And While he’s a lock to play big-time college football virtually anywhere he wants next year, he still wants more with his teammates. Which is why he was doubly devastated when top-seed Union’s playoff game Friday against Eastside Paterson was cancelled by district Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor around lunchtime, less than eight hours before kickoff.

Igbinosun opened up about how his team took the abrupt ending to its season, and how he’s pushing for the game to still be played. He and his teammates have a petition on change.org that has garnered more than 3,400 signatures. You can find it here.

Central Jersey Sports Radio has reached out to Dr. Taylor for comment. We’ll let you know if we get a response. Follow us on Twitter @cjsportsradio for the very latest.

We have also reached out to NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire to find out if rescheduling the game would even be feasible. As of 2 pm Saturday afternoon, we have not received a response from either Maguire or spokesman Michael Cherenson.

We’ll keep you posted.

Listen to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s exclusive interview with Davison Igbinosun as he talks with Mike Pavlichko:

COVID-related issue ends Union’s season; Farmers forced to cancel sectional semifinal game against Paterson Eastside

This story has been updated to correct each team’s records.

Central Jersey Sports Radio has confirmed with officials at Union High School that the Farmers have cancelled tonight’s North 2, Group 5 sectional semifinal game against Paterson Eastside due to a COVID-related issue.

The TAPintoUnion website first reported Thursday afternoon that the game was in jeopardy when two football players tested positive for COVID-19 after not attending school Wednesday and Thursday. The article cited a letter sent home to parents Thursday afternoon from Union Schools Superintendent Scott Taylor.

Just after noon today, Athletic Director Linda Ionta confirmed that Union, the top seed in North 2, Group 5 – and a heavy favorite in the section – had cancelled its game with 5th-seeded Eastside Paterson, confirming only that it was “COVID-related.”

The Farmers season will end with a mark of 9-1, while the Ghosts (6-3), and will have an unplanned bye, moving on to the sectional final against the winner of tonight’s other semifinal game, featuring third-seed Phillipsburg (7-3) and second-seed Clifton (8-2).