Tag: Piscataway

Piscataway’s “Speedy” Rivera awarded 2022 Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week Scholarship

When one thinks back to all the team speed Piscataway has had over the years, most notably under Dan Higgins, with every passing year it becomes more and more difficult to top them.

At the risk of leaving many others out, Elijah Barnwell, Tevin Shaw, Malcolm Jenkins, and Kyle Wilson, are just a few of the names that instantly come to mind.

Add Antonio “Speedy” Rivera to that list.

He will close out his two-year varsity career (with his sophomore season wiped out by COVID) with a program record five career kick returns for touchdowns, some on punts, some on kickoffs.

And he also will close out that career with a $500 scholarship from Bellamy & Son Paving, which sponsored the Player of the Week award on Central Jersey Sports Radio for a second straight season.

Each week during the 2022 regular season, a Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week was chosen from nominations by the league’s coaches. Out of those nine, we chose one to receive a $500 scholarship. And this year, it’s Antonio Rivera.

Piscataway senior Antonio Rivera finishes off a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter of a 38-14 home win over Old Bridge on September 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Terri Thompson)

Rivera won the award for his Week 5 performance in a 38-14 home win over Old Bridge on September 30th. He had a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown, as well as a 71-yard kickoff return for a score. That gave him the school record for career touchdown returns, previously held by Kyle Wilson with three.

Wilson went on to star for Boise State and play with the Jets and Saints in the NFL.

Who every gets Rivera will be one lucky son-of-a-gun indeed.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko surprise Antonio Rivera of Piscataway with the Bellamy & Son Paving Player of the Week Scholarship award:

Here’s the full list of Bellamy & Son Paving Players of the Week for 2022:

  • Week 0: Matt Yascko, Edison
  • Week 1: Antonio Rosato, Woodbridge
  • Week 2: Kyle Hall, Rahway
  • Week 3: Jaeden Jones, Colonia
  • Week 4: Vito Tropeano, Elizabeth
  • Week 5: Antonio Rivera, Piscataway
  • Week 6: Nyekir Eato, Edison
  • Week 7: Matt D’Avino, Montgomery
  • Week 8: A.J. Bosch, Woodbridge

Coming off COVID shutdown and winless season, Piscataway earns CJSR’s “Turnaround Team of the Year” honors in ’22

The fall of 2020 was not an easy one for Dan Higgins, or his players. When the district shut down the fall sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic – one of two districts to do so in the Big Central Conference that year, the other being Carteret – Higgins all of a sudden had no team to coach.

And it wasn’t just the fact there were no games. There were no practices, no weight room, no film study, no team meals. Nothing.

Some players even moved on to other schools.

To return in 2021 made things normal in a way, but not in another, as the program – no doubt hurt by a year away from football – struggled mightily. Seniors had not played since their sophomore year. Young contributors, normally key to the Chiefs’ success, saw their football IQ stunted. And the varsity went 0-8, its first winless season since 1968.

After a loss in the opener to Hunterdon Central, one could be forgiven if Piscataway hung its collective head. Instead, they went 6-2 to the rest of the way, to finish 6-3, with a berth in the state playoffs, just three seasons removed from becoming the first Middlesex County school to go 13-0 when they won the inaugural North Group 5 “bowl” game at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.

Click below to listen to Mike Pavlichko talk with Piscataway head coach Dan Higgins:

Honorable Mentions:

The Spotswood Chargers had a remarkable turnaround in 2022 under second-year head coach Chris Meagher. After winning seven games in Andy Cammarano’s final three seasons before stepping down, Meagher’s team struggled mightily in 2021, going 1-8 and getting shut out five times in the process, scoring under six points a game. This year, they went 7-3 – amazingly missing the playoffs, another story for another time. They improved to 19 points per game on the offensive side, while pitching one shutout and holding four teams to single digits on the scoreboard.

Another great turnaround happened in South Plainfield, where the Tigers rebounded from a 2-8 season in 2021 – where they lost half of those games by eight points or less – to run the table in the 2022 regular season, winning their first-ever division title, taking the Big Central’s United Silver Division crown. They went 8-0 before falling in the playoffs at home to Camden Eastside, their first loss of the season.

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Week 8: It’s Playoff Time!

Now that the playoffs are upon us, “The Big Central in Two Minutes” with veteran sportscaster Mike Pavlichko takes a look at teams that can do some damage in the postseason, the double-multiplier effect, and how we did with our preseason playoff projections.

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

Piscataway, Cranford debut in CJSR’s Week 8 Top Ten, while Phillipsburg remains No. 1

Three top ten teams going down in Week 8 play opened the door for two new teams to enter the rankings this week, one of whom knocked off one of the final four remaining unbeaten teams in the Big Central Conference.

Cranford’s 34-14 home win over previously-unbeaten and No. 2 North Brunswick knocked the Raiders down two pegs in the Week 8 Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten, while also getting the Cougars in at No. 7, tied with Watchung Hills, in the final rankings before the postseason is concluded. Our next Top Ten will come out at the end of the season.

Piscataway also made its debut, the Chiefs’ first appearance ever in a CJSR poll, after not playing in our inaugural season due to COVID, and going 0-8 last season in their first season back. Head coach Dan Higgins has helped get his team to 6-2 heading into the postseason for the first time since 2019.

Phillipsburg remained No. 1, getting both first-place votes.

Below are the full Week 8 rankings:

North Group 5 Playoff Analysis: Phillipsburg appears locked in as overall top seed

Cutoff Weekend is just a few days away, and we’re taking a look at every team in the Big Central to see where we think they’ll end up in the playoffs.

We’re not looking at tiebreakers just yet, we’re 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)

#1 Phillipsburg: Even if the Stateliners were to suffer their first defeat of the season this week at winless East Brunswick, we believe they would still be the overall top seed. That’s even if Passaic Tech, Ridgewood, Clifton, Union City, Westfield and Watchung Hills all win behind them, and assuming all those teams get all possible residuals. Phillipsburg would be the top-seed in the North 2, Group 5 section.

#5 Watchung Hills: Can the Warriors make the top four, which would get them one of the No. 2 seeds in the sectionals and first-round through at least the sectional semis? We thought so, but they’d have to beat Elizabeth Friday night at home, and would need losses by Union City and Clifton – who, unfortunately for Watchung Hills, play each other. A loss, and they could drop as low in seven. We project they’ll be a top eight finish, meaning they will at least open up the playoffs at home.

#7 Westfield: The Blue Devils can get no higher than sixth place overall, which is still good for a top eight finish. That’s even with losses by the teams above them. If they lose, they might be able to finish in the top eight, but if things break the wrong way, they could drop as low as No. 9, meaning they’d start the playoffs on the road as a five-seed.

#8 Piscataway: We think the Chiefs top out at No. 8 if they beat New Brunswick in their finale this Friday afternoon at home – a good possibility – and they get losses from Eastside, East Orange and Bridgewater. It looks like all four need to happen, or else they’ll be a nine or lower and start the playoffs on the road.

#11 Bridgewater-Raritan: The Panthers could reach as high as No. 8 overall, even if Piscataway wins Friday, since New Brunswick is a weaker opponent than Old Bridge. But they would need some help. The Panthers would have to not only beat the Knights at Basilone Field Friday night, but also get losses from West Orange, East Orange, Eastside (Paterson) and Montclair. Ultimately, wherever they end up, if Briddgewater and P’way both win, we think the Panthers move higher because of the strength of their opponent.

#14 Union: Our initial inkling was that Union was a likely playoff team, and we still hold to that. If they beat Ridge Friday night, they’re in, and could finish as high as 11 overall if they also get losses from Montclair, Bridgewater-Raritan, and Piscataway. If they lose, it looks like wins from Elizabeth and Bayonne would send them outside the top 16, and into the consolation tournament, a new feature this year.

#16 Elizabeth: We think if the Minutemen can win at Watchung Hills Friday night – no easy task, mind you – they’re in, due to the strength of their opponent. And if Bloomfield, Bayonne, Columbia, Morristown, Montclair and Dickinson all lose, they could end up anywhere from 16 to 14 overall. Those six teams probably won’t all lose, though. In fact, Bayonne losing to North Bergen (0-7) would be a shocker in and of itself. So, they probably end up in one of the last two spots. What if they lose? We think that will leave them out, because the only way they could get in is if Bayonne loses to North Bergen.

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Week 7: Cutoff Weekend is Here!

On this week’s trek around “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” we get veteran sportscaster Mike Pavlichko’s take on the coaching situation at Somerville, Piscataway being a contender again, and a winner take all game in Monmouth Junction Friday night!

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

UNOFFICIAL: North Group 5 Playoff Standings Update

With a number of teams yet to play this weekend – ten of the 27, to be exact – there weren’t too many changes in the North Group 5 playoff standings. Here are Central Jersey Sports Radio’s unofficial playoff calculations after Friday night’s Week 7 games:

Phillipsburg‘s win over Union Friday night kept them in the top spot, a solid 1 (first in power points, first in OSI) while Ridgewood’s loss – dropping them to 5-2 – moved them down from a solid 2 to a 2.4 UPR, giving the Stateliners a little more breathing room. Passaic Tech, however, last week a solid 3, is now a 2.6, and inching closer. The 6-1 Bulldogs visit 3-3 East Orange Saturday.

Westfield dropped from 5th to 7th with the loss at Ridge Friday night, but still in the top eight, which would guarantee a first-round home game in the sectionals. Watchung Hills – which is at St. Joseph-Metuchen Saturday – held in 6th, but could move up if they beat the Falcons.

Piscataway inched closer to the top eight, moving up two spots with a 23-power point win over Sayreville Friday night. The Chiefs could be in line for a first round home game. Depending how the rest of the weekend shakes out, we’ll see if a win over 1-win New Brunswick next weekend will be enough to do the trick.

Bridgewater-Raritan – which has one of the toughest schedules in the league – visits Elizabeth Saturday, and could make a push up the standings as well, with a win. But it’s also a game Elizabeth needs, sitting in 15th place, having dropped a spot based on what other teams did Friday night. Union also dropped, but not much – one place to 15th – with a loss at Phillipsburg Friday night.

Bottom Line: We think Phillipsburg will end up a top seed, 1 or 2 overall. Too close to call now whether Watchung Hills or Westfield get a top 8 finish. Piscataway could get there. Bridgewater is likely in the playoffs. Union and Elizabeth are on the right side of the bubble.

Piscataway notches huge win, 14-8 at No. 6 Sayreville behind Sitkowski, Hilliard

The Piscataway football team has now won five games this season, after going 0-8 last year following a DNP in the 2020 COVID season.

But this… this one may have been the victory to put Piscataway Chiefs football back on the map, as they beat No. 6 Sayreville 14-8 at War Memorial Stadium Friday night, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Piscataway carried a 7-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, thanks to a 64-yard touchdown run by tight end-turned-tackle-turned fullback Ossie Hilliard.

Sayreville got it back in the third quarter on a two-yard touchdown run by Caidan Holmes, and he ran it it for two to give the Bombers an 8-7 lead.

But Piscataway answered right back, capping off a nice drive with a one-yard Run by Antonio Rivera to go up 14-7, and the defense held the rest of the way in another P’way-Sayreville instant classic in one of Middlesex County’s great rivalries.

So, yes, this may be the one that restores the lustre to the Piscataway program.

Sitkowski finished 10-for-14 passing for 137 yards, while Hilliard had two carries for 64 yards and the touchdown as Piscataway improved to 5-2 on the season, while Sayreville fell to 4-3.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from Piscataway quarterback Aleks Sitkowski, fullback Ossie Hilliard, and head coach Dan Higgins:

Slowly, but surely, Piscataway getting back to its regular self

There was no doubt the COVID year – where no fall sports were played in the district – set Piscataway football back, going winless for the first time since 1968 in 2021.

But now at 4-2, the Chiefs are right in the thick of things in the playoff chase, and enjoying a sense of normalcy.

That 2020 season – not playing at all – took a toll on head coach Dan Higgins, who’s in his 19th season at the helm, and has seven state titles to his program’s credit in that time.

But things feel a little bit more normal up on Green Acres, and the Chiefs are looking forward to their battle with Sayreville this Friday night.

It’s the Big Central Game of the Week on Central Jersey Sports Radio, which you can hear from War Memorial Stadium starting with the pregame show at 6:45, and kickoff at 7. Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas have all the play-by-play, which you can here by clicking here.

Higgins’ team has progressed, to be sure. They may not be where they need to be just yet, but the coach’s mantra has always been “Just get me in the playoffs, and let us do our thing.”

They’ll be in at 4-2, even if where they end up is a long way from being decided.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Piscataway head coach Dan Higgins about his team’s development, and the matchup at Sayreville Friday night: