Tag: St. Thomas Aquinas

North Hunterdon edges out Phillipsburg for top spot in final Big Central Media Poll

In a split vote, North Hunterdon earned top honors in the final Big Central Media Poll of the 2022 high school football season over Phillipsburg, with the Lions getting three of the five first-place votes. The Stateliners got the other two.

The final media poll of the season mirrored the final Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten with one exception: Watchung Hills got in the media poll at No. 9, while Westfield took that spot in the CJSR poll. Both teams were 7-3 on the season.

North Hunterdon got the top spot on the strength of its North 2, Group 4 championship, though the Lions were knocked out in the first-ever group semifinals by Northern Highlands back on Saturday.

Phillipsburg was upset in the North 2, Group 5 finals by West Orange, but beat North Hunterdon early on in the regular season.

Edison came in third, despite four losses, after making a huge run as the sixth-seed in Central Jersey Group 5 to win a sectional title. Along with West Orange, they were the lowest seeds in the state among public schools to reach sectional finals, and both wound up winning titles.

St. Thomas Aquinas, which beat Edison in the regular season, but got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, checks in at No. 4. Aquinas holds the Big Central Conference’s longest league winning streak going into next year at 17 games, with Phillipsburg and Brearley behind them at eleven straight regular season league wins.

North Brunswick checks in fifth, having been knocked out of the playoffs in the Central Group 5 semifinals by Edison.

Ridge came in sixth, followed by North 2 Group 3 finalist Hillside in seventh.

Cranford was No. 8, Watchung Hills rated ninth, and Montgomery finished in tenth, while Westfield, Bernards, and North 1 Group 1 finalist Brearley (10-1) also received votes.

Below is the complete final Big Central Media Poll for 2022:

North Hunterdon rises to No. 1 in final Top Ten rankings; Lions are CJSR 2022 Team of the Year

CORRECTION: Our initial version of this poll inadvertently omitted Watchung Hills, which tied for third in the poll for 9th place with Westfield and Montgomery. The rest of this story has been updated to correct that omission.

In the final Central Jersey Sports Radio high school football rankings of 2022, North Hunterdon is Number One, and the CJSR Team of the Year.

With just one regular season loss – to Phillipsburg, which finished at No. 2 – the North 2, Group 4 Champion Lions finished the season 11-2, after a loss to Northern Highlands in the Group 4 semifinals this past Saturday, 21-20 in OT at Franklin High School.

Led by the backfield tandem of Kente Edwards and Alex Uryniak, quarterback Luke Martini, and top receivers Derek Vaddis and Danny Delusant – with several of those players also playing critical roles on defense – North Hunterdon won its first state title since 2017, beating Randolph in a finals for the ages, 49-35, a contest which saw the teams explode for a combined 49 points in the final quarter.

The Lions also won the Liberty Silver Division of the Big Central Conference.

Phillipsburg, which was undefeated going into the North 2 Group 4 final, was shocked in the title game by West Orange, 28-7. The American Silver Division champs are 10-1, heading into their Thanksgiving Day battle with Easton.

In third was Edison, the Central Jersey Group 5 champion, which beat Lenape in the title game 28-14 a week ago down in Medford. It was the Eagles’ first title in 31 years, and they finished the season 9-4 with a group of seniors that included several four-year starters, including QB Matt Yascko, wide receiver Malcolm Stansbury, offensive lineman Matthew Bueno, and and kicker/linebacker Selbin Sabio.

Tied for fourth was St. Thomas Aquinas and North Brunswick. The Trojans beat Edison in the regular season, but got knocked out of the playoffs in the opening round by Holy Spirit. Aquinas won the United Gold Division title, and will take a 17-game conference winning streak into the 2023 season, the best in the league. (Phillipsburg and Brearley both have won 11 straight regular season BCC games, the closest teams to Aquinas.

The Raiders finished 8-2, National Silver Division champions. Their lone regular season loss came out-of-division to Cranford, but they lost in the Central 5 semifinals to Edison, after the Eagles scored the game’s final 16 points in a furious comeback in the final five minutes of the game, recovering two on-side kicks and winning on a field goal with :04 left on the clock.

Ridge finished the year 7-3 and came in sixth.

In seventh was Hillside, which finished the season 9-2, tied with Cranford. The Comets were the Patriot Silver Division champions, and their only regular-season loss came to St. Thomas Aquinas in a divisional crossover. They made the North 2, Group 3 finals, but lost to Old Tappan 28-14; the Golden Knights are in the first-ever statewide Group 3 final at Rutgers in two weeks.

Cranford was 7-3, and won the American Gold Division title.

Westfield, Watchung Hills and Montgomery all tied for tenth. The Warriors and Cougars both finished 7-3, while Westfield also is 7-3, but still has to play its Thanksgiving game against Plainfield.

Below are the complete final 2022 Central Jersey Sports Radio High School Football rankings:

Who’s the “strongest” team in the Big Central? It’s a playoff team, but (maybe) not who you think

Phillipsburg is the No. 1 team in the latest Central Jersey Sports Radio and Big Central Media polls, which won’t be conducted again until the season is over for every league team, but in unofficial Strength Index numbers calculated by CJSR, the Stateliners are No. 2.

Who’s at the top of the list?

It’s Ridge, and if you’ve been sleeping on the Red Devils, apparently you should do so at your own peril.

While P’burg has gotten a lot of ink this year – and deservedly so – as has North Brunswick’s defense and St. Thomas Aquinas continuing to win (17 Big Central games and counting) despite a big bump up in quality of schedule, Ridge has done well, but it may have been the way they started.

The Red Devils’ first win was over Monroe, 48-0 in the season opener. The Falcons ended up the year 2-7. Ridge then lost to Phillipsburg – as everyone has this year – and Hillsborough, before they ended up on their third string quarterback. So, they were 1-2, with good losses, but unclear how good they may have actually been.

Since then, they’ve won six straight, including a playoff-opening win over Roxbury, and in that span have allowed a grand total of 24 points, with two shutouts, and never more than seven points in a game against Hunterdon Central, Bridgewater-Raritan, South Brunswick, Westfield, Union and Roxbury last weekend.

This Friday night, 3rd-seed Ridge travels to 2nd-seed Ramapo for a North 1, Group 4 semifinal game. Both teams are 7-2.

Phillipsburg is second in the current Big Central Strength Index rankings, followed by Cranford third and St. Thomas Aquinas fourth. Statewide, the Trojans are third among Non-Public South B teams, but seeded fifth, behind Holy Spirit and DePaul, which are behind Aquinas in Strength Index. The Trojans also finished first in power points and fourth in OSI.

North Hunterdon is fifth in the Big Central in Strength Index, followed by Hillside, Watchung Hills, Edison, Westfield and North Brunswick to round out the top ten.

All but Watchung Hills remain alive in the playoffs, while Aquinas opens the postseason this weekend at 4th-seed Holy Spirit.

The only Big Central playoff teams not in the top ten in league Strength Index are Brearley and St. Joseph-Metuchen.

The Bears are 11th, while the Falcons are 18th.

Below are the complete, current, and unofficial rankings based on SI value, as calculated by Central Jersey Sports Radio:

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Playoff Edition: Nine Advance, Aquinas Snub

After the opening round of the high school football state playoffs, just nine area teams remain. But as veteran sportscaster Mike Pavlichko explains in “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” any of them could win a title. And then there are the Non-Public brackets, with 8-1 St. Thomas Aquinas getting passed over for a top four seed, despite ranking No. 1, No. 4 and No. 3 in the NJSIAA’s metrics. What gives?

Click below to listen to the First Round Playoff edition of “The Big Central in 2 Minutes”:

Piscataway, Cranford debut in CJSR’s Week 8 Top Ten, while Phillipsburg remains No. 1

Three top ten teams going down in Week 8 play opened the door for two new teams to enter the rankings this week, one of whom knocked off one of the final four remaining unbeaten teams in the Big Central Conference.

Cranford’s 34-14 home win over previously-unbeaten and No. 2 North Brunswick knocked the Raiders down two pegs in the Week 8 Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten, while also getting the Cougars in at No. 7, tied with Watchung Hills, in the final rankings before the postseason is concluded. Our next Top Ten will come out at the end of the season.

Piscataway also made its debut, the Chiefs’ first appearance ever in a CJSR poll, after not playing in our inaugural season due to COVID, and going 0-8 last season in their first season back. Head coach Dan Higgins has helped get his team to 6-2 heading into the postseason for the first time since 2019.

Phillipsburg remained No. 1, getting both first-place votes.

Below are the full Week 8 rankings:

Dramatic Aquinas comeback powers No. 4 Trojans over No. 9 Edison in all-township battle

When St. Thomas Aquinas pitched seven-shutouts en route to an undefeated regular season in 2021, some people pointed to the schedule.

What would they point at now?

The fourth-ranked Trojans extended their Big Central-best league winning streak to 17 games with a 21-7 come-from-behind victory Friday night at home over in-town opponent and No. 6 Edison.

Aquinas scored first, but Edison tied it up just before the half, then Selbin Sabio’s field goal as time expired sent them into the visitors’ locker room with a 10-7 lead.

Nyekir Eato’s 25-yard touchdown rune late in the third quarter saw the Eagles go up 17-7, but the final 12 minutes belonged to Aquinas.

Jayden Young capped off a seven-play, 55-yard drive – which started with a fumble recovery – with a one-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to three.

After holding Edison to a three-and-out, Aquinas got it back with two minutes left at the Edison 40, and took just six plays to hit paydirt, going up 21-17 with 31-seconds left. The Trojans held on for the win.

St. Thomas Aquinas improved to 8-1 with the win, their only loss coming in the season opener to Timber Creek out of the West Jersey Football League. Its 17-game win streak in Big Central play – which they will carry into next year, with no more league games on the schedule and no chance to play any in the postseason – dates back to a 16-14 win on November 20th, 2020.

The Trojans were 9-1 last year, with eight league wins before losing in the opening round of the playoffs to St. Joseph-Hammonton. And they’ve won eight games this year against league competition, with a non-conference regular season game next week at St. John Vianney of the Shore Conference.

Edison falls to 6-3.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from Chris Tsakonas in North Edison:

St. Thomas Aquinas QB Jayden Young

St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Tarig Holman

“The Big Central in 2 Minutes” – Week 7: Cutoff Weekend is Here!

On this week’s trek around “The Big Central in Two Minutes,” we get veteran sportscaster Mike Pavlichko’s take on the coaching situation at Somerville, Piscataway being a contender again, and a winner take all game in Monmouth Junction Friday night!

Click below to listen to the Week Seven edition of “The Big Central in 2 Minutes”:

Upsets juggle bottom half of Week 8 Big Central Media Poll; Phillipsburg remains on top

Three new teams joined the Big Central Media Poll for Week Eight, while the to four teams remained the same: Phillipsburg, North Brunswick, St. Thomas Aquinas and North Hunterdon.

The Stateliners again got four of the first place votes, while the Raiders got the fifth.

Of the three ranked teams that lost Friday night, Hillsborough was the only one to remain in the rankings, falling to tenth, tied with newcomer Bernards, which also received votes last week. Previously-No. 7 Sayreville and previously-No. 9 Westfield dropped out. Edison and Colonia rejoin the poll, at eight and nine, respectively.

Below are the full Media Poll rankings for Week Eight:

All but Phillipsburg, North Brunswick shuffle in latest CJSR Top Ten

Phillipsburg again got both first place votes, and North Brunswick is No. 2 again, but the rest of the Week 8 Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten got all mixed up after three ranked teams went down this weekend, with two losing to unranked – but talented teams.

Unranked Piscataway was a 14-8 winner at No. 6 Sayreville Friday night in the Big Central Game of the Week, earning the Chiefs a vote for the first time ever in three years of the poll. (Piscataway did not play during the 2020 COVID year.) Third-ranked Hillsborough lost at unranked Somerville 35-14, as the Pioneers’ seemed sparked by offensive line coach Matt Bloom taking over as head coach from Ian Pace. And Fifth-ranked Ridge beat No. 10 Westfield at home, 31-3.

The upshot was that the bottom nine teams (there were two tied for tenth – Watchung Hills and Edison – got shuffled around, while Sayreville dropped out. And three teams also received votes: Piscataway, Sayreville and Colonia.

Below are the complete Week 8 Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings:

Tougher schedule? New coach? It’s no problem to St. Thomas Aquinas, unbeaten in Big Central play

Friday night, just at the edge of the Watchung Mountains at Krausche Field, close enough to Route 22 to hear the traffic whiz by, St. Thomas Aquinas won its seventh game of the year.

The scores may look good, but it hasn’t been an easy road.

As it should have, The Trojans moved to a tougher division last year after blowing through the competition in the first full year of play in the new Big Central Conference. They recorded seven shutouts in 2021, tying a playoff-era Middlesex County record previously owned by Piscataway’s 2004 state championship team that featured three future NFL Draft Picks.

Then, the sudden, shocking news that came on March 17th: second-year head coach Brian Meeney died of a heart attack at age 46 on his way to school.

Enter Tarig Holman, who left JFK the next town over to coach four miles away at Aquinas.

And the Trojans haven’s missed a beat.

Friday night’s seventh win of the season, though, had a symmetry to it. Against 1-6 North Plainfield, Aquians won 56-7, as Jayden Young threw his 50th career touchdown pass and Holman got his 50th career win, all on his 46th birthday.

It may be his best coaching effort yet, having gone 3-7 in South Brunswick in 2009, 15-6 in two years at Trenton (7-4 in 2014), 11-10 in two seasons at Randolph, 11-9 in three years at Neptune – turning around a program 0-10 in his first year to go 11-9 the next two, and 3-13 the last two years at JFK.

The Trojans lone loss this year came in the Week Zero season opener against Timber Creek of the West Jersey Football League. In seven Big Central games that have followed, they have two shutouts, and have held five opponents to single digit scoring on the year.

And they’ve added one more challenge: St. John Vianney in a tenth game in two weeks. (Non-Public start the playoffs later and can schedule ten regular season games.)

Click below for this week’s Sunday Conversation, as Mike Pavlichko talked to St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Tarig Holman after his 50th career win, Friday night against North Plainfield: