Tag: Linden

North Group 4 Week 9 Breakdown: Big Central teams aplenty, with several jockeying at the bottom

Can Woodbridge or Sayreville earn a top four seed? And what about the jumble of teams at the bottom? Here’s a team by team unofficial look at the scenarios for all the Big Central teams in the North Group 4 supersection:

Woodbridge: The Barrons (6-2) sit in 5th place right now, but at one point were looking at a top seed. They’re reeling a bit after consecutive losses to still-undefeated Cranford and Scotch Plains-Fanwood. But can they finish in the top four to get first-round advantage through the sectional semifinals? The short answer is “Yes.” The long answer is they’ll need some help. It starts and ends with beating Linden (3-4) at Priscoe Field Friday night. Then, it appears they would need no more than one of the following three teams to win: Ramapo, Middletown South or Morris Knolls. If only one wins, Woodbridge can end up as the four seed, maybe even a three. If any two of those schools wins this weekend, Woodbridge can’t crack the top four. There’s a crack in the door, and we’ll see what happens.

Sayreville: The Bombers (6-2) are in sixth, right behind Woodbridge, and have a big “Battle of Route 9” matchup with Old Bridge (6-2) Friday night at Vince Lombardi Field. Where will they be when the head back up North? With a win, even they have a crack at the top four, but they need even more help than the Barrons. A Sayreville victory would also need losses by Woodbridge, Ramapo, Morris Knolls, Mount Olive and Middletown South. We believe if even one of those teams wins, the Bombers still will be top eight seed with a win, giving them a first round home game, at a minimum. In fact, they can even pass Woodbridge, as the Knights are much more valuable in power points and OSI than Linden, the Barrons’ opponent.

MORE CUTOFF WEEKEND COVERAGE: A team-by-team breakdown of every Big Central team’s postseason standing and chances heading into Week 9

Colonia: Sitting in 11th, the Patriots (6-2) face Scotch Plains-Fanwood this weekend. Even with a victory over the Raiders and some help, it’s likely the Patriots can only get as high as ninth, so it’s looking like they’ll be on traditional green turf when they open the playoffs next weekend.

Ridge: The Same can be said for the Red Devils (5-2), who sit in 12th, one spot behind Colonia. The best they can do, even with a home win over Elizabeth (3-5) and some help, is finish in 9th. So the Red Devils will be away from home, too.

North Hunterdon: In 15th place sits North Hunterdon (4-4), which is pretty much assured of a bottom four finish, this a 7 or 8 seed. With a trip to Voorhees (1-7) Friday night, the Vikings’ don’t provide enough power points to make a move up, but no one behind them has the wherewithal to knock them out either, by our calculations. We peg them for one of the last two spots.

Linden: The Tigers sit in 16th place behind North Hunterdon. They get Woodbridge (6-2) on the road here on Cutoff Weekend, and with a win, still are looking like a bottom four team. A loss could drop them out of the picture entirely. They trio to keep an eye on is Montgomery, Bergenfield and Warren Hills. If at least two of those teams win – and the Tigers lose to Woodbridge – we say they’re out, finishing in 18th place.

Montgomery: This won’t be easy for the Cougars (3-4), but getting help may be the easiest part. They have undefeated Cranford (7-0) at home this weekend, but Monty has been a different team of late, since moving Alex Benitez back to his natural runningback position and putting sophomore Michael Schmelzer at quarterback. Do they have a shot against the Cougars? Absolutely. We’ve always thought the Big Central’s Division 4 was tough, and full of parity. We’ve beaten that drum all year. Let’s put it this way, with a win, Montgomery could finish as high as 14, if Chatham, North Hunterdon and Linden all lose. A loss may leave them needing all kinds of help, and too many possibilities to mention here.

Week 8 Analysis: Can Woodbridge get back into the race for a top seed? And four teams battle it out for the last three spots

Heading into Week Seven of play in high school football, Woodbridge may not have been in the drivers’ seat, but they certainly had a shot at one of the top two seeds in the North Group 4 supersection, and by extension, one of the two top seeds once the teams were divided into sections.

That would have meant guaranteed home field advantage through the sectionals.

But after suffering its first loss of the season, falling to Cranford 38-28 at home last Friday night in the Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland, the Barrons may be out of the picture.

Last week, they were just 0.2 UPR points behind Ramapo, sitting in third place. But the loss to the Cougars knocked them down to 5th, with a 5.4 UPR. Ramapo is ahead of them at 3.8, followed by Irvington at 3.6, and Middletown South moving into second with a UPR of 2.

The Barrons may not have a strong enough schedule to make up the ground. Though they could gain in power points with wins over Scotch Plains-Fanwood (4-4) this week, and Linden (currently 3-3) next week, those teams’ SI valules are around 57, which will tick the Barrons’ OSI down a shade even if they sweep the Raiders and Tigers.

Bottom line: the Barrons should open the playoffs at home, and maybe can get a semifinal game at Priscoe Field if they advance. But they are unlikely to get one of the two top seeds, barring a major collapse by the teams in front of them.

In the middle of the pack are Sayreville, Colonia, and Ridge sitting at 9, 11 and 12 in the standings.

The Bombers – who are tied for ninth with Randolph – are most likely the only one of the trio in reach of a first-round home game. At 4-2 with an 8.8 UPR, they’re just one UPR point behind Mount Olive (7.8, in 8th) and within two UPR points of Middletown North (7.8). Add in the fact that Sayreville will pick up a forfeit win next week and get 42 power points for a win over St Joseph-Metuchen, that will give a huge boost to their 15.5 power point average, to 19.9 (not counting wins or losses by Sayreville the next two weeks). That kind of jump would be worth four places in power point rank, or 1.6 UPR points, which would put them around 7th or 8th in the standings, depending what other teams do. If they can beat Old Bridge this week and New Brunswick next – both on the road – I’d say they’ll be playing at home in the first round, for sure.

Colonia and Ridge are 2.8 and 3.0 UPR points behind Sayreville, respectively, and neither has a multiplier boost in the offing. They’re likely to get around a 5 seed in the sectionals and start on the road.

Then, at the bottom, are four teams vying for three playoff spots. North Hunterdon is in 14th, followed by Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Linden, and Montgomery. The Cougars are just 1.4 points our of a playoff spot, having won two straight after losing their first four. If they can take care of JFK this week, they get Cranford next week, and even a loss might get them in. Monty’s OSI is 39.61, and Cranford’s SI value is a 79.51, which is worth 39.78 in a loss. That wouldn’t hurt their OSI. But the power point loss would hurt them; right now it’s 27 for a win, but just six for a loss. Montgomery’s power point average is an 8.50. at the moment.

North Hunterdon is likely the safest of the group, with a UPR of 13.6 and 3.8 points away from Montgomery, 4.8 away from 18th place Wayne Hills. Only one of those teams would need to catch them to eliminate them, and that’s unlikely. Scotch Plains and Linden are in a little more of a murky situation. Best to win out and let the chips fall where they may.

Week 6 North 4 Playoff Analysis: Woodbridge aiming for a top-seed, six BCC teams in bottom half

NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect today’s cancellation of the Shore Conference pod championships.

The only Big Central team with any virtual certainty of their playoff positioning in the North Group 4 supersection should be the Woodbridge Barrons. With a big game Friday night against undefeated Cranford (CJSR, 7 pm), Woodbridge (6-0) currently sits third in the standings.

With the top two in the section getting home games throughout the sectional finals, the Barrons aren’t that far off. But neither is Middletown South. Both teams have a UPR of 3.2, which is just two-tenths of a point behind second place Ramapo. That means if either gains one position in power point or OSI rank, they’ll likely surpass Ramapo.

Continue reading “Week 6 North 4 Playoff Analysis: Woodbridge aiming for a top-seed, six BCC teams in bottom half”

Who are the eight undefeated teams left in the Big Central heading into Week 5?

As we head into Week Five of nine in high school football across New Jersey, there are dozens of undefeated teams remaining in the state – 52 to be exact.

Eight of them reside in the Big Central Conference.

The North Jersey Super Football Conference leads the pack with 19, including Immaculata, which is playing in the Independence Red Division after leaving the fledgling Big Central over a disagreement about their division and scheduling.

So who are these eight teams? Who’s having their best success in years? We take a closer look:

Hillsborough (4-0) ad Ridge (3-0): We put these teams together since they square off tonight in Basking Ridge, so one will have suffered their first loss of the season. The Raiders started 2019 with a 4-0 mark, and a win tonight would give them their best start since they won seven-in-a-row to start the 2014 season. That year, the Raiders made it to the Central Jersey Group 5 semifinals, where they lost 28-6 to eventual champion Manalapan, which beat South Brunswick 21-7 for the title at Rutgers.

Each team has a Bellamy & Son Player of the Week to their credit. Thomas Amankwaa of Hillsborough won for his outstanding performance in a 21-14 overtime home win over Phillipsburg a couple of weeks ago, including two touchdowns, a two-point run and an interception on the Liners’ possession in OT that clinched the come-from-behind win. Ridge quarterback Mike Olivo was honored this past week, as he accounted for all seven of his team’s touchdowns (three passing, four rushing) in a 49-20 win over Hunterdon Central.

READ MORE: Big plays in big spots earn Hillsborough’s Tommy Amankwaa Week Two Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week Honors

READ MORE: Seven touchdown performance earns Ridge’s Olivo Week Four Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week Award

It’s the best start for the Red Devils under second-year head coach Andy West. Bill Tracy was at the helm when Ridge last won three straight to start the year; they went 6-0 to begin 2018.

Bottom line, this kind of start is nothing new for these ballclubs.

Woodbridge (5-0): The Barrons did this last year, and the year before.

In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, they went 5-1, only losing their final game, in the first week of pod play to Somerville in a highly-anticipated 1 vs. 2 matchup. The Barrons had been No. 1 all season, with Somerville working its way to No. 2.

The ‘Ville took a 39-26 decision at Priscoe Field, and then both teams’ seasons ended due to COVID and contact tracing.

READ MORE: Whitaker and Desiderio postgame reaction after Somerville knocks off Woodbridge

Isn’t it great to see high school football back?

The year before, Woodbridge was 10-0 heading into the North 1, Group 4 title game, but lost 37-7 at Northern Highlands.

Cranford (3-0): The Cougars also got off to a hot start last year, beginning the year 3-0. But they were stopped by Woodbridge in their fourth game and finished 6-2, losing in their finale in pod play to St. Joseph-Metuchen.

READ MORE: Cranford wins a battle of top Union County QBs, Cougars off to 2-0 start

Cranford has Scotch Plains-Fanwood at home tonight, then hosts Colonia next Friday, before traveling to the other side of Route One for what could be a battle of two undefeated teams at Priscoe Field on Friday, October 15th, in the Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland heard live on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

If you’re looking for the Cougars’ next best start prior to last year, you’d have to go back to 2015, when Cranford ran the table at 12-0 and won the North 2, Group 3 title with a 50-23 win over Chatham at Kean University in Union.

Linden (3-0): Yes, make it three teams out of eight in what we felt heading into the season was one of the more balanced and competitive divisions in the Big Central, Division 4. In addition to Woodbridge and Cranford, the Tigers are unbeaten, and none of the three teams obviously have played each other yet.

It’s a nice turnaround for Linden, which managed just five games last year due to COVID and ended up 1-4. They had a 7-1 start to their 2018 season, but lost their opener before winning seven straight and dropping their last two.

This is their best start since going 7-0 to begin the 2014 campaign, which they finished 10-2, bringing home a North 2, Group 5 trophy; they beat Elizabeth for the title 27-20 at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.

St. Thomas Aquinas (4-0): The Trojans are on a historic streak. It’s the first time they’ve had this kind of success in North Edison in quite some time.

READ MORE: St. Thomas Aquinas finding historic success, wins fourth straight by shutout

Aquinas has not gone unbeaten in its first four games since starting the 1992 season 6-0-1, their streak stopped on November 7th of that year by Edison. (Fun side note: current Eagles offensive coordinator Matt Yascko had two touchdown catches in that game; the other went to Justin Garbolino, whose son Frankie is the QB at North Brunswick. Yascko’s son QB’s for Edison.)

They’ve not started a year with four straight wins since 1989, when the Trojans went ran the table in the regular season and finished 10-1, their lone loss coming in the Parochial South A final to Notre Dame, 9-6.

Look for a piece on the Trojans later today on cjsportsradio.com.

Delaware Valley (4-0): The Terriers got off to a 5-0 start last year, finishing 6-1 in the COVID-shortened campaign.

Del Val runs record to 4-0 with 40-7 cruise past Governor Livingston

A win tonight against a tough Bernards team would match that effort, and give them a shot at their best start since 2015 when they began 6-0. They also went 7-0 to start 2011 and 8-0 in 2003, finishing 9-1 with a playoff loss to Spotswood.

We got to see them early on against North Plainfield, and the Terriers looked impressive, nearly pitching the shutout before allowing a late touchdown.

Brearley (3-0): The Bears had an 8-2 year in 2019, and won eight straight games in that campaign, but after suffering a season-opening loss to out-of-conference West Essex.

READ MORE: Brearley off to hot 2-0 start, looks to keep it going against rival Roselle Park in Week 3

They’re off to their best start since 2018 when they went 5-0, but their season-opening win was a forfeit by Highland Park, which didn’t have enough personnel to play the game. Going by true on-field wins, you’d have to go back to 2015, when the Bears won their first eleven games, and were the top-seed in the North 2, Group 1 playoffs.

They lost in the finals at Kean 34-12 to second-seed Hoboken.

What team has the longest active winning streak in Big Central play?

The answer to that question may surprise you.

Hint: it’s not any one of the undefeated teams we mentioned above.

The answer? It’s Bernards!

The Mountaineers are 3-1 this season, but their loss came to Penns Grove in the Battle at the Beach in Week Zero. Last year, after a season-opening loss to Hillside – which they avenged this year in the Rumble on the Raritan at Rutgers – Bernards won their final eight games to finish 8-1.

Of those, six came against Big Central opponents (the other two wins were against Monmouth and Immaculata). So, the Bernards winning streak in league is nine games.

After that, it’s Somerville and Woodbridge tied with 8 straight in league play (Somerville’s loss this season was to Northern Highlands).

Union – who’s only loss this season is to Millville, out of conference – has won six straight against BCC competition, while Del Val and Brealy each have won five-in-a-row.

Somerville splits top spot voting, but remains No. 1 in Big Central Media Poll for Week Four

Despite Somerville losing a first-place vote to Woodbridge, and the schools evenly splitting the six votes for the top spot at three apiece, the Pioneers remain No. 1 in the Week Four Big Central Media Poll compiled by Central Jersey Sports Radio.

In fact, Woodbridge still holds in third in the poll, with the voters who didn’t pick the Barrons number one ranking Union higher overall.

The top nine teams remained in the same positions as a week ago, except for Birdgewater-Raritan, which had been tied for ninth. The Panthers (2-2) dropped out following a 31-21 home loss Saturday to No. 4 Hillsborough.

Delaware Valley and Linden debut in the rankings this week, tied for the tenth and final spot.

Below are the Week Four rankings:

Somerville caps sweep of rankings with top spot in Week 3 Big Central Media Poll

Somerville is the No. 1 team in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten, and the highest ranked Big Central team in the New Jersey Strength Index ratings.

And while it wasn’t unanimous, the Pioneers also have taken top billing in the Week 3 Big Central Media Poll.

Somerville earned the spot partly by virtue of being 3-1, with dominating performances in all three of its wins, but also because previously top-ranked North Brunswick was upset Friday by unranked Sayreville.

The ‘Ville got four of the six first-place votes, while Woodbridge finished third, despite getting the other two votes. In between was Union, which was idle this past week.

Below is the Week 3 Big Central Media Poll:

North Brunswick claims top spot in Big Central Media Poll, edging out Union in Week Two

A week ago, North Brunswick had three first place votes in the Big Central Week One Media Poll, while Union had just one.

But the voters that didn’t pick Union first had the Farmers higher than those who didn’t have the Raiders in the top spot, so Union took Number One.

In Week Two, the first place votes went the same way – with Somerville and Woodbridge each getting a nod – but a win over ranked Old Bridge on the road boosted the Raiders in the minds of voters, and this week, they earned the top spot with 52 points, two more than Union.

There was little other change in the poll. Hillsborough jumped over Phillipsburg following a 21-14 overtime home win over the Stateliners, while Edison and Watchung Hills both dropped out. Three teams – Bernards, Cranford and Linden – tied for tenth, with five other teams getting votes.

Below is the Week Two Big Central Media Poll:

Manville’s Angelo Drake took on informal “coaching role,” wins Leadership Award

by Mike Pavlichko

Manville finished 2017 with a 7-2 record, and things were looking good for the Mustangs.

Angelo Drake was all ready for his sophomore season, and the opener against rival Bound Brook in 2018. And then the unthinkable happened: He broke his forearm making a tackle on a kickoff.

History repeated itself in the 2019 season opener. Same team, same play, same game.

You’ve got to be kidding.

Any other player who’s not a legitimate threat to play on Sundays might have packed it in. But not Angelo Drake.

Instead, “he never missed one day,” says head coach Pat Gorbatuk.

“He took on the role of assistant coach, helping set up practices, running drills and mentoring young players.”

He was voted a team captain as a junior, because he was – as Gorbatuk explained it – “every player’s favorite teammate.”

Listen below to Angelo Drake and his head coach, Pat Gorbatuck, talk about Drake’s model leadership for the young Mustangs:

Honorable mentions for the Leadership Award go to Nasir Williams of Roselle Park, and Shawn Patterson of Linden.

After not playing the 2018 season due to low numbers in the program, Williams – a senior – rushed for over an average over 100 yards per game in six games this season, also logging more than four tackles a game on defense. His 1.4 TDs per game were 30 percent of the team’s offense. Head coach Greg Dunkerton says Williams stayed with the program and continued to excel despite the lack of team experience, playing through injuries, and at times with as many as six sophomores on the field. He says Williams made it his goal to instill a sense of “Panther Pride” in his younger teammates.

Patterson – a senior at Linden – was a three-year starter on the offensive line, and in 2018 helped paved the way for 3,100 yards of total offense – 2,384 on the ground and 778 in the air. Coach Al Chiola says he first met Shawn in his 6th grade social studies class, where he told the coach he couldn’t wait to play football for Linden. Chiola says after a COVID shutdown, Linden had the option of playing No. 1 Woodbridge with just 2 days of practice, or taking the week off to prepare for Cranford the following week, when Williams said, “Coach, let’s play. We just want to play football.” Chiola says Williams only missed three snaps his entire varsity career.