Tag: Highland Park

Who’s streaking? After three weeks, Spotswood holds Big Central’s longest active win streak

The Big Central’s longest active winning streak is now up to six games, but Spotswood is all alone.

The Chargers and Summit both had five-game winning streaks heading into Week Three, but while Spotswood blanked Highland Park in a rare home night game – they brought in temporary lights – the Hilltoppers fell to the juggernaut that is St. Thomas Aquinas, 44-20, for their first loss of the season.

There’s less of a chance to carry a long winning streak into another season these days, since the NJSIAA last year played its first-ever group championships. Before expanding to “regional championships” – essentially group semifinals without a group title game – in 2018, there were 20 public schools that could carry a winning streak to the next year after winning a sectional crown.

Now that those teams can potentially play two more rounds, only five public schools (who made the playoffs) can go into the next season on a win streak. (There are others, but more on that later.)

After Spotswood, no one in the Big Central has a five game winning streak, but six have won four in a row. The only streak of those six that carries back to last season is Phillipsburg, which is 3-0, and beat Easton in its last game of 2022 after getting knocked out of the state playoffs in the North 2, Group 5 title game by West Orange.

The others who have won four straight are all 4-0 this season, uncluding HUnterdon Central, Montgomery, Watchung Hills, Bernards, and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Statewide, Caldwell still owns the longest active winning streak in New Jersey, currently at 31 games. After winning their last three games of 2020, they went 13-0 last year and won the state Group 2 title over Rumson-Fair Haven, and are now 3-0 this year. The Indians host West Essex (2-2) Friday night.

The second-longest streak in the state ended Friday night when Toms River North lost 21-7 to Donovan Catholic. That streak ended at 17, and to add injury to insult, star quarterback Micah Ford went down with an injury, the extent of which is not yet known.

The next-closest streaks are nine games, owned by three teams. Old Tappan won its last six last year en route to the state Group 3 title; they’re 3-0 this year. Woodbury – last year’s Group 1 champ – won its final five last year and is 4-0 this season.

Meanwhile, Fort Lee also has won nine-in-a-row. Though just 2-0 this year, they won their last seven games last year, en route to an 8-1 season. How?

They’re in the NJIC’s Ivy White division, a division allowed by the NJSIAA where struggling programs can play each other, but are not permitted to make the state playoffs due to the intentionally weak schedule they play. There are two such divisions in the NJIC and another two in the Super Football Conference.

As for losing streaks, Highland Park and JP Stevens remain the longest and second-longest statewide.

The Owls are at 45 games after a 34-0 loss to Spotswood Friday. They’re 0-3, and host Roselle Park (1-2) this Friday.

The Hawks are at 35, with an 0-4 record this season after a 34-0 loss THursday to Governor Livingston. They host South Plainfield (2-2) Friday.

Behind them is Ferris, whose streak swelled to 26 with a 43-8 loss at KEarny on Friday. They host Dwight Morrow/Englewood (2-0) on Friday.

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Week 3: So many teams, no place to put ’em

We’re back with our Week Three episode of “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” as veteran CJSR sportscaster Mike Pavlichko shares notes, stats, and observations on area high school football.

This week, a look at all 15 unbeatean teams in the league, Carteret’s historic start to the season, Highland Park’s scoring outburst, and lightning ends a Saturday game.

Click below to listen to the Week Three edition of “The Big Central in Two Minutes”:

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Week 0: First Wins, Big Wins”

That’s right, it’s Season Two of “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” and veteran CJSR sportscaster Mike Pavlichko is back with his thoughts and observations on area high school football.

In our first edition of this 2023 season, Mike Pavlichko gives plaudits to the two coaches who got their first wins at their schools this past weekend, two big wins for Carteret and St. Thomas Aquinas over South Jersey parochial powers, a coach’s take on JP Stevens, and cramping issues.

Click below to listen to the Week Zero edition of “The Big Central in Two Minutes”:

2023 Big Central Preview: Freedom Gold Division

Change is the one thing constant in high school football. And change has come to Brearley.

In addition to the losses to graduation of running threat quarterback Matt Sims, receiver Brendan Fitzsimmons and others, the Bears who remain also have a new head coach, though one they’re familiar with. Alum Allen Phillips takes over for longtime mentor Scott Miller, after serving as his assistant the last few years.

Their biggest divisional challenge may come from Spotswood, which was 1-8 two years ago in Chris Meagher’s first season, but have since turned it around and are coming off a 7-3 campaign in 2022.

Elsewhere will be teams looking to make a move, like Roselle Park with its solid ground game, but a new cast of characters. Dayton will look to increase the wins this season as well under second-year head coach Nick Iannacone.

And in Highland Park, a second straight year of the varsity program beginning the season with participation numbers in the 30s can only mean good things for alum Shawn Harrison’s efforts. Hopeully, the Owls can snap that 42-game losing streak, the longest active in the state, some time this season.

Click below to listen to Mike Pavlichko’s preview of the Freedom Gold Division from the Big Central Conference’s inaugural Media Days:

Highland Parks keeps chugging as Owls search for elusive “W” to end streak


That’s the number for Highland Park, and one which the Owls hope grows no bigger. That’s the number of games in a row they have lost, a streak that began in 2017.


That’s another number for Highland Park. That’s the number of players Shawn Harrison has available a week before the season. That’s a number the Owls do hope grows, as it will increase the chances of that first number staying right exactly where it is.

READ PAST COVERAGE: Rebuilding Highland Park a labor of love for “program guy” Harrison

Harrison, and alum and head coach, continues to spend almost as much time finding players as he does coaching them: in the halls, in the town, anywhere he can. The thing is, he hasn’t always found kids with experience. But that’s beginning to change.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko at Big Central Media Days with Highland Park head coach Shawn Harrison and senior TE/DE Jowuan Keyes:

NJSIAA State Tournament opening round sees half-dozen girls teams advance on opening night

Colonia, Dunellen, Highland Park, Middlesex, North Plainfield and Somerville all picked up wins on the opening night of the 2023 state girls’ basketball tournament, while seven area teams were knocked out in the first round.

Dunellen’s win was especially satisfying for the third-seeded Destroyers, who beat 14th-seed Henry Hudson 56-29 at home to snap a three-game losing streak, part of a five-game regular season stretch they had since getting knocked out of the GMC Tournament in the preliminary round. It sets up the only all-are matchup in the sectional quarterfinals, as they will take on 6th-seed Highland Park Wednesday. The Owls got by 11th-seed Woodbridge Magnet 53-33.

Dunellen lost at Highland Park a week ago, 44-29, their only meeting this season.

Follow Sportsplex at Metuchen on Instagram for the latest on open gym sessions on their courts and turf!

Now it’s on to the sectional semifinals for Group 1 and 3 schools on Wednesday. Groups 2 and 4 begin play tomorrow, with non-publics starting play on Wednesday.

Below are the opening night results in all sections with CJSR-area teams still alive in the state tournament. Scroll further down for the upcoming schedule, including the next matchups for tonight’s winners:

Central Group 3
#1 Ewing def. #16 Middletown North, 66-34
#8 Colts Neck def. #9 Hamilton West, 56-14
#5 Somerville def. #12 Jackson Liberty, 44-37
#4 Allentown def #13 Carteret, 59-17
#3 Red Bank Regional def. #14 Hopewell Valley, 58-24
#11 Brick Memorial def. #6 Steinert, 39-23
#7 Robbinsville def. #10 South Plainfield, 31-29
#2 Ocean Twp. def. #15 JFK, 69-17

Central Group 1
#8 South Hunterdon def. #9 Manville, 46-24
#5 Pt. Pleasant Beach def. #12 Somerset Tech, 53-32
#13 Keyport def. #4 Perth Amboy Magnet, 35-21
#3 Dunellen def. #14 Henry Hudson, 56-29
#6 Highland Park def. #11 Woodbridge Magnet, 53-33
#7 New Egypt def. #10 Keansburg, 38-17
#2 Middlesex def. #15 Florence, 63-33
(#1 seed Shore had a bye)

North 2 Group 3
#1 Randolph def. #16 Rahway, 60-16
#8 North Plainfield def. #9 Governor Livingston, 42-37
#5 Colonia def. #12 Nutley, 56-27
#4 Fort Lee def. #13 North Hunterdon
#3 Millburn def. #14 Belleville, 46-18
#11 Mendham def. #6 West Morris, 50-42
#7 Warren Hills def. #10 Cranford, 57-48
#2 Chatham def. #15 Orange, 68-34

Here’s the remainder of the upcoming schedule, including matchups from Monday’s results:


Central Group 4
#16 North Brunswick at #1 Hightstown
#9 Marlboro at #8 Old Bridge
#13 West Windsor-Plainsboro North at #4 East Brunswick
#14 Northern Burlington at #3 Monroe
#15 Freehold Township at #2 South Brunswick

Central Group 2
#11 Bound Brook at #6 Spotswood
#10 South River at #7 Metuchen

North 2 Group 4
#9 Woodbridge at #8 Hillsborough
#12 Union at #5 Edison
#11 Franklin at #6 Watchung Hills
#10 Ridge at #7 Scotch Plains-Fanwood

North 2 Group 2
#13 Bernards at #4 Dayton


Central Group 3 Quarterfinals
#8 Colts Neck at #1 Ewing
#5 Somerville at #4 Allentown
#11 Brick Memorial at #3 Red Bank Regional
#7 Robbinsville at #2 Ocean Twp.

Central Group 1 Quarterfinals
#8 South Hunterdon at #1 Shore
#13 Keyport at #5 Pt. Pleasant Beach
#6 Highland Park at #3 Dunellen
#7 New Egypt at #2 Middlesex

North 2 Group 3 Quarterfinals
#8 North Plainfield at #1 Randolph
#5 Colonia at #4 Fort Lee
#11 Mendham at #3 Millburn
#7 Warren Hills at #2 Chatham

Non-Public South A First Round

#9 Our Lady of Mercy at #8 Pingry
#12 Union Catholic at #5 St. Thomas Aquinas
#11 Immaculata at #6 Camden Catholic

Non-Public South B First Round
#14 Moorestown Prep at #3 Rutgers Prep
#11 Timothy Christian at #6 Trenton Catholic
#10 Calvary Christian at #7 Bishop Eustace


Non-Public North B Quarterfinals
#5 Gill St. Bernard’s at #4 Montclair-Immaculate
#7 Wardlaw-Hartridge at #2 Morris Catholic

How can you not root for these guys? Highland Park and JP Stevens still trying to stop the skid

Joe Theisman – during a 2017 visit to his alma mater, South River, after the Rams beat Highland Park – had the utmost admiration for the other team.

He told MyCentralJersey.com reporter Andy Mendlowitz, “I admire the living daylights out of every one of them. Every one of them. It doesn’t matter what the score is. The score is insignificant in my opinion in this particular game. It’s the fact that these kids just keep on playing and going and going. And I admire them tremendously.”

The Owls had just 17 players that particular day, and were 0-4 on the season, coming off a 2016 campaign that saw them go 6-4 and finish strong, winning four of their final five games.

Fast forward to 2020 and Highland Park has lost 35 straight since then, including 0-7 this year, adding up to a 40-game losing streak that is the longest active in the state as of this writing.

READ MORE: Owls keep at it in Highland Park, with dedication, perseverence, and – hopefully – a win

It’s surely not for a lack of trying, nor a lack of enthusiasm or stick-to-itiveness. When we visited the Owls’ locker room in the summer, there was a sense of optimism and hope, and the team was pumped as they got their practice jerseys from the legendary Joe Policastro before heading out to the field with more than 30 kids in the program, numbers not seen in years on the Avenue of the Owls.

The results just haven’t shown on the field yet.

The scores have sometimes been lopsided, but the team persists. After all, playing football is often more about life lessons than winning a damn game, which – in the end – is really just a game.

READ MORE: In Highland Park, Joe Policastro connects the young, the old and everyone in between

The Owls will have two more cracks at it this regular season. This Friday they visit Manville, nearly as tough a task as last week’s opponent. Brearley shut them out 32-0 in Highland Park last Friday. The Mustangs are 6-1 heading into this Friday’s clash.

Their best hope likely is next Saturday’s game at Shabazz Stadium against Newark Central, which is 1-5 on the season.

The thing about Highland Park is it’s never been a downtrodden program. The Owls have won championship after championship, and have sent players to the pros, like L.J. Smith, while others – like Bruce Presley – have gone on to collegiate fame.

A few miles away, JP Stevens – though it doesn’t have the lengthy history and tradition of Highland Park – also has had some championship teams (six) and produced great players, the most recent of whom – Jeremy Zuttah – also played on Sundays.

But as times change, and the North side of Edison changes with it, the program’s fortunes have taken a turn as well.

As a result, the Big Central Conference gave JP a “relief” schedule, moving them down several divisions from their Group 5 counterparts like Edison, North Brunswick and Perth Amboy to the United Silver Division, which comprises middle-of-the-pack size schools like Carteret, Governor Livingston, North Plainfield and South Plainfield. Non-divisional opponents are even smaller schools.

But the Hawks are still 0-6 this year – again, not for any lack of persistence, gumption and grit – and have the second-longest active losing streak in the state behind Highland Park, having lost 29 in a row heading into their final two games of the regular season. Both are at home and against much smaller Group 2 schools: this week against 2-5 Metuchen and next week against 5-2 Spotswood, which is fighting for a playoff berth and could desperately use Group 5 power points.

Of course, we at Central Jersey Sports Radio are always impartial, fair and never root for one of our area teams over another, but you’d be hard pressed to find us not rooting for both of these teams to get off the schnied real soon!

Other Notes…

The next-longest losing streak in the state is Ferris, which has dropped 19 in a row. They are 0-6 this year, went 0-9 last year, and lost all four games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. It’s believed the longest losing streak ever in New Jersey belonged to Newark East Side, which lost 55 straight before snapping the streak in 2017 with a win over Belleville. It was just the fourth game for first-year head coach Brian Meeney, who also turned around St. Thomas Aquinas last year before his sudden and tragic death last winter.

The state’s longest active winning streak, meanwhile, belongs to Caldwell, which has won 21 straight – including 12-0 last season – and won its last three games of 2020.

While not a winning streak, Delsea has had an amazing streak recently, going 22-2 since the start of the COVID year. That’s 6-0 this season, 11-1 last season, and 5-1 in 2020. The Crusaders’ 35-6 win over Cedar Creek on Friday was the 231st victory for head coach Sal Marchesi, making him the winningest coach in school history.

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Week 2: Great Starts and Wild Finishes

On this week’s whip around “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” Mike Pavlichko explains why North looks at some great starts for North Hunterdon, South Plainfield and Hunterdon Central, and the very early playoff standings that have come out, plus much much more!

Click below to listen to the Week One edition of “The Big Central in Two Minutes”:

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Week 1: Explaining No. 1, and a Group Size alternative?

On our latest trip around “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” veteran CJSR sportscaster Mike Pavlichko explains why North Brunswick is still his No. 1 team, looks at Hillsborough having not missed a beat, and wonders if the current method of determining a school’s group size is really fair?

Click below to listen to the Week One edition of “The Big Central in Two Minutes”: