Tag: Johnson

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Road Trip: Some Big Central schools have a much longer drive than others to get to their first round playoff games

Going on the road is a challenge in high school football unlike any other, with all the logistical concerns that go along with it in terms of equipment, the size of the team, plus the bands and cheerleaders.

But for some schools, it’s a longer bus ride than others thanks to the NJSIAA’s playoff system, which abandoned pre-determined traditional geographical “sections” in 2018.

For that one year, rather than four sections in each group and the top eight in each making the playoffs, the NJSIAA took the top 16 teams in the North and South halves of the state in each group, but broke them up by Northing number. That at least resulted in the eight northern-most schools being together in a section, and the eight southern-most schools being in the other.

But in 2019, it shifted to the more admirable idea of “snaking” each 16-team field into two sections, regardless of geography, potentially resulting in long distance travel, particularly in the South groups. With fewer schools, its a geographical area that includes the southern two-thirds of the state in some cases, putting schools like Hunterdon Central of Flemington and Delaware Valley of Alexandria in “South” sections.

The result? Better bring a briefcase full of cash to pay for gas and tolls.

Here are the six longest trips – all over an hour – for Big Central teams playing on the road in the playoffs:

Elizabeth at Phillipsburg (1 hour, 10 minutes – 62 miles): This actually would have been one of the longer trips even before the playoff changes, in years where both were in the same playoff section, North 2 Group 4 or 5, and sometimes they were in the same playoff section. At least the bus driver should know this route, pretty much a back and forth straight shot down Route 78. Their last regular season meeting was at Williams Field in Elizabeth, a 19-6 win for the Stateliners. The last time the Minutemen went to Maloney Stadium was in 2013, a 41-19 loss to P’burg.

Montgomery at Northern Highlands (1 hour, 23 minutes – 62 miles): It’s either the back roads up to the 202-206 circle or sit through all the lights on Route 206 through Hillsborough at rush hour, then after that, a long trip up Route 287, getting off onto Route 208 and heading to Allendale. Hey, if it worked last year, stick with it; it’s the same matchup in the same place as last year for the Cougars. Dom Savino and I recall that trip well, when we went to cover Woodbridge in the North 2, Group 4 title game in 2019 (our last broadcast on terrestrial radio, and before the pandemic). It’s a long haul, but if you’re a fan, leave an hour early and stop at the Allendale Bar & Grill for a nice sandwich and beverage before kickoff.

New Providence at Willingboro (1 hour, 26 minutes – 78.9 miles): It’s further than Montgomery’s trip, but not much longer since it’s just about all highway driving, but it does require getting to the Parkway, then hopping on the Turnpike at Interchange 11 and taking the straight shot down to near Philadelphia. The Pioneers actually played Willingboro last year in the regular season, but the game was at New Providence. This one’s a long ride.

Somerville at Seneca (1 hour, 33 minutes – 64.6 miles): The way the Pioneers’ season was going up until two weeks ago, with a new coach and having won two straight games, they wouldn’t care right now if they played their first-round game in Baltimore at 9 am Saturday. But, they will have one of the longest trips in the state in the first round, going all the way down to Seneca. Where’s that, you ask? We had to look, too. It’s off Route 206 in Tabernacle. Aren’t you glad we cleared that up? Seriously, though, it’s a little more than halfway down 206 between Bordentown and Hammonton on Carranza Road. (Go about eight more miles to see the Carranza Memorial in honor of the “Lindbergh of Mexico, but make sure you have plenty of gas – read about it here.)

Johnson at Pleasantville (1 hour, 37 minutes – 103 miles): Forget the trip, this will be the Crusaders’ first-ever opponent hailing from South of Exit 91 on the Parkway. In the COVID-year, when Johnson managed just four games, they took a trip to Point Pleasant Beach, but that’s the furthest they’ve gone. Luckily, it’s a short trip to the Parkway, then up and over the Driscoll Bridge and a long haul down to the AC area.

Delaware Valley at Oakcrest (2 hours, 7 minutes – 107 miles): This is a mammoth trip. Even though it’s just four more miles than Johnson’s trip to Pleasantville, it’s another half-hour. Why? Well, the Terriers have to take a lot of back (but very scenic) roads to get to Route 31 alone, then head south down to the I-295 loop, go all the way around Trenton, then South on Route 206 through Hammonton (I’ve been on 206, it’s the road that never ends!) and onto the Black Horse Pike. Whew! It’s quite the haul, but it won’t matter if Del Val comes out with a win. No one would blink at that bus ride back!

Looking ahead…

Should 4th-seed Manville win its opening-round playoff game over 5th seed Shore – which will be just the Mustangs’ second-ever home playoff game – they would face the winner of the 8/1 game, featuring 8th-seed Penns Grove and top-seed Woodbury. If they Penns Grove (2-7) pulls the monumental upset over Woodbury (6-2), Manville would get the Red Devils at home next Friday night. But should the Thundering Herd take care of business, Manville would play on the road at 10:30 am, which is the listed start time on the Woodbury Athletics sports schedule site for next week, against opponent “TBA.” One would hope they’d move that game a bit later if they wind up facing Manville, since it’s a 60-mile, one-hour, 40-minute drive down from Somerset County. To safely get there 60-90 minutes before game time, they’ll be getting on the bus at 7 am. Ouch!

A.L. Johnson’s big road win got them in the playoffs, now the Crusaders want to make some noise

Getting in the state playoffs is often a goal, sometimes just the first goal, of a high school football team.

For A.L. Johnson out of Clark, it had been a fairly regular occurrence, but a variety of factors ended a nice run the Crusaders had in 2019, when the team went 4-7. Entering this season, they team had not been back since.

But thanks to a huge 35-9 road win at South River this past Saturday that clinched a berth in the postseason, Johnson is back in the playoffs.

At 6-2, it’s a complete 180-degree turn from last year’s 2-7 season, and indeed from the combined 7-17 of the past three seasons. And as head coach Anthony DelConte explains it, that’s descriptive not just of the team’s record, but its positive change in attitude, mindset and focus.

Now, they’ll take that into a South Jersey Group 2 first round playoff game, when the fifth-seeded Crusaders visit fourth-seed Pleasantville (5-2) at 7:00 Friday night, looking for their first playoff win in four years.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Johnson head coach Anthony DelConte:

South Group 2 Playoff Analysis: Delaware Valley, New Providence could host a playoff game, or end up near the bottom

Cutoff Weekend is less than 48 hours away, and Central Jersey Sports Radio is taking a look at every team in the Big Central to see where we think they’ll land in the playoffs.

We’re not looking at too many tiebreakers just yet, and even adding the few residuals to be had can make for infinitely more possibilities – although there are none up for grabs from any Big Central opponents at this point – so we’re not doing those either. But we are looking at where we think teams will fall in the top 16. Tune in to our Playoff Projection show Saturday at 6 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio for all our unofficial pairings.

Below is our analysis, with each team’s current ranking in the UPR standings noted.

(Click here for official standings on Gridiron New Jersey)

Top Seeds: It looks like three teams are vying for the top two positions, and the two top seeds in the sectionals: Point Pleasant Boro, Rumson-Fair Haven and Raritan. Of those, Raritan is the only team not playing a multiplier this weekend. Point has St. John Vianney and Rumson has Red Bank Cahtolic. Raritan takes on 0-7 Holmdel, and the 5-2 Rockets should win that one easily. Haddonfield is the fourth team, taking on 0-6 Sterling, and while they stand in third at the moment, the multiplier effect means they won’t be a factor regardless of what they do. Assuming they and Raritan win, if Point and Rumson both lose to their multipliers, we believe the finish would be Raritan No. 1 and Point Boro No. 2, with Haddonfield third and Rumson fourth. If Point wins and, they’ll finish first, followed by Raritan. If Rumson wins, they’ll take Point’s spot, followed by Raritan. If both win, it’s Rumson No. 1 and Point second.

There will be a quiz later.

#7 New Providence: If the Pioneers beat Middlesex (4-3) at home Friday night, they could finish as high as No. 6, even if Delaware Valley – which is right behind them but has winless North Plainfield this week – wins. How? They need Gloucester City to lose, and either Willingboro or Pleasantville to lose. If Gloucester City wins, and either Pleasantville or Willingboro loses, we think the Pioneers finish seventh. And if all three win, we believe New Prov. is eighth. In any of those circumstances, they start the playoffs at home. If the Pioneers lose, we think the best they could do is a tenth place finish, and if all breaks wrong – unlikely, but mathematically possible – could end up as low as a 15. That would put them against top-seed Raritan or Point Pleasant Boro in the first round.

#8 Delaware Valley: With a win, and a Del Val loss, they could end up as high as sixth, if Willingboro, Gloucester City, Pleasantville and Cinnaminson lose. IF just those first three lose, they could end up seventh. And they may not be guaranteed a top eight finish if some of the others win as well. A loss, and they could end up at No. 16 if everything bad that could happen comes to fruition.

Last year, New Providence visited Del Val for a first round playoff game with Charlie Barth leading the Pioneers to victory. He’s at Rutgers now, but this year the tables could be turned. There’s a scenario where Del Val could finish 9th and New Providence 8th, which means the Pioneers would host this year.

For that to happen, Del Val and New Providence would both need to win, and the following: wins by Johnson, Gloucester City, and Pleasantville, as well as a loss by Willingboro. There could be other possibilities, too.

#11 Johnson: If the win, the Crusaders could finish as high as 11, we think, even with losses by Delaware Valley, New Providence, Willingboro and Pleasantville. With a loss, they could drop out completely, with a lot of teams bunched up. The deciding factor – due to discrepancies in power point average and OSI – could be two teams way above and below them if they lose and drop to 16. A Middle Township win over Pleasantville could boot them, as could a Delran win against Camden Eastside, which is the less likely of the two. So, for ALJ, it’s a “win and get in” scenario; that’ll take care of everything.

UNOFFICIAL: Group 2 Playoff Standings Update

Bernards moves up, and Spotswood is eliminated in the playoff chase, according to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s unofficial calculations of playoff standings after Friday night’s Week 7 games. Here’s a closer look:

Bernards‘ win over New Providence Friday night helped the Mountaineers move up one spot in the standings into 8th place, the cutoff for getting a guaranteed first-round home playoff game, at least pending the rest of Saturday’s game action.

The main question is this: Will a win over 3-4 Governor Livingston be enough to keep them in the top eight?

The first and third teams had a little juggle at the top of the standings, even though all three teams won to improve to 7-0. It’s now Westwood, Rutherford and Caldwell, as Westwood and Caldwell flipped places from last week.

Spotswood would have needed to win its final two games of the season – over Johnson and JP Stevens – to make the playoffs, and even then might have needed some help. But a loss to the Crusaders cost them Friday night, so the Chargers are eliminated.

Elsewhere, going top down, Delaware Valley and New Providence hold in 8th and 9th, still in play for a home game in the first round, except that the Terriers are a bit more in play.

That’s because the Pioneers lost Friday night to Bernards, but that’s a “good” OSI loss that kept them steady. Del Val plays at Hillside Saturday. A win over a very highly-ranked Comets team could solidify a top-eight finish. We’ll have to see where everything shakes out this weekend with the other games yet to be played before we start running scenarios.

Johnson appears to be in, and a solid bottom eight team.

But can Roselle get in? They beat a “weak” Bound Brook team Friday night, and dropped from 16th to 17th – tied with Haddon Heights – as a result. Next week’s game at 0-7 Belvidere doesn’t do them any favors here, either.

Bottom Line: Del Val has a better shot at a top eight finish than New Providence, but it’s still in play for both. Johnson is in and should start on the road. Roselle is going to need some help and likely won’t control its own destiny next week.

Group 2 playoff analysis: Bernards falls despite win, Del Val and New Providence make gains

Same result on the field, different directions in the playoff standings. That’s the upshot of Week 5 play when it comes to North and South Group 2, as we head into the final three weeks before Cutoff Weekend. Here’s a closer look at both supersections.

NORTH 2 (Click here for official standings)

It happened with power points too, so this in nothing unique to OSI or the whole UPR system, but despite a Bernards win last Friday night over North Plainfield, the Mountaineers dropped from third to seventh in the latest standings. Why? Despite a 5-1 record, that fifth win didn’t amount to much, since North Plainfield is 0-6. That was a 9-point value for power points.

And yet, with residuals from their other opponents they’ve beaten, Bernards actually rose in power points. It was North Plainfield’s OSI that killed them, falling from a 53.52 to a 50.8 as a result.

Otherwise, Westwood (5-0) sits atop the supersection at 5-0 with a UPR of 1, holding a decent lead over Caldwell and Rutherford (both also 5-0). Bernards is the only team in the supersection from the Big Central

SOUTH 3 (Click here for official standings)

Haddonfield and Rumson-Fair Haven are 1-2 in this section, with little separating them from each other (1.4 UPR vs. 1.6) but a decent distance to the third place team, Point Pleasant Boro (3.4 UPR). And Raritan (from the Shore Conference) is even further back at 5.4 UPR.

This week saw a big gain for Delaware Valley (4-1), as the Terriers picked up a 53-6 win at Bound Brook. The winless Crusaders – who have scored six points each in two games this year, and that’s all – didn’t help the cause, teams ahead of them – like Willingboro and Monmouth – both lost and helped make up for it. Ultimately, they went from tenth to seventh, while New Providence (3-3) with a win over Johnson (4-1) moved them from 14th to ninth. Unfortunately for the Crusaders, they dropped from 11th to 13th.

Del Val is a good bet for a top eight seed and first-round home game gauarantee with a UPR of 6.8 and the ninth place Pioneers holding a 10.4 UPR. That’s a lot of ground for them to make up, even with Bernards on the schedule – that’s a tall order.

Johnson, meanwhile wityh a 13.8 UPR and the 17th place team 4.8 UPR points behind them, looks to be in the playoffs if they get back on the winning track. A loss to Hillside at home Friday won’t hurt them, but dropping a game against Spotswood next week or at South River on the Friday of Cutoff Weekend will, severely.

Dayton, in 19th, is likely out of contention, even if not mathematically eliminated. With Spotswood and Metuchen on the schedule, it’s doubtful even a sweep of their last three games – South Hunterdon is sandwiched in between – could help make up enough ground.

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Week 5: Don’t sleep on the Lions, stingy North Brunswick “D”

On this week’s trek around “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” Mike Pavlichko comes away impressed with North Hunterdon’s ground game, and talks about North Brunswick’s season-long stingy defense. That and a whole lot more on this week’s edition!

Click below to listen to the Week Four edition of “The Big Central in 2 Minutes”:

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.

Group 2 playoff analysis: Bernards benefits from big win at Del Val, while Terriers drop

With high school football season at its midway point, it’s time to start taking a look at the playoff picture, with Cutoff Weekend just four weeks away. Here’s a look at Group 2 teams in the Big Central Conference, and where they stand:

NORTH (Click here for official standings)

The only Big Central team here is Bernards, whose game Friday night at Delaware Valley was billed as a boon for whoever won. It was the Mountaineers, 17-14, and they jumped from eighth place to third with the victory over the Terriers; it was a solid Strength Index and power points game. OSI went from 49.01 to 53.52, while power point average climbed from 10.75 to 12.80. That puts them behind leader Westwood (4-0, 1.6 UPR) and Caldwell, owner of the state’s longest winning streak, now at 19, dating back to their last three games of 2020.

Caldwell may not lose again this year, and the SI of their last four opponents are all 67 or higher. Bernards, on the other hand, has winless North Plainfield and Bound Brook, plus Governor Livingston and New Providence. The Highlanders have won three straight since starting 0-2. If they can continue that run, it’ll help the Mountaineers.

We don’t think they’re a solid top four team yet – which would mean they’d be a 2-seed in either section and guaranteed home field at least through the sectional semifinals – but if they run the table, they at least have a shot at it. It depends who can come up from behind on them. Bernards has a 3.6 UPR, but at 3.8, Ramsey (4-0) is right behind them. Rutherford, though, in fifth, is a healthy 2.8 UPR points behind Bernards.

SOUTH (Click here for official standings)

Little surprise here that Rumson-Fair Haven is in familiar territory, atop the supersection. It could be surprising when you look at their 2-2 record, until you realize one of those losses is to a multiplier, in Donovan Catholic. And since they also play Red Bank Catholic – another multiplier – on cutoff weekend, well, you can just sew it up right now for the Bulldogs. (Is that fair? Definitely not, but that’s a rant for another time.)

The highest-ranked team here is Delaware Valley, which dropped from third to tenth after Friday night’s home loss to Bernards, its first of the season, leaving them 3-1 on the year. And they’ve still got Hillside to go, with the Comets’ powerful run game. Likely bet that the Terriers will make the playoffs, barring a collapse, but they may be hard-pressed to get a first-round playoff game out of it – unless they can knock off Hillside, Saturday afternoon road game the week before Cutoff Weekend, October 15th.

Johnson is right behind Del Val, at 4-0, having a nice year so far, with a UPR of 11, one full point behind the Terriers, who have a 10 UPR. They’re at New Providence this Friday night, with the Pioneers in 14th with a UPR of 15. That’s a big game for either team, and a loss could relegate whoever’s on the short end of the stick to bubble status, though likely on the inside – and it’s more harmful to New Providence than the Crusaders.

Dayton is in a 16th place tie for the final playoff spot with Haddon Heights. The Bulldogs are 2-2, while the Garnets are 3-1, both with 16.6 UPRs. Dayton will need to keep winning, and have a middle of the road schedule the rest of the way.

They play their next three on the road, and the games get progressively tougher – at Highland Park this Friday night, at Spotswood the following Saturday, and at South Hunterdon on Friday, the 14th – before coming home to face Metuchen the Friday night of Cutoff Weekend. They might have to win out.

The next question is: What about Spotswood? The Chargers are 4-1, their best start since 2016. Can they pick up enough power points and OSI value to get in, even if they go 4-0? The jury is still out and it’s probably too early to tell. JP Stevens is their final opponent – yes, Group 5 JP Stevens – and that will at least soften the blow from the Hawks not having won a game yet this season. (They’ve lost 27 straight, in fact, the second longest streak in New Jersey at the moment.)

Will it be enough? Stay tuned.

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South River – despite a 2-2 mark – sits in 24th place, and would be hard-pressed to make a dent. Then again, their last three games are at Delaware Valley and Governor Livingston, then home to Johnson. Should they win at least two of those, maybe – maybe – they have a shot. Check back in a couple of weeks.

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Week 4: Liners stake their claim, and who had the biggest upset?

On this week’s trip through “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” Mike Pavlichko weighs in on Phillipsburg’s claim to the No. 1 ranking in the league, who had the biggest upset wins of Week Four, and whether Somerville should be in a division with Group 5 schools/

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

Wall to Wall Big Central Football will air Thanksgiving Weekend on Central Jersey Sports Radio

Did the high school football season end too soon for you? Not stuffed yet from Thanksgiving Dinner?

Have no fear.

Central Jersey Sports Radio begins a new tradition this year: We’ll air every single one of our high school football broadcasts back-to-back-to-back to…. (you get the idea) … to-back this Thanksgiving Weekend.

Buy a bigger belt!

That’s right: 3 days, 13 games, 20 teams, 30 hours of Big Central Conference Football, powered by Bellamy & Son Paving of Piscataway.

Simply go to our website and click the Listen Live button to tune in any time, morning, noon or night. We’ll be “on the air” practically from sunup to sundown – definitely after sundown!

Here’s the schedule for each day, with original air date, and approximate start time:

Thanksgiving Day – Thursday, November 26

  • Somerville vs. South Plainfield, October 2 – 8 am
  • St. Joseph-Metuchen vs. Elizabeth, October 3 – 9:45 am
  • Old Bridge vs. East Brunswick, October 9 – noon
  • South River vs. Spotswood, October 10 – 2 pm
  • Bernards vs. Johnson, October 12 – 4:30 pm
  • Bound Brook vs Voorhees, October 16 – 6:30 pm

Friday, November 27 (Now starts at 9 am instead of 8 am)

  • Edison vs. North Brunswick, October 23 – 8 am
  • Manville vs. Bound Brook, October 30 – 11 am
  • Ridge vs. Hillsborough, November 6 – 1:45 pm
  • St. Joseph-Metuchen vs. Woodbridge, November 7 – 4:15 pm
  • Metuchen vs. South Hunterdon – 6:30 pm

Saturday, November 28

  • Woodbridge vs. Somerville, November 13 – noon
  • Edison vs. Hillsborough, November 20 – 3 pm