Tag: Watchung Hills

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:

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:

Another week of honors go to Kelley, Laverty, and Hollomon: Coach Matt Bastardi’s “Elite Performers of the Week” for Week 8

As public schools head into the playoffs, we have another week of honors from Coach Matt Bastardi of Elite QB and his “Elite Performers of the Week” for Week 7. This week’s quarterback award winners are Dylan Kelley of Watchung Hills, Connor Laverty of Bernards, and Mike Hollomon of Pinrgy.

A former high school and college quarterback who has either played the position or coached it for over 40 years, Elite QB trains players at all position levels, with an emphasis on QBs.

Click below to listen to hear Matt Bastardi of Elite QB highlight his “Elite Performers of the Week” for Week 8:

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:

North Group 5 Playoff Analysis: Phillipsburg appears locked in as overall top seed

Cutoff Weekend is just a few days away, and we’re taking a look at every team in the Big Central to see where we think they’ll end up in the playoffs.

We’re not looking at tiebreakers just yet, we’re looking at where we think teams will fall in the top 16. Tune in to our Playoff Projection show Saturday at 6 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio for all our unofficial pairings.

Below is our analysis, with each team’s current ranking in the UPR standings noted.

(Click here for official standings on Gridiron New Jersey)

#1 Phillipsburg: Even if the Stateliners were to suffer their first defeat of the season this week at winless East Brunswick, we believe they would still be the overall top seed. That’s even if Passaic Tech, Ridgewood, Clifton, Union City, Westfield and Watchung Hills all win behind them, and assuming all those teams get all possible residuals. Phillipsburg would be the top-seed in the North 2, Group 5 section.

#5 Watchung Hills: Can the Warriors make the top four, which would get them one of the No. 2 seeds in the sectionals and first-round through at least the sectional semis? We thought so, but they’d have to beat Elizabeth Friday night at home, and would need losses by Union City and Clifton – who, unfortunately for Watchung Hills, play each other. A loss, and they could drop as low in seven. We project they’ll be a top eight finish, meaning they will at least open up the playoffs at home.

#7 Westfield: The Blue Devils can get no higher than sixth place overall, which is still good for a top eight finish. That’s even with losses by the teams above them. If they lose, they might be able to finish in the top eight, but if things break the wrong way, they could drop as low as No. 9, meaning they’d start the playoffs on the road as a five-seed.

#8 Piscataway: We think the Chiefs top out at No. 8 if they beat New Brunswick in their finale this Friday afternoon at home – a good possibility – and they get losses from Eastside, East Orange and Bridgewater. It looks like all four need to happen, or else they’ll be a nine or lower and start the playoffs on the road.

#11 Bridgewater-Raritan: The Panthers could reach as high as No. 8 overall, even if Piscataway wins Friday, since New Brunswick is a weaker opponent than Old Bridge. But they would need some help. The Panthers would have to not only beat the Knights at Basilone Field Friday night, but also get losses from West Orange, East Orange, Eastside (Paterson) and Montclair. Ultimately, wherever they end up, if Briddgewater and P’way both win, we think the Panthers move higher because of the strength of their opponent.

#14 Union: Our initial inkling was that Union was a likely playoff team, and we still hold to that. If they beat Ridge Friday night, they’re in, and could finish as high as 11 overall if they also get losses from Montclair, Bridgewater-Raritan, and Piscataway. If they lose, it looks like wins from Elizabeth and Bayonne would send them outside the top 16, and into the consolation tournament, a new feature this year.

#16 Elizabeth: We think if the Minutemen can win at Watchung Hills Friday night – no easy task, mind you – they’re in, due to the strength of their opponent. And if Bloomfield, Bayonne, Columbia, Morristown, Montclair and Dickinson all lose, they could end up anywhere from 16 to 14 overall. Those six teams probably won’t all lose, though. In fact, Bayonne losing to North Bergen (0-7) would be a shocker in and of itself. So, they probably end up in one of the last two spots. What if they lose? We think that will leave them out, because the only way they could get in is if Bayonne loses to North Bergen.

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:

UNOFFICIAL: North Group 5 Playoff Standings Update

With a number of teams yet to play this weekend – ten of the 27, to be exact – there weren’t too many changes in the North Group 5 playoff standings. Here are Central Jersey Sports Radio’s unofficial playoff calculations after Friday night’s Week 7 games:

Phillipsburg‘s win over Union Friday night kept them in the top spot, a solid 1 (first in power points, first in OSI) while Ridgewood’s loss – dropping them to 5-2 – moved them down from a solid 2 to a 2.4 UPR, giving the Stateliners a little more breathing room. Passaic Tech, however, last week a solid 3, is now a 2.6, and inching closer. The 6-1 Bulldogs visit 3-3 East Orange Saturday.

Westfield dropped from 5th to 7th with the loss at Ridge Friday night, but still in the top eight, which would guarantee a first-round home game in the sectionals. Watchung Hills – which is at St. Joseph-Metuchen Saturday – held in 6th, but could move up if they beat the Falcons.

Piscataway inched closer to the top eight, moving up two spots with a 23-power point win over Sayreville Friday night. The Chiefs could be in line for a first round home game. Depending how the rest of the weekend shakes out, we’ll see if a win over 1-win New Brunswick next weekend will be enough to do the trick.

Bridgewater-Raritan – which has one of the toughest schedules in the league – visits Elizabeth Saturday, and could make a push up the standings as well, with a win. But it’s also a game Elizabeth needs, sitting in 15th place, having dropped a spot based on what other teams did Friday night. Union also dropped, but not much – one place to 15th – with a loss at Phillipsburg Friday night.

Bottom Line: We think Phillipsburg will end up a top seed, 1 or 2 overall. Too close to call now whether Watchung Hills or Westfield get a top 8 finish. Piscataway could get there. Bridgewater is likely in the playoffs. Union and Elizabeth are on the right side of the bubble.

Few changes in CJSR Week 6 H.S. Football Top Ten, as Phillipsburg leads the way and Edison joins the ranks

With every team in the Week 5 Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten winning this past weekend, the Week 6 rankings saw very little change.

In fact, the top six teams – led by Phillipsburg – remained unchanged, with the Stateliners followed by North Brunswick, Hillsborough, North Hunterdon, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Sayreville.

Westfield moved from seventh to eighth while Hillside – which was tied for 6th, fell to 8th. Ridge – tied with Watchung Hills for 9th – held, while the Warriors dropped to tenth.

Edison, which was in the preseason poll and got votes last week, rejoins the poll, tied for No. 10 with Watchung Hills. The Eagles, who started 2-0 but lost their next two, have now won three straight, beating St. Joseph-Metuchen 42-23 Friday night on the road.

Below are the complete Week 6 Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings.

Group 5 playoff analysis: Have Phillipsburg and North Brunswick weathered the storm?

There are only three Group 5 football teams in the entire state of New Jersey with unblemished records, and two of them are in the Big Central. Phillipsburg and North Brunswick both are 5-0, as is Toms River North.

On paper, both have made it through the toughest stretches of their schedules. But will they be able to hold off the teams behind them?

With just three weeks of play until the state playoffs are seeded, let’s take a closer look.

NORTH 5 (Click here for official standings)

We start with Phillipsburg, which is 5-0 with three games remaining. They have a UPR of 1, ahead of Ridgewood (2 UPR), and the goal is to get either one of these. There’s not much real difference being the one or two overall seed since each gets a top seed in their section. With the brackets snaked, the seeding is even. But it looks like the Stateliners have a good shot at No. 1 overall.

A closer look shows they’re significantly ahead in the power point category, with a 20.6 average, almost four points ahead of Ridgewood (17), followed by Clifton (16.6) and Passaic Tech (15.33). It’s tough to take a huge jump this late in the season.

Sure, P’burg could take a significant dip with winless East Brunswick on their schedule cutoff weekend, so if you’re a Liners’ fan, you want to root hard for their upcoming opponents – heck all of them throughout the season – these last three weeks. Beating good teams helps, because you know Hillsborough, North Hunterdon, Ridge and Sayreville will pick up some more wins along the way as well.

On the OSI side, they look pretty safe, too. They’re at 72.95, a nearly eight point advantage over Ridgewood, and more than 15 points higher than third-place Passaic Tech. This will be an even tougher hill to climb for anyone behind them. Not only is it the highest OSI in the state among public schools, but it’s easily the biggest gap from No. 1 to No. 3 in the any supersection in the state. Even with East Brunswick (53.75) on cutoff weekend, P’burg should be able to hold court. As long as they continue to win, we think the Liners will be the overall top-seed in this section.

Westfield (4-1) remains in fifth, but has improved its UPR from 5.8 to 5.2, climbing one more spot in the OSI category (each rank position is worth 0.6 UPR points as 60% of the formula). All three opponents coming up have a higher SI than their OSI average, which means winning them all would boost them even further. A sweep could put them in play for a top-four seed. Ridge would be the biggest win, but it could come down to Hillsborough, a 2:00 kick at home on Saturday afternoon of Cutoff Weekend.

Watchung Hills (4-2) sits in 7th, dropping slightly this week even after handing then 5-0 Montgomery its first loss of the season. But it has nothing to do with that. Union City had a bigger gain with a win over Irvington, which has a stronger SI that Montgomery coming into the weekend; the Blue Knights are still over 80 in that department – they’re worth a lot. It happens. But if the Warriors keep winning – Plainfield, at St. Joe’s, Elizabeth – they should at least keep one of the top eight seeds, and at least earn a first-round home game.

Piscataway (3-2) continues its climb up the standings: 16th last week, 11 this week. When you have a couple of losses, as they do, every win gets magnified, and that’s what’s happening with the Chiefs. Road games at East Brunswick and Sayreville, then home to New Brunswick is how they close the regular season. A clean sweep could even put them in the top eight. Take two of the three – even if they come against the Bears and Zebras – and they should have a playoff spot locked up, their first since 2019.

Right behind the Chiefs is Bridgewater-Raritan. The Panthers are 2-4, one of six sub-.500 teams currently in the top 16 (two are tied for 16th). They play a mighty strong schedule, with – guess who? – Phillipsburg up next at Maloney Stadium Friday night. A loss, though wouldn’t hurt them that much, dropping their OSI and power point averages a bit.

Of course, the Panthers won there last year, 17-7, but this is a different Liners’ team, so it’s a tall task. To stay firmly in the playoff chance, Bridgewater would at least have to win at Elizabeth next week, and at home against Old Bridge on cutoff weekend.

Elizbaeth (2-3) is right behind Bridgewater, with an increasingly challenging stretch ahead: at Union Friday, home to the Panthers next Saturday, and at Watchung Hills Friday night of Cutoff Weekend. Two of three for the Minutemen also should do them well, but one loss would hurt them a bit more than Bridgewater, since there’s no one as strong as Phillipsburg on the schedule.

On the bubble, we’ve got Union at 1-4. The Farmers have a 16.4 UPR, tied with 2-3 Bloomfield, and 3-2 Dickinson is on their tail with a 17 UPR. The NJSIAA has a new rule this year that teams have to have a minimum two wins to qualify for the playoffs, so Union has to at least win one more, and can’t skate in on the weakness of other teams, so that’s the first step. The schedule isn’t easy. After Elizabeth this Friday night at home, the Famrers visit Phillipsburg then host Ridge on cutoff weekend. This Friday night may be their best chance for a win, so let’s call this a must-win, a play-in game – even though more may be needed – for Union.

SOUTH 5 (Click here for official standings)

As mentioned above, North Brunswick (5-0) sits atop the standings, but the Raiders’ lead is a bit more precarious than Phillipsburg’s. They actually have a greater lead, though, in the UPR over Cherokee, the next team back, at 2.8 compared to North Brunswick’s 1.4 UPR. But their lead over third-place Hillsborough (4-1) is a bit slimmer: a 2.4 advantage compared to a 1.8 edge.

This is a wonky section because of the double-multiplier, which has already been completed by Cherokee; that’s the good news. Toms River North (6-0) in fourth doesn’t have any, nor Hillsborough.

In power points, Cherokee is already ahead of North Brunswick, with a 20.8 average, while North Brunswick is at 18.6, and Marlboro is next with a 15.2, then Toms River North at 15 and Hillsborough at 13.2. The point is, even though Cherokee is behind North Brunswick, there’s nowhere to go with power points. They certainly could climb in OSI, which currently at 57.65 has them fourth. That’s if they sweep their next three opponents, all of whom are very good. They have Lenape (75.58), Kingsway (77.78) and Millville (82.42). That would do some damage. But with a loss, factor a 37-41 SI in there somewhere and they will drop, or at least negate any gains made by the other two wins.

In short, North Brunswick may not have the top-seed locked up even if they win-out, considering their schedule of a road game at New Brunswick this week and a home game against East Brunswick next week (they’re a combined 1-10), though 3-2 Cranford on cutoff weekend up in Union County could be a big win. But they should be good for a top-two seed, thus guaranteeing one of the top seeds in either section, and home field through the sectional finals.

Does Hillsborough have a shot at one of the two No. 1 seeds? We like their schedule, with Hunterdon Central this week, at Somerville next week, and the aforementioned Saturday Cutoff Weekend late kickoff at Westfield. But they still may need some help from the teams above.

The next team down the standings is South Brunswick (3-2) in tenth place. The Vikings have a tough final three games, but that’s the good news. Sweeping those would give them a big boost; inotherwords, a top eight seed and a first-round home game is certainly within their reach, and South controls its own destiny. They have Ridge this Friday night, visit Edison next Friday, and close with Somerville at home on the Friday night of Cutoff Weekend.

Edison (4-2) is in 13th, and save for a two-game hiccup have been very good. QB Matt Yasco and receiver Malcolm Stansbury are back in the lineup, so the Eagles just need to do what they do.

A top-eight seed may be out of reach, but remember: last year’s Edison squad was a 7-seed in South 5 and went on the road in the opening round, coming back across the Driscoll Bridge with a 23-20 upset win over 2-seed Manalapan. They won a huge game against Cedar Creek in the Battle at the Beach in Ocean CIty this year in front of a hostile crowd. Point is, just point them in the right direction, this team can go win a ballgame, if healthy, with so many three-year starters (and a fourth-year at QB).

Edison has a good schedule to get it done: this Friday at St. Joseph-Metuchen (7 pm on CJSR), then next Friday home to South Brunswick, and – perhaps the biggest challenge of all – Friday of Cutoff Weekend at St. Thomas Aquinas, which on the strength of two solid campaigns back-to-back has an 80.97 Strength Index value. (For what it’s worth, Aquinas has won 14 of its last 16 games going back to the start of last season.)

A promising season for Hunterdon Central (2-4) has slowed, with the Red Devils on a three-game skid since a 2-1 start that included a season-opening loss to North Hunterdon. They’ve lost to Bridgewater-Raritan, at Ridge, and home to Phillipsburg. Those are no cupcakes, but they need wins. At Hillsborough this weekend will be a tough one, so to prove they’re a playoff-worthy team, they’ll probably at least need to beat Franklin next Friday and win at Perth Amboy on Friday night of Cutoff Weekend.

They may also have to worry about the teams behind them. With a 16.4 UPR, Cherry Hill East (3-2) is right behind them at 16.6 (any move up in either power points or OSI by one position would jump Central) and Old Bridge (3-3). The Knights have a 17.6 UPR and are in 18th, but have a chance. It’s been win, loss, win, loss, win, loss for Old Bridge, but they close with home games against Monroe and New Brunswick – which have three wins combined – this week and next, then visit Bridgewater-Raritan Friday night of Cutoff Weekend. They will likely have to win all three. Time to put the brakes on the skid!