Tag: Montgomery

Little movement in Bellamy & Son Paving Boys’ Top Ten as six schools sit out Christmas break

Whether due to contact tracing, positive tests, or opponents cancelling for the same reasons, a half dozen boys’ basketball teams – more than half the ranked schools – didn’t play over the Christmas break, leaving very little movement in the Week 2 Bellamy & Son Paving Boys’ Basketball Top Ten.

Colonia remains Number One, despite not playing at all, and the same could be said for Rutgers Prep, which held in second.

The Patriots resume play Tuesday at North Brunswick, in a game that will be broadcast on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

The Argonauts don’t resume until Thursday, when they host North Hunterdon.

St. Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, went 3-0 at the Boardwalk Classic down in Atlantic City, beating St. Joseph by the Sea (NY), Shawnee and Archbishop Carroll (PA).

The only movement saw Monroe and Montgomery flip-flop; the Falcons went 2-0 with wins over Woodbridge and Immaculata in their own holiday tournament, while the Cougars were idle. The two will play each other Tuesday at Montgomery.

Gill St. Bernards, Bound Brook, and East Brunswick also did not play in the past week.

Below are the full Week 2 rankings:

Colonia holds top spot in Week Two Bellamy & Son Paving Boys’ Basketball Top Ten

Off to a 2-0 start, the Colonia Patriots have held on to their No. 1 ranking in the Bellamy & Son Paving Week 1 Boys’ Basketball Top Ten.

The only movement in the Top Five this week was a flip-flop of No. 4 St. Thomas Aquinas, taking over the No. 3 spot from St. Joseph-Metuchen after beating the Falcons head-to-head.

Click below for an audio top ten with Mike Pavlichko, complete with notes on each team:

Colonia starts season atop the Bellamy & Son Paving Boys’ Basketball Preseason Rankings

The winners of the Greater Middlesex Conference’s top postseason pod – the Colonia Patriots – will start the 2021-22 high school basketball season as No. 1 in the Bellamy & Son Paving Boys’ Basketball Top Ten.

With an 11-4 mark a year ago, they avenged their only GMC loss of the 2021 COVID-abbreviated campaign with a win over St. Thomas Aquinas in the finals of the Towns/Williams Pod, on the Trojans’ home floor.

Rutgers Prep is the top Somerset County team, and checks in at No. 2.

Click below for a full audio top ten, with notes and commentary on each team:

Central Jersey Sports Radio announces “Specialty Awards” for 2021

Last year, we decided our inaugural awards show had too few awards to recognize all the truly great student-athletes in the Big Central Conference, on or off the field. So besides Players and Coach of the Year, we decided to give out “Specialty Awards.”

And we’re back with more for 2021, so get ready for some fantastic stories!

Offensive Line of the Year: Cranford

They literally paved the way for Cranford’s third state championship in eleven seasons. The five guys up front kept quarterback Shane VanDam on his feet, and cleared a path for Colin Murray, who had a career-best 334 yards in the North 2 Group 3 championship game against Sparta.

Cranford offensive lineman Kevin Shriner holds up the NJSIAA trophy as he and his teammates celebrate a state championship. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Geoff Gretta, Kevin Shriner, Kyle Fay, Ryan Heesters, and Matt Fries – who signed his National Letter of Intent this week to attend the University of Illinois – were all instrumental in Cranford’s success. Four of the five – with the exception being center Kyle Fay – are at least 6-2 and 280 pounds.

“It helps we have a bunch of large humans,” head coach Erik Rosenmeier told us earlier this season.

It also helps they can all flat out play.

Listen below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with all five Cranford offensive linemen:

The “Nobody Scores” Award:

It took eight games for someone to score on St. Thomas Aquinas, and nobody threw a touchdown pass against them all year.

Those were the kind of dominant defensive numbers the Trojans put up on 2021, not an easy task considering they led most of their games pretty big this year, and a bunch of 16- and 17-year-olds could easily have lost their focus.

They didn’t, only allowing nine points the entire regular season, all of them coming in their finale against Delaware Valley, on a mud-soaked field in North Edison.

Villanova-bound senior Jon Wyatt has been an integral part of the Trojans’ success on both sides of the ball. (Mike Pavlichko)

Senior Jon Wyatt, who’s going to Villanova, was a lock-down corner. Barely anyone threw toward him – and if they did, they couldn’t complete a single pass. If they did manage to get a ball caught, it was in the hands of Wyatt.

Click below to hear Wyatt talk about how it all worked out for St. Thomas Aquinas:

“Rising Star” Award

Last season, sophomore quarterbacks were making an impact, whether it be Franklie Garbolino, Matt Yasko, or a host of others around the league.

In 2021, sophomore Zaimer Wright of Sayreville is one who had a big impact for his team, leaving a bright future for the Bombers.

Sayreville sophomore Zaimer Wright helped his team knock off No. 1 North Brunswick on September 17, 2021. (Source: Twitter)

Wright was a Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week earlier this year, and finished the season with 1,401 yards rushing, 25 touchdowns, and five two-point conversions, scoring 160 total points. He also starts at safety, contributing on defense, and returns punts and kickoffs, as well as runs down on the kick coverage team.

He’s been under the weather recently, so we didn’t get a chance to speak to him, but we think we’ll have plenty of opportunities the next couple of years. Feel better, Zaimer!

Mr. Versatility

There’s no doubt this award goes to Alex Benitez, a senior from Montgomery. He has played runningback, moved back to quarterback, then back to runningback while also playing outside linebacker on defense.

Montgomery senior QB Alex Benitez gets ready to throw a pass in preseason camp on Friday, August 27, 2021 at Cougar Stadium.

A four-year starter, Benitez didn’t miss a single game, and only fumbled four times in his career – three of them coming in his freshman year!

He also punts, kicks off, kicks PATs, long snaps and return kickoffs. He’d probably drive the team bus if it wasn’t an insurance issue.

Coach Zoran Milich calls him “the best all-around player in New Jersey.”

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with jack-of-all-trades Alex Benitez:

“Mentorship Award”:

With a strong influence in his own family, Jehu Andrews realizes that not every boy in Carteret is as lucky as he is.

So that’s why, in addition to being a leader on his own Carteret Rambler football team, and being a great asset to first-year head coach Kevin Freeman, he’s involved with youth football.

Jehu Andrews of Carteret (source: Twitter)

Sure, he helped pave the way up front on offense and defense to a three-win season after not playing at all in 202 because Carteret cancelled fall sports due to COVID

But he laid some of that knowledge on the 14-and-under Bulldogs in town, becoming a father figure to, perhaps, a bunch of future Jehu Andrews.

Click below to hear Andrews talk with Mike Pavlichko talk about his season, community involvement, and influences:

Perseverance Award

Sure, a lot of football players face obstacles in their seasons. Maybe it’s a nagging injury, a tough defeat, or just some bad luck.

How many have a fire destroy everything they own, save only their football jersey, and show up to play that night?

Matthew Ihemsie of Hillside (Source: Twitter)

Matthew Ihemsie of Hillside does, and to be honest, there are no words that can do it justice, except for his. So give a listen:

“Mr. Dynamic” (Most Electrifying Player):

He can run, he can throw, but his ability to inspire his teammates to great heights, quickly shift the momentum of a game, make Josh Oluremi of Colonia the obvoious choice for most electrifying player in the Big Central Conference.

Mr. Dynamic, Oluremi rushed for 1,594 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, while throwing for 954 and 6 touchdown passes. He also had 32 tackles and a pair of picks from his cornerback spot on defense.

Josh Oluremi of Colonia (Source: Twitter)

He almost single-handedly got Colonia past Edison on September 10th, rushing for four and throwing another touchdown in the game, a 38-7 victory over the Eagles.

For his career, he finishes with 2,000+ rushing yards, and nearly 1,800 passing yards, responsible for a total of 36 overall touchdowns.

Click below to hear Josh Oluremi talk about his season, career, and style of play:

Red-Hot Recruit of the Year:

Picking these awards aren’t always easy. Which means sometimes it is. In this case, it was a no-brainer.

Davison Igbinsoun of Union holds 30-plus Division I scholarship offers, and is still deciding where he’ll attend college, getting a lot of attention in the past week from Rutgers’ Greg Schiano – who arrived in a chopper for the second time this season – and Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin, who took him for a ride in a Porsche.

He originally committed to Rutgers, but withdrew that commitment after his recruiting ranting picked up a fourth star, though the Scarlet Knights remain in contention for him.

Union’s Davison Igbinosun (Source: Twitter)

One of the most dominant players in the area in recent memory, his numbers weren’t off the charts in 2021, but that’s because he’s an incredibly unselfish player, and the Farmers had a lot of athletes to go around.

This year, he had 18 total touchdowns, 76 carries for 903 yards and 12 touchdown, 20 catches for 405 yards and four touchdowns. On defense, he recorded 74 tackles, 4 picks, and two tackles for a loss.

He’ll be special wherever he goes.

Benitez, Cougars know a tall task awaits them in top-seed Northern Highlands

The last time Northern Highlands played in a playoff game, they beat Woodbridge to win the North 1 Group 4 championship in 2019.

Then came the pandemic, but the Highlanders (9-0) are right back at it: No. 8 in the state, and the second highest ranked public school in the NJ.com Top 20.

That’s the task that awaits the 8th-seeded Montgomery Cougars Friday night in the opening round of the North 1, Group 4 playoffs, although they may be one of the more deceptive 8-seeds in the state at 3-5.

The Cougars lost their first four games of the season, then won three straight after making a change at quarterback, bringing a newcomer into the fold and moving program guy Alex Benitez back to his natural runningback position (though they still have designed passing plays for him).

Click below to hear Montgomery head coach Zoran Millich talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about the Cougars’ season, as heard on CJSR’s special playoff projection show last Saturday night:

Are we there yet? Top 5 longest treks for Big Central schools in the opening round of the playoffs

The way the NJSIAA now seeds the high school football playoffs – choosing the top 16 teams in the North and South halves of the state in each group, then snaking them through eight-team sections with no regard for geography other than that the overall Number One seed gets to be in their “natural” section – can lead to some long bus rides of a Friday night or Saturday morning.

We’ve compiled the five longest road trips for Big Central Conference teams in the opening round.

5. South Hunterdon at Paulsboro (1 hour, 6 minutes – 58 miles): Though both are along the Delaware River, they couldn’t be in more different towns. South Hunterdon Regional High School is in Lambertville, just under four miles from the bridge that takes you to New Hope, PA. Paulsboro High School is practically within walking distance of the Delaware, south of Philadelphia, but with its straight-line view marred by oil tank after oil tank at the Sunoco refinery, and with Philly International across the way. Believe it or not, Google says the fastest way between the schools is to take I-95 in Pennsylvania, then cross back over the Walt Whitman Bridge into Jersey. Taking the Turnpike all the way down from Trenton would add another six minutes to the trip.

4. Montgomery at Northern Highlands (1 hour, 15 minutes – 63 miles): When we trekked up to Northern Highlands to cover Woodbridge’s North 1 Group 4 title game there a couple of years ago, that was a trek coming from New Brunswick. Coming out of Skillman is no fun either. That’s a trip up 287 in the heat of rush-hour. Bring a good movie for the bus, or maybe a game of Risk, and settle in. For fans, there are some good eats in downtown Allendale, a quaint little village. Jerry Seinfeld even taped an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” there.

3. Old Bridge at Kingsway (1 hour, 19 minutes, 75 miles): In 2019, 6th-seed Kingsway pulled off an upset at Lombardi Field, heading back home for the nearly hour-and-a-half ride with a 34-7 win over third-seed Old Bridge. This time, the Knights are the five-seed on the road, and Kingsway is the four-seed at home. Maybe with the seeds flipped, the Knights can turn the tables on the Dragons.

2. St. Thomas Aquinas at St. Joseph-Hammonton (1 hour, 30 minutes – 78 miles): The parcohial schools, particularly down south, are used to this. With so few of them, and so far in between, trips are never a picnic. That doesn’t make it any easier. And the 7-2 Wildcats are a beast just about every year, so it’ll be a tall order for our Trojans. Then again, everyone said “Wait ’til they play Del Val.” Point taken.

1. Middlesex at Woodstown (1 hour, 42 minutes – 92 miles): This has got to be one of the longest trips for any team in the state in the opening round. It’s 287 to the Turnpike, all the way down to Exit 2, then through farms and fields until you get to the little village that is Woodstown. Ionically, the Wolverines’ baseball team made this same trip back in June for the Group 1 semifinals, which Middlesex won 7-5 in dramatic fashion, on Bobby Ulmer Jr.’s two-out, two-strike, walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Blue Jays would go on to win the Group 1 title, defeating New Providence in a 13-inning affair, their third straight in walkoff fashion – fourth if you count a walkoff mercy rule win in the sectional semifinals over Florence.

SHAMELESS PLUG: Click here to listen again – and again – to Bobby Ulmer Jr.’s game-winning grand slam against Woodstown from June 2021.

Scotch Plains-Fanwood ban from playoffs could help Montgomery squeak in, with a little help

NOTE: This story has been corrected to say a local story reported four players ejected, stead three.

Scotch Plains-Fanwood coach Austin Holman wanted to keep his players motivated. They’d have to be on good behavior if they had a hope of making the playoffs.

That was the case from Week Two on, after four players were ejected from a game 30-24 win over Plainfield all the way back on September 4th. The ejections made the game story on a local website, but that was the end of it. They didn’t talk about it again.

According to NJSIAA rules, any team with more than two disqualifications in a season is ineligible for the playoffs that season. The NJSIAA recently confirmed the ejections – and Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s ban from the 2021 playoffs – to Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Holman says two of his players came off the bench to get another player out of trouble on the field. But all three were ejected. Though there’s no appealing the officials’ decisions, Holman and school officials hoped they might be able to show video evidence and get the NJSIAA to overturn their postseason ban.

That effort bore no fruit this week, and Holman told his team the final result after Friday night’s 41-21 loss at Colonia, which left them 5-5 on the year, with a big win last week at Woodbridge they could be proud of.

The Raiders would have been in the playoffs, sitting in 13th after all the other Friday night results were calculated. Instead, it will open the door for whoever the 16th place team in the standings is.

Currently, that’s 17th place Bergenfield, which is 3-5. A win tomorrow at home against Demarest – also 3-5 – would keep them in 17th, and get them in the playoffs. Should they lose, they would drop to 18th, and Montgomery would move into 17th, and into the postseason.

Whoever gets the overall 16 seed would face overall top-seed Northern Highlands, which is 9-0 and ranked 8th in the state by NJ.com, the second-highest ranked public school in the state behind overall No. 4 Millville.

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.

Montgomery wins third straight to set up critical matchup against Cranford on Cutoff Weekend

After starting the season 0-4, and facing winless Franklin, Montgomery head coach Zoran Milich thought he would make some changes to the lineup.

He put in transfer quarterback Michael Schmelzer – who had to sit out 30 days after coming back from from Notre Dame – and moved Alex Benitez – who began his Cougar career as a runningback before moving to QB – back to runningback.

Worked like a charm.

Montgomery snapped the skid and now is 3-4 after a 45-27 home win over JFK.

Next week, they’ll wrap up the regular season on Cutoff Weekend with a home game against No. 4 Cranford, which stayed unbeaten (7-0) with a 42-13 win at Linden Friday night.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Montgomery head coach Zoran Milich about the Cougars’ turnaround:

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.