Tag: high school football

Devil Dogs strike early, defeat Leathernecks in 2022 Basilone Bowl

After two plays, it looked like the ninth edition of the Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Bowl might have a score in the 30s or 40s. Jay Mazuera of Hillsborough hit Owen Bill of Hunterdon Central for a 65-yard touchdown strike to put the Devil Dogs up 6-0, plus the PAT by South Hunterdon’s Trevor McLoughlan, and it looked like we might be off to the races.

Things settled down a bit though, with a good deal of the first half played between the 30-yard lines, and it wasn’t until two minutes left in the first half before the fans on hand would see another score. That came from Franklin’s Nasan Colson, who ran in a ten-yard score on his eighth carry of the game to make it 14-0 with the extra point.

And it turned out that was all the Devil Dogs needed to beat the Leathernecks, in a game played every year in honor of Raritan’s favorite son, John Basilone. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts at the Battle of Guadalcanal, only to be killed in action after re-upping and joining the fight in the battle of Iwo Jima, at the age of 28.

Colson was named the Devil Dogs’ Offensive MVP, while Jacob Ventura of Pingry was named Defensive MVP and Bill was named the overall Basilone Bowl MVP.

In the second half, the Leathernecks cut it to a touchdown on a two-yard run by Bound Brook’s Patrick LePoidevin that capped an 80-yard drive, but that was as close as they would get. With 8:19 left in the fourth – a period that started with only ten minutes on the clock on humid night – Hillsborough’s Tyler Michinard took a handoff from Mazuera and ran ten yards for the score, and the final one of the night, making it 21-7.

In the losing cause, the Leathernecks were led by Offensive MVP Alex Benitez and Defensive MVP Andre Soumeillant, both from Montgomery.

Listen below to postgame reaction from the 2022 Basilone Bowl champion Devil Dogs:

Hunterdon Central’s Owen Bill. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Owen Bill
Franklin’s Nasan Colson. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Nasan Colson
Devil Dogs and Hillsborough head coach Kevin Carty, Jr. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Basilone may be a local hero, but his legend lives throughout the Marines

Sometimes it seems like you can’t go five feet in Raritan Boro without seeing a plaque, sign, monument, or running into someone where the name John Basilone is involved.

Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts at the Battle of Guadalcanal, only to be killed in action after re-upping and joining the fight in the battle of Iwo Jima, at the age of 28.

But his legend isn’t just known to us locals. He is a national hero, with a story Captain Kevin Keyser says “every good Marine should know.”

And that’s why – for the ninth year – they’re playing the Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Bowl, presented by the United States Marine Corps and the Somerset County Coaches Association over at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will be broadcasting the game – involving high school seniors from throughout Somerset and, this year, Hunterdon Counties – and all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it, including a halftime show featuring the Marine Corps Quantico southern Lousiana stlye brass band.

Dom Savino and Mike Pavlichko will call all the action, with pregame starting just after 6:30, with kickoff just after 7:00. Click here to listen live, for free.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko speak with Captain Kevin Keyser of the Marines’ Recruiting Station New Jersey about the Basilone Bowl and the Marines’ involvement in the game for the past decade:

For Soumeillant, Cruz, Basilone Bowl takes on a little extra meaning

For the 80 players on the two rosters for the 9th annual Basilone Bowl at Bridgewater-Raritan’s Basilone Stadium Tuesday night, the game is one last chance to take the field, and for a good cause – the Basilone Memorial Foundation – which helps support the Robert Wood Johnson Cancer Center and the Fisher House Foundation for military families.

For some of those 80, it’s not their last time on a football field; they’ll be playing in college.

But for defensive end Andre Soumeillant of Montgomery and wide receiver Marvin Cruz of North Plainfield, the game is something even more special. They will be serving in the military before too long.

Soumeillant is joining the Army ROTC down at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. Cruz will be joining the Marines.

These are not snap decisions. These are plans that have long been in the works for both of them. A lot of hard work, and a lot of discipline, and they’re 110-percent ready for it.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko speak with both seniors as they get ready to strap it up one last time before they embark on life in the military:

Montgomery’s Andre Soumeillant
North Plainfield’s Marvin Cruz

Central Jersey Sports Radio will carry the 9th Annual Basilone Bowl live Tuesday night, with kickoff from Basilone Field set for 7 pm. Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the action; click here to listen.

Union’s Davison Igbinosun chooses Ole Miss over Rutgers, two other SEC schools

A week before the All-American Bowl, Union athlete Davison Igbinosun announced on Twitter he’d come down with COVID, and would be unable to play in the game. But it didn’t put a damper on his plans to announce it during the nationally televised contest.

In between the first and second quarters Saturday afternoon, Igbinosun – the most highly-touted recruit this year in the Big Central Conference – announced he would play at Ole Miss in the SEC.

He chose the Rebels over Tennesee, Kentucky and Rutgers. After a visit to Piscatway, he said Rutgers was the “home school” but called the SEC “big boy football.”

Igbinosun’s senior season came to an untimely end in the state playoffs, when the district’s Superintendent pulled the team from its second round game due to a number of positive COVID tests on the team, prompting a swift backlash from parents and fans. Igbinosun spearheaded a move by him and his teammates to get the team reinstated, but by then it was too late, and the plug was pulled.

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

Igbinosun had several dozen Division I offers.

Old Bridge’s Lanzafama stepping down after 12 seasons with Knights

Saying “the time was right for a lot of different reasons,” Old Bridge head coach Anthony Lanzafama is leaving the program after a dozen highly successful seasons as just the school’s second head coach following the merger of Cedar Ridge and Madison Central.

Lanzafama took over for Bob DeMarco, who retired in 2010, but he wasn’t an outsider. In fact, he grew up in town, played youth football there, played high school football in Old Bridge, and worked as an assistant under DeMarco.

Promoted from within, Lanzafama went 72-47-1 in his 12 seasons, with just two losing records in that span. He had four eight-win seasons with the Knights, the most recent of which came in 2019.

He started with a 2-8 campaign 2010, then the Knights won the final three games of 2011 to go 5-5. But after that, Old Bridge ripped off a four-year run that included two eight-win seasons, going 29-14 overall from 2012-2015, including a berth in the Central Jersey Group 5 championship game at Rutgers. They would lose that game to South Brunswick, whose head coach Joe Goerge was officially hired Thursday to begin a second stint with the Vikings.

And when it came to their big rival, Lanzafama’s teams were nearly perfect. After losing to East Brunswick in the 2010 version of the “Battle of Route 18,” his first, the Knights have won eleven straight since.

Click below to listen to Anthony Lanzafama talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

Legendary football coach Joe Goerge returns to the South Brunswick, where he led Vikings to unprecedented success, and three state titles

Joe Goerge is back for a second run at South Brunswick.

The 67-year-old Goerge – who led the Vikings to unprecedented success in his seven-year tenure from 2012 to 2018, including a 63-17 record and the only three state titles in program history – was approved Thursday night by the South Brunswick Board of Education.

Goerge stepped away after the 2018 season. His sons Michael and Jason had been coaching with him for a decade-and-a-half, and their daily drive down during football season from their teaching jobs in Springfield and Elizabeth was getting to be too much.

At the time, the coach said he wasn’t retiring, and after a season as an assistant at Matawan with his sons, Goerge took the head coaching job at St. Joseph by the Sea in Staten Island. He began his coaching career in the early ’80s at Port Richmond on the Island, before coming to New Jersey and coaching at Franklin, where he won state titles in 1994 and 1996, presiding over a powerhouse that won titles before him with Len Rivers in 1984 and ’87, Charlie Weis in 1989, and Joe Stinson in 1990.

He later coached six years at Dayton, then came to South Brunswick, which hadn’t won a championship, but where Rick Mantz – who’d had great success at Hillsborough – began a rebuild that took the Vikings to their first playoff berth in 30 years in his debut season with a team that featured future Rutgers star and NFLer Mohamed Sanu.

Goerge arrived on the scene in 2012, and promptly won a sectional championship, winning two more in 2015 and 2017.

After a two-year run at Sea, Goerge has a career coaching mark of 226-146-4.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Joe Goerge about his return to South Brunswick:

South Brunswick Board of Ed expected to approve Joe Goerge as Vikings next head coach

It appears, everything old is new again in South Brunswick. Just don’t call Joe Goerge old, okay?

It’s just that he’s already had a run – and a quite successful one – with the Vikings, including a 63-17 record over seven seasons, four trips to the sectional finals, and three crowns: in 2012, 2015 and 2017.

And yet, Thursday night, the Board of Education is expected to vote on his hiring. And if it ends up producing half the success it did the first time around, it’ll be a great hire.

Four years ago, Goerge left South Brunswick, saying he still had “a little bit left,” and knew he would coach again. Just where was the question.

He’d been coaching with his sons for a decade-and-a-half, and it was starting to be a long trek for them down to Monmouth Junction from their jobs up in Union County, where Michael taught in Springfield and Justin in worked in Elizabeth.

Ultimately, Goerge ended up coaching back in Staten Island, where he started his career before coming to New Jersey. He went 5-9 in two seasons at St. Joseph By the Sea.

Now, he’s poised to return to Middlesex County.

Goerge has a career coaching mark of 226-146-4, and has won five state titles overall, including 1994 and 1996 at Franklin, after a ten-year run at Port Richmond on Staten Island. After Franklin, he coached a from 2006 to 2011 at Dayton, before leaving for South Brunswick.

St. Joseph-Metuchen taps former Ridge mentor Bill Tracy to lead Falcons

Two years removed from a highly successful run as the head football coach at Ridge – and after spending those two years as the offensive coordinator at Governor Livingston, coaching his son at quarterback – Bill Tracy is headed to the Brainy Boro.

Tracy – who won a state championship for the Red Devils with a perfect 12-0 season in 2013 – has been named St. Joseph’s head football coach. The school announced the hiring in a press release Wednesday.

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Having begun his head coaching career at Livingston, Tracy owns a career record of 127-101, including a 71-44 mark in eleven seasons at Ridge. He left after the 2019 season to coach his youngest son, Connor, at Governor Livingston, which went 4-2 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, but struggled with a vast amount of youth in 2021.

Tracy is highly-regarded in New Jersey high school coaching circles. He’s known as a class individual, and a tactician, with a deeply-analytical mind for the game.

Ridge won at least seven games five times during Tracy’s tenure there, and went to two state finals, winning one of them. The Red Devils lost to Phillipsburg 34-7 in the North 2, Group 4 finals in his debut season in Basking Ridge, but beat Union in a “nearly-perfect” game in 2013, 48-13 at Rutgers to win the North 2, Group 5 crown. In that game, Ridge scored on all but one possession, when a field goal attempt hit one of the uprights.

Ironically, his best team at Livingston was knocked out of the playoffs by Ridge in 2003, as the Red Devils – then coached by Tom Falato – won their first-ever playoff championship. (Ridge was declared a state champion in Central Jersey Group 2 in 1987.)

Only the fourth head coach in St. Joe’s brief gridiron history, Tracy replaces Rich Hilliard, who stepped down this year after a five-season run with a 30-17 mark. Bob Molarz began the program in 2009, with the first varsity team taking the field in 2011; he was 8-11 in two seasons. Casey Ransone took the helm for the next four years, and went 26-13, running the table in the GMC to a pair of division titles in 2013 and 2016, his first and final seasons.

In a press release, school President John Nolan thanked Hilliard for his contributions to the “Falcon family,” and went on to welcome Tracy: “Beyond proving himself as a winner, Coach Tracy has demonstrated his dedication to student-athletes with exemplary character. This will remain a program committed to excellence both in the classroom and on the field.”

Athletic Director Mike Murray added, “His teaching goes beyond the X’s and O’s of the game,” referring to Tracy. “He also strives to instill integrity in the young men he coaches. In our search process, Coach Tracy showed that he’s a great fir for the Saint Joe’s community. I can’t wait to see out student-athletes mature and flourish under his tutelage.”

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Bill Tracy about becoming St. Joseph’s new head coach:

The Bill Tracy File”:

Ridge (71-44, 11 seasons)

  • 2019: 8-2
  • 2018: 8-2
  • 2017: 4-6
  • 2016: 8-2
  • 2015: 6-5
  • 2014: 4-6
  • 2013: 12-0 (North 2, Group 5 champions, beat Union 48-13)
  • 2012: 7-3
  • 2011: 3-7
  • 2010: 2-8
  • 2009: 9-3 (North 2, Group 4 finals, lost 34-7 to Phillipsburg)

Livingston (56-57, 11 seasons)

  • 2008: 9-3 (North 1, Group 4 champions, beat Hackensack 28-8)
  • 2007: 6-4
  • 2006: 3-7
  • 2005: 5-5
  • 2004: 3-7
  • 2003: 10-1
  • 2002: 4-6
  • 2001: 6-4
  • 2000: 1-9
  • 1999: 5-5
  • 1998: 4-6

As you count down to the New Year, here are the Top Ten stories of 2021 on Central Jersey Sports Radio

Top Ten lists are king. Ever since the first David Letterman Top Ten on the original “Late Night” on NBC, they’ve been funny, entertaining, and – when it comes to sports – a great source for debate.

There’s not much debate to be had here, though. We’ve compiled the Top Ten stories of 2021 – our first full calendar year of operation on Central Jersey Sports Radio – with the most read and listened to stories on our website. Read by you, the fans!

All these stories are about the teams, schools, student-athletes, and great plays that made 2021 special. Some are combined when written about the same subject. Click on each heading to read and listen to the original stories. Enjoy!

10) No. 5 Old Bridge routs South Brunswick as Hunter, Haughney star

Old Bridge players take the field for pre-game warmups at South Brunswick on September 17, 2021.

Sometimes, it’s not a game-winning hit, touchdown or basket that makes a good story. Sometimes, it’s just a old-fashioned football game. For whatever reason, that was the case with our tenth-most read story of 2021, a win for Old Bridge football over South Brunswick from early this season. Lawrence Hunter III was the Autoland Player of the Game, and Owen Haughney figured prominently in the win as well. Listen to postgame reaction from Hunter and head coach Anthony Lanzafama with CJSR’s Tim Catalfamo.

9) Old Bridge finally wins a close one, in a big spot

Seniors on the Old Bridge baseball team pose before their 2021 Senior Night.

Another Old Bridge story, this time baseball. The Knights were having a rough season, but still in the state tournament. With a 7-17 mark, they had lost ten games by three runs or less, and four by one or two runs. That is, until the opening round of the playoffs, where 12th-seeded Old Bridge knocked off 5th-seed South Brunswick, behind solid performances from two sophomores: Justin Herbstman and Thomas Papeo.

8) “Walk ’em off Spotswood!” Lewandowski’s double off the wall lets Chargers keep Commanders’ Cup trophy another year

Spotswood holds the Bill Thompson Memorial Commander’s Cup Trophy after a 6-5 walk-off win over East Brunswick on May 19, 2021. It was the Chargers’ fourth straight win in the series.

Spotswood High School – my alma mater, for full disclosure, Class of 1996 – has always had that underdog mentality. Baseball coach Glenny Fredricks just brings it to another level, and he has a bunch of scrappy guys to prove it. There’s no fear in this small Group 2 school going up against a Group 4 like East Brunswick year after year after year, for what they call the “Commanders’ Cup.” In 2021, Spotswood won their fourth straight in the series, thanks to a walk-off off the wall by Tyler Lewandowski.

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

Union senior CB Davison Igbinosun (source: Twitter)

COVID didn’t nearly have the effect on the 2021 high school football season that it did in 2020. Sure, games were cancelled, but not in an amount even closely approaching what happened the season prior. That did nothing to comfort Union, which had one of its most talented teams in school history, and was the odds-on favorite to win North 2 Group 5, and maybe even go all the way to win the North 5 regional championship. Then, COVID hit a few members of the team, the Superintendent shut down the season, and four-star national recruit Davison Igbinosun and his teammates became vocal to try and save their season. It didn’t work, but we helped give him and his teammates a voice, and Igbinosun represented them with class and dignity.

Click here for additional coverage with Union head coach Lou Grasso, Jr.

6) Loaded North Brunswick aiming high behind Garbolino and Co.

North Brunswick junior QB Frankie Garbolino

Coming off a 7-1 season, with an experienced junior quarterback and a talented ensemble cast returning, North Brunswick entered the 2021 football season with high hopes. They might have been achieved if not for a once-in-a-lifetime-talented Hillsborough squad, which they met twice – once in the regular season finale and once in the playoffs. Hear Frankie Garbolino and head coach Mike Cipot talk about the 2021 team, in our most-listened to preview story of ’21.

5) Somerville’s dynamic duo – Cookie and AJ – taking divergent paths after H.S., with big hopes for the future

From left to right, Somerville RB Cookie Desiderio, head coach Dallas Whitaker, and DE A.J. Pena pose with their commemorative footballs honoring their CJSR Player of the Year picks, and Somerville’s Team of the Year award for 2020.

They were two of the most dominant football players in the Big Central – maybe even the state – in the COVID-shortened 2020 season: runningback Cookie Desiderio and defensive end A.J. Pena of Somerville. The “Cookie Monster” scored almost every time he touched the ball (every 5.8 carries, in reality, but who’s counting) and A.J. loved “making quarterbacks cry,” which he did 12 times in seven games. They were named CJSR’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, but in the strange world of extra college eligibility and the FCS season being moved to the Spring – neither got the D1 offers they deserved.

4) Who’s the strongest team in the Big Central? Here are the league’s SI ratings heading into 2021

Phillipsburg was the “strongest” team in the Big Central heading into 2021, according to the NJSIAA’s Strength Index.

Yes, sometimes even true numbers, purely mathematical, can stir debate. And such has been the case since the NJSIAA revamped its playoff formula in 2018, initially using the Born Bower Index, and since 2019 using its own formula, loosely based on the BPI. It uses the OSI, or Opponent Strength Index, but needs the strength value of each individual team to calculate. So, we simply compiled the numbers for all the Big Central and published them. Not everyone may be a fan of our extensive knowledge of the system – it can be a dull read at times – but we do have many fans of this kind of thing, apparently. And we’re sure a good number of them are coaches, too, from both inside and outside the conference, as we’ll frequently get calls and texts asking “Where do you see us ending up?”

3) Listen to Bobby Ulmer talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about his walk-off grand-slam

Bobby Ulmer, Jr., live on the CJSR postgame, talking about his dramatic walk-off grand slam.

Kids dream of this kind of stuff, acting it out in their backyards. Bases loaded, two outs, last inning, two strikes, grand slam to win the game. Bobby Ulmer, Jr., of Middlesex lived it. His walk-off grand slam in the Group 1 semifinals sent Middlesex to the state title game, where they would win again in walk-off fashion, albeit in 13 innings on a seeing-eye single by Mark Geist. Ulmer’s moonshot in the team’s last home game of the year was as dramatic as they come.

Bonus coverage: Middlesex gains Group 1 final on Ulmer’s dramatic, walk-off grand slam

2) Big Central releases All-Division Teams

It doesn’t always have to be a Top Ten list that inspires debate, or at least inspires people to go to your website. Simply honoring student-athletes is a big draw. So a list recognizing all the outstanding football players in the Big Central Conference in 2021 – all-division teams chosen by the league’s head coaches featuring 384 players in toto – brought readers out in droves.

1) He brings the water bottles, and the excitement. And he wants to help bring Greg Schiano and Rutgers a national championship

Edison senior Raymond Taub wants to be a team manager for Greg Schiano at Rutgers.

This may be one of our most favorite stories – if not, favorite interviews – ever. I can’t really tell you how we first came to know about Raymond Taub – that’s an entertaining story just for a few of us to know – but suffice it to say, he’s an awesome kid. He’s the autistic, well-loved-by-everyone manager of the football team, keeps meticulous pitch counts for the baseball team, and is the Eagles’ biggest fan. He also may be the biggest Rutgers fan out there, and his Senior Night “goal” was to become a manager with the Scarlet Knight football team and “help Greg Schiano win a national championship.” He’s a little busy right now, but someone bookmark this story for him when he gets back from Jacksonville in 2022, will ya?

Former ‘Ville standout A.J. Pena talks about his circuitous route to Rhode Island, via upstate New York

The COVID-19 pandemic upended just about everyone’s way of life, and every facet of life, since it arrived on the scene in March 2020 in the United States.

And that includes college football recruiting.

With the NCAA granting extra years of eligibility and non-FCS football playing in the Spring, it meant fewer opportunities – at least right away – for high school student-athletes who played their seasons in the fall.

The 2020 Central Jersey Sports Radio Defensive Player of the Year – Somerville’s A.J. Pena – should have likely received offers from all over, after being one of the most dominant players in the league; he recorded 12 sacks in just seven games.

Former Somerville defensive end A.J. Pena (center).

Instead, he took a year of prep school at Milford Academy in upstate, New York – “in the middle of nowhere” as Pena describes it – before landing at the University of Rhode Island, where he signed his National Letter of Intent on the first day of the December signing period.

We caught up with A.J. to talk about his time at Somerville, the influence of his former head coach Dallas Whitaker, and the long atypical path that took him to Rhode Island.

Click below to listen: