Tag: Montgomery

Group 4 playoff analysis: North Hunterdon leads BCC teams packed tightly behind them

As we head into the final four weeks of the regular season before Cutoff Weekend in high school football, it’s time to start taking a closer look at the race for the playoffs. Here’s a look at Group 4; note that we only give a detailed breakdown of the North section since South 4 doesn’t include any teams from the Big Central Conference, the only such supersection in the state.

NORTH 4 (Click here for official standings)

Ramapo is the leader in this section, with Randolph right behind, but both UPRs are in the twos (2.2 for Ramapo, 2.4 for Randolph). That oddity is because while they are 1-and-2 in OSI, Ramapo is fourth in power points, while Randolph is third. (OSI weighs 60%, power points 40% in the state UPR formula).

The highest Big Central team is North Hunterdon in fifth, and there are a bunch of league teams sort of right behind them, and they play two of the three in the next couple of weeks. The Lions have a 5.6 UPR, followed by Wayne Valley (5.8) and Colonia (6.6). Rahway is eighth with a 9 UPR, and Montgomery – with a 10 UPR – is in tenth, followed by Sayreville (10.4 UPR).

That’s a fairly good-sized gap in the middle of the pack. It essentially means that the top seven teams are all tightly packed in the top of the power point and OSI standings; i.e. there’s no team in the top seven that’s very high (say, fourth) in one and very low (say, 12th) in the other.

North Hunterdon can really solidify things and maybe make a run at a top-four seed (and home field through the sectional semifinals) with wins the next two weeks. They host Colonia Friday night – where Central Jersey Sports Radio will have live updates during the Sayreville at East Brunswick game, which kicks off at 7:00 – and next week, North Hunterdon travels to Montgomery.

Now back to that gap: it’s a lot to make up, and if nobody can do it, we’ll have Rahway, Monty, Sayreville, Chatham and maybe more battling it out for that eighth spot, which means a first-round home playoff game.

Ridge in 14th is a good bet to make the playoffs, but Linden in 15th is a little more on the bubble, but at least on the good side.

Woodbridge, however, at 1-4, is in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 2018. They are in 18th, with a 17.4 UPR. They may need to run the table, which would include not only winning at Perth Amboy this weekend and beating in-town rival JFK at home next week, but then winning out in Clinton over North Hunterdon on October 14th, and beating Sayreville at home on the Friday night of Cutoff Weekend.

Put it this way: for the Barrons, the playoffs start now.

SOUTH 4 (Click here for official standings)

Again, there are no Big Central teams here, but with the NJSIAA going to group finals for the first-time ever this year, it warrants a brief look.

The top two teams here are Middletown South (3-1) and Millville (2-1). They might not be were it not for the multiplier effect, as Middletown South lost to Red Bank Catholic – and still has Donovan Catholic later on. Millville beat St. Augustine two weeks ago.

There’s only one undefeated team in this section: 4-0 Pennsauken, in 6th place right now, with a 7.2 UPR. Their power point total is what hurts them

“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”:

Stateliners grab another first place vote, still lead Big Central Media Poll, as other teams shake up

Another week, another vote for first in the Big Central Media Poll for Phillipsburg.

The Stateliners picked up a season-high 48 points and got four of the five first-place votes in Week Four, ahead of North Brunswick, which got the other first-place vote.

The teams don’t play each other this regular season, and could only meet if they both make the inaugural Group 5 final at Rutgers’ SHI Stadium the first week of December.

Hillside climbed a spot to third, while St. Thomas Aquinas jumped three spots from seventh to fourth.

The poll saw a bit of a shakeup this week, with previously-third ranked Hillsborough dropping two spots to fifth after a 34-0 loss at P’burg Friday night. Previously-No. 7-ranked St. Joseph-Metuchen dropped two spots after losing to unranked Elizabeth Saturday, 23-21. And Sayreville dropped from No. 6 to No. 9 after a 22-0 loss to No. 2 North Brunswick.

Montgomery – 5-0 for the first time ever- continued its ascent, up two spots to fifth. Colonia (5-0) dropped a spot simply by other teams making gains, and North hunterdon – which got votes last week – entered the poll in tenth.

Ridge (2-2) dropped out as well.

The full Week 4 Big Central Media Poll is below:

Phillipsburg takes stranglehold on top ranking in Week 4 CJSR Top Ten

Thanks to a 34-0 home win over then-undefeated and third-ranked Hillsborough Friday night, Phillipsburg took both first place votes in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Week Four high school football rankings.

The Stateliners are still followed by North Brunswick, close behind, which has the same record through the first four weeks as P’burg: 4-0.

For the first time this season, no teams dropped out of the rankings, and there were no “Also Received Votes.” All ten teams that got votes are in the rankings, just in a different order.

Click below for the full Week Four Top Ten:

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Week 3: Did we mention multipliers need to go?

On this week’s trip through “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” Mike Pavlichko throws out laurels for Piscataway and Dunellen, points out one of the playoff formula’s quirks, and looks ahead to two huge matchups Friday night, with Central Jersey Sports Radio covering both.

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

Phillipsburg continues reign atop CJSR, Big Central Media Polls

For the second week in a row, it’s Phillipsburg atop the Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings, as well as the Big Central Media Poll.

In fact, the week three rankings have the same top three teams in the same order: the Stateliners, followed by North Brunswick and Hillsborough.

After that, things start to get different. But one common thread was Montgomery, which is off to a 4-0 start, making its debut in both polls this week: 6th place in the CJSR Top Ten, and tied for 7th in the Media Poll with two other teams, including Colonia, which also made its debut in the media survey.

Edison dropped out of both polls this week as the Eagles lost their second straight game, while North Hunterdon – after losing at top-ranked Phillipsburg Friday to fall to 3-1 – fell out of the media rankings, but remained in the CJSR Top Ten at No. 9.

Delaware Valley also received votes in both polls, but didn’t make the top ten, while North Hunterdon did get votes in the media poll, along with Edison and Bernards. Del Val entertains Bernards Friday night in the Big Central Game of the Week on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with kickoff set for 7 pm at Tap Webb Memorial Field in Alexandria. Click here to listen.

One other note is that the polls seem to be tightening, with fewer teams getting votes each week as the season begins to settle in, with next week being the mid-way point of the season. In Week 2, there were 16 teams receiving votes from the five voting members of the Media Poll, compared to 20 in the preseason rankings. This week, the number was down to 14.

Scroll down to see both polls in their entirety:

INSTANT REPLAY: Montgomery 27, Somerville 21

Montgomery used three straight touchdowns – spanning the second and third quarters – and rallied from two touchdown deficits in the first half to beat visiting Somerville, 27-21, at Montgomery High School on Friday, September 16th, 2022.

The win moved the Cougars to 4-0 for the first time since 2007, while the Pioneers dropped to 1-3.

Click below to listen back to the original broadcast, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the play-by-play:

1st Half (including part of the halftime performance by the Montgomery H.S. Band)

2nd Half


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Montogmery matches program’s best start ever with 27-21 victory over Somerville for fourth straight win

Some wins just feel bigger than others.

That’s what it felt like in Skillman Friday night, with Montgomery and Somerville locked in a tight first-half battle that saw the home Cougars trailing 14-13 after getting a second quarter touchdown, but failing on the two-point conversion.

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But Montgomery scored the next two touchdowns, and it was enough to stave off Somevrille – which got closer with a late third-quarter scoring drive led by backup quarterback Brendan Pacheo – and the Cougars came away with a 27-21 win, as heard Friday night on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

It was Monty’s first win in the series since 2013, although their only other meeting in between was in 2018, at the height of Somerville’s recent dominance, a 55-12 Pioneers’ win.

Junior quarterback Mike Schmelzer threw three touchdown passes – to Matt D’Avino, Eddie Qian and Ethan McManus, while Gavin Guidette ran for another in a balanced offensive attack.

Somerville scored first and never trailed in the first half, but then two third quarter scores by Montgomery gave them three straight TDs – all TD passes – until Pacheo capped a long drive with a two-yard touchdown run to get Somerville within 27-21. But that was as close as they would get.

The victory puts Montgomery at 4-0 for the first time since the 2007 season, when the Cougars also won their first four, and finished 9-2, with a loss in the Central Jersey Group 3 semifinals to eventual title-winner Holmdel.

A win next week against Hamilton (1-2), which plays tomorrow against Hopewell Valley, would be the program’s best start ever.

Click below for postgame reaction from Montgomery’s 27-21 win over Somerville:

Montgomery junior quarterback Mike Schmelzer in the postgame huddle. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Junior WR Matt D’Avino and junior QB Mike Schmelzer
Montgomery junior wide receiver Matt D’Avino. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Head Coach Zoran Milich

It’s Pace’s program as new ‘Ville coach looks to rebound off enigmatic start

Ian Pace’s journey to becoming the head coach at Somerville is a bit of a winding road. An offensive lineman at Fordham then an assistant coach for 12 years at the college level, Pace found his way to The ‘Ville almost by accident. While on a recruiting trip for Division 3 St. John Fisher, he heard of the open position, knocked on the front door to the high school, and was led upstairs to the athletic offices. That day, Pace says he got a feel for how great an opportunity this would be. Eight months later, that feeling has only gotten stronger.

“It takes a village to run The ‘Ville,” Pace said, emphasizing the unbelievable community support surrounding the Pioneers football program. “It’s our program. It’s the community.”

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Somerville has been a juggernaut in Central Jersey for the better part of a decade. Shouldered by a 57-8 run since 2016 under Jeff Vanderbeek (2016-17) and Dallas Whitaker (2018-21) that featured three state finals appearances, this isn’t a reboot or a rebuild for Pace; he’s just receiving the baton.

Third-year starting quarterback Mike Miller has thrown for almost 3,500 yards and nearly 40 touchdowns in his career. Senior Hashym Hobbs-Harris (178 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns) and sophomore Terrell Mitchell (156 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns) are dynamic in the backfield. Senior slot receiver Wes Hack (14 catches, 236 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns) has emerged as the Pioneers’ main target through the air.

One of the Big Central’s most explosive offenses, Somerville has tallied 88 points in its three games. But after a forfeit in the season opener and a loss to St. Joseph-Metuchen last week, the Pioneers have just one win, 42-33 at Old Bridge on September 2, through three games. They will look to get back to .500 in the Big Central Game of the Week Friday night at Montgomery.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the game live with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling the play-by-play. Kickoff is at 7 pm at Montgomery High School, and the pregame show begins at 6:45. Click here to listen.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the game live Friday night, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the play-by-play. Kickoff is at 7 pm at Montgomery High School in Skillman, and the pregame show begins around 6:45. Click here to listen.

Click below to hear Justin Sontupe talk with Somerville head coach Ian Pace about the Pioneers and the upcoming matchup with Montgomery:

Montgomery looks to keep best start since ’07 going when Somerville comes to town

Having lost a ton of key players – Alex Benitez, Brandon Feury, Andre Soumeillant, to name just a few, but hardly all – Montgomery football coach Zoran Milich would be forgiven if he wasn’t sure what to expect in 2022.

After dropping its first four games of the season, the Cougars won three in a row and got close enough to the 16th and final playoff spot in South Group 4 to be given a spot as the next team in when Scotch Plains-Fanwood was ruled ineligible for the postseason over a number of early-season disqualifications.

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So what has this year’s squad done? Well, with QB Michael Schmelzer starting the year from the very beginning (he sat 30 days last year after transferring in from Notre Dame in Lawrenceville) they have done just fine, thank you, winning their opening three games for the first time since the 2007 Cougar team that finished 9-2, making it to the Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals, where they lost to Howell.

Offensively, that team was led by QB Kevin Watson (2,039 yds, 21 TD), receivers Chris Garcia and JT Tartacoff (700+ yards apiece), and running back Devon Saunders (1,017 yards, 6 TD). Defensivlely, they got after quarterbacks, registering 37 sacks (led by senior DE Matt Tholis with 13 1/2), and the Cougars picked off 11 passes all year.

But this year’s team is forging its own way, with a group of players that isn’t necessarily young, but isn’t exactly rife with seniors either. Schmelzer already has thrown for 760 yards in three games, but more impressively, the junior has thrown seven touchdown passes and just one interception.

Fellow junior Matt D’Avino is his top target (270 yds, 5 TDs) and senior Chris Eubanks can run the ball (253 yards, 1 TD). Gavin Guidette leads the flexible “3-3 stack” defense at middle linebacker with a team-leading 18 tackles, 15 solo, and junior safety Zack Schick already has three interceptions of the year.

And a win over Somerville would go a long way, with the Pioneers being a program that has had immense success over the past several years, including a state title and three finals appearances under the combination of Jeff Vanderbeek and Dallas Whitaker as head coaches.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the game live Friday night as its Big Central Game of the Week, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the play-by-play. Kickoff is at 7 pm at Montgomery High School in Skillman, and the pregame show begins around 6:45. Click here to listen.

Somerville leads the all-time series 6-4, but Montgomery has won four of the last six in the series. The Pioneers, however, beat the Cougars 55-12 in 2018 en route to a sectional final, where they lost to Rumson-Fair Haven at Brooks Field.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk about Montgomery, and the Somerville matchup, with Cougars head coach Zoran Milich: