Tag: Union

Union’s Davison Igbinosun chooses Ole Miss over Rutgers, two other SEC schools

A week before the All-American Bowl, Union athlete Davison Igbinosun announced on Twitter he’d come down with COVID, and would be unable to play in the game. But it didn’t put a damper on his plans to announce it during the nationally televised contest.

In between the first and second quarters Saturday afternoon, Igbinosun – the most highly-touted recruit this year in the Big Central Conference – announced he would play at Ole Miss in the SEC.

He chose the Rebels over Tennesee, Kentucky and Rutgers. After a visit to Piscatway, he said Rutgers was the “home school” but called the SEC “big boy football.”

Igbinosun’s senior season came to an untimely end in the state playoffs, when the district’s Superintendent pulled the team from its second round game due to a number of positive COVID tests on the team, prompting a swift backlash from parents and fans. Igbinosun spearheaded a move by him and his teammates to get the team reinstated, but by then it was too late, and the plug was pulled.

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

Igbinosun had several dozen Division I offers.

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?

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.

OPINION: It’s hard for people to see everyone’s point of view on Union mess, but either way, the Farmers are winners

by Mike Pavlichko

The last 72 hours have been brutal for the 48 players, 12 assistant coaches, and the one head coach of the Union Farmers football team, Lou Grasso, Jr.

Less than eight hours before kickoff of their North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 semifinal game against Eastside Paterson, they learned there would be no game.

Their season was over. Just like that.

That’s a damn hard pill to swallow, especially considering they were (are) one of the top teams in the state, and a heavy favorite to win North 5, and maybe even the regional championship.

For those not paying attention, here’s what happened, in a nutshell:

Two symptomatic players tested positive for COVID last Thursday. Officials decided to test the unvaccinated players; those who already got the jab were not tested. Two more on the squad tested positive, but had no symptoms. The Superintendent sought guidance from local health officials, who initially thought it would be acceptable to play Friday, but upon further review suggested to halt the game. The Superintendent did so, but wanted to play Sunday or Monday. The NJSIAA has a rule in place addressing just that type of situation: the answer was no. Union withdrew from the tournament.

That unleashed a firestorm – politely and respectfully – from the student-athletes, who met with Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor to express their concerns, and ask questions, like why the players who couldn’t play because they may have been exposed were allowed in school Friday. Dr. Taylor said it was a “valid point” and he’d look into it and get back to them. (He has since told Central Jersey Sports Radio the kids students were allowed in school before health officials reversed course and suggested the game shouldn’t be played.)

#LetUnionPlay became the hashtag on Twitter, with numerous variations, with most directed at Mr. Taylor, but others at Colleen Maguire of the NJSIAA, whose organization’s Executive Committee in September approved a measure that would allow no room to reschedule the state tournament if a team couldn’t play due to a COVID-related issue.

So now Clifton and Paterson Eastside are getting set to play each other in the North 2, Group 5 Championship Game Friday night. Dr. Taylor told the Twitter-verse Sunday he’s had his attorneys file for emergent relief, basically trying to get the NJSIAA to let Union play Eastside now. But it’s way too late at this point of the game. It’s Monday night, and they’ve already been studying film of each other, and practicing. The pull the rug out now would be unfair to both teams.

Many on social media are taking this out on the Superintendent, calling for him to be fired or to resign, claiming he doesn’t care about the students, doesn’t understand the football culture at the school, and is relatively new in the district anyway.

That’s unfair. I don’t know the man. But whether I agree with the assessment of the risk of COVID spreading among a football team – or one football team to another – is irrelevant. He got medical advice that it wasn’t safe to play, and went with it.

In the end, there are myriad moving parts to this. So let’s look at each point of view on this.

Because no one else has.

Let’s start with the Superintendent: Dr. Taylor told me Monday in a one-on-one interview, when asked why the students who couldn’t play in the game were allowed in school on Friday, that his medical people had “additional information” that led them to reverse course. He did not ask what that information was, and let’s be clear: he should have. (We have a call out to the Union Township Health Director; we’ll let you know if we hear from him.) But whether he asked or not, he still would have listened to his health experts. Is that wrong?

Before you answer, consider this: if a Union kid did come down with COVID, and maybe not died, but “just” came down with severe symptoms and suffered long COVID for the rest of his life, I’d put money down in a hot minute that those parents would sue the district from here to Kingdom Come because they didn’t listen to the “experts.” Don’t even try to tell me I’m wrong.

Now, did he explore all avenues? What if the team only played with its 24 vaccinated players, who were not required to take a COVID test? Here’s where the players and coaches should be consulted. That didn’t happen.

Were the players’ parents asked to sign waivers? Absolving the district from any liability? No. Should they have been asked. It’s a legitimate option.

But you do have to look at the flip side. What if Eastside is not comfortable with it? What if they don’t think it’s safe? There are two teams playing here. Is it right to make them forfeit if they’re not comfortable when there are four COVID cases on the team they’re supposed to tackle and jump on for 48 minutes?

All that being said, even if you think the district should have at least postponed the game, remember, the NJSIAA said no. And not just in this case. They have had a rule in place for two months, since September 15th.

Should they have been more flexible? Should there have been some wiggle room? Was it just because Union was a heavy favorite? Would there have been the same outcry for Toms River South, which made the playoffs at 3-6 as the 16th overall seed and got blown out 58-0 by Millville, the top public school in the state? Be honest.

Then again, look at it from the NJSIAA’s perspective. If you do it for one team, you have to do it for everybody. And that’s why they’re not budging at all. And it’s a more than fair point.

Because right now, it’s just Union that has an issue, and after they delay the game a week until all is clear, what if Eastside had an issue this Thursday and couldn’t play until Thanksgiving? So your sectional semifinal is with turkey leftovers, the title game is the first week of December, and if there’s one more delay, you’re practically playing on Christmas Eve. This isn’t basketball, where playing back-to-back games often happen. These players need rest and prep time in between. Oh, and what about North 1, Group 5, which could have ended up with 2-3 weeks in between games? How is that fair to East Orange or Passaic Tech, to make them wait?

Even moving the game to Monday with another on Friday isn’t the best option. But could they have let Union play Sunday, then move next Friday’s games to Saturday? Probably. Maybe.

Then there’s the question of vaccination. This isn’t going to be a popular take, but remember: only the unvaccinated players were tested, and two additional players came up positive. So, what if all the players had been vaccinated? Would they have even bothered to test anyone? Would we even be having this conversation? Maybe not.

I feel terrible for the kids at Union. Just awful. They have – like everyone else – endured so much. Losing a good chunk of last season, and the playoffs. Maybe some lost friends or family members to COVID. They’ve lost so much of their childhoods to this dreaded virus. I’m ready to get back to normal, or as close as we can, aren’t you?

(By the way, the four kids who tested positive are fine, Dr. Taylor told me. Has anyone asked about them at all? I haven’t seen a single social media post about that over the last three days.)

Ultimately, this is like a nothing-nothing baseball game that’s in the 17th inning. It’s a shame someone has to lose.

Unfortunately, someone has to lose. And like any coach will tell you, you learn more about your team from a loss than you do from a win.

We’ve learned a whole helluva lot about the 2021 Union Farmer football team in the past 72 hours.

But mostly this: Every single one of them is a winner. Every one a champion.

Remember that.

Union school district’s board attorney seeking relief from NJSIAA to allow playoff game vs. Eastside to be played

Union Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor says the district’s attorney has reached out to the NJSIAA asking for it to allow the Farmers’ football team to play Eastside Paterson in its North 2, Group 5 semifinal game this week.

The move comes after the district cancelled the game Friday following four positive COVID tests on the team. After two initial tests among student-athletes who were symptomatic, their unvaccinated teammates were tested, and two more positive cases came up.

That prompted the district to cancel the game and withdraw from the tournament, since NJSIAA rules adopted in September for this school year do not permit the alteration of playoff schedules to accomodate teams with COVID-related issues.

But it’s also created an uproar among players, their classmates, parents, and others in the community who feel their season was simply taken away from them. Players met with the Superintendent on Friday afternoon after the cancellation was announced.

Click below to hear Union Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about the latest on Union’s push to play the game, and how the cancellation came about in the first place:

NJSIAA policy allows no wiggle-room for delaying or making up state playoff games due to COVID

Central Jersey Sports Radio has learned the Union High School football team would have no recourse to play its North 2, Group 5 semifinal playoff game at another date and time, after four players tested positive for COVID late this week.

Union – the top seed in the section – was considered a heavy favorite to win the section, and was scheduled to play Eastside Paterson Friday night at 7 at Cooke Field. But after two players came down with symptoms and tested positive for COVID Thursday, and two more among the unvaccinated members of the team tested positive, schools superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor made the decision to cancel Friday’s game, seeking an alternative date and time they could play.

Taylor says he was told by Colleen Maguire, the NJSIAA’s Executive Director, that a makeup would not be possible, citing policy recommended by her to the NJSIAA Program Review Committee, and adopted by the Executive Committee at its September 15th meeting.

In the meeting minutes, it is noted that “Once the tournament starts, brackets are locked. It is too much chaos on both NJSIAA staff and schools to make the last-minute changes in securing buses, officials, etc.”

The policy recommended by Maguire and later adopted states:

  1. NJSIAA will not delay or modify any state tournament schedule for a team that cannot participate due to COVID-19 issues.
  2. Once a state tournament officially starts, the tournament will progress as scheduled – this is regardless of a team’s first scheduled event in the tournament.
  3. For any team that cannot participate on the date scheduled, or play by date, then the opponent will advance.
  4. Prior to the official start of a state tournament, if a team cannot participate then NJSIAA will make every effort to replace the team with the next ranked team that did not qualify for the state tournament.
  5. If a team is replaced, the bracket will not be re-seeded. The team will be inserted into the bracket.

In an exclusive interview with Central Jersey Sports Radio, Dr. Taylor told Mike Pavlichko that if told the game could be rescheduled, “I would move mountains to make preparations to make this work.”

Dr. Taylor also praised the student-athletes who met with him Friday to discuss the situation, saying the represented themselves well.

Click here to listen to Dr. Taylor’s full interview with Mike Pavlichko.

The football players also have change.org petition, asking for a chance to play the game. It was about 100 signatures shy of its goal of 5,000 as of 4:45 pm Saturday. A link to the petition can be found here.

Click here to hear what Union standout Davison Igbinosun has to say about the cancellation.

Union Superintendent on COVID-cancelled Eastside game: “I would move mountains… to make this work”

Union Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor says he would love to have seen Union play Eastside Paterson – and he still would – despite four players on the Farmers’ football team testing positive for COVID this week.

But he says those efforts were rebuffed by the NJSIAA, citing its policy of not allowing games to be rescheduled if a team couldn’t play a playoff game due to a COVID-related issue.

Union was the top seed in the North 2, Group 5 section, and was scheduled to host Eastside in the sectional semifinals Friday night at 7 pm. The game was officially cancelled less than eight hours before kickoff, around lunchtime Friday.

Dr. Taylor says medical experts urged him to cancel the game, but he says he would have been OK delaying the game. However, he says the NJSIAA told him that would not be possible.

The NJSIAA policy regarding COVID and rescheduling was adopted September 15th by the Executive Committee, and can be found here.

Union football players have created a change.org petition to get the game played. Over 4,500 have signed on as of 4 pm Saturday, and you can find the petition by clicking here.

Click below to hear Dr. Scott Taylor talk to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

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

On a team with many very talented players, Davison Igbinosun is high-profile nationally, getting Power 5 offers from all over the country.

And While he’s a lock to play big-time college football virtually anywhere he wants next year, he still wants more with his teammates. Which is why he was doubly devastated when top-seed Union’s playoff game Friday against Eastside Paterson was cancelled by district Superintendent Dr. Scott Taylor around lunchtime, less than eight hours before kickoff.

Igbinosun opened up about how his team took the abrupt ending to its season, and how he’s pushing for the game to still be played. He and his teammates have a petition on change.org that has garnered more than 3,400 signatures. You can find it here.

Central Jersey Sports Radio has reached out to Dr. Taylor for comment. We’ll let you know if we get a response. Follow us on Twitter @cjsportsradio for the very latest.

We have also reached out to NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire to find out if rescheduling the game would even be feasible. As of 2 pm Saturday afternoon, we have not received a response from either Maguire or spokesman Michael Cherenson.

We’ll keep you posted.

Listen to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s exclusive interview with Davison Igbinosun as he talks with Mike Pavlichko: