Tag: Kevin Kley

North Hunterdon’s run falls one PAT short in overtime

It was a great run for the North Hunterdon football team in 2022.

But the Lions fell one point shy of making the state’s first-ever Group Finals at Rutgers University.

Plagued by miscues – high snaps, INTs, a missed field goal, and in the end, a tipped PAT – North Hunterdon fell to Northern Highlands Saturday night in the North Group 4 semifinals, 21-20 in overtime, in the nightcap at Franklin High School, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

The Lions never led in the game, coming back twice from deficits of 7-0 and 14-7, and missed a chance on a late fourth quarter drive to take their first lead and end the game in regulation, when a 30-yard field goal attempt by Ben Cleary missed.

North Hunterdon still had a chance, even after at least a half-dozen high snaps on plays from scrimmage – most early in the game – and three interceptions thrown by quarterback Luke Martini – one at the goal line – after he had gone the last eight games without throwing a single pick.

Kente Edwards had 12- and two-yard TD runs in regulation.

In overtime, Northern Highlands scored first, and got the PAT to go up 21-14, but Edwards answered to get within 21-20. Kley sent out Cleary for the game-tying PAT to send it to a second overtime, but the Highlanders tipped it, and the kick fell short, ending the game.

North Hunterdon finishes the season 11-2, but still with a trophy to its credit, the North 2 Group 4 championship it won last weekend with a wild 39-35 victory over Randolph.

Northern Highlands goes on to play the winner of the South 4 semifinal being played Sunday at Franklin at 2:30, between Mainland and Millville.

Click below to for postgame reaction with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

Senior QB Luke Martini

Head coach Kevin Kley

North Group 4 Semifinal Preview: North Hunterdon vs. Northern Highlands

A trip to the NJSIAA’s first ever true state final is on the line Saturday, when North Hunterdon takes on Northern Highlands in a statewide Group 4 semifinal game at Franklin High School in Somerset.

Here’s a complete preview of the game, with stats, key players, championship histories, notes and more:

Group 4 Semifinals
North Hunterdon (North 2 Champion, 11-1) vs. Northern Highlands (North 1 Champion, 8-3)
When: Saturday, 5:30 pm
Where: Franklin High School, Somerset

Coverage: Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the game live with Mike Pavlichko calling all the action. Click here to listen. Postgame recap and reaction on cjsportsradio.com.

How they got here:

North Hunterdon – the top seed in the section – beat #8 Middletown North 34-7 in the first round, then rallied from 14-0 down in the first quarter to beat #5 Morris Knolls 25-14 in the semifinals. They then won a fourth-quarter shootout against #2 Randolph in the North 2, Group 4 title game, 49-35, with the two teams combining for 49 points in the final 12 minutes, though the Lions never trailed in the game.

Northern Highlands – the No. 4 seed in the section – beat #5 Montgomery at home 27-12 in the opening round, then upset top-seed Irvington on the road in the semifinals, 17-13. In the North 1, Group 4 title game, they beat 2nd-seed Ramapo 29-42 in overtime, in a four-hour epic that saw the stadium lights go out not once, but twice. It was the second straight year the Highlanders beat the Raiders in the sectional final. Last year, it was within days of longtime Ramapo head coach Drew Gibbs dying of heart attack he suffered at practice with the team in preparation for the title tilt.

Who would be next?

The winner of this game would go on to New Jersey’s first-ever public school Group Finals against the winner of the other semifinal, being played Saturday at Cherokee High School in Medford. That features Central Jersey Group 4 champion Mainland (10-1) and South Jersey Group 4 champ Millville (9-2) playing at 2:30 Sunday afternoon at Cherokee. Like North Hunterdon or Northern Highlands, Mainland would have two weeks between games, but Millville plays at Vineland in between on Thanksgiving Day.

Series, League History

This will be the first meeting between North Hunterdon and Northern Highlands in football.

Since the formation of the Big Central Conference, the Highlanders are 3-0 against the league. They beat Somerville in the Rumble on the Raritan last season, 32-20. They’ve also beaten Montgomery twice in the opening round of the playoffs; they won last year 61-14, and this year, 27-12.

North Hunterdon is 2-0 against the Super football Conference this season, with playoff wins over Morris Knolls (25-14) in the sectional semifinals and Randolph (49-35) in the title game.

Finals Histories

North Hunterdon (3-1 in finals)  (12th appearance, 10-9 overall)

  • 2022:  North 2, Group 4:  #1 seed, beat #2 Randolph 49-35 (11-1 through finals)
  • 2017:  North 2, Group 4:  #2 seed, beat #1 Phillipsburg 21-20 at Rutgers (11-1)
    • Lost to Phillipsburg on October 27 that year 20-7 at Maloney Stadium
  • 1978:  Central 3:  #4 seed, lost to #2 JFK 26-6 (8-3)
  • 1975:  Central 3:  #1 seed, beat #3 Franklin 27-18 (10-0)

Northern Highlands (4-2 in finals) (17th appearance, 17-13 overall)

  • 2022: North 1, Group 4: #1 seed, beat #2 Ramapo 49-42 in OT (8-3 through finals)
  • 2021: North 1, Group 4: #1 seed, beat #2 Ramapo 35-30 (12-1)
    • Lost Group 4 semifinals to Irvington 19-14 at Rutgers
  • 2019:  North 1, Group 4: #1 seed, beat #2 Woodbridge 37-7 (9-3)
    • Lost Group 4 semifinals to Wayne Walley 21-17 at MetLife Stadium
  • 1975:  North 1, Group 3:  #1, lost to #2 Ridgefield Park 10-8
  • 1978:  North 1, Group 3:  #4, beat #1 Pascack Hills 6-0
  • 1984:  North 1, Group 3:  #3, lost to #1 Wayne Valley 28-6

Beyond the “Finals”

Since the NJSIAA expanded beyond the sectional semifinals in 2018 with “Bowl Championships” that eventually became renamed “Regional Championships,” Northern Highlands has qualified for the next round after the sectional finals each of the last three years. They didn’t make it out of the first round in 2018, but in 2019, beat Woodbridge 37-7 to advance to the Regional Championship, where they lost to Wayne Valley, 21-7 at MetLife Stadium. With no playoffs in 2020, they again qualified in 2021, beating Ramapo 35-0 to win the North 1, Group 4 title, but falling in the Regional Championship to Irvington.

North Hunterdon’s last sectional title win came in 2017, the year before the NJSIAA added a round to the playoffs. So, neither team has picked up a win in this round, but obviously one of them will on Saturday.

Key Players and Stats

Where do we begin with North Hunterdon? Kente Edwards was the star runningback when the season started, but Kevin Kley has told anyone who will listen that Alex Uryniak could start for any team in the Big Central. That proved to be the case when Edwards got nicked up in the Colonia game, and missed two games, plus parts of two others, coming back in earnest for the sectional semifinals against Morris Knolls. Uryniak didn’t miss a beat. And in the sectional finals, when quarterback Luke Martini didn’t like what the defense was giving the Lions on the ground, he took to the skies to the tune of a career-high 411 passing yards and a career-best five touchdowns – not including two that got called back on the same series – among which were several long bombs.

Martini now has thrown for 2,147 yards on the season with 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Edwards leads the ground game with 1,259 yards and 12 scores, while Uryniak has 992 yards on the ground and 13 TDs. In the passing game, Derek Vaddis is Martini’s favorite target, racking up 949 passing yards and 11 scores, and has a streak of three straight hundred-yard receiving and multiple touchdown games. Danny DeLusant is a tasty second option, with 517 yards and seven touchdowns.

Northern Highlands will spread the ball out more, and relies more heavily on the pass game than the run, mixing it up between quarterbacks Nate Johnson and JR Walley, who’ve thrown for 1,335 and 911 yards respectively this season, combining for 20 touchdowns, but also ten picks. Walley started the sectional final game with Nate Johnson out due to injury. Zach Madison is the leading receiver with 801 yards and 5 scores, but Danny Dmiechowski has 9 touchdowns with just 541 yards receiving. Four different players have caught at least 22 passes this season. On the ground, it’s Charlie Sparago who leads the way with 167 carries for 836 yards and eight touchdowns. Defensively, they average just over three sacks a game, 35.5 on the season, so they can get after opposing quarterbacks. Senior Jack Inserra has 15 1/2 of those sacks, and 12 TFLs on the year.

Hot at the right time

On the strength of his career high performance last Saturday in the North 2 Group 4 title tilt, Martini has now thrown for 1,061 yards and 14 touchdowns in the last four games – the annual Milk Can game against Voorhees, and the three sectional playoff games. That’s just under half his season total in passing yards and way more than half of his season touchdown passes. And his favorite target, Derek Vaddis, has been the beneficiary: 20 catches for 333 yards and six touchdowns in the last three games, with two scores in each. If this is the time of year you want to play your best football, these two are leading the way.

Lions’ Milestones

A number of North Hunterdon players are closing in on significant milestones, whether for the season or in their careers.

  • Should the Lions make the Group 4 final in a couple of weeks at Rutgers, and have a modicum of success, Luke Martini could end up eclipsing the 4,000-yard mark for his career, currently sitting at 3,544. With a game like last week, he’s almost there. He’s also a touchdown pass away from 40 in his career.
  • Kenet Edwards is 241 yards shy of 1,500 on the season, and needs a paltry 14 yards to become a career 2,000-yard rusher.
  • Derek Vaddis is already over the 1,000 yard mark for his career, with 1,042, and having tallied just 83 yards on nine catches last season, is 51 away from the 1,000 yard mark this season.

Previews

Past Coverage

Kley knows the challenges in front of North Hunterdon in school’s first trip beyond the sectional finals

This is uncharted territory for North Hunterdon.

In fact, it’s uncharted territory for everyone in high school football in New Jersey.

In 2018, the NJSIAA expanded the playoffs as part of its major overhaul of the postseason, adding an extra round that would pit North 1 against North 2 and South against Central sectional final winners in each group, but go no further. They were called “bowl championships,” and changed the next year to “regional championships.

They were essentially group semifinals, without the finals, and while there were some great games, it was kind of like what they say about ties: it’s like kissing your sister.

This year, however, after a historic vote last December, New Jersey will be playing down to group champions among public schools for the first time ever, so even this is not the last game of the year. There’s one more to play for, one more to get to, one more to win after this weekend.

Be that as it may, that’s not what’s on anyone’s mind in Annandale. They are focused on winning one game, the one against Northern Highlands in the Group 4 semifinals Saturday at 5:30 at Franklin High School in Somerset. The one against a team that has won three straight sectional titles, the last two coming in dramatic fashion over Ramapo.

You can hear Saturday’s game on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with Mike Pavlichko on the call, starting with pregame at 5 pm. Click here to listen.

Head coach Kevin Kley is more worried about how his team will stop North Hunterdon, and put up some points. Never one to tip his hand, those are the vague generalities of what they need to do against the Highlanders Saturday. While both his team and Saturday’s opponent scored a lot of points and gave up a lot of points last weekend, those were somewhat anomalies.

Especially for Northern Highlands. Coming in with an 8-3 mark they had only cracked the 40-point plateau once this season, in a non-competitive 42-6 win over Hackensack back on October 7th. Other than that, their season high output was 29 points heading into the final, which they won 49-42 in overtime.

Coming into the final, Highlands had only been allowing just over 14 points a game, allowing a season high to Old Tappan – this year’s eventual North 1, Group 3 champion – in a shutout loss back on September 9th.

For the Lions, they’ve put up some big numbers this year, and the only other time they allowed more than 24 points in a game was in their lone loss, a 48-21 defeat to Phillipsburg at Maloney Stadium back on September 16th.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk about North Hunterdon and Saturday’s Group 4 semifinals with Lions’ head coach Kevin Kley:

Kley impressed with North Hunterdon’s resiliency, senior leadership in sectional title win

It’s a group that has played together for years, in many cases going back to youth football.

And whatever obstacle comes their way, whether for one, or the collective, they seem to be able to handle it.

There weren’t too many in the opening round of the playoffs, a 34-7 win over Middletown North.

But the second round was a different story. In the semifinals, the Lions fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter to Morris Knolls. But after a key timeout by head coach Kevin Kley, it was all North Hunterdon the rest of the way against the Golden Eagles, resulting in a 25-14 win.

This Saturday, after a tight game for three quarters, with the Lions holding a 21-14 lead, it was a fourth quarter that spiraled into a good old-fashioned donnybrook. North and Randolph combined for 49 points in the final 12 minutes, which never saw the Lions lose the lead, but in which every time the Rams closed it from two scores to one, North Hunterdon had an answer.

Danny DeLusant, Kente Edwards, Alex Uryniak. They all scored “breathing room” touchdowns in the fourth quarter, which in the end, turned out to be very necessary.

And following the game, head coach Kevin Kley praised theirs – and everyone’s – resiliency, toughness, and grit through it all.

Click below to for postgame reaction with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko, talking to head coach Kevin Kley:

North Hunterdon wins 4th quarter shootout over Randolph on career day from Martini, as Lions claim North 2 Group 4 trophy

Top-seed North Hunterdon jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 title game Saturday afternoon in Annandale, but by late in the third quarter found itself tied at 14-14. And it looked like the next possession might win the game, the way things were going.

But the teams exploded for 49 combined points in the fourth quarter. Happily for the Lions, they scored more of them than the Rams did, and claimed a state championship for the second time in six seasons, thanks to a 49-35 win heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Senior quarterback Luke Martini had a career-best game on the big stage: unofficially 389 passing yards and five touchdown passes, both career highs. Two long bombs got the Lions the early lead: a 49-yard TD pass to Derek Vaddis, and an 81-yard TD pass to Danny DeLusant.

Vaddis also had a 20-yard TD reception, and DeLusant had another for 25, before Kente Edwards and Alex Uryniak punched in short runs from two and three yards respectively.

After losing the two-score lead, North Hunterdon got the next two scores to go up 28-14. Randolph got within in score, but North Hunterdon got it right back. And that happened twice more, with Edwards’ and Uryniak’s scores providing the insurance.

It was North Hnterdon’s third state title overall, to go along with the 2017 championship – which came over Phillipsburg at MetLife Stadium after a regular season loss to the Stateliners – and their first in 1976. The Lions are 3-1 now in finals, all-time.

With an 11-1 record – matching the 2017 mark – North Hunterdon now goes on the face North 1 Group 4 champ Northern Highlands in the Group 4 semifinals, to be played at Franklin High School next Saturday and Sunday. Game times and dates should be announced this weekend by the NJSIAA.

Click below to for postgame reaction with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

Senior QB Luke Martini
North Hunterdon QB Luke Martini (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Senior WR/CB Derek Vaddis
Senior RB/S Kente Edwards

North Hunterdon seeks third state title in school history when Lions meet Randolph for first time ever

The North Hunterdon Touchdown Club may shift from afternoon fare to breakfast food at its traditional tailgate off Route 31 bright and early Saturday morning, but the football team just plans to keep doing what it does when kickoff rolls around at noon.

That’s when the top-seeded Lions (10-1) will take on second-seed Randolph (9-1) for the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 Championship, in a game you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio, starting with pregame at approximately 11:40 am. Click here to listen.

Led by quarterback Luke Martini, with star runningback Kente Edwards, and Alex Uryniak – who could start on any other Big Central team, as head coach Kevin Kley tells anyone who will listen (and he’s right) – and a defense that can get after the quarterback and play aggressively with focus all at the same time, North Hunterdon is looking for its third state sectional championship.

But this year, even more is at stake.

A win will not be the end of the road, the end of the season. The winner goes on to the Group 4 semifinals against the winner of the North 1, Group 4 title, which was played last night between 4th-seed Northern Highlands and 2nd-seed Ramapo. From there, it would be on to the NJSIAA’s first-ever group championships, which will be held the first weekend of December – the week after Thanksgiving – at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium in Piscataway.

The two teams have never met on the gridiron. North Hunterdon is 2-1 all-time in finals, winning in 1975 and 2017. Randolph is 7-5, with its last title and last finals appearance coming in 2010.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with North Hunterdon head coach Kevin Kley about the Lions’ title game against Randolph:

Randolph is hungry as Rams visit North Hunterdon in North 2, Group 4 title game

Admittedly a young team with a lot of junior starters, they came in as a four-seed, and would host 5th-seed Colonia in the opening round. But the Patriots – mostly on the fleet feet of dual-threat quarterback Josh Uluremi – rolled up over 300 yards on the ground, en route to a 32-21 win.

And just like that, the 7-2 season became a disappointing 7-3 campaign for the Rams.

Head coach Will Nahan, when asked about it in the 2022 preseason, told Morris Sussex Sports, “It was a good year, but did we reach our ultimate goal?”

That answer being no, this year’s team is hungry.

Saturday afternoon, 2nd seed Randolph (9-1) will visit top-seed North Hunterdon (10-1) for the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 title, and Central Jersey Sports Radio will have all the coverage live from Singley Field in Annandale, NJ. Kickoff is at 12 noon, pregame at approximately 11:40 am. Click here to listen to the broadcast.

The game was moved from its original 7 pm start time Friday due to heavy rain, gusty winds and thunderstorms in the forecast from the remnants of Hurricane Nicole.

Randolph’s lone loss this season came October 15th to West Morris, one of the two teams they lost to last year, and the 2021 North Group 4 regional champ. The Wolfpack also have won 16 straight dating back to last season.

Other than that, it’s been a near flawless 2022, with much of the same cast of characters.

Senor quarterback Sean Clark has thrown for 2,004 yards and 23 touchdowns, and he distributes the ball through the air well, finding seven different receivers for no fewer than 6 catches and 101 yards, with the top two targets being Jesse Wilfong (28 for 517 yards and four TDs) and James Fusco (28 for 464 yards and 5 TDs).

On the ground, Stephen Petruzziello has 918 yards rushing and ten touchdowns, plus 11 catches for 180 yards and two scores.

That aerial attack could be grounded a bit, though, Friday night, with weather expected to be rainy – possibly heavy at times – with winds from side to side across the football field at 10-15 mph with higher wind gusts possible, thanks to the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Randolph head coach Will Nahan:

Lions roar as North Hunterdon scores 25 unanswered to come from behind, beat Morris Knolls, and secure bid in North 2, Group 4 final

After trading three-and-outs to start the game, by the end of the first quarter things weren’t looking good for North Hunterdon.

The top-seeded Lions were down 14-0 after Morris Knolls opened the scoring with a 17-play drive, then scored quickly again after recovering an onside kick that took North by surprise.

Penalties and a fumble didn’t help the cause either, and things were in danger of getting late early in Annandale.

That is until head coach Kevin Kley called “The Timeout.” It followed a fumble by Alex Uryniak, then a big first down gain of 35 yards by Dom DellaMonache. Kley decided it was time to click Reboot.

And reboot, they did.

DellaMonache had 90 yards on 13 carries at that point, but only had 42 the rest of the way as the Lions’ defense hunkered down, kept the Golden Eagles off the scorebaord, and let Luke Martini and Derek Vaddis do their thing.

The pair hooked up for touchdowns of 46 yards and 63 yards in the second quarter – with 5:59 and 2:41 to go – but the Lions still trailed 14-12 going into the locker room, after having the extra point blocked on the first TD, and the two-point conversion fail on the second.

In the third quarter, after several momentum swings but no other scores, quarterback Luke Martini ran one in from 15 yards with 8:17 left to put North up 18-12, again missing on the two-point try. Then, with under two minutes to go, the icing on the cake: Kente Edwards – who had missed two games and was limited in two others after a suffering a lower body injury against Colonia – capped the game with a three-yard touchdown run.

The win puts North Hunterdon (9-1) in the North 2, Group 4 Championship game at home next week against second-seed Randolph, which beat third-seed Wayne Valley 31-28 Friday night. The game will be in Annandale Friday night at 7:00.

It’s North’s first trip to the finals since they won the North 2, Group 4 title in 2017, beating Phillipsburg 21-20 at MetLife Stadium after losing to the Stateliners in the regular season. That team finished 11-1, and this one will as well, if they win the title next week.

Click below to for postgame reaction with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

QB Luke Martini and WR Derek Vaddis
Head Coach Kevin Kley

North Hunterdon looking to turn tables on Morris Knolls in bid for first finals trip since ’17

One more win.

Well, two really.

One more win is all North Hunterdon needs to reach a sectional final for the first time since 2017.

That season, the Lions went all the way, winning the North 2, Group 4 championship, beating Phillipsburg 21-20 at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands for the program’s first title since 1975, just the second year of the current playoff system’s existence.

Two more wins, and they’ll have a title, but first things first.

The top-seeded Lions (9-1) will have to get by Morris Knolls (7-2) Friday night in a North 2, Group 4 semifinal game to be broadcast live by Central Jersey Sports Radio on the “Big Central Game of the Week.”

You can hear the game for free by clicking here, with pregame set for 6:45 pm, and Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the play-by-play with kickoff set for 7:00.

Both teams have been great all year. Their three losses have been to Phillipsburg (North Hunterdon), Randolph and West Morris (Morris Knolls), teams with a combined record of 27-1. Randolph is 8-1, the only team with a loss. The Stateliners are 9-0, the Wolfpack 10-0 and the defending North Jersey Group 3 Regional Champions.

North Hunterdon has been averaging 30.9 points per game, and has scored no fewer than 21 points in a contest all season.

They’re led on offense by quarterback Luke Martini (1,505 passing yards and 5 TDs), receiver Derek Vaddis (33 catches, 649 yards, 7 TDs), and the dual-threat of runningbacks Kente Edwards (1,035 yards and 11 TDs) and Alex Uryniak (900 yards and 12 TDs).

Edwards has been banged up for a few weeks and seen limited playing time over the past month. With Uryniak handling the bulk of the carries in that timespan with ease, Edwards hasn’t necessarily been needed.

Not yet, anyway.

But he very well could be needed against a Golden Eagles’ squad that runs the the Houston veer option to the tune of over 2,600 yards and 27 touchdowns on the season, averaging 24 points a game. When held to no more than two touchdowns, Morris Knolls is 1-2.

So it may be that defense is the key. The schools have very little history, only meeting two times, but those have come in the last two years, and both wins by Morris Knolls: 35-21 in last year’s season opener, and 35-14 in the 2020 season-opener, a “COVID” game picked up with just one day’s notice after a last-minute pandemic-related cancellation.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko preview the game with North Hunterdon head coach Kevin Kley:

No. 4 North Hunterdon rallies twice to win at Montgomery 21-14, claims Liberty Silver Division title

Fourth-ranked North Hunterdon fell behind at Montgomery Friday night 6-0, but rallied to take a 14-6 lead, then came back again after the Cougars tied the score at 14-all with a Luke Martini to Derek Vaddis 23-yard touchdown hookup, en route to a 21-14 victory in Skillman.

The win completes Liberty Silver Division play for the Lions, who take the division title going a perfect 3-0 against Watchung Hills, Montgomery and Plainfield, in the league’s smallest division.

Alex Urinyak factored into all three scores. He had two on his own on a pair of one-yard touchdown runs in the second quarter, finishing with a game-high 163 yards on 34 carries. He also blocked a punt in the third quarter that led to the third North Hunterdon score.

Click below for postgame reaction as CJSR’s Mike Pavlichko talks to head coach Kevin Kley: