Tag: HS Football

St. Joseph-Metuchen gearing up for a first: its very own “Friday Night Lights”

St. Joseph-Metuchen High School President John Nolan had an idea. Why not host a night football game?

Brenner Family Field was a nice artificial playing surface to be sure, but the addition of a stadium with press box to open the 2020 school year had Nolan and school officials thinking bigger.

First-year head coach Bill Tracy liked the idea.

The program played its first varsity season in 2011, and since then has hosted all its home games on Saturday afternoons, with no permanent lights around the all-purpose field and track loop right off of Plainfield Avenue in Metuchen.

So, this weekend, St. Joe’s will bring in rented lights, and have a full weekend of activities dubbed “Fall Fest,” including a couple of firsts: not only the school’s first-ever home football night game – as the Falcons take on Edison in the Big Central Game of the Week on Central Jersey Sports Radio (6:30 pm, pregame 6:15) – but also its first-ever Homecoming Weekend.

Mike Pavlichko got a chance to talk to Bill Tracy earlier this season – shortly after the the announcement was first made by the school – about the night game, the festivities around it, and more.

Click below to hear the interview, and scroll down for a link to all the festivities planned this weekend at St. Joseph-Metuchen:

Click here for information on St. Joseph’s first-ever Homecoming Weekend activities

Phillipsburg holds, Aquinas rises, Ridge rejoins, Westfield and Watchung Hills debut in a topsy-turvy Big Central Week 5 Media Poll

In a week where half the Big Central Conference’s undefeated teams fell for the first time, there were big shifts throughout the Week 5 Media Poll, except at the top, where Phillipsburg again took four of the first place votes to hold at No. 1, with North Brunswick picking up one vote and staying at No. 2.

Beyond that, all bets were off after Week 5 of play.

St. Thomas Aquinas took the third spot in the rankings away from Hillside with a 17-10 home win in North Edison Friday night. North Hunterdon jumped six places to No. 4 after knocking off 8th-ranked Colonia at home 33-7, bouncing the Patriots from the rankings, though they did get votes this week.

Hillsborough held in fifth, while Hillside dropped three places to No. 6, and Sayreville moved up to No. 7.

After a weeks’ absence, Ridge is back in at No. 8, while Westfield and Watchung Hills debut for the season, tied at No. 9. The Blue Devils handed then-No. 7 St. Joseph-Metuchen its first loss of the season Saturday, a 14-0 decision at Kehler Stadium in Westfield, knocking the Falcons from the polls. Watchung Hills won at then-No. 6 Montgomery, blanking the Cougars 33-0 in Skillman Friday night, bouncing them from the rankings as well.

After the media poll had narrowed to only see 14 teams getting votes in Week 4, down from 19 in the preseason, 16 teams got votes this week.

Below are the full rankings for the Week 5 Big Central Media Poll:

Everyone else does the shuffle, but Phillipsburg and North Brunswick remain 1-2 in CJSR Top Ten

With four of the Big Central Conference’s undefeated teams losing in Week 5, and a sprinkle of other games factored in, the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten saw a big shuffle among all the teams but two, as Phillipsburg – which got both first-place votes – and North Brunswick remain No. 1 and No. 2.

While the Stateliners (5-0) and North Brunswick (5-0) continued to win, ranked teams like Hillside, Montgomery and Colonia suffered their first losses of the season, while St. Joseph-Metuchen suffered its second loss in a row.

What it all meant was an opportunity for several teams to move up.

Hillsborough – after a shutout at P’burg two weeks ago – got back on the winning track, edging out Union at home to improve to 4-1, and move up two spots in the poll to fifth. North Hunterdon took a huge leap with a win over previously unbeaten and then No. 6 Colonia – which dropped out – 33-7 in Annandale; the Lions climbed from tenth to fourth.

St. Thomas Aquinas knocked off previously-undefeated Hillside, and the win got the Trojans to fifth, up three spots. Sayreville moved up two spots to sixth, tied with the Comets.

Three new teams fill out the last three spots in the rankings.

Westfield (4-1) joins the group at No. 8 this week after beating previous-No. 7 St. Joseph-Metuchen at home Saturday afternoon, 14-0, the Falcons second loss, which also dropped them from the rankings.

In ninth is Watchung Hills, which is 4-2 after knocking a 33-0 win at No. 3 and previously-unbeaten Mongtomery, bouncing the Cougars from the rankings. The Warriors’ only league loss is to North Hunterdon; their other defeat is to Morris Knolls.

Tied with Watchung Hills is Ridge, debuting at 3-2. The Red Devils’ only losses are to Phillipsburg and Hillsborough.

Montgomery and Edison also received votes.

Following are the full Week 5 Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings:

INSTANT REPLAY: No. 10 North Hunterdon 33, No. 6 Colonia 7

North Hunterdon runningbacks Kente Edwards and Alex Urinyak combined for close to 300 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the 10th-ranked North Hunterdon Lions defeated the 6th-ranked Colonia Patriots 33-7 on Friday, September 30, 2022.

Click below to listen to Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino call all the action from Annandale, NJ:

1st Half

2nd Half

Rough night for (most of) the Big Central unbeatens, as four of seven playing Friday night go down

The Big Central Conference had eight teams boasting unblemished records heading into Week 5 of the high school football regular season.

Half those teams went down Friday night – Colonia, Hillside, Johnson and Montgomery – with one more still to play Saturday afternoon, when South Plainfield (4-0) visits Governor Livingston (3-2), winners of their last three games.

First, the good news: top-ranked Phillipsburg and No. 2 North Brunswick picked up convincing wins Friday night, while Brearley won as well.

Though they only led 7-0 at the half, Phillipsburg scored twice to take a 21-0 lead on Hunterdon Central, eventually winning 21-7 in Flemington. Xavier Moore opened the scoring and Jett Genovese threw a pair of touchdown passes to Matthew Scerbo, Jr. Now 5-0, the Stateliners host Bridgewater-Raritan at Maloney Stadium next Friday night.

North Brunswick allowed just its third and fourth touchdowns of the season in a 34-14 road win at Franklin. A fourth-quarter touchdown came when the game was out of hand. The Raiders are 5-0 as well, and take the short trip down Livingston Avenue to New Brunswick next Friday night.

Phillipsburg and North Brunswick both led their respective Group 5 playoff supersections – North and South 5 – heading into the weekend, but they won’t meet in the regular season. They could only play if they both reached the first-ever Group 5 state final this December at Rutgers.

As for Brearley, the Bears blanked South Hunterdon 14-0, their third shutout in five games this season. QB Matt Sims rushed for a three-yard touchdown in the second quarter, while Brendan Fitzsimmons scored on a nine-yard TD pass from Sims in the fourth quarter. The Bears are 5-0.

Now, to the downside, and the four teams that went down for the first time all season.

If it wasn’t the least surprising result, it might have been on paper, at least according to the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten rankings. In a battle of ranked teams, 8th-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas edged out Hillside in North Edison, 17-7. The Comets fall to 4-1, while the Trojans are now 5-1, undefeated in Big Central play, with their only loss coming to Timber Creek of the West Jersey Football League in Week Zero. The highlight for Aquinas was a 100-yard pick six by Najee Lovejoy late in the first quarter.

Montgomery’s 5-0 season came to a crashing halt with a 33-0 home loss to Watchung Hills. The Cougars didn’t help their cause losing two fumbles. Click here for a recap and postgame reaction from Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Chris Tsakonas.

In the Big Central Game of the Week on Central Jersey Sports Radio, No. 6 Colonia got dominated as well, as runningbacks Kente Edwards and Alex Urinyak combined for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-7 home win for No. 10 North Hunterdon over the Patriots in Annandale. Click here for a recap and postgame reaction from Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko.

And Johnson, off a 4-0 start – its best start since a 5-0 mark to begin 2017 – suffered its first loss of the season, with a 27-14 loss at New Providence, which has won two straight to improve to 3-3 as they figure out life post-Charlie Barth. Ben Gullo led the way for the Pioneers with three touchdowns and 124 rushing yards. The Crusaders fall to 4-1.

Watchung Hills blanks No. 3 Montgomery, hands Cougars first loss in ’22

It was all Warriors in Skillman Friday night, as unranked Watchung Hills knocked off No. 3 Montgomery 33-0 on the road, to give the Cougars their first loss of the season.

At 5-0, Monty was off to the program’s best start ever in its 21st season of existence. But it all came apart against the Warriors, who improved to 4-2 with the win and will pick up a lot of power points to help with playoff positioning.

Watchung Hills struck first late in the first quarter, with running back David Dubas finding the end zone on a 17-yard touchdown run to cap off a seven-play, 55-yard drive with 1:41 left.

Nirio Garcia doubled the lead to 14-0, punching it in from 4 yards out with 8:42 left in the first half. A 36-yard field goal from Riley McCann sent Wachtung Hills to the locker room with a 17-0 halftime lead.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Warriors put it away early in the fourth off a 1 yard touchdown run from Dylan Moffat. Joey Bechtle made it 31-0 off a 2 yard run with 4 minutes to play, and a safety on the next Montgomery drive turned it into a 33-0 finish.

Click below for postgame reaction from Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Chris Tsakonas:

Watchung Hills RB David Dubas
Watchung Hills RB Nirio Garcia

No. 10 North Hunterdon runs over No. 6 Colonia, handing Patriots first loss

Kente Edwards got the better of Jaeden Jones in a matchup that featured two of the best rushers in the conference.

Colonia’s junior quarterback Jaeden Jones entered the game with over 900 rushing and 500 passing yards, with 10 TDs on the ground. But the night belonged to Edwards, the North Hunterdon senior, who had over 800 yards on the ground and 9 TD coming in.

Edwards carried 17 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns, while his backfield mate Alex Urinyak, who rushed 12 times for 112 yards and a score, in a 33-7 win on Friday night in the Big Central Game of the Week heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Neither could be brought down easy on a night where the Lions unofficially outgained the Patriots on the ground 271-67.

Jones managed only 36 yards on seven carries before coming out of the game with an injury in the third quarter, as the North Hunterdon defense put pressure on the athletic signal caller all night.

The win puts North Hunterdon at 3-0 in the Big Central Conference’s Liberty Silver Division, and in sole possession of first place ahead of Montgomery, which fell to 1-1 in the division after a 33-0 home shutout at the hands of Watchung Hills.

The victory is a big boost for the Lions’ playoff standings, worth 25 power points, almost double its season average through five games. They’re having their best start to a season since going 11-1 in 2017 en route to a North 2 Group 4 championship game win over Phillipsburg.

Click below for postgame reaction from North Hunterdon’s big win over Colonia:

North Hunterdon senior runningback Kente Edwards
North Hunterdon head coach Kevin Kley

Sayreville adjusts, perseveres, aims to keep it going on visit to East Brunswick

Injuries could’ve derailed Sayreville’s hopes of a big year before the Bombers’ season opener was over.

Instead — one on-the-fly reinvention later — Sayreville enters the second half of its campaign as the No. 8 team in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten, and still in the position to achieve the team’s annual goal: making a run in the postseason.

Aiming to climb back above .500, the 8th-ranked Bombers (2-2) will visit the East Brunswick Bears (0-4) Friday night in the Big Central Game of the Week on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with kickoff from Jay Doyle Field scheduled for 7:00 pm, and pregame at 6:45.

Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the action; click here to listen.

More than anything, Sayreville’s string of injuries has impacted the team’s Gun Wing T offense. Over the first four weeks of the season, the Bombers have dealt with injuries to their starting quarterback, one of their top running backs, and multiple starters on the offensive line.

The Week 1 injury to senior QB Mike Colonnello prompted an offensive reshuffling that moved WR Caidan Holmes under center. The play-calling has also become run-first, giving Holmes and junior RB Zaimer Wright the chance to spark the offense on the ground.

Despite the adversity, Holmes and Wright have shined, combining to average more than 200 all-purpose yards per game and score five of Sayreville’s six touchdowns on the season.

The Bombers’ defense has done its part to keep the offense in games, allowing just 12 points-per-game. It’s also held Edison and top-ranked Phillipsburg to their lowest scoring totals of the season.

Click below to listen to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Dom Savino talk with Sayreville head coach Chris Beagan about the 2022 Bombers:

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

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

NORTH 5 (Click here for official standings)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOUTH 5 (Click here for officials standings)

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

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

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

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

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

East Brunswick seeks first win when Sayreville visits Friday night

The long series between the teams hasn’t always been kind to East Brunswick.

The Bears have had their moments against Sayreville, like a great revenge win in 2019, avenging a regular season loss with an upset of the top-ranked Bombers in the semifinals of the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs en route to East Brunswick’s second state title under longtime head coach Marcus Borden.

Now, one of his many proteges will try to get his team’s first win of the season against a Sayreville team jockeying for position in the middle of the North 4 playoff race.

The Bears (0-4) and 8th-ranked Bombers (2-2) will square off in East Brunswick Friday night in the Big Central Game of the Week on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with kickoff from Jay Doyle Field scheduled for 7:00, and pregame at 6:45 pm.

Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the action; click here to listen.

East Brunswick has struggled to put points on the board this season, but has been in all but one of its four games. After dropping their opener on a Thursday night in Hillsborough, 42-6, they were within ten points in a loss at Monroe, 15 in a home loss to South Brunswick, and lost 17-7 last week at Old Bridge in the Battle of Route 18.

While last year’s group was a senior squad with experience (read: many two- and three-year starters), this year’s senior-laden group has less time under their belt, and that’s shown. Fourth-year head coach Andy Steinfeld is just focused on them getting better, and avoiding costly and untimely mistakes.

Running an option with some spread, the BEars are easily led offensively by Ben Solimini, a senior quarterback who’s more of a threat to run than pass. He’s the team’s leading rusher with 506 yards in four games – three over 100 – and has scored five touchdowns, the only rushing touchdowns the team has.

He’s only thrown for 123 yards and one touchdown this season, and his longest connection went for 17 yards.

Click below to listen to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with East Brunswick head coach Andy Steinfeld about the 2022 Bears: