Tag: Somerville

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

One is taking a prep year more than 200 miles from the field where he wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

Not to be outdone, the other will travel about a thousand miles from the Gus Vanderbeek Athletic Complex to train with some of the best future college stars in the nation.

But both are looking toward big college futures beyond that.

The coronavirus pandemic left a lot of uncertainty in college football recruiting circles, unless you were being recruited by a big FCS school that played in the fall. Sure, schools like Rutgers had their share of question marks with the transfer portal, but an extra year of NCAA eligibility left a lot of FBS schools that played this spring with more questions than answers, and that trickled down all the way to high school, affecting guys like Somerville’s star running back Cookie Desiderio, and disruptive defensive end A.J. Pena.

Desiderio was named Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2020, averaging a touchdown every 5.8 carries, the best such ratio in the state. He’s going to the IMG Academy in Florida.

LOOK BACK: Cookie Monster! Somerville’s Desiderio named Big Central Offensive Player of the Year

Pena was named CJSR’s Defensive Player of the Year, with 44 tackles and 12 sacks in just seven games. He’ll be prepping at the Milford Academy in upstate New York.

LOOK BACK: A disruptive force, Somerville’s Pena named Defensive Player of the Year

We caught up with the pair recently, as we presented them with commemorative footballs marking their honors, as well as head coach Dallas Whitaker, who accepted the CJSR Team of the Year ball. The Pioneers finished 7-0, the only undefeated team in the Big Central Conference.

STELLAR SEASON: Somerville is Central Jersey Sports Radio’s first “Team of the Year”

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talking with Somerville’s Cookie Desiderio, A.J. Pena, and head coach Dallas Whitaker:

Bound Brook boys remain undefeated with win in Skyland Tourney opening round; three teams out due to COVID

It was an up-and-down night for boys basketball on Day One of the Skyland Conference Tournament.

With two top-seeds having first-round byes – Gill St. Bernard’s and Somerville – the only one in action moved on, but three teams are out due to COVID shutdowns.

Pingry’s entire athletic department is shutdown, while Ridge and North Hunterdon also are out.

Blue Division

There won’t be a rubber match between Gill St. Bernard’s and Hunterdon Central, after 5th-seed Watchung Hills knocked off the 4th-seeded Red Devils 46-43. Central gave Gill a game in Gladstone in their first meeting, 77-64, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio. But the Red Devils won the rematch last week in Flemington, 57-49. Now, it’ll be the Warriors (10-3) who take on the top-seeded Knights (6-3) for a trip to the Blue title game.

Continue reading “Bound Brook boys remain undefeated with win in Skyland Tourney opening round; three teams out due to COVID”

Gill St. Bernard’s remains No. 1, but has yet to play

Despite having all three games cancelled in Week One of the high school basketball season, Gill St. Bernard’s holds on to the top spot in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Boys’ Basketball Top Ten.

Gill was in contact tracing quarantine last week, with basketball activities paused, much like Rutgers Prep, which also remained in place, staying at No. 3.

In fact, the Top 8 all stayed the same, with only one of those teams dropping a game, as St. Joseph of Metuchen dropped a 101-75 decision in its Thursday opener at Roselle Catholic. The Falcons’ original opening game was to be Tuesday against Monroe on Central Jersey Sports Radio, but Monroe shut its program down due to COVID in the program.

Below is the full Week 1 Top Ten.

How the Top Ten fared…

Of the teams that played, No. 3 St. Thomas Aquinas won its opener, rolling past JFK 90-39.

No. 4 Watchung Hills – which had a game against Gill cancelled – blew by Sinai Christian of Linden 92-46.

South Brunswick – the defending Central Jersey Group 4 champions – had a 2-0 opening week and remain in the No. 5 spot – beating JP Stevens 64-44 and winning at East Brunswick 55-53. The Vikings have won six straight overall dating back to the start of last season’s state tournament. They’ve also won eight straight regular season games going back to last year.

No. 6 Colonia is the only squad to play three games in the opening week. The Patriots won at Eastside (Paterson) 63-44, beat North Brunswick at home 66-49, and won at in-town rival Woodbridge 75-45.

No. 7 St. Joseph-Metuchen – after dropping its opener on the road – rebounded to beat Piscataway in its first home game of the season, 92-69.

Bound Brook – which checks in at No. 8 – had a two-win week, beating rival Somerville at home 64-37, and winning 61-51 at Warren Hills.

New to the Top Ten this week are Ridge (No. 9) and South Plainfield (No. 10).

The Red Devils are 2-0 after a 48-37 win at Immaculata and a 44-30 victory against Phillipsburg.

South Plainfield won a pair of road games: 55-47 at JP Stevens and 54-49 at Dunellen, which dropped out of the Top Ten (previously ranked No. 10) after a two-loss week, that also included a defeat in their opener 69-56, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

MORE: Postgame reaction as Barnes’ 29 powers Edison boys past No. 10 Dunellen

Also dropping out of the Top Ten was previously-No. 9 Somerville, which finished the opening week at 1-2. In addition to losing to Bound Brook, the Pioneers beat Voorhees 55-39, but lost to Immaculata 67-63.

Montgomery also received consideration for the rankings after a 2-0 Week One. the Cougars beat Phillipsburg at home 68-43, while winning a non-league game at Bordentown, 64-36.

Gill St. Bernard’s heads first CJSR Boys’ Basketball Top Ten

In the first Central Jersey Sports Radio preseason boys’ basketball rankings, Gill St. Bernard’s young but talented group takes the top nod.

Following are the full preseason rankings, with each team followed by last year’s record and postseason achievements:

  1. Gill St. Bernard’s (20-8, Non-Public North B runner-up)
  2. St. Thomas Aquinas (23-5, GMC Tournament champions)
  3. Rutgers Prep (27-2, SCT champions, Non-Public South B runner-up)
  4. Watchung Hills (25-5, SCT runner-up, North 2-Group 4 runner-up)
  5. South Brunswick (25-5, GMC Tournament runner-up, Central-Group 4 champions)
  6. Colonia (22-7, North 2-Group 3 finals)
  7. St. Joseph-Metuchen (19-9)
  8. Bound Brook (25-2, Central-Group 1 runner-up)
  9. Somerville (21-7)
  10. Dunellen (25-2, North 1-Group 1 runner-up)

Also receiving consideration: New Brunswick (20-8)

Rutgers Prep is team to beat in first-ever CJSR Top Ten

The inaugural Central Jersey Sports Radio girls’ basketball rankings find Rutgers Prep at the top of the list. Mary Coyle-Klinger’s squad has a ton of returning talent, including Villanova commit Christina Dalce.

Below are the complete preseason rankings, followed by last year’s record and postseason accomplishments:

  1. Rutgers Prep (25-5, SCT champions, Non-Public South B runner-up)
  2. Franklin (24-5, North 2-Group 4 champions)
  3. St. Thomas Aquinas (25-5, GMC Tournament champions)
  4. Gill St. Bernard’s (15-11)
  5. Monroe (23-5, GMC Tournament runner-up)
  6. Bound Brook (26-3, Central-Group 1 champion)
  7. Ridge (22-8, North 2-Group 4 runner-up)
  8. Watchung Hills (22-6, SCT runner-up)
  9. Mount St. Mary (21-7)
  10. Middlesex (24-3, Central-Group 1 runner-up)

Also receiving consideration: Somerville (20-8)

22 Big Central football players named to NJFCA Super 100 Team

by Mike Pavlichko

The Big Central Conference – in its first year of existence – was responsible for nearly a quarter of the players selected to New Jersey Football Coaches Association’s Super 100 Team, which is chosen annually in December.

The selections for 2020 were announced on Twitter Monday night.

Nominations are made by coaches who are members of the NJFCA, and comittees of coaches make the final selections based on NJSIAA playoff sections. For this season, with no playoffs, the NJFCS simply divided the state into quadrants based on geographical Northing numbers.

Only seniors can be named to the Super 100 Team, and those getting full scholarships to play football collegiately are automatically selected, according to NJFCA Commissioner John Jacob.

Cookie Desiderio and A.J. Pena of Somerville – Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Big Central Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively – were among the 12 players selected in the Central section.

CJSR’s Mr. Versatility Ali Lee Jr. of Woodbridge also was selected, along with teammate Jordan Harris.

Rounding out the Central section were Austin Scott (South Plainfield), Majid Howard-Baker (South Brunswick), Omar Shehabeldin (North Brunswick), Dylan McFadden (Montgomery), Kyle DeGraw (Monroe, Keyshawn Dixon (JFK), Longevity Award winner Sean Levonaitis (Hillsborough) and Zach Zebro (East Brunswick).

There were ten players selected in the North 2 section, headlined by Rutgers-bound Desmond Igbinosun of Union, along with his teammate Diante Wilson.

Others included Shawn Martin (Scotch Plains-Fanwood), Andrew Taddeo (Ridge), Matt Quetel (Phillipsburg), Chad Martini and James Coslet (Watchung Hills), Omakus Langley II (Hillside) and Bruce Myers (Bridgewater-Raritan).

Each year, the Super 100 Team is honored with a dinner in the Spring, but whether that will happen in person or virtually – due to COVID-19 protocols – has not yet been determined.

Cookie Monster! Somerville’s Desiderio named Big Central Offensive Player of the Year

In the end, there was no debate, little surprise: Cookie Desiderio was the top offensive player in the Big Central Conference.

The 6-1, 215-pound senior runningback was a dominant force on offense, right from the get-go.

In the Pioneers’ opener, Desiderio touched the ball only six times, four of them resulting in touchdowns. He had two rushing touchdowns on two carries, totaling 113 yards. Desiderio also had four catches, “only” two of them resulting in touchdowns, and a total 98 receiving yards.

LISTEN: Whitaker and Desiderio postgame reaction after Somerville knocks off Woodbridge

Of course, it could only go “downhill” from there, and it did. All the “Cookie Monster” did the rest of the season was score a touchdown every 5.8 carries, the best rate in the state of New Jersey. And he led the entire Garden State scholastic scene with 26 rushing touchdowns, adding four more TD grabs.

Click below to hear Cookie Desiderio and Defensive Player of the Year A.J. Pena of Somerville talk together about their undefeated 7-0 season:

Three others earned Honorable Mention status on offense: New Providence runningback Charlie Barth, Monroe quarterback Aidan McLaughlin, and North Brunswick signal caller Frankie Garbolino.

McLaughlin is the only senior of the bunch. He threw for 1,433 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, with only 5 INTs. That was good for an average of 238.8 yards per game, and he tossed for over 300 yards three times. In a Week 2 win over Perth Amboy where the Falcons scored a school record 63 points, McLaughlin was not to be outdone: he tossed for an all-time program best 315 yards on 14-of-23 passing, with three touchdowns. He eclipsed his own mark later in the season in a win over a solid South Brunswick team, tossing for a cool 370 yards.

LISTEN: Monroe senior QB Aidan McLaughlin credits his teammates for his record-setting performance

Barth is just a junior, so the Central Jersey Sports Radio Two-Way Player of the Year will be back for another year to defend his title. He rushed for 1,702 yards and 25 touchdowns on 186 carries, and was the closest of anyone in the Big Central – even the state – to Desiderio’s pace: scoring on every 7.4 carries. He scored 25 of the team’s 34 rushing touchdowns, and had multiple scores in all but one game, notching four TDs in a game twice.

Garbolino is the youngest of the bunch, a sophomore thrust into a starting role who came up roses. He went 124-for-215 for 1,685 yards, tossing 17 touchdowns and only 6 picks. The only game where he didn’t throw for at least 100 yards was his varsity debut, a 93-yard passing effort in an 18-9 win at Sayreville. And he spent his best offensive output on one of the Raiders’ toughest opponents, in a 32-7 home win over state-ranked Passaic Tech.

LISTEN: Garbolino appears on “Tuesday Night Quarterback” to talk about being one of the rising sophomore QBs in the Big Central

A disruptive force, Somerville’s Pena named Defensive Player of the Year

He was a force to be reckoned with, even though not all of the stats exist to back it up.

Somerville senior A.J. Pena has been named Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Checking in at 6-3, 240 pounds, Pena is a hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker. Pioneers’ coach Dallas Whitaker calls him “the most dominant player I have seen in six years of coaching high school.”

WATCH: A.J. Pena’s senior year highlights

Whatever you call him, the big number you need to know is 12. That’s how many sacks Pena had this year.

But you also need to know that he got to opposing quarterbacks and runningbacks much more. It’s just that no one can say how much. Whitaker says they don’t keep track of QB hurries or pass breakups. But you can be sure he got his mitts on more than a few.

Click below to listen to Pena and teammate Cookie Desiderio talk about Somerville’s 7-0 season:

Honorable mentions for Defensive Player of the Year included New Providence’s Charlie Barth and North Plainfield’s Adam Elsais.

Barth – CJSR’s Two-Way Player of the Year – led the Big Central in tackles in its inaugural season, registering 115 of them, 16.5 percent of the entire defense. He also added two sacks for the 8-1 Pioneers.

The Canucks’ Elsais registered 109 tackles to lead the team, 10 TFLs and a sack in a 7-1 campaign, the best in North Plainfield in a decade since they went 9-1 with a playoff loss to Carteret. He also ranks third in his class in GPA, according to head coach Jimmy DiPaolo. Elsias will finish his scholastic career with 323 tackles in 3 seasons as a starting linebacker.

LISTEN: Elsias, Canucks cruising to best start since 2010

Somerville is Central Jersey Sports Radio’s first “Team of the Year”

Finishing the COVID-shortened 2020 high school football season with a perfect 7-0 mark, the Somerville Pioneers accomplished what they set out to do: beat the best, and finish undefeated.

It was the closest anyone could come to a championship.

Their final game turned out to be a 39-26 road win over then-No. 1 and undefeated Woodbridge, a victory that propelled then No. 2 Somerville into the top spot in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten.

They held onto that spot in the final rankings, to earn the first-ever “Team of the Year” award given out by Central Jersey Sports Radio, and also finished No. 1 in the inaugural Big Central Media Poll.

Somerville was the only undefeated team in the Big Central. North Plainfield – with a remarkable turnaround off a 4-6 2019 season and a 7-24 mark over the past three years – had been undefeated until a 30-14 road loss to Linden in Week 8.

The undefeated season is the Pioneers’ fifth overall and first since 1983, when they went 11-0 and won the Central Jersey Group 2 title. They also went 11-0 an route to a state title in 1979. Their first of 11 state titles overall came in a 1953 season that saw the Pioneers go 9-0. They also finished 7-0-1 in 1929, and won the only game they played in 1909, defeating Bound Brook 16-5.

Following are the final Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten and Big Central Media Poll. A trophy will be presented to Somerville for the honor at a later date.

Wall to Wall Big Central Football will air Thanksgiving Weekend on Central Jersey Sports Radio

Did the high school football season end too soon for you? Not stuffed yet from Thanksgiving Dinner?

Have no fear.

Central Jersey Sports Radio begins a new tradition this year: We’ll air every single one of our high school football broadcasts back-to-back-to-back to…. (you get the idea) … to-back this Thanksgiving Weekend.

Buy a bigger belt!

That’s right: 3 days, 13 games, 20 teams, 30 hours of Big Central Conference Football, powered by Bellamy & Son Paving of Piscataway.

Simply go to our website and click the Listen Live button to tune in any time, morning, noon or night. We’ll be “on the air” practically from sunup to sundown – definitely after sundown!

Here’s the schedule for each day, with original air date, and approximate start time:

Thanksgiving Day – Thursday, November 26

  • Somerville vs. South Plainfield, October 2 – 8 am
  • St. Joseph-Metuchen vs. Elizabeth, October 3 – 9:45 am
  • Old Bridge vs. East Brunswick, October 9 – noon
  • South River vs. Spotswood, October 10 – 2 pm
  • Bernards vs. Johnson, October 12 – 4:30 pm
  • Bound Brook vs Voorhees, October 16 – 6:30 pm

Friday, November 27 (Now starts at 9 am instead of 8 am)

  • Edison vs. North Brunswick, October 23 – 8 am
  • Manville vs. Bound Brook, October 30 – 11 am
  • Ridge vs. Hillsborough, November 6 – 1:45 pm
  • St. Joseph-Metuchen vs. Woodbridge, November 7 – 4:15 pm
  • Metuchen vs. South Hunterdon – 6:30 pm

Saturday, November 28

  • Woodbridge vs. Somerville, November 13 – noon
  • Edison vs. Hillsborough, November 20 – 3 pm