Tag: Somerville

As you count down to the New Year, here are the Top Ten stories of 2021 on Central Jersey Sports Radio

Top Ten lists are king. Ever since the first David Letterman Top Ten on the original “Late Night” on NBC, they’ve been funny, entertaining, and – when it comes to sports – a great source for debate.

There’s not much debate to be had here, though. We’ve compiled the Top Ten stories of 2021 – our first full calendar year of operation on Central Jersey Sports Radio – with the most read and listened to stories on our website. Read by you, the fans!

All these stories are about the teams, schools, student-athletes, and great plays that made 2021 special. Some are combined when written about the same subject. Click on each heading to read and listen to the original stories. Enjoy!

10) No. 5 Old Bridge routs South Brunswick as Hunter, Haughney star

Old Bridge players take the field for pre-game warmups at South Brunswick on September 17, 2021.

Sometimes, it’s not a game-winning hit, touchdown or basket that makes a good story. Sometimes, it’s just a old-fashioned football game. For whatever reason, that was the case with our tenth-most read story of 2021, a win for Old Bridge football over South Brunswick from early this season. Lawrence Hunter III was the Autoland Player of the Game, and Owen Haughney figured prominently in the win as well. Listen to postgame reaction from Hunter and head coach Anthony Lanzafama with CJSR’s Tim Catalfamo.

9) Old Bridge finally wins a close one, in a big spot

Seniors on the Old Bridge baseball team pose before their 2021 Senior Night.

Another Old Bridge story, this time baseball. The Knights were having a rough season, but still in the state tournament. With a 7-17 mark, they had lost ten games by three runs or less, and four by one or two runs. That is, until the opening round of the playoffs, where 12th-seeded Old Bridge knocked off 5th-seed South Brunswick, behind solid performances from two sophomores: Justin Herbstman and Thomas Papeo.

8) “Walk ’em off Spotswood!” Lewandowski’s double off the wall lets Chargers keep Commanders’ Cup trophy another year

Spotswood holds the Bill Thompson Memorial Commander’s Cup Trophy after a 6-5 walk-off win over East Brunswick on May 19, 2021. It was the Chargers’ fourth straight win in the series.

Spotswood High School – my alma mater, for full disclosure, Class of 1996 – has always had that underdog mentality. Baseball coach Glenny Fredricks just brings it to another level, and he has a bunch of scrappy guys to prove it. There’s no fear in this small Group 2 school going up against a Group 4 like East Brunswick year after year after year, for what they call the “Commanders’ Cup.” In 2021, Spotswood won their fourth straight in the series, thanks to a walk-off off the wall by Tyler Lewandowski.

7) National recruit Davison Igbinosun of Union says Farmers are “heartbroken” over playoff cancellation, vows to keep fighting

Union senior CB Davison Igbinosun (source: Twitter)

COVID didn’t nearly have the effect on the 2021 high school football season that it did in 2020. Sure, games were cancelled, but not in an amount even closely approaching what happened the season prior. That did nothing to comfort Union, which had one of its most talented teams in school history, and was the odds-on favorite to win North 2 Group 5, and maybe even go all the way to win the North 5 regional championship. Then, COVID hit a few members of the team, the Superintendent shut down the season, and four-star national recruit Davison Igbinosun and his teammates became vocal to try and save their season. It didn’t work, but we helped give him and his teammates a voice, and Igbinosun represented them with class and dignity.

Click here for additional coverage with Union head coach Lou Grasso, Jr.

6) Loaded North Brunswick aiming high behind Garbolino and Co.

North Brunswick junior QB Frankie Garbolino

Coming off a 7-1 season, with an experienced junior quarterback and a talented ensemble cast returning, North Brunswick entered the 2021 football season with high hopes. They might have been achieved if not for a once-in-a-lifetime-talented Hillsborough squad, which they met twice – once in the regular season finale and once in the playoffs. Hear Frankie Garbolino and head coach Mike Cipot talk about the 2021 team, in our most-listened to preview story of ’21.

5) Somerville’s dynamic duo – Cookie and AJ – taking divergent paths after H.S., with big hopes for the future

From left to right, Somerville RB Cookie Desiderio, head coach Dallas Whitaker, and DE A.J. Pena pose with their commemorative footballs honoring their CJSR Player of the Year picks, and Somerville’s Team of the Year award for 2020.

They were two of the most dominant football players in the Big Central – maybe even the state – in the COVID-shortened 2020 season: runningback Cookie Desiderio and defensive end A.J. Pena of Somerville. The “Cookie Monster” scored almost every time he touched the ball (every 5.8 carries, in reality, but who’s counting) and A.J. loved “making quarterbacks cry,” which he did 12 times in seven games. They were named CJSR’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, but in the strange world of extra college eligibility and the FCS season being moved to the Spring – neither got the D1 offers they deserved.

4) Who’s the strongest team in the Big Central? Here are the league’s SI ratings heading into 2021

Phillipsburg was the “strongest” team in the Big Central heading into 2021, according to the NJSIAA’s Strength Index.

Yes, sometimes even true numbers, purely mathematical, can stir debate. And such has been the case since the NJSIAA revamped its playoff formula in 2018, initially using the Born Bower Index, and since 2019 using its own formula, loosely based on the BPI. It uses the OSI, or Opponent Strength Index, but needs the strength value of each individual team to calculate. So, we simply compiled the numbers for all the Big Central and published them. Not everyone may be a fan of our extensive knowledge of the system – it can be a dull read at times – but we do have many fans of this kind of thing, apparently. And we’re sure a good number of them are coaches, too, from both inside and outside the conference, as we’ll frequently get calls and texts asking “Where do you see us ending up?”

3) Listen to Bobby Ulmer talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about his walk-off grand-slam

Bobby Ulmer, Jr., live on the CJSR postgame, talking about his dramatic walk-off grand slam.

Kids dream of this kind of stuff, acting it out in their backyards. Bases loaded, two outs, last inning, two strikes, grand slam to win the game. Bobby Ulmer, Jr., of Middlesex lived it. His walk-off grand slam in the Group 1 semifinals sent Middlesex to the state title game, where they would win again in walk-off fashion, albeit in 13 innings on a seeing-eye single by Mark Geist. Ulmer’s moonshot in the team’s last home game of the year was as dramatic as they come.

Bonus coverage: Middlesex gains Group 1 final on Ulmer’s dramatic, walk-off grand slam

2) Big Central releases All-Division Teams

It doesn’t always have to be a Top Ten list that inspires debate, or at least inspires people to go to your website. Simply honoring student-athletes is a big draw. So a list recognizing all the outstanding football players in the Big Central Conference in 2021 – all-division teams chosen by the league’s head coaches featuring 384 players in toto – brought readers out in droves.

1) He brings the water bottles, and the excitement. And he wants to help bring Greg Schiano and Rutgers a national championship

Edison senior Raymond Taub wants to be a team manager for Greg Schiano at Rutgers.

This may be one of our most favorite stories – if not, favorite interviews – ever. I can’t really tell you how we first came to know about Raymond Taub – that’s an entertaining story just for a few of us to know – but suffice it to say, he’s an awesome kid. He’s the autistic, well-loved-by-everyone manager of the football team, keeps meticulous pitch counts for the baseball team, and is the Eagles’ biggest fan. He also may be the biggest Rutgers fan out there, and his Senior Night “goal” was to become a manager with the Scarlet Knight football team and “help Greg Schiano win a national championship.” He’s a little busy right now, but someone bookmark this story for him when he gets back from Jacksonville in 2022, will ya?

Former ‘Ville standout A.J. Pena talks about his circuitous route to Rhode Island, via upstate New York

The COVID-19 pandemic upended just about everyone’s way of life, and every facet of life, since it arrived on the scene in March 2020 in the United States.

And that includes college football recruiting.

With the NCAA granting extra years of eligibility and non-FCS football playing in the Spring, it meant fewer opportunities – at least right away – for high school student-athletes who played their seasons in the fall.

The 2020 Central Jersey Sports Radio Defensive Player of the Year – Somerville’s A.J. Pena – should have likely received offers from all over, after being one of the most dominant players in the league; he recorded 12 sacks in just seven games.

Former Somerville defensive end A.J. Pena (center).

Instead, he took a year of prep school at Milford Academy in upstate, New York – “in the middle of nowhere” as Pena describes it – before landing at the University of Rhode Island, where he signed his National Letter of Intent on the first day of the December signing period.

We caught up with A.J. to talk about his time at Somerville, the influence of his former head coach Dallas Whitaker, and the long atypical path that took him to Rhode Island.

Click below to listen:

Summers stays hot to help No. 7 Bound Brook top visiting ‘Ville

Junior center Jordan Summers pumped in 27 points Tuesday night – and now has scored 58 in his first two games of the season – to help 7th-ranked Bound Brook get by Somerville 64-55, in a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

And yet, the game wasn’t quite that close, as the Crusaders got a little sloppy in the end, and took their foot off the gas with Quadir Harrell and Jeremiah Williams in foul trouble, but head coach Anthony Melesurgo wanting to keep them in the game.

Harrell chipped in 15 points, including 7-of-8 from the foul line.

Bound Brook (2-0) has now won 16 straight games going back the start of its 14-0 season last year. That team was honored in pregame ceremonies, as Jordan Summers’ brother Cam’ron was in attendance, not only to be honored, but to watch his brother play.

Somerville was paced by junior forward Christian Dominguez, who scored 20 points, 16 of which came after halftime. He was perfect in 11 trips to the foul line, and also added a triple on the night.

Click below to hear the complete game audio of Bound Brook vs. Somerville

Bound Brook will honor undefeated ’21 team when Somerville comes to town

Bound Brook’s only known undefeated team of the modern era – last year’s Crusader squad that won 14 games and a Skyland Conference pod championship – will be honored before tipoff of Tuesday night’s game against Somerville.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the game live, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the action. Tip-off is at 7:00; coverage begins approximately 6:45 on cjsportsradio.com; Click here to listen live.

The Crusaders (1-0) are No. 8 in the Bellamy & Son Paving Boys’ Top Ten, while Somerville (0-2) has dropped its first two games by a possession each.

Bound Brook has high hopes – despite a move by the NJSIAA from Group 1 up to Group 2 – for this season, with a good number of returnees. Not only are Jordan Summers, Quadir Harrell and Donovan Nwenyi back, returning almost 40 points a game, but this year also marks the return of Bryce Cobb, who missed last year after tearing his ACL during football season. Now a senior, Cobb averaged 6.8 pts and 6.9 rebounds a game his sophomore year.

Somerville, meanwhile, does not return much from last year’s 6-5 team. The Pioneers’ top returning scorer is senior guard Matt Lauber, who averaged 11.9 points a game last year and had 29 treys. But sixth-year head coach Chris Nevolo is high on junior forward Christian Domniguez, who was a COVID opt-out for much of last season, only playing in two games. Nevolo calls him “our best athlete.”

Click below to listen to the two head coaches preview the matchup:

Bound Brook head coach Anthony Melesurgo
Somerville head coach Chris Nevolo

Good news keeps coming for Carty family; Ryan will be next Delaware head coach

Ryan Carty – who has served for four seasons as the Offensive Coordinator at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas, will be introduced Monday as the next head coach of the University of Delaware, where he won a national championship as a collegiate player in 2003.

The hiring of Carty was announced today by Athletic Director Chrissi Rawak.

“I could not be more excited and proud to bring Coach Carty and his wife Katie home to the University of Delaware,” Rawak said today in a statement.

MORE: Coaching is in the Carty family; Kevin Jr. and Sr. share the sidelines at Hillsborough

“I’m so humbled and excited to be involved in ushering in a new phase of one of the elite traditions in all of college football,” said Carty, in a statement. “My own student-athlete experience at the University of Delaware prepared me for this moment.”

Carty has been a winner at all levels. He was inducted into the Somerville Hall of Fame in 2007, graduating in 2002, lettering three years in football, one at wide receiver, two at quarterback; he holds several school passing records. In addition to winning a national title with Delaware in 2003, he helped Sam Houston State to the FCS championship last season.

His brother, Kevin Carty, Jr., just wrapped up a 13-0 season as the head coach of Hillsborough, racking up a program record number of wins, and winning the school’s first state title in 21 years. His dad, Kevin Sr., is an assistant on his staff.

MORE: Perfection! Hillsborough caps 13-0 season with milestone win over Kingsway

Kevin Jr. says his brother plans to remain with Sam Houston State as long as they’re alive in the playoffs. The Bearkats play Montana State tomorrow night at 7:30 in Huntsville in the NCAA FCS quarterfinals. He says his brother will fly to Delaware for Monday’s introductory presser, and if Sam Houston is still playing, fly back to Huntsville for as long as their season lasts.

“All in or all out”: With personal and professional life on the rise, Whitaker bids Somerville adieu

He’s getting married soon, and being made a partner at his real estate firm.

Coaching a high school football team just didn’t fit in the equation any more. At least, not the way the job should be done.

“It’s a sad moment for me,” Dallas Whitaker told Central Jersey Sports Radio Wednesday night, just days after stepping down from the helm of the program he led to a 36-6 record over four seasons, with just five on-field losses (one this year was a COVID-related forfeit). Two of those losses came in sectional finals: to Rumson in 2018 and Woodrow Wilson in 2019.

Whitaker was brought on by Jeff Vanderbeek, the former New Jersey Devils owner who resurrected the program in 2016, after splitting time as co-head coach with Chris Cassamento in 2015. Somerville had lost 26 straight games – the second longest active streak in the state at the time – before snapping the skid with a win against North Plainfield, and finished the season 2-8.

The next year, Vanderbeek took the reins solo. And with Whitaker as Offensive Coordinator, they went 10-1, falling to Rumson-Fair Haven in the sectional semifinals in 2016, before beating the Bulldogs in 2017 to win the Central Jersey Group 3 title.

Somerville players celebrate their 2017 Central Jersey Group 3 championship – the school’s first since 1994 – at midfield at Rutgers’ High Point Solutions Stadium.

Just this Monday, the 29-year-old Whitaker had been named one of the American Football Coaches’ Association’s “35 Under 35,” which is “a prestigious program aimed at identifying and developing premier, future leaders in the football coaching profession.”

Whitaker announced his resignation via the @VilleFootball twitter account on Tuesday.

Click below to hear Dallas Whitaker talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

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.

Here’s where you can find links to all our Week 2 Playoff previews, and more

Central Jersey Sports Radio’s coverage of the Big Central Conference in the NJSIAA state playoffs continues with previews of a number of games this weekend.

Check back after this weekend’s games for postgame reaction on cjsportsradio.com.

Listen to Episode 12 of “This Week in the Big Central” driven by Autoland by clicking below:

Game Preview Links:

Playoff Notes and Observations: Opening round is in the books

Bernards hoping Leanza is back for sectional semis, but still confident

Haddonfield’s Hahn gets more touches than the typical Bulldawgs back

Phillipsburg sticks to the script in reaching sectional semis, looks to ride the tide right into the finals

BREAKOUT STORY: Phillipsburg’s only win against Clifton was a loss

MacNair to return for Somerville as Pioneers face unbeaten Cedar Creek in sectional semis

Trojans will face another test when they open the playoffs against a South Jersey parochial power


The Schedule (Big Central teams in bold):

FRIDAY

(3) North Brunswick at (2) Cherokee, 6p (CJ5)
(6) Ridge at (2) Ramapo, 6:30p (N1-4)
(1) Hillsborough vs. (5) Williamstown, 7p (CJ5)
(7) Edison at (3) Toms River, 7p (SJ5)
(3) Phillipsburg at (2) Clifton, 7p (N2-5)
(5) Colonia at (1) Irvington, 7p (N2-4)
(3) Sayreville at (2) Middletown South, 7p (N2-4)
(1) Cranford vs. (4) Pascack Valley, 7p (N2-3)
(5) New Providence at (1) Pt. Pleasant Boro, 7p (SJ2)
(2) Bernards vs. (3) Haddonfield, 7p (CJ2) (CJSR)
(4) Hillside at (1) Raritan, 7p (CJ2)

SATURDAY

(4) Somerville at (1) Cedar Creek, 12p (SJ3)
(6) St. Thomas Aquinas at (3) St. Joseph-Hammonton, 1p (NP-B)

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.