Tag: Hillside

FRIDAY Cutoff Weekend Playoff Analysis: Group 3

It’s Cutoff Weekend, and we’re the place to get all the updated playoff standings all week long, with our coverage brought to you by My Family Appliances on Route 1 South in the Wick Plaza, Edison.

We’ll have more analysis throughout the day Saturday as scores roll in. And don’t forget to join us for our “Playoff Projection Show” on Saturday at 6:00 pm as Mike Pavlichko brings you all the playoff projections, with analysis and commentary by Marcus Borden, live in studio!

Here’s an updated look at the Group 3 supersections based on Friday night results as reported to Gridiron New Jersey.


As we expected, Hillside‘s win over Carteret Friday night at The Pit triggered an odd situation: a team in fourth place (Hillside) that couldn’t jump the two two (Old Tappan and Summit) affecting the top two. The win put the Comets above Old Tappan in power point average, moved them from 4th to 3rd place, but moved Summit ahead of Old Tappan overall. The Golden Knights won Friday night, but against lowly-rated Demarest. And the Hilltoppers have highly-regarded St. Joseph in Metuchen Saturday, where even a loss won’t hurt them. We call Summit the top overall seed. And Hillside looks locked into third.

Cranford is in ninth after a loss to North Brunswick, holding court, and they look to be a lock there, too, regardless what West Essex does Saturday at East Orange.

We also think Governor Livingston is in, at 6-2 and in 16th place, regardless what happens Saturday at home against Bernards, since the Mountaineers are a strong opponent. But we’ll still keep an eye on that game Saturday.

Key Saturday Games to Watch:

  • #1 Summit at St. Joseph-Metuchen
  • #8 West Essex at East Orange
  • #12 Lincoln vs. Orange
  • #16 Governor Livingston vs. Bernards


Somerville moved up from 11th to 8th place with a Friday win over South Brunswick at Brooks Field. But hold the phone, because we think they drop to 9th if Manasquan beats Ocean Twp. at home Saturday. That’s the difference between a first-round home game and a road trip.

Carteret fell from 10th to 11th with the loss to a good Hillside team Friday night. Teams may move around them Saturday with a number of games to be played, but they might actually hold in 11th. We think they’ll be no worse than 12.

Key Saturday Games to Watch:

  • #9 Manasquan vs. #17 Ocean Township
  • #13 Highland Regional at Rancocas Valley
  • #14 Burlington Township vs. Willingboro
  • #25 Matawan at Freehold Boro
  • #19 Nottingham vs. Hamilton

Cutoff Weekend Playoff Analysis: Group 3

It’s down to the final weekend of the regular season in high school football, and Cutoff Weekend is just days away. This week, Central Jersey Sports Radio will bring you exclusive, team-by-team analysis of all the playoff scenarios for the 57 public schools in the Big Central Conference.

It’s all brought to you by My Family Appliances on Route 1 South in the Wick Plaza, Edison.

And don’t forget to join us for our “Playoff Projection Show” on Saturday at 6 pm (moved to an hour later) as Mike Pavlichko brings you all the playoff projections, with analysis and commentary by Marcus Borden, live in studio!

With that, here’s a look at Group 3 North and South, with all scores and playoff standings based on Gridiron New Jersey’s official calculations as of Sunday, October 15, 2023. Click on the heading to see the standings at Gridiron New Jersey:


2. Summit (6-1, 1.6 UPR): Here’s one we’re not sure if we’ve ever seen before. We think Summit has a crack at the overall No. 1 seed, win or lose Saturday at St. Joseph-Metuchen (5-2). How? Giving everyone down to the No. 8 team in the section a win except Summit, we believe the Hilltoppers leapfrog current No. 1 Old Tappan (6-1, 1.4 UPR), which suffered its first loss of the year last week – and first in 13 games – to undefeated (in the eyes of the NJSIAA, since they opened with a loss to Somers-NY) Ramapo last week. Again, how? Well, the Golden Knights lead Summit by just 0.2 UPR points. Old Tappan is first in OSI, second in power points. Summit is first in power points, second in OSI. That’s the 0.2 difference. Even a win by Old Tappan and loss by Summit won’t change things because the Hilltoppers play a tougher opponent than the Golden Knights, who host 1-7 Demarest. Now, enter Hillside: seventh in OSI, but third in power points. Their UPR is irrelevant. If they beat Carteret (7-1) Friday night at the Pit, they should move to second in power point average, knocking Old Tappan down a spot, adding 0.4 to their UPR, and putting them behind Summit. One day – it may be sooner than later – I’ll have a rant on this. Bottom line: Summit appears locked in as the overall 2-seed, and a top-seed in whatever section they call it, but jumps to No. 1 overall if Hillside beats Carteret, all regardless of what Summit and Old Tappan do.

4. Hillside (5-2, 5.4 UPR): Weighing all the above, Hillside can’t catch Summit or Old Tappan, and that’s what makes the Hilltoppers’ scenario all the more wacky, that a team that can’t catch either of them can affect how they finish above them. (I promise I’ll save this rant for later!) That said, Hillside can indeed climb has high as third with a win, regardless what everyone else behind them does. Worst-case scenario, a loss to the Ramblers (7-1) on the road Friday night could drop them as low as seven, but that would require everyone else around them to win. So, we think their range is a more manageable 3-5 seed overall, which would give them a 2-3 seed in whatever section they land.

9. Cranford (4-3, 7.4 UPR): Just 0.2 UPR points behind 8th place West Essex (5-3, 7.2), we think if the Cougars win Friday night at North Brunswick (7-0), and everyone else does, they can land as high as six overall with a Hillside loss to Carteret, seven if the Comets beat the Ramblers. A win and a loss by all the teams around them could actually get them as high as third. Neither of those extremes will probably happen, though, so let’s call them a longshot for a four seed, likely a 5/6, with a win. A Cougar loss to the Raiders, and they probably end up an 8-10 seed overall in North 4, with a lot of variables in between.

16. Governor Livingston (6-2, 16.2): Well, it appears Spotswood still has a shot at the playoffs in South 2 if they beat JP Stevens this weekend. So we may not have a repeat of last year’s snub there, nor Manville’s from 2021. The 2023 edition might be Governor Livingston. Opponents South River, JFK, JP Stevens and North Plainfield are a combined 1-29 on the year! That’s why they’re four games above .500 and sit in 16th, sweating it out this weekend, just 06. UPR points ahead of 17th place Sparta, which is just 2-5. (Go ahead, explain how this is working? We’ll wait.) Now, here’s the good news for the Highlanders: Their opponent at home Saturday is Bernards, one of the two best teams on their schedule. (The Mountaineers and Carteret could be debated as to who’s 1a. and 1b.) A win, and if a ton broke right, they could vault all the way up to No. 11 overall in the supersection. But what if they lose? Unless there’s a surprise somewhere, we think they’re locked in at 16, especially because they have a 37.53 OSI and a Bernards’ loss is worth 39.85 OSI points. That will increase their average. And remember, SI values are locked this week. They are tracked through the end of a team’s season – including playoff purposes – but for seeding purposes, the values will not change as a result of this weekend’s games. GL is guaranteed to rise – albeit a tiny amount – in power point average even with a loss to Bernards. We’re calling Governor Livingston in at this point, but they should treat it like it matters. Why chance it?


9. Carteret (7-1, 9.2 UPR): The Ramblers also stand to benefit from having a strong Cutoff Weekend opponent in Hillside (5-2) with a good SI (81.85) as well. Seneca should beat Northern Burlington, while Cedar Creek and Winslow have identical records, so giving the Pirates a loss to Winslow, Carteret, we think, could get as high as seven with a win, but perhaps as low as 11 or worse with a loss, if things break all the wrong ways for the Ramblers. We think the truth lies somewhere in the middle, with a lot of variables around them.

11. Somerville (4-4, 10.6): It’s likely the Pioneers will end up right where they are, one spot higher, or one spot down. Those may not be the only scenarios, but they seem the most likely. The ten is within reach with a win at home over South Brunswick (5-3), but the Vikings are a strong enough opponent that a loss won’t kill the Pioneers’ either. They don’t have a shot at a top eight seed, so all we really know for sure is this will be The Ville’s last game on their home field this season unless they advance in the playoffs and someone else pulls of a major upset.

Week 7 Friday night Playoff Analysis: Group 3

Through the end of the season, Central Jersey Sports Radio will be updating unofficial playoff standings following Friday night’s games. Full analysis after the weekend will come during the week as the official standings are released by Gridiron New Jersey.

Here’s a look at unofficial standings after games of Friday, October 13th in Group 3. Results are calculated using scores on Gridiron New Jersey as of 9:30 am on October 14th:

Summit’s win over Colonia Friday night keeps them in second place with a 1.6 UPR, still solidly in second over the third-place team with a 4.2 UPR, although it’s now Parsippany Hills (5-2) instead of Warren Hills (5-3), which had to take a forfeit loss last night to Montville, and whose game next week against Hackettstown is up in the air, too.

Hillside climbed from No. 8 to sixth place after a win at Delaware Valley, putting them more solidly in the top eight, which guarantees at least a first-round home game. That sets up a big game at 7-1 Carteret next Friday, where a win could boost them even higher.

Cranford’s loss to Linden dropped the Cougars (4-3) from sixth to ninth place, while Governor Livingston held steady in 15th (and their UPR held at 16.2). But the Highlanders drop to 16th even with a win over South River today, since the Rams are winless, not counting anything else other teams may do today, or potential residuals.

Carteret’s win over a 3-5 Rahway team still leaves them one shy of a school record sixth game in a season of 40 or more points (they won 19-15) but it did boost them from 12th all the way up to ninth, and puts them just 0.4 UPR points out of a top four finish. We’ve already mentioned their meeting next week with Hillside as a huge one for the Comets; the same can be said for the Ramblers.

Somerville’s loss to Hillsborough Friday night drops them two spots from ninth to 11th and behind Carteret. The Pioneers are 4-4 with a 10.6 UPR, but are still just 1.4 points out of the top eight, and have a big home game against South Brunswick with 12 residuals next week that could get them in, maybe with some help. (While the Vikings have five wins, the fifth came in Game 8, and residuals only count for an opponents first seven games, so the Pioneers would only get 12 residuals, not 15).

Week 7 Playoff Analysis: Group 3

With just two weeks of play left before the state playoffs are seeded, things are heating up in the playoff chase. Here’s our look at the Big Central Conference teams in playoff contention in Group 3 as we head into Week 7 of high school football around the state.

And, of course, don’t miss our “Playoff Projection Show,” scheduled for 5 pm on Saturday, October 21st, when we’ll reveal our predicted matchups and seeds for the postseason. It’s all presented by My Family Appliances of Edison, which will be giving away three $100 gift cards during the show to lucky listeners!

All our analysis is based on Gridiron New Jersey’s official playoff calculations performed for the NJSIAA and listed on their website as of 9:30 pm on October 10. For full standings, click on each supersection’s header below:


2. Summit (5-1, 1.6): The Hilltoppers are a pretty solid two two finisher at this point, wiht a 2.6 UPR lead over third-place Warren Hills (5-2, 4.2 UPR). They close with two challenging road games, this Friday night at Colonia and next Saturday afternoon at St. Joseph-Metuchen. It’s pretty simple for Summit. We think they at least split those, and that might lock it up. A sweep most assuredly does so.

6. Cranford (4-2, 6.0): The Cougars are not yet assured of a top eight finish, which would give them at least a first round home game. They close with two challenging games as well: Linden at home Friday night, and at North Brunswick next Friday night. The teams behind them are tightly-packed: Vernon (6.2 UPR), Hillside (6.6) and West Essex (7.6). They shouldn’t have to worry about West Essex in tenth at 10.2 UPR. In fact, even with a split, it looks like regardless of which team they beat, and irrespective of what Hillside and Vernon do, they would end up a top eight team. A sweep and they may finish in the top four depending how things shake out. Two losses, and it’s another story.

8. Hillside (4-2, 6.6): We think the Comets have a crack at a top eight finish if they can play their cards right and win their last two games. That could be easier said than done, though, with two road games: Delaware Valley this Friday and at Carteret next Friday night. Two wins keep them in the top eight. A split, and things could go either way. Two losses, it’s a first round road trip.

15. Governor Livingston (5-2, 16.2): The Highlanders are still on the bubble, but at least two spots on the right side of it. The good news is that 17th place Sparta and 18th place River Dell only have one win each. So they may not do much winning these last two weeks. Both play some good teams these final two weeks, and with the Spartans and Golden Hawks the first two teams out right now, GL may only have to worry about Mendham in 19th place, but they’re 2.2 UPR points behind. The schedule is what’s interesting for Governor Livingston, which has low-rated South River on the road Saturday, but undefeated Bernards next weekend. A win over South River may actually hurt them, but a loss to Bernards might actually help them. An interesting one to watch.


9. Somerville (4-3, 9.4): Let’s just say these last two games are huge for the Pioneers, who can make a huge jump with a win on their short road trip down Route 206 to play Hillsborough Friday night. They finish with South Brunswick at Brooks Field next Friday night. They’re a 50-50 at getting a first-round home game, via a top eight finish. Three teams from 8th to 9th are bunched up, with Manasquan at 9.2 UPR, Somerville at 9.4, and Seneca, with a 9.8 UPR. The ‘Ville may need a sweep to play another game at Brooks Field in the opening round.

12. Carteret (6-1, 12): Having six wins already and not being in the top eight means the Ramblers probably can’t make the move up unless the teams ahead of them all collapse down the stretch. Nice thought, but there’s no one ahead of them with only a couple of wins to catch. They’re all good. In fact, 13 of the top 16 teams here have reached three wins already. Carteret has two strong opponents here, Rahway and Hillside, and if they are to have a chance at opening the playoffs at the Pit, they’ll need to sweep, and probably need some help.

Week 6 Playoff Analysis: Group 3

As we head down the home stretch of the high school football season in New Jersey, attention begins to turn to the postseason, and where everyone’s favorite team will fall.

Central Jersey Sports Radio has you covered the next three weeks, with our playoff analysis brought to you by My Family Appliances, Route One South in the Wick Plaza in Edison. They’re also the presenting sponsor of our “Playoff Projection Show” on Saturday, October 21 at 5 pm, and will be giving away three $100 gift cards to some lucky listeners!

In the meantime, a lot can happen between now and Cutoff Weekend, but here’s out team-by-team breakdown of where every Big Central Conference team in contention for the playoffs could end up. Click the supersection header to be taken to the official UPR standings heading into Week 6, as calculated for the NJSIAA by Gridrion New Jersey:


2. Summit (4-1): The Hilltoppers are rolling, their only loss coming to undefeated St. Thomas Aquinas in between a pair of wins their first two weeks, and two straight victories since. We think Summit pretty much controls its own fate. If they can take care of business in their last three games, they should be able to at least hold onto one of the top two seeds. Summit already is first in power points – by a lot – by virtue of having played Aquinas, a multiplier, for which they received 24 points for a loss. And their OSI is third, at 58.09. So there’s not much room for them to go up. But the nearest team behind them in OSI is Parsippany Hills at 54.64, then Vernon, Pascack Valley, and West Essex all around 52. Summit’s next three opponents all have SI values that should bring their OSI up: that’s Linden this week at Tatlock Field, then road trips to Colonia and St. Joseph-Metuchen. If Summit keeps doing what it has been doing, the Hilltoppers will be in fine shape for a top two finish and a No. 1 seed in whatever section they end up.

6. Cranford (3-2): The good news is the Cougars are in the top eight, with a UPR of a pure 6 (which is sixth in both power points and OSI) and the next team – Pascack Valley – is two full OSI points behind them. After 1-5 Scotch Plains on the road this week, things get a little tougher: Linden at home next week, then at North Brunswick the Friday night of Cutoff Weekend. Two wins – including SPF – should be enough to keep a hold on a top eight finish, which would give the Cougars at least a guaranteed first round home game in the playoffs.

9. Hillside (3-2): The Comets are squarely on the “first round home game bubble,” if you will. They’ve got a 9.2 UPR, while 8th place Passaic Valley has an 8.8 UPR. Their remaining schedule is not easy, with Johnson at home this week, then road games at Delaware Valley and Carteret, all of whom have winning records. That’s something very few teams have here in the last few weeks. Most have at least one winless or one- or two-win team. Barris Grant’s team will be challenged, but it’s also an opportunity to lock down a first-round home game at Conant Street Park. We’re not sure if two will do it, but three very well should. Check back again next week; we’ll have a better idea then!

15. Governor Livingston (5-1): The Highlanders are having a tremendous season, Owen Chait just won the Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week award for Week Five, and yet they’re in 15th place, on the bubble. It’s a 2.8 UPR point lead for GL over the 17th place team, 1-4 Sparta. Our take is that sub.-500 teams don’t belong in the playoffs, but that’s a debate for another time. The remaining schedule is a two-fold challenge for Governor Livingston. On the one hand, they have very tough games this week against Carteret, and in two weeks against Bernards; those two teams are a combined 11-1. Both are at home. In between is South River, a game that could very well hurt their standing, even with a win. It’s possible they may need to sweep, but they might be able to get away with two wins, since one of those victories would have to come over a very good team. Let’s see what happens against the Ramblers, and what everyone else does. We should have a much clearer picture by then.

21. Voorhees (3-3): Though the Vikings are .500 on the year, they have a 21 UPR, 5.2 points out of a playoff spot. We think they’re out regardless of how they finish, since their last three opponents are a combined 3-14 between South Plainfield, JFK and North Hunterdon, and the Tigers own all three of those wins. It’s too much ground to make up with a schedule that isn’t strong enough.


8. Somerville (4-2): The Pioneers are the highest-ranked BCC team in the supersection, and they have Camden and Ocean Township both 1.6 UPR points behind, nipping at their heels. Their losses have come to the best two teams they’ve played so far: Montgomery and Union, both top ten teams. They’re at Westfield Saturday, Hillsborough next week, then back home for South Brunswick at Brooks Field Friday night of Cutoff Weekend. The teams behind them have a mixed bag of a schedule. For example, Camden has a 5-0 team and an 0-5 team to face. Wins in both could cancel out. Ocean Township has an ok schedule, too. We think Ville’s is tougher, so we’re thinking two wins in their final three games might lock up a top eight finish, and a first round home game.

12. Carteret (5-1): The Ramblers are having a great season, and while we won’t exactly place them on the bubble here, we think it’s a good probability the Ramblers get in. Our thinking is they win at least one if not two of their remaining games. Either should be enough to keep them in. But it won’t be easy. This week, it’s Governor Livingston on the road – a game they may well need, too – and then home to Rahway and Hillside the last two weeks. Both should be fun matchups! Can the Ramblers reach No. 8? Well, that may require a sweep. Let’s see how things shake out this week against GL – and with the teams ahead of them and behind them – and we’ll have a clearer picture.

Mid-Season Playoff Analysis: Summit, Cranford, Carteret may have chance at top seeds in Group 3

It’s our first week of playoff analysis here at Central Jersey Sports Radio – this year, presented by our friends at My Family Appliances in Edison – and it seems like more teams have a legitimate shot at earning top seeds.

That may just be anecdotal evidence, and there’s still a lot of football to be played, but as of now, at least three Group 3 schools may have a chance.

But first…

Playoff Qualification Primer

The NJSIAA uses the United Power Ranking (UPR) to determine where teams are seeded. Without getting into all the behind the scenes calculations and caveats, each team’s UPR is based on two factors: their rank in the supersection based on power points and on OSI.

Power points are an average and based on the traditional formula that’s been used – albeit altered from time-to-time – over the years. Teams get six points for every win, group points based on the group of the opponent, and residuals – 3 for every win by a team you beat, 1 for every win by a team you lost to.

OSI is the Opponent Strength Index, and average of all the opponents played. Teams get the full value of a team’s Strength Index for a win, half for a loss. A win over an opponent with an SI of 80 gets and 80, a loss gets you 40 points. SI varies based on results throughout the year.

Teams are ranked in each category. OSI values are worth 60 percent of the formula, power points 40 percent. That added number makes the UPR, with lower numbers better. The best UPR a team can have is a 1, which is first in both power points and OSI.

The UPR is calculated for the NJSIAA by the website Gridiron New Jersey. Central Jersey Sports Radio also does its own unofficial calculations throughout the season, and will unveil its playoff projections in our annual special broadcast, this year on Saturday, October 21 from 5-7 pm, presented by My Family Appliances in Edison.

North Group 3

While Old Tappan (4-0, 10-game win streak, second longest active in the state) sits at the top, Summit (3-1) is No. 2 overall at the moment in the section, with a 2.2 UPR, right behind Old Tappan (1.4) and ahead of Warren Hills (4-1, 2.4 UPR) by a smidge. Cranford (2-2) is just behind the, but it’s a wider gap, as they have a 6.4 UPR, which is decent ground to make up.

The Hilltoppers have a good schedule coming up after winless Scotch Plains-Fanwood at home this weekend, with strong teams like Linden at home next week, then two road games to closer it out at Colonia and St. Joseph-Metuchen. Old Tappan’s schedule may be slightly lower in quality the rest of the way out, and Warren Hills is fairly similar, too. Summit may have to win out to earn a top seed, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Cranford has a tough schedule, too, including closing with Group 5 North Brunswick. The Cougars may need some help, but it’t not out of the question for them either if things break right.

The next area team in the standings is Hillside at No. 12. The Comets are 3-1, and should fairly safely be in the playoffs if they continue to play at the level they have been; their lone loss is to Ridge.

Governor Livingston is an interesting study. The Highlanders are 4-1, having won four straight after losing their opener. It”s their best start since going 8-1 to start 2006, a season they finished 8-3. It’s their first four-game win streak since 2008, when the Highlanders went 7-5 and lost to Caldwell in the North 2, Group 2 title game.

All that and GL is only in 16th place.

It’s mainly due to their schedule: three of their four wins have come against teams that are a combined 0-14 in North Plainfield, JFK and JP Stevens. The schedule gets tougher though, with Carteret and Bernards – teams with top-seed playoff aspirations – among their final four games. Both are at home, the Ramblers next week, and Bernards on the Saturday of Cutoff Weekend.

A win against one of those might be needed in order to combat the weak schedule. Stay tuned, they could be this year’s cause celebre in the Big Central, a la Spotswood last year and Manville two years ago. They finished with seven and six wins, respectively, at the cutoff, and didn’t make the postseason, and scheduling had a lot to do with it.

South Group 3

It might be a bit of a longshot, and playing winless JP Stevens won’t help them this week, no matter how close they keep it, but Carteret sits in sixth with a 7.4 UPR, 4.8 points behind second-place Holmdel.

Then again, after the Hawks this Friday night (7 pm on CJSR) the schedule gets tougher. There’s 4-1 Governor Livingston, then Rahway and Hillside.

A lot may depend on what others do.

Somerville (3-2) sits in eighth at the moment, so they’re right on the bubble of a first round home game. They could go either way at this still-early date.

South Plainfield, like Governor Livingston, is another plus-.500 team in rough shape. At 3-2, the Tigers sit in 24th place, a full nine UPR points out of the playoff window. Worse yet, their remaining schedule is not good. Other than GL this week, they have Voorhees, at Perth Amboy, and home to Monroe the last three weeks; those three teams are a combined 6-9. It’s not awful, but there’s no “big win” either, to give them a big boost.

Bernards erases first half deficit, pulls away from Hillside for 28-12 road win

Until Jonas Gonzalez got Bernards on the board late in the first quarter at Conant Street Park Saturday afternoon, things weren’t going well for the Mountaineers.

But in the end, Bernards took control of the game, picking up a 28-12 victory to start the season 2-0.

Hillside (0-1) opened the scoring with a 19-yard touchdown run by Talibi Kaba, then Bernards fumbled in the red zone on the ensuing possession. Talk about inauspicious starts.

But they hung in there, and after another TD by the Comets – a five-yard run by Chibugo Chigoze-Nwosu early in the second quarter – slowly, but surely, climbed back into the game and eventually took the lead.

There was a four-yard touchdown run by QB Connor Laverty to cut it to 12-9, then a 24-yard field goal by Gonzalez to know the game at 12 heading into the locker room.

Click below for postgame reaction from Marcus Borden with Bernards senior quarterback Connor Laverty and head coach Jon Simoneau, sponsored by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

And Bernards continued in the third quarter. Laverty hit Jack Morra with a ten-yard TD strike to make it 18-12, with the PAT blocked – their second of the day, while Hillside also had one blocked in the first half. Another field goal and touchdown – while holding the Comets scoreless in the second half – made the final 28-12.

2023 Big Central Preview: Patriot Silver

When you consider an eight-win team finished fourth in a five-team division last year, you might consider that parity.

That was Roselle, which went 8-3 in 2022, but with all three of those losses coming in the division, against only one win in the Patriot Silver.

There was clearly a defined best team – Hillside – and the one that needed work – Metuchen – but all in all, this year, with the Bulldogs now in Year 2 for alum Jordan Leitner, and the Comets losing D-1 talent nearly all over the field, the ends of that spectrum may be closer.

And that big question mark surrounding the Patriot Silver also includes all the teams in between. There’s the aforementioned Roselle, which should be right in the mix again. AL Johnson will be very experienced, and so will New Providence.

It could all just come down to who’s better any given Friday night with this bunch.

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

Central Jersey Sports Radio announces “Specialty Awards” for 2022

So many great players, so few awards. When you’ve got multiple deserving players for a single award, it’s time to get creative to honor those who truly deserve to be honored.

So without any further ado, here are Central Jersey Sports Radio’s postseason Specialty Awards for 2022!

Best Rushing QB” Award: Jaeden Jones, Colonia

The top two rushers in the Big Central Conference this season were quarterbacks. Matt Sims of Brearley was No. 2, and topping the list was Colonia junior Jaeden Jones, who succeeded a pretty good runner himself: last year’s “Mr. Dynamic” Award to the most explosive player in the league by far, fellow quarterback Josh Oluremi.

Colonia’s Jaeden Jones (Source: @Jaeden_Jones2 on Twitter)

In fact, Oluremi and Jones share a unique piece of history. So far as we could tell, at least back to the mid-90s – since stats from those years aren’t as readily available as they are now – Oluremi was the first quarterback since then to lead Middlesex County in rushing. (He was second in the Big Central Conference last year to state rushing leader Colin Murray of Cranford, in Union County.)

Now, Jones has made it two years in a row for a QB to lead Middlesex County in rushing, both from the same school. And as for making his own piece of history, he’s also the first quarterback to lead the BCC in rushing in its short three-year history. (Someone remember it when we go digging for that fact in another 20 years, please?

Like Oluremi, Jones’ rushing to passing totals were about a 3:2 ratio in favor of the ground game. Jones threw 86 of 150 for 1,059 yards, but amassed 248 carries of his own on the ground for 1,661 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Jones led Colonia to an 8-2 record this year, and the Liberty Gold Division title. And the best part is, he’ll be back next year.

Click below to hear Justin Sontupe talk with Jaeden Jones of Colonia:

“Best Backfield Duo”: Kente Edwards and Alex Uryniak, North Hunterdon

While head coach Kevin Kley has called runningback Kente Edwards “the most feared runner” in the Big Central, he’s been blessed enough to have a “backup” – yes, we put that in quotes – who he says “could be the starter on any team in the league.”

And he’s not fibbing.

Edwards got banged up against Colonia in Week Five and missed the better part of the next four games, and if you closed your eyes and ears and just looked at the stat line, you wouldn’t know it was Alex Uryniak taking the bulk of the carries.

North Hunterdon’s Kente Edwards (#3, left) and Alex Uryniak (#22, second from left) at midfield for the coin toss before the North 2, Group 4 title game against Randolph in Annandale on November 12, 2022. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Edwards had been averaging 160 yards a game, and even had 161 against Colonia. But in the first two playoff games, Uryniak ran for 433 yards and five touchdowns, while QB Luke Martini started throwing like a beast (more on him later) in the games Uryniak didn’t top 100. Uryniak ended up with 1,012 yards on the season and 13 scores, giving the Lions two thousand-yard rushers, as Edwards finished with 1,442 and 15 touchdowns.

Go ahead, pick your poison.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with the two-headed monster runningback combo of Kente Edwards and Luke Martini:

“Rising Star” Award: Jett Genovese, Phillipsburg

On a team with so many standouts, and a ton of balance among key players, Jett Genovese was able to run it all with precision for Phillipsburg.

Four runningbacks carried for over 300 yards, with none more than Xavier Moore’s 851. And through the air, Genovese found four different targets for more than 150 yards, with none more than Michael Scerbo Jr.,’s 476. That connection should be hooking up a lot again next year, as both players are sophomores.

But it was Genovese who was able to find his way through it for the Stateliners,

Phillipsburg quarterback Jett Genovese (Photo courtesy @HanisakPhoto)

And though Phillipsburg was knocked off by West Orange in the North 2, Group 5 final, Genovese came up big when it really counted – against Easton. He threw for 86 yards and three touchdown passes, while distributing the ball to five different runningbacks, led by Moore’s 114 yards, and Caleb Rivera’s two rushing touchdowns.

We have a feeling we’ll be talking about Jett a lot over the next couple of years.

Click below to Genovese talk about his first year as a starting QB for P’burg with Justin Sontupe:

Best Returning QB-WR Tandem: Michael Schmelzer, Jr. and Matt D’Avino, Montgomery

Montgomery had a very good season in 2022, starting 5-0 for the first time in school history.

And though the finished 7-3, with a first-round playoff loss to Northern Highlands – the North 1, Group 4 Champions and Group 4 finalist – they are the only team that can make this claim: they will have the top returning quarterback and the top returning receiver in the Big Central Conference when they come back to the field in 2023.

Montgomery QB Michael Schmelzer, Jr. (left) and WR Matt D’Avino are interviewed after a 27-20 home win over Somerville on September 16, 2022 heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio (Photos: Mike Pavlichko)

Quarterback Michael Schmelzer, Jr., threw for 1,658 yards and 21 touchdowns, good for fourth in the conference, but Luke Martini of North Hunterdon, Matt Yascko of Edison and Frankie Garbolino of North Brunswick are all graduating.

Wide receiver Matt D’Avino was second in the conference with 1,053 yards and 14 touchdowns, just one yard behind – and one TD ahead of – Derek Vaddis of North Hunterdon, who’s also graduating.

These two have been playing catch for many years now, and will get one more year together with the Cougars. We’re looking forward to watching.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Michael Schmelzer, Jr. and Matt D’Avino of Montgomery:

“Nobody Scores” Award: Bernards Defense (represented by Enzo Britez)

They may not have been St. Thomas Aquinas from a year ago, which tied a playoff-era Middlesex County record with seven shutouts, but they came pretty damn close.

In an 8-2 season with just one regular season loss, the Bernards Mountaineers played locked down D for the majority of 2022, shutting out six opponents en route to a clean 4-0 division sweep to the Big Central’s Patriot Gold title.

Bernards senior Enzo Britez (Source: @enzobritez on Twitter)

Click below to hear Justin Sontupe talk with Bernards defensive back Enzo Britez:

“Walk Off Defender” Award: Zamir Hawk, Hillside

Walkoff is a term most commonly used in baseball, but Barris Grant uses it to talk about Zamir Hawk, his senior nosetackle. Specifically, his efforts in Hillside’s two playoff wins this season, that got them to the North 1 Group 3 title game.

Hawk, a senior, had 67 tackles this year, and 15 for a loss, along with four sacks and a pick-six.

But he came up the biggest on the biggest of stages.

In the playoff opener against Parsippany Hills, the Comets scored 19 unanswered points to win and advance. But even after taking the lead in the fourth quarter, it wasn’t for good until Hawk’s pass breakup on a last-ditch effort by Par Hills effectively gave Hillside the win.

Zamir Hawk of Hillside (Source: @Hawk_973 on Twitter)

And if that wasn’t big enough, following an even bigger comeback by the Comets against River Dell, his interception sealed yet another win, propelling Hillside into the sectional semifinals.

Don’t challenge this kid!

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Hillside senior Zamir Hawk:

“Playoff Beast”: Luke Martini, North Hunterdon

North 2, Group 4 Champion North Hunterdon had all kinds of players put up all kinds of great numbers this year.

But when push came to shove, and the season was in crunch time, senior quarterback Luke Martini stepped it up a notch.

It started with the Milk Can Game against Voorhees, their big rival, when – with top runningback Kente Edwards nursing a lower body injury – Martini threw for 166 yards and three touchdowns against the Vikings in a 35-7 win.

But it didn’t stop there. He continued his hot streak into the playoffs, all the way to the sectional finals. First came 253 yards and four touchdowns against Middletown North in the opening round. Then 231 yards and two TDs in the second round against Morris Knolls. And finally, in the sectional title game, with everything on the line, in a wild ballgame that saw a combined 84 points, he threw for 411 yards and five scores against Randolph.

North Hunterdon QB Luke Martini (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Summing up, out of his 2,306 passing yards – best in the Big Central by about 400 yards – and 22 touchdowns on the season, that four-game stretch generated 1,061 yards and a whopping 14 touchdowns.

That’s what we call a playoff beast.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk to Luke Martini about his incredible playoff run:

“Injury-Be-Damned” Award”: Adam Bowles, South Plainfield

It’s one thing to play great defense on a team that went from 2-8 to an undefeated regular season like Adam Bowles did in South Plainfield, but it’s another to do it with your arm in a cast.

Yet that’s exactly what he did for the latter half of the 2022 season.

The senior linebacker tallied 129 tackles – 77 solo – while also notching 7 1/2 tackles for loss, a sack, three quarterback hurries, and three interceptions. And he played the last five games of the season in a cast!

South Plainfield linebacker Adam Bowles (Source: @datboiadamd1 on Twitter)

Click below to hear Bowles talk with Justin Sontupe about toughing it out this season for the Tigers:

“Full 48”: Robert Orzol, Old Bridge

One of the oldest cliches in sport is they saying: “We’ve got to play the whole ___ minutes.”

But in no circumstance was it ever more true that for Old Bridge defensive lineman Robert Orzol.

We documented this game with Old Bridge head coach Matt Donaghue here, but the gist is this: after a missed field goal that would have given the Knights the lead in a Week Two game at South Brunswick, the Vikings needed to gain a first down to take a couple of knees and run out the clock. But a fumble on the second snap caught the eye of Orzol, who dove on it, giving the ball back to Old Bridge. They won the game on a touchdown.

Old Bridge DL and playoff-clinching here Robert Orzol (Source: @OrzolRobert on Twitter)

That’s an amazing enough story on its own. Fast forward to Cutoff Weekend, and Old Bridge finished 17th in the South 5 standings, oh-so-close to a playoff spot. But not so fast.

The NJSIAA playoff seeding rules conduct a top-down head-to-head tiebreaker throughout the entire bracket, meaning if the team in third, for example, beat the team in second, they flip-flop. And down the list they go until they get to number 17.

That was Old Bridge. South Brunswick was 16th. But not for long.

Yes, Old Bridge won the head-to-head. Orzol was the hero again, weeks later, as the Knights made the playoffs, all thanks to Orzol’s fumble recovery.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Robert Orzol – whose never-give-up attitude almost singlehandedly got Old Bridge into the playoffs:

“MVP” Awards: Matt Sims of Brearley and Shawn Purcell of Manville

For the first time, Central Jersey Sports Radio is giving out an “MVP” award, to the players who are, well, most valuable to their team.

While there were so many great players this season, and many with an abundance of talent, two players stood out as perhaps the most critical to their success. And it might not surprise you to see that they’re both from small Group 1 schools: Brearley and Manville

Brearly QB Matt Sims with head coach Scott Miller (left). (Source: @mattsimss6 on Twitter)

Brearley’s Matt Sims finished just behind Jaeden Jones in the Big Central in rushing, with 1,523 yards and 26 touchdowns, the sixth highest total in the state of New Jersey. (That also makes it two quarterbacks leading the Big Central on the ground this season.) He also threw for 1,063 yards and ten touchdowns, an astounding number when you consider he not only didn’t complete anywhere near a hundred passes, but he didn’t even attempt 100 passes, going 67-of-99.

But the most astounding number was this: Sims accounted for 75% of his team’s yards from scrimmage this year.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Brearley senior QB Matt Sims:

Meanwhile, Manville’s Shawn Purcell really could have received this award for a two-year body of work.

Last year, he carried 117 times for 1,176 yards and 15 touchdowns, while this year accounting for 1,238 yards on the ground on just 106 carries, hitting paydirt 22 times. He also excelled on kick returns, and has five career interceptions at cornerback. (He’d probably have more if anyone dared throw at him.)

Manville’s Shawn Purcell (Source: Twitter)

Manville should have made unprecedented back-to-back playoff appearances, amazingly missing out last year at 6-2 at the cutoff, but that’s neither here nor there. In the end, Manville was 14-5 the last two seasons with Purcell as the focal point of the offense. And that’s the best two-year record for the program since a 14-4 run in 1968 – when the Mustangs went 9-0) and 1969 (when they went 5-4). Arguably, it’s even better with better win totals in both seasons.

These seasons don’t come along every year in a small town like Manville, but Purcell was a big reason why they did.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Manville senior RB/CB/KR Shawn Purcell:

North Hunterdon edges out Phillipsburg for top spot in final Big Central Media Poll

In a split vote, North Hunterdon earned top honors in the final Big Central Media Poll of the 2022 high school football season over Phillipsburg, with the Lions getting three of the five first-place votes. The Stateliners got the other two.

The final media poll of the season mirrored the final Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten with one exception: Watchung Hills got in the media poll at No. 9, while Westfield took that spot in the CJSR poll. Both teams were 7-3 on the season.

North Hunterdon got the top spot on the strength of its North 2, Group 4 championship, though the Lions were knocked out in the first-ever group semifinals by Northern Highlands back on Saturday.

Phillipsburg was upset in the North 2, Group 5 finals by West Orange, but beat North Hunterdon early on in the regular season.

Edison came in third, despite four losses, after making a huge run as the sixth-seed in Central Jersey Group 5 to win a sectional title. Along with West Orange, they were the lowest seeds in the state among public schools to reach sectional finals, and both wound up winning titles.

St. Thomas Aquinas, which beat Edison in the regular season, but got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, checks in at No. 4. Aquinas holds the Big Central Conference’s longest league winning streak going into next year at 17 games, with Phillipsburg and Brearley behind them at eleven straight regular season league wins.

North Brunswick checks in fifth, having been knocked out of the playoffs in the Central Group 5 semifinals by Edison.

Ridge came in sixth, followed by North 2 Group 3 finalist Hillside in seventh.

Cranford was No. 8, Watchung Hills rated ninth, and Montgomery finished in tenth, while Westfield, Bernards, and North 1 Group 1 finalist Brearley (10-1) also received votes.

Below is the complete final Big Central Media Poll for 2022: