Tag: South River

Historic Bill Denny Stadium in South River to face wrecking ball, but football team expected to play a home schedule in 2023

So many great players have come through South River – Joe Theisman, Drew Pearson, Kenny Jackson, Alex Wojciechowicz, to name just a few – and one of the threads that holds them all together is that they all played in front of crowds at Bill Denny Stadium.

But sometime soon, though it’s not clear exactly when, Bill Denny Stadium will be no more, and its future even more murky.

Longtime Rams’ football coach Rich Marchesi confirmed to Central Jersey Sports Radio Monday afternoon that Denny Stadium was recently condemned by the Board of Education, and the bleachers cordoned off sometime last month, due to safety concerns.

Marchesi says though no date is set, it will eventually be demolished..

The South River School District sent Central Jersey Sports Radio a statement Tuesday saying, “This Spring, it was determined through two independent professional evaluations that the bleachers are no longer structurally sound or safe for use. Accordingly, the stadium bleachers have been fenced off, and they are not accessible to the public,”

However, the field and track at Denny stadium remain open and in “full use,” according to the statement, which added, “Spring track operated as usual, and we will hold high school graduation on the field. The district is in the process of investigating options to address the needs of the stadium.”

Rich Marchesi and his players on the sideline in an August 28, 2021 game against South Plainfield. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

However, when Deb Napolitano, Confidential Secretary to the Superintendent, who phoned to confirm receipt of the statement, was asked when Bill Denny Stadium would be demolished, she referred us to the statement issued by the district, which made no specific mention of any demolition plans.

“The home bleachers at Denny Stadium were built before 1945,” the statement says, “and despite ongoing maintenance over the past 80 years, they have unfortunately reached the end of their useful and safe life.”

Published reports over the last couple of years have documented problems with the bleachers, which are entirely made of wood, except for some metal benches that were put in as part of what Marchesi says was part of many “patch jobs” over the years.”

“It’s life is over. You can only patch it so much,” Marchesi told Central Jersey Sports Radio.

According to a New Jersey 101.5 news story last August, a July 2022 engineers’ report for the school district said the stadium “is at the end of its life cycle” and said it shouldn’t be used after the 2023-24 school year. The report said the stadium was structurally sound, but needed a number of repairs to ensure public safety.

Now it appears officials decided to close the stadium a year ahead of the recommendation by engineers.

“It’s time has passed. As much as I would like to keep the grass and the field and the stadium, because it is pretty cool and historic, it’s time. You know, it’s not 1977 anymore.”

A replacement for the stadium complete with stands, press box, concession stands, and ADA-compliant facilities was included in a referendum that also asked residents to approve a new pre-K school to accommodate growing enrollment in town, but that was defeated soundly in January, 882-334. A separate question seeking just the turf field also was defeated by a similar margin.

South River cheerleaders perform for the home fans at Bill Denny Stadium in South River on August 28, 2021. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

The tax impact would have been nearly $150 per year on the average homeowner in South River.

As for the future, Marchesi says school officials are working on it.

“The Board [of Education] is doing a good job, trying to figure something out, what’s good for us,” Marchesi said. The last I heard is we’ll be able to play home games on the field.”

Marchesi says the subject came up about playing all road games, but that’s not something he wants to do, saying he’d rather play home games without bleachers than travel all season, particularly with a more veteran group he hopes will improve on last season’s 2-7 record.

The stadium is named after William C. Denny, who coached the Rams for 25 years from 1927 through 1961, and died in 1984. He also founded the local Bill Denny/Rutgers Letterwinners Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame

Four advance on opening weekend of newly-expanded GMC Tournament

South River, Metuchen, Piscataway and Carteret all won opening round games Saturday afternoon the the GMC Tournament, part of the pilot program format that expanded the Championship field to 20 teams this season. All will go on to play Monday at higher-seeded teams – the top four – that had first round byes.

(16) South River 4, (17) Colonia 3

The 16th-seed, South River, had perhaps the most dramatic win of the day, a 4-3 walk-off at Grekoski part against 17th-seed Colonia. The Rams trailed 3-0 heading into the sixth inning, but scored twice in the bottom half on a Julius Rosado home to pull within a run, then twice more in the bottom of the seventh for the victory.

Click here for the full story on the South River win, with postgame reaction from head coach Mike Lepore.

The Rams (10-4) move on to play at top-seed North Brunswick (11-5) on Monday at 4pm at Community Park.

(19) Metuchen 4, (14) JFK 2

It was an all-Blue Division opening round game, as 19th-seed Metuchen also had to rally for a 4-2 first-round win, coming back from down 2-0 heading into the top of the seventh. Kennedy – the 14th-seed and home team – scored in each of the first two innings, and held that lead until the seventh when Metuchen got all four of its runs, on RBIs from Marcus Malamug, Daniel Cordes, Lucas Weiss and Simon Rosal.

JFK fell to 9-8 with the loss.

Metuchen (7-8) won’t have to go far for its second round game on Monday, visiting 3rd-seed St. Joseph-Metuchen for a 4 pm first pitch.

(15) Carteret 2, (16) JP Stevens 1

The 15th-seeded Ramblers – the GMC Gold Division champion – fell behind in the fourth, but took the lead in the fifth and hung on for a 2-1 win over 16-seed JP Stevens (3-14).

The game didn’t see much offensive action, with the teams combining for just ten hits, and the only two extra base hits – doubles – coming from the Hawks’ lineup. They scored a run in the top of the fourth, but Carteret took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth, and got solid pitching from the combo of starter Nick Kee and reliever Justin Santana. Kee allowed just a run on four hits in 5 and 2/3 innings, while Santana threw an inning-and-a-third of no-hit, shutout ball to earn the save.

The Ramblers (14-2) will visit second-seed Old Bridge (13-6) at Fred Cole Field, Monday at 4 pm.

(20) Piscataway 7, (13) St. Thomas Aquinas, 4

The higher-seed Trojans (No. 13) never got a chance to lead in the game, as the 20th-seed Piscataway led 6-0 before Aquinas could get on the board with a run in the bottom of the second. The Chiefs scored a run in the first, then had a five-run outburst in the top of the second.

They added another insurance run in the third.

Troy Hutchinson and Jason Hoffman each had two RBI’s in the game, with Hutchinson’s coming on a pair of walks. Terrance Bell, Jr., was 4-for-5 with an RBI while Piscataway starting pitcher Jaden Peace went the distance to get the win, throwing seven innings, scattering six hits and allowing just one unearned run.

The Chiefs (5-12) now move on to play at 4-seed Monroe Monday afternoon at 4:00 in the second round.

South River walks off Colonia, erases 3-0 deficit in final two innings to advance in GMC Tournament

With its second walk-off win this week, 16th-seed South River came back from three-runs down to stun 17th-seed Colonia 4-3 at Grekoski Park Saturday afternoon, advancing to the second round of the GMC Tournament.

Twice, it was Julius Rosado – who started the game on the mound and came out in the fifth inning with a high pitch count – with a key stroke.

In the bottom of the sixth, down 3-0, Joe Lepore – head coach Mike Lepore’s nephew – walked to lead it off. Then Rosado blasted a nearly-400 foot home run to left center to bring the Rams within one. Parker Lane hit a triple, and Colonia brought in Colin Kroner to replace Dylan Conklin on the mound.

Kroner hit his first batter, setting up first and third with nobody out for South River, but then got the next three outs on a pop up, strikeout and ground out.

After a scoreless seventh pitched by Gavin Franco – who’d come in during the top of the fifth – the Rams had 8-9-1 due up in their final at bat, and after two ground balls, South River was down to its final out. But they were back to the top of the order as they were in the sixth.

Lepore singled up the middle, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Rosdado was up next, and though he didn’t put it over the fence this time, he singled through the left side to tie the game at three, and advanced to second on the throw to the plate.

That set things up for Parker Lane, with a runner in scoring position and two out. And on a 2-1 pitch, he singled up the middle. Rosado beat the play at the plate, and Grekoski Park went wild. Colonia fell to 7-10 with the loss.

The Rams (10-4) now move on play in Monday’s first round, where they will visit North Brunswick (11-5) at Community Park for a 4 pm first pitch.

Click below to listen to South River head coach Mike Lepore detail the Rams thrilling victory in the opening round of the GMC Tournament:

Cumiskey fans 10 to power Spotswood past South River to gain leg up in GMC Blue race

The game featured two future Division 1 baseball players on the mound: Spotswood’s Carter Cumiskey – a Seton Hall Commit – and South River’s Julius Rosado, who’ll one day suit up for Rutgers.

It was Cumiskey who got the better of Rosado this time around, striking out ten, giving up one run, and scattering five hits over five innings to get the win, in a 6-1 win Tuesday afternoon over the Rams in Spotswood.

The victory snapped a two-game skid for the Chargers (10-2) who were undefeated before two non-conference losses this past weekend.

It also puts first-place Spotswood at 7-0 in the Blue Division, with South River in second at 7-2, and would earn them at least clinch a share of the division if the two were to end up tied.

The teams meet again ion South River on Thursday.

South River (7-2) broke the deadlock in the top of the third, when back to back doubles from Rosado and Parker Lane gave them a 1-0 lead.

Spotswood answered in the bottom of the fourth. Casey Cumiskey – Carter’s older brother- scored from second after an errant throw from home plate to tie it, and then Sebby Saracino gave the Chargers the lead by reaching home off a wild pitch.

Spotswood kept that momentum going in the fifth, with John Lubin scoring on another wild pitch before Jackson Walsh hit a two RBI single to make it a 5-1 game. Spotswood would load the bases again in the sixth, leading up to a second run for Lubin after Carter Cumiskey drew a walk.

Spotswood sealed the deal with two scoreless innings from Breckyn DeAngelis, who got three strikeouts on six batters faced.

Rosado took the loss, allowing five runs – three earned – in five innings of work. He struck out seven, but also walked seven.

Click below for postgame reaction from Spotswood’s win over South River:

Spotswood sophomore Carter Cumiskey
Spotswood head coach Glenny Fredricks

Red-hot South River looks to keep it going as Rams play in their 14th Autism Awareness Challenge

The South River Rams have been there almost since the beginning.

Of the Autism Awareness Challenge’s 15 seasons, this will be their 14th.

Longtime South River head coach Mike Lepore, Jr., is a big fan of the event, but he also knows it’s good baseball.

On Sunday, the Rams (7-1) will take on Bernards – which is 4-3 heading into Saturday’s Somerset County Tournament first round game at Hillsborough – in Game One of a doubleheader you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio, starting at 9:45 am with pregame, and first pitch for the Rams and Mountaineers at 10 am.

Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe will be on the call, with the opener followed by Edison vs. Barnegat at 1 pm. Click here to listen to both broadcasts.

The Rams have been getting great hitting from senior Matt Marques and super-sophomore Julius Rosado, who had a fantastic year as a freshman in 2022 and already is committed to Rutgers.

Marques is a perfect player to hit behind Rosado, who already has drawn three intentional walks among his eight bases on balls so far this season. Yes, Rosado still is hitting .435, with six RBIs, five doubles and a triple. Marques himself is hitting .444 and leads the team with 13 runs batted in, making it a pick-your-poison type of scenario for opposing pitchers.

Lepore will throw freshman Brendan Lell against the Mountaineers. He’s only thrown 5 2/3 innings this season, allowing seven runs – six earned – on five hits. In minimal action, he’s shown control, walking two, striking out five.

Rosado, a stellar arm, will be available. if needed. But, Lepore says his intention is to start him for game one of a critical Tuesday-Thursday home-and-home series against Blue Division-leading and currently undefeated (9-0) Spotswood.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk witth South River head coach Mike Lepore Jr. about the Rams’ season so far and the matchup with Bernards:

Spotswood at South River

South River Rams, who enthralled a whole town and a whole league in ’23, are CJSR Boys’ Basketball Team of the Year

First, a disclaimer. For as long as I have been doing this, traditionally, the No. 1 team at the end of any sports season is the team of the year. And usually, the stars align, where that team wins a state championship, goes undefeated, etc.

But one team was so compelling this year, almost from the opening tip-off of the entire season. They captivated the Greater Middlesex Conference – and of course, their community – packing their tiny gym with loud fans that left your ears ringing after you left the joint.

That team was the South River Rams. And while St. Thomas Aquinas was clearly and without dispute the No. 1 team in the final Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten – they dominated all year, won the GMC Tournament, and it wasn’t their fault they ran into the state’s No. 1 team, Roselle Catholic, in the sectional semifinals of Non-Public South B – South River was the team of the year.

Part of it was because those teams don’t come around very often. There were some titles in the ’40s and ’50s. There was the era of Kenny Jackson in the late ’70s, even though he would me more widely known for his football exploits, and the 79-80 Group 2 champions. There was the 1990-91 team, the last to win a title, in Central Jersey Group 1.

This team was on a par with them until they ran into another group two juggernaut in Manasquan with a point guard who would not be denied.

But their journey with a 22-point win over Metuchen on opening night, then took a most interesting turn the day after Christmas, when the Rams went up to St. Joe’s – in a Blue vs. Red Division matchup – and beat the Falcons 74-66.

South River’s Alex Grospe drives the lane against St. Joe’s on December 26, 2022. (Image courtesy St. Joe’s Student Media)

Everyone stood up and took notice. Would it be a fluke? Could they keep it up? If they kept winning, could they get a three-seed in the county tournament? All the talk about bias against the Blue and Gold Divisions of the past years meant nothing since those teams often didn’t play up. South River put its money where its mouth was.

They wound up winning their first eleven games before falling to Piscataway, but finished the regular season as Blue Division Champions, still picked up the third-seed in the GMC Tournament, behind St. Thomas and Colonia. St. Joe’s got the four.

Though they got knocked out in the GMC semis by South Brunswick, their next life would begin in the state tournament, as the top-seed in Central Jersey Group 2. They rolled past East Brunswick Magnet and beat Point Pleasant Boro. They filled the place against a damn good Bound Brook and beat them by six.

South River's gym
The stands are filled in South River’s tiny gym during the JV game before the main event, the huge rivalry between Spotswood and the Rams on January 20, 2023. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Then came Manasquan.

This was a senior-laden group, and the story after that oh-so-heartbreaking defeat in the Central Jersey Group 2 title game could be told in the lingering crowd thereafter. Family, friends, neighbors. As head coach Brandon Walsh talked to his team, talked, and talked some more, one by one, the seniors would come out.

Roman Santos. Laz Rodriguez. Jeremy Grospe. Kobe Taylor. Isaac Linarez. Gavin Franco.

Each got a round of applause and standing O as they emerged from the locker room.

The Rams didn’t just go 26-4. They drove the student body bonkers every night with long three balls, pesky defense, and transition basketball. They lifted a community’s spirit.

They gave South River a basketball season it will never forget.

That’s why they’re Central Jersey Sports Radio’s 2023 Team of the Year.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with head coach Brandon Walsh and senior Laz Rodriguez:

South River’s Laz Rodriguez looks to make a move against Manasquan in the Central Jersey Group 2 title game in South River on February 28, 2023. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

St. Thomas Aquinas finishes the season where it began: No. 1 in the Bellamy & Son Paving Boys’ Basketball Top Ten

On the strength of a 25-4 season – and its third straight GMC Tournament Championship – the St. Thomas Aquinas boys’ basketball team finishes the year at No. 1 in the final Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten, never budging from the top spot from the preseason rankings all the way through to the end.

The Trojans have been the dominant boys’ team in Middlesex County for the last several years. Though their three-year run as full county tournament champs was interrupted by a loss in the GMC’s COVID-year, one-off, Karl-Anthony Towns/Jay Williams four-team postseason pod to Colonia, they have won 31 straight games against Greater Middlesex Conference opponents since.

St. Thomas Aquinas has won 57 straight divisional regular season games, with the Trojans’ last loss coming in January 2018 at Carteret, back when they were in the Blue Division. And they are now 103-23 in five seasons with head coach Dave Turco at the helm.

Checking in at No. 2 in the final rankings is Colonia, which had a fantastic year, going 22-9 this season. Though they didn’t win the Red Division (STA did) or make the GMCT Final, they were the only boys’ basketball team in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Coverage area to win a sectional title this season, beating Snyder to win its second straight North 2, Group 3 title, and third in the last four playoff seasons.

St. Joseph of Metuchen finished third, checking in at 18-11, rising all the way from No. 10 in the last rankings before the playoffs. The Falcons finished the year strong, reaching the Non-Public South A title game, where they lost to eventual Group A state champ Union Catholic.

Rutgers Prep (22-8) finishes fourth, having won both the Somerset County Tournament championship – beating defending champ Gill St. Bernard’s in a thriller – and the Skyland Conference Delaware Division title.

South River (26-4) checks in at No. 5, the darling of the GMC all year long. The Rams won the Blue Division title, but got the attention of Central Jersey basketball fans in late December, when they knocked off St. Joseph in Metuchen the day after Christmas. They picked up the third seed in the county tournament, and reached the semifinals. In the states, they went to the Central Jersey Group 2 final, losing to eventual state Group 2 champion Manasquan.

Gill St. Bernard’s finished 19-8 and comes in sixth in the final rankings. The SCT finalist had a successful season considering a Mergin Sina’s squad had almost a complete roster turnover of key players from last year’s team, and its highly-touted point guard returned to Europe just a couple of weeks into the season.

South Brunswick had a nice run all the way to the County finals, as well as the Central Jersey Group 4 final, and finished 20-7 on the season, checking in at No. 7.

In eighth is South Plainfield (23-6), which won the GMC White Division, and had one of the county’s top scorers in Brandon Dean.

Ninth is Bound Brook (22-5), the Skyland Conference Valley Division champs, followed by Hillsborough (19-8).

Below are the full final Bellamy & Son Paving Boys’ Basketball Rankings for 2022-23:

INSTANT REPLAY: Boys’ Central Jersey Group 2 Final – #2 Manasquan 60, #1 South River 52

The top-seeded South River Rams fell just a win short in their quest for their first state title since 1991, falling 60-52 to second-seed Manasquan in South River. Senior Laz Rodriguez led the Rams with 15 points, while sophomore Alex Grospe had 13 – 10 of which came in the fourth quarter – including three treys.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko call all the action on February 28, 2023 on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Rams fall short in CJ2 title game as Frauenheim threes keep South River at bay

Every time South River threw a punch, many of them from the touch and moves of senior Laz Rodriguez around the rim, Manasquan punched right back, sometimes and then some.

The second-seeded Warriors took the Central Jersey Group 2 title Tuesday night with a 60-52 win in South River over the top-seeded Rams, in a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

The Rams were down one with under a minute to go in the first when ‘Squan junior point guard Ryan Frauenheim hit back-to-back threes, the second longer than the first – which was long to begin with – to leave his team up five at the break.

To say they were backbreakers would not quite be true, given that there was still a full second half to play, but they sure took the air out of South River’s sails. Frauenheim finished with 20, including three from beyond the arc, and led all scorers in the game. Sophomore Darius Adams added 15 for Manasquan, which is now 26-4 and will move on to play South 2 champ Middle Township Thursday at Central Regional High School.

South River (26-4) was led by Laz Rodriguez, who had 15 points on some nifty moves around the bucket. Alex Grospe – in foul trouble most of the night with his brother Jeremy, scored 13, ten in the fourth quarter, including a pair of triples in the final eight minutes.

Follow Sportsplex at Metuchen on Instagram for the latest on open gym sessions on their courts and turf!

Click below for postgame reaction sponsored by Sportsplex at Metuchen with South River head coach Brandon Walsh:

South River and ‘Squan set to scrap for Central Jersey Group 2 title tonight

For the South River boys’ basketball team, it has been a magical season, to be sure. But it has been one years in the making.

Once in a while, a group of kids grow up together, play basketball together, and end up doing something special together. Will this be the year?

The last time the Rams were state sectional champions, the first Bush was president, Operation: Desert Storm began, and the Chicago Bulls won their very first NBA Championship.

Yes, that’s a long time ago, but if any group of Rams since then could do it, this is it.

Top-seeded South River (26-3) will face second-seed Manasquan (25-4) Tuesday night at 7:00, in a game you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio beginning with pregame at 6:45. Click here to listen to the broadcast live.

Their work will be cut out for them. While they have gotten amazing play all season long from the brothers Grospe – Jeremy the senior, and Alex the sophomore – as well as Laz Rodriguez, Roman Santos, and more, they will face perhaps the most highly-recruited player they’ve seen all year.

And it’s believed to be the first time South River’s tiny gym has hosted a sectional title game; they used to be played at neutral sites.

Manasquan’s sophomore guard Darius Adams is already on Steve Pikiell’s radar at Rutgers, as he is for Shaheen Holloway at Seton Hall, plus St. John’s, Syracuse and Fordham. And the list will grow bigger as he continues.

In just his second scholastic season, Adams blew right by the 1,000-point mark, and is averaging 20.4 points and 7.6 rebounds a game for the Warriors. And they have balanced scoring throughout the rest of the lineup, which can shoot the ball well from everywhere.

They’ve also had a long run of success. Now in his 15th season, Andrew Bilodeau’s program is 320-83 under his tenure, with eleven 20-plus win seasons, including 31-1 in the 2020 season that was abruptly ended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their final game was a win over Holmdel for the Central Jersey Group 2 title.

Click below from previews from both head coaches of the Central Jersey Group 1 title game:

South River head coach Brandon Walsh
Manasquan head coach Andrew Bilodeau