Back on Tuesday, we began taking a look at the Top Ten most-read stories on Central Jersey Sports Radio. We began our countdown with Numbers 10 through 6 (and if you missed any of it – you can find the first five here.
And now, let’s count you down from No. 5 all the way to the top!
Click on each headline for the complete, original story.
5. Legendary football coach Joe Goerge returns to South Brunswick, where he led Vikings to unprecedented success, and three state titles
Just under a year ago, in early January, South Brunswick brought Joe Goerge back for a second tour of duty. He had stepped down after the 2018 season, and said he wasn’t retiring; he spent a couple of years on Staten Island, where he’d begun his coaching career, but this time at St. Joseph-by-the-Sea.
It would be hard for Goerge to top his first run with the Vikings, where he was 63-17, winning a title in his debut season of 2012, plus two more in 2015 and 2017.
4. Old Bridge’s Lanzafama stepping down after 12 seasons with Knights
Coaching news is always big, and this was was huge: Old Bridge head coach Anthony Lanzafama stepping away from the Knights’ program with a 72-47-1 record in a dozen years at the helm.
Post the merger of Cedar Ridge and Madison Central in the 1990s, he’s just the second coach of “Old Bridge” high school, succeeding Bob DeMarco, for whom Lanzafama was an assistant in his younger years. DeMarco, of course, had coached Madison Central and took over the merged program.
And true to the tradition of keeping it in the Old Bridge family, eventually, Matt Donaghue – the team’s defensive coordinator and also the baseball coach – took over for Lanzafama.
They like their Old Bridge in Old Bridge.
3. Remembering Ron Mazzola, Mr. Old Bridge
Nothing stunned the high school sports world in Central Jersey and beyond like the sudden passing of Ron Mazzola, the man known as Mr. Old Bridge. But he was also Mr. Wrestling, Mr. Gymnastics, Mr. Trophy, Mr. Anything-You-Need-You-Got-It-With-A-Smile.
Mazzola died in late February at the age of 61, and his passing touched everyone so that the line was out the door for hours at his wake, where those coming to pay their respects were urged to wear their favorite team jersey – and many did – and the background behind the casket was a projection of a Mets baseball game. Yes, you could have also called Ron “Mr. Met.”
This story was a tribute that included comments from former Old Bridge football coach Anthony Lanzafama, Old Bridge Athletic Director Dan DiMino, Old Bridge wrestling coach John Post, longtime friends Kevn Brady and Luca Rispoli, and former East BRunswick Athletic Director and GMC President Frank Noppenberger.
We also shared this story, a long, wide-ranging chat with Ron from five months prior: “Mr. Old Bridge,” Ron Mazzola, does a little bit of everything for Knights, Chargers, GMC.
By the following September, Old Bridge held a ceremony to name its football press box after Ron, and we also provided a video recap of the touching ceremony: A fitting tribute for Mr. Old Bridge, as Knights’ football press box is named for the late Ron Mazzola.
2. Edison-North Brunswick lives up to the hype, as Eagles win a wild one to clinch a finals berth for the first time since 1991
The last few years, every Edison-North Brunswick football game seemed like a wacky one. And the Raiders had continuously come out on top. But, in their second meeting of the 2022 season – in the Central Jersey Group 5 semifinals – the Eagles finally soared, although they looked like they’d been shot down for good with under five minutes to go in the game.
It took two touchdowns with two on-side kick recoveries, and then a field goal to win the game – all in the final four-plus minutes of regulation.
It was so stunning, that after our live broadcast that night from North Hunterdon, we sent a text to our reporter covering the game to see if it was over. The response from Chris Tsakonas: “All hell has broken loose here. I’ll explain later.”
Well, we let him get his postgame interviews, and then let him actually explain what type of hell had indeed broken loose at Steve Libro Field, along with reaction from head coach Matt Fulham, quarterback Matt Yascko, and linebacker/kicker Selbin Sabio, who converted the two on-side kicks and booted the game-winning field goal.
Edison, of course, would go on to win the CJ5 title, its first state sectional title in 31 years, and its third overall.
1. Old Bridge head coach Matt Donaghue on one of the wildest finishes you’ll ever see in 27-22 win at South Brunswick
This might be the only ending that could top Edison’s, and we’ll let you debate that if you wish, especially because the end of this story doesn’t end with the end of this story.
Old Bridge missed a chance to take a late lead at South Brunswick when a field goal attempt failed in an early-season game, so first-year head coach Matt Donaghue was consoling his kicker when he was disrupted by screams saying his team had the ball. How was that possible?
After all, South Brunswick needed a first down to take a knee and run out the clock. They got the first down, took a knee, and needed to take one more. But they fumbled the snap, defensive lineman Robert Orzol jumped on it, the Knights scored to go ahead and held off the Vikings.
We caught up with Donaghue, who told us the wild story
That would be a dramatic story on its own, if it wasn’t for the fact that it still wasn’t over yet.
About a month-and-a-half later, on Cutoff Weekend, Old Bridge finished 17th in the South Group 5 supersection, one spot out of the playoffs – right behind South Brunswick.
But once all the ties are broken, the NJSIAA uses a top-down head-to-head tiebreaker. That is, a team cannot finish behind a team it beat in the regular season. The tiebreaker goes from No. 2 (if it beat No. 1, it jumps them) all the way down to 17. And Old Bridge, at 17, beat South Brunswick, which was 16. That put the Knights in the playoffs, and left the Vikings out.
In our 2022 postseason awards, we honored Orzol with the “Full 48” Award – as in, playing the full 48 minutes, like the cliche goes – and got his side of the story. Click here to read about and hear Robert Orzol talk about the win, and how he and his teammates later found out they’d made the playoffs.