Tag: Sayreville

Sayreville looking for more of the Wright stuff

Despite a team decidedly on the young side, the 2021 Bombers had their best season since the magical 2018 campaign, whose penultimate game saw them beat North Brunswick for the Central Jersey Group 5 title on their home field, and culminated with a miraculous win at Met Life Stadium over South 5 champ Williamstown in the first year of regional “bowl games.”

After a 3-6 year in 2019 and a .500 season in the pandemic-shortened year, Chris Beagan’s squad went 8-3 last season. And that’s even after losing their first two games to Bridgewater-Raritan and Woodbridge, both at home.

But the Bombers bucked down, and reeled off seven straight wins – including a COVID forfeit – heading into the playoffs, where they got a home win over Middletown North before falling to Middletown South in the sectional semifinals.

In 2022, the offense will flow through Zaimer Wright. As a sophomore last year, he had an outstanding campaign, rushing for 1,403 yards and 25 touchdowns, making him the top returning runningback in the Big Central Conference.

He’s just a junior, and there’s a good supporting cast of seniors back who will make an impact as well, with Michael Colonnello running the offense (570 passing, 306 rushing yards), and the defense returning Caden Holmes (with a team-best 69 tackles) and Brian Clyne (a team-leading 3 interceptions).

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Sayreville head coach Chris Beagan about this year’s Bombers:

Playoff update: Girls’ Basketball Public Sections

Central Jersey Sports Radio continues taking a look at the playoff picture, with Saturday’s NJSIAA cutoff for state tournament qualification almost immediately on the horizon. We’ve got a section-by-section breakdown of public girls’ basketball teams in the Greater Middlesex Conference and Somerset County. All power points are the official NJSIAA totals as made available on NJ.com as of 6:30 pm Thursday.

Central Jersey Group 4: While Hightstown (16-5) and Jackson Memorial (15-2) lead this section with 375 and 365 points respectively, Monroe (13-3, 357) should stay in third, with only Edison on the schedule tonight before Saturday, and the Eagles already are their lowest power point total, so they won’t gain. After Middletown South (13-4, 342) in fourth, there’s East Brunswick at 14-5, with 327 points. Most of these teams are fairly well in place, with maybe a chance they could nudge up or down one spot. Marlboro (11-7, 311) is sixth, followed by North Brunswick (12-7, 299) and South Brunswick (14-6, 297). Behind them are Montgomery (9-8, 282) and Old Bridge (11-6, 278) in tenth. Sayreville, though 6-12 (171 pts) should be in over Long Branch, which is 5-8 with 155 points.

North Jersey, Scetion 2 – Group 4: While it remains to be seen if Franklin (13-3, 367) is anything like its pre-pandemic self – they were en route to another Tournament of Champions appearance before COVID shut things down – they have steadily improved this year. Westfield (16-4, 409) is the top seed here, but the Warriors could be the definition of a “sneaky two-seed,” if such a thing actually exists. The shouldn’t get caught from behind either by Scotch Plains-Fanwood, which is in third at 14-3, with 366 points. Ridge, at just 9-12, with 293 points, actually checks in fifth, followed by Watchung Hills (9-6, 276) and Woodbridge (11-6, 267). Then Hillsborough is 9th, at 10-7 (264 points). In 14th and 15th, respectively, are Bridgewater-Raritan (3-17, 172) and JP Stevens (4-15, 171).

Central Jersey Group 3: Yes, the Colonia boys are in North 2, but the girls are in Central. That’s how it works when you have boys’ only and girls’ only schools. The Patriots (19-2, 382) are in second place, and the White Division champions of the GMC are likely to stay there. They won’t catch top-seed Ewing (15-1, 394) and the next closest team below them – Wall (14-4) – is 58 points back. Go all the way outside the top 8 and you’ll find South Plainfield (10-8) in 9th with 246 points. It’s unlikely could earn a home game by jumping up, because they can’t get any more residuals. Down at 12 is Somerville (9-8, 215), then JFK (9-8, 199).

Central Jersey Group 2: Manasquan (19-3) is the top team here with 485 points, then New Providence (17-1, 423), but third-place Middlesex (16-2, 369) is well behind them. The question is, can Bound Brook (15-4, 367) gain two points to jump fourth-place Rumson-Fair Haven (12-8, 368)? Not in residuals, and their highest power point total is 16. But if they beat 17-2 Woodbury Saturday? Sure could! Checking in at No. 8 is South River (14-5, 282), then Johnson (11-7, 246) and Spotswood (12-7, 240) in tenth. Metuchen is in 12th at 9-9 (198), and Piscataway Tech is solidly in, but 15th place at 8-10 (157).

North Jersey, Section 2 – Group 2: The only area team here is Bernards (5-10, 182) checking in at No. 11. The top seed here is Madison (12-6, 328).

Central Jersey Group 1: After top team New Egypt, at 12-1, 316 points, there’s Woodbridge Academy (15-2, 303). Probably can’t make up that ground, but a 2-seed is nice, too. Somerset Tech (12-5, 254) is in fourth, seven points ahead of Shore (10-10) in fifth. Down to nine we find Perth Amboy Tech (6-9, 154), which won’t crack the top eight. Immediately behind them are Manville (4-13, 150) and Highland Park (6-13, 149). Dunellen (4-14, 121) is in 13th.

Playoff update: Boys’ Basketball Public Sections

Continuing with a look at state playoff seeding projections, we’re taking a look at boys’ basketball public sections in Central and North 2. Remember that unlike most years when the first 16 games on a team’s schedule are counted, only the top 13 power point values are added this year. So, teams playing past their 16th game can still accumulate power points, but not full games’ worth. If a game makes the top 13, the lowest score is dropped, and all that is gained is the difference between the lowest of the 13, and the new score.

(Example: a team’s lowest among it’s top 13 scores is a 15. If it wins a game worth 20 points, the 15 is dropped, and the 20 added, for a net gain of 5.)

The analysis below is based on official NJSIAA calculations as available on NJ.com as of 9 am Tuesday:

Central Jersey Group 4: The top team here is Marlboro (17-2) with 454 points, and Monroe (18-3) is behind in second them at 413. They’re unlikely to get the top seed, but also unlikely to get caught from behind by Jackson Memorial (12-5, 361, 3rd) and definitely not by South Brunswick (12-6, 329, 4th). Both teams could gain since their 13th power point value is a loss, but not enough to overtake the Falcons. Next up from the CJSR area is No. 10 Montgomery (10-8, 244), then East Brunswick (8-8, 242) at 12. Both could move in a tight pack either up or down. Speaking of which, teams 15 through 17 are all from the GMC, and could be make or break this week. Old Bridge is 15th at 7-12 with 208 points, followed by Sayreville (8-10, 184) and North Brunswick (7-14, 176). It’s probably the Bombers and Raiders battling it out for that last playoff spot. North Brunswick has Edison Wednesday, and Sayreville is at St. Thomas Aquinas Tuesday and hosts Colts Neck Friday. Either team could add games before Saturday’s cutoff to get in. This could get interesting.

North Jersey, Section 2 – Group 4: You’ve got Watchung Hills (14-3, 361) in the catbird’s seat here, led by Elijah Lewis, who just committed to Adelphi this week. Westfield is 16 points behind, and it may be tough for them to catch up with 13 wins already. How about Franklin (11-6, 341) making a push, though? The Warriors have room for two more wins here, and might be able to make up the 20 point disparity, so look out; they currently sit in third. Ridge is right behind them wrapping up the top four at 13-5 with 326 points, but with 13 wins, they’re less likely to make a move than Franklin. Toward the middle of the pack, JP Stevens (9-7, 275) is tied with Elizabeth (8-5, 275) for 7th, but both have room for improvement this week. Edison (12-6, 260) is right behind, but already has 12 wins, so it’s doubtful the Eagles can crack the top eight. Bridgewater-Raritan (8-11, 250) is 12th, followed by resurgent Piscataway (8-7, 246), which has won four in a row and six of its last eight after a rough 2-5 start.

Central Jersey Group 3: The only area team in contention here is Somerville (5-12, 161 points) in the bottom half of the pack in 12th place, solidly in that bottom half, but solidly in the field of 16. Manasquan is the current top team at 13-4, followed by 14-4 Robbinsville.

North Jersey, Section 2 – Group 3: Here’s some intrigue: South Plainfield out of the GMC Blue is in first at 17-3, with 351 power points, while Colonia from the GMC White at 14-3 with 332 points is in second. It’ll be tough for the Patriots to make up that ground having 14 wins already; getting one of the pair against St. Thomas Aquinas sure would have helped. They’re the only area teams in contention in this section.

Central Jersey Group 2: With 13 wins already, a loss to Immaculata may not have hurt Bound Brook all that much, but it didn’t help either. The Crusaders (13-1, 357) have a slim shot at No. 1 Rumson-Fair Haven (13-2), which is only ahead by six points, with 363. For example, their lowest value is a 15, a win over North Plainfield. A win over Hunterdon Central (which has 7 wins) Tuesday would be worth 6 quality points, 4 group points, and 15 residual points, for a total of 25. Drop the 15, add 25 and the net gain is 10. They’d jump ahead of the Bulldogs, but now it depends what they do. Bottom line: the Crusaders are still in play in the critical final week for a top seed. South River (13-4, 312) checks in 5th here, with Middlesex (9-10) at ten, and Roselle (11-15, 251) and Spotswood (13-5, 248) not far behind them. Metuchen (7-10, 165) appears to be sitting comfortably in 16; don’t expect anyone behind the Bulldogs to challenge them.

Central Jersey Group 1: It looks like Perth Amboy Tech (11-4, 214) is a lock for the four- or five-seed. They currently sit in fifth, and the only real difference as a potential extra home game if things go to chalk. Further down the standings, Highland Park (4-12, 141) checks in at 12, followed immediately by Manville (7-9, 135, 13th) and South Amboy (5-9, 122, 14th). Somerset Tech (3-15, 105) is 14th. Burlington City is the top team here at 12-4

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.

Raiders sweep Big Central rankings with No. 1 pick by league media

In the final Big Central Media Poll of the season, the Hillsborough Raiders – not the least bit unexpectedly – finished the season atop the rankings, after going undefeated, winning a Somerset County record 13 games, taking the Central Jersey Group 5 crown, and winning the South 5 regional championship.

All six media members – including two from Central Jersey Sports Radio – picked Hillsborough, after splitting their vote among various teams much of the year, including the Raiders, Somerville and Union for the last three weeks of the season.

The Farmers – whose season was cut short by COVID in the second round of the playoffs – finished second, with a mark of 9-2. They were division 5A champions and widely considered a favorite to win North 2 Group 5.

Cranford – which won a sectional title for the third time in eleven years when it cruised past Sparta in the North 2 Group 3 final – came in third, finishing 11-1.

Somerville, the Division 3 champion which finished 8-3, was voted fourth, while Ridge (7-3) came in fifth and Sayrevile – 8-3 and Division 5D champions – came in sixth.

The top six places in the media poll mirrored the Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings.

In seventh was North Brunswick (8-4), followed by Woodbridge (7-3) and St. Thomas Aquinas (9-1), while Phillipsburg finished tenth.

Six teams also received votes.

See the full poll below:

Hillsborough finishes No. 1 in Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings, named Team of the Year

The Hillsborough Raiders’ first-ever perfect season – with a 13-0 mark, the Division 5B title, Central Jersey Group 5 title, and South Group 5 regional championship – has earned them the honor of being Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Team of the Year for 2021.

Hillsborough’s stellar season left them all alone atop the final CJSR rankings, moving up from the Number Two position they held from Week 5 through Week 8. (There were no rankings during the playoffs.)

The Raiders were followed by Union, the Division 5A champion whose season was unfortunately cut short when Superintendent Sr. Scott Taylor withdrew the team from the second round of the NJSIAA playoffs after a handful of players tested positive for COVID-19. The Farmers – who finished 9-2 with a forfeit loss in the playoffs and a regular season-opening loss to Millville, which won the South 4 regional title – were the top seed in North 2, Group 5, and widely considered a favorite for a state title, and to reach the North 5 regional championship game.

Cranford, which dominated Sparta in the North 2, Group 3, title game to win the crown, finished third in the final rankings. At 11-1 on the year, their lone loss came in the North Group 3 regional championship game to West Essex. They were the Division 4 champions.

Somerville (8-3) checked in at No. 4, with the Division 3 title to its credit. The Pioneers only had one regular season loss – to Northern Highlands in game two – and a forfeit loss to Phillipsburg due to a COVID issue. They were knocked out of the playoffs in the sectional semifinals by Cedar Creek, which finished 13-0 to win a state title. Their two on-field losses were to teams with a combined 25-1 record.

Ridge (7-3) checked in at No. 5, the second-place team in Division 5B behind Hillsborough. The Red Devils had a tough regular season loss to Phillipsburg, and an impressive playoff win over Woodbridge, 38-0, before falling at Ramapo in the sectional semifinals.

Sayreville (8-3) finished sixth. The Division 5D champions were perfect in their division, and went on an 8-0 tear after dropping their first two games at home to Bridgewater-Raritan and Woodbridge. The first of those wins was a 35-22 slugfest against North Brunswick, which went to the sectional finals.

Phillipsburg (7-5) finished 7th, followed by North Brunswick (8-4) in 8th and Woodbridge (7-3) in 9th.

Bernards – the Division 2A champions – finished tenth. The Mountaineers were sectional semfinalists, losing at home to Haddonfield, which hung on to beat Point Pleasant Boro for the South 2 regional championship at Rutgers Saturday, when Point missed what would have been a game-tying PAT with just a few seconds remaining on the clock.

Also receiving votes were St. Thomas Aquinas (9-0) – the Division 2B champions – and division runner-up Delaware Valley, which finished 7-3. Aquinas had one of Middlesex County’s best-ever defensive seasons, winning its first seven games on the field (one of their first eight wins was a forfeit) by shutout. They beat DelVal in a highly-anticipated Week 9 game 12-9 in a mudbath in North Edison.

Below are the final CJSR rankings.

This Week in the Big Central – Episode 12: The Semifinals 2021

On Episode 11 of “This Week in the Big Central,” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland, it’s the most in-depth look you’ll find anywhere on the 14 conference teams still alive in the state playoffs

Mike Pavlichko is joined by Dom Savino for quick look back at the first round, then a team by team breakdown of every Big Central school’s sectional semifinal matchups, plus St. Thomas Aquinas’ opening round Non-Public B game against St. Joe’s of Hammonton.

Coaches and players are featured throughout, including a detailed breakdown of Friday night’s Big Central Game of the Week driven by Autoland, featuring second-seed Bernards and third-seed Haddonfield in the Central Jersey Group 2 semifinals.

Could sneaky Sayreville make a run? Bombers could be an under-the-radar threat in North 2, Group 4

Some teams have the hype and the fanfare.

Sayreville has just won football games.

The Bombers got off to a somewhat inauspicious start, dropping their first two games in crossovers with Bridgewater-Raritan and Woodbridge. But they righted the ship in Week 3 with an impressive 35-22 win over North Brunswick, and haven’t lost a game since.

Friday, Sayreville (7-2) will be one of 12 Big Central Conference teams opening up the playoffs at home, when the third-seeded Bombers host 6th-seed Middletown North (5-3) at War Memorial Stadium.

It’s their first meeting since 2016, when Sayreville dropped the Lions 41-14 at Rutgers to win the North 2, Group 4 championship game, finishing 10-2 on the season.

Click below to hear Sayreville head coach Chris Beagan’s interview with Mike Pavlichko live on last Saturday’s playoff projection show:

Another split vote – but Hillsborough stays at the top of the heap – in the Big Central Media Poll

In the final Big Central Media Poll of the season before the playoffs wrap up, Hillsborough remains No. 1, but again split the six first place votes with Somerville and Union.

The Raiders capped a 9-0 season with a 41-0 win over North Brunswick at home last Friday night, and earned the top-seed in Central Group 5 in the process.

North Brunswick – on its third loss of the season – dropped out of the rankings, while Phillipsburg worked its way back in with a 13-0 win over Westfield.

Below are the Week 9 rankings:

Somerville closes regular season atop Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings

In the final Top Ten before the playoffs begin – and until the season is over – Somerville once again reigns supreme.

The Pioneers are Number One in the Week 9 Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings, with little change below them.

In fact, the only real change was Old Bridge bouncing out, although the Knights also received votes, along with St. Thomas Aquinas.

Below are the Week 9 rankings: