Tag: Zoran Milich

No. 6 Montgomery stands tall with backs to the goal line for wild 27-21 win at No. 10 Somerville

In a battle of undefeated, 3-0 teams, where both teams made big play after big play on offense, defense and special teams, it was Montgomery that made one more big play than Somerville.

After taking a 27-14 lead with two fourth quarter touchdowns – including a 66-yard pass play from Michael Schmelzer, Jr., to Matthew D’Avino – the No. 10 Pioneers got back to within a touchdown, held the Cougars to a three-and-out, and got the ball back with 1:36 left and a chance to win.

But for the second straight year, 6th-ranked Montgomery would not be denied. Almost, but not quite.

On fourth-down they got a huge pass play from Brenden Pacheco to Quinn Carran for 63 yards to the Monty 30, then worked their way to a first-and-ten at the 16 with 30 seconds left.

Pacheco’s first pass to Mitchell fell incomplete. Montgomery got called for pass interference on second down, leaving 9.4 seconds on the clock. Pacheco connected with Quinn Carran on second down again, but he came down out of bounds five yards past the goal line.

And on the final play of the game, Matt D’Avino broke up one last pass from Pacheco that would have tied the game, and given ‘Ville a chance to win it on the PAT.

The aerial attack was the story overall, with Pacheco and Schmelzer combining for 550 passing yards. Pacheco finished with 329 and two TDs, while Schmelzer had 221 yards and two TD passes, while running for a third.

Montgomery is off to a 4-0 start, while Somerville took its first loss and falls to 3-1.

Click below for postgame reaction with Mike Pavlichko presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

Montgomery senior QB Michael Schmelzer, Jr.
Montgomery head coach Zoran Milich

No. 6 Montgomery takes solid start into Somerville for Friday matchup with No. 10 Pioneers in battle of unbeatens

Last year’s 3-0 start for the Montgomery football was in serious jeopardy at halftime of their game against Somerville last year in Skillman, with the Cougars down 14-13.

Then they opened up the passing game, ran a hook-and-lateral, and came back for a 27-21 victory. The eventually won five in a row before taking their first loss, setting a new mark for best start to a season in program history.

They come into this year’s game in the same position, 3-0, with high-scoring wins over Robbinsville, Franklin, and Plainfield. With many of the same offensive contributors as last season – led by third-year starting quarterback Michael Schmelzer, his top receiver Matt D’Avino, and leading rusher Brady Post – the Cougars are averaging 35.3 points a game this season.

But the Cougars also have excelled defensively, allowing an average of just nine points per game while holding two of its first three opponents to single digits. Head coach Zoran Milich feels a combination of solid run defense and pressure on the quarterback have been a big part of their defensive success, which may face its stiffest test yet tonight: Somerville – also 3-0 – is scoring 34 points per game.

You can hear Friday night’s matchup at Brooks Field in Somerville on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with kickoff set for 7:00, and pregame at 6:45. Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas will call all the action. Click here to listen.

Click below to hear Montgomery head coach Zoran Milich talk about the Cougars and the matchup against Somerville:

Dynamic duo of Schmelzer, D’Avino aim to take Montgomery to the next level

So many successful high school football teams get that extra boost when a group of players have known each other their whole lives, and develop a bond.

Michael Schmelzer, Jr. and Matt D’Avino weren’t always the best of friends, but that competitiveness – going back to fourth grade for the duo – has made their bond tighter now that they’re on the same team, and have been for several years.

The two seniors figure most prominently when Schmelzer is throwing the ball on offense, and D’Avino is catching it. And, of course, there is the steadying hand of Zoran Milich, who’s now in his 22nd season as Montgomery’s varsity head coach, the only one the program has ever had.

But Schmelzer and D’Avino put up big numbers last year, and more of the same – and more of it – are expected this season. Schmelzer threw for 1,658 yards and 25 touchdowns a year ago, while D’Avino’s 1,053 yards receiving and 14 TDs represent about a third of his quarterback’s output.

That’s a combo you just can’t make up.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko at Big Central Media Day’s with Montgomery Head coach Zoran Milich and seniors Michael Schmelzer, Jr., and Matt D’Avino:

Basilone Bowl taking year off to regroup, reorganize, stay true to initial purpose

When the very first John Basilone Bowl was played in 2013, with the major involvement of the Marine Corps, the goal was to raise money to donate to wounded soldiers. It was perhaps the noblest of causes.

But financial times have become more difficult. Even before COVID, but especially since.

Two years removed from the pandemic, Montgomery football coach Zoran Milich – who took the lead on organizing the game last year for the first time – says the Basilone Bowl didn’t turn a profit last year and couldn’t make a donation.

On Wednesday, Milich announced on Twitter that the Basilone Bowl – which features top graduating seniors from Somerset County, and a handful from Hunterdon – would not be played in 2023, but hopes to return to the summer all-star game landscape in 2024.

Milich says last year’s game finished $1,000 in the red, despite all participants selling their allotment of tickets, great weather for the game, and solid walk-up ticket sales at the game’s namesake Basilone Memorial Stadium at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

Photo Gallery: Images from the 9th annual Basilone Bowl – June, 2022

Typically, the Marines make a large donation to the game, which then goes to charitable organizations like those that support wounded soldiers. But Milich says after taking the game over last year, he learned the event has not been able to make a donation in the past five seasons.

Click below to hear Zoran Milich talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about this year’s hiatus for the Basilone Bowl, as well as the game’s future:

Montogmery matches program’s best start ever with 27-21 victory over Somerville for fourth straight win

Some wins just feel bigger than others.

That’s what it felt like in Skillman Friday night, with Montgomery and Somerville locked in a tight first-half battle that saw the home Cougars trailing 14-13 after getting a second quarter touchdown, but failing on the two-point conversion.

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But Montgomery scored the next two touchdowns, and it was enough to stave off Somevrille – which got closer with a late third-quarter scoring drive led by backup quarterback Brendan Pacheo – and the Cougars came away with a 27-21 win, as heard Friday night on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

It was Monty’s first win in the series since 2013, although their only other meeting in between was in 2018, at the height of Somerville’s recent dominance, a 55-12 Pioneers’ win.

Junior quarterback Mike Schmelzer threw three touchdown passes – to Matt D’Avino, Eddie Qian and Ethan McManus, while Gavin Guidette ran for another in a balanced offensive attack.

Somerville scored first and never trailed in the first half, but then two third quarter scores by Montgomery gave them three straight TDs – all TD passes – until Pacheo capped a long drive with a two-yard touchdown run to get Somerville within 27-21. But that was as close as they would get.

The victory puts Montgomery at 4-0 for the first time since the 2007 season, when the Cougars also won their first four, and finished 9-2, with a loss in the Central Jersey Group 3 semifinals to eventual title-winner Holmdel.

A win next week against Hamilton (1-2), which plays tomorrow against Hopewell Valley, would be the program’s best start ever.

Click below for postgame reaction from Montgomery’s 27-21 win over Somerville:

Montgomery junior quarterback Mike Schmelzer in the postgame huddle. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Junior WR Matt D’Avino and junior QB Mike Schmelzer
Montgomery junior wide receiver Matt D’Avino. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Head Coach Zoran Milich

Montgomery looks to keep best start since ’07 going when Somerville comes to town

Having lost a ton of key players – Alex Benitez, Brandon Feury, Andre Soumeillant, to name just a few, but hardly all – Montgomery football coach Zoran Milich would be forgiven if he wasn’t sure what to expect in 2022.

After dropping its first four games of the season, the Cougars won three in a row and got close enough to the 16th and final playoff spot in South Group 4 to be given a spot as the next team in when Scotch Plains-Fanwood was ruled ineligible for the postseason over a number of early-season disqualifications.

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So what has this year’s squad done? Well, with QB Michael Schmelzer starting the year from the very beginning (he sat 30 days last year after transferring in from Notre Dame in Lawrenceville) they have done just fine, thank you, winning their opening three games for the first time since the 2007 Cougar team that finished 9-2, making it to the Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals, where they lost to Howell.

Offensively, that team was led by QB Kevin Watson (2,039 yds, 21 TD), receivers Chris Garcia and JT Tartacoff (700+ yards apiece), and running back Devon Saunders (1,017 yards, 6 TD). Defensivlely, they got after quarterbacks, registering 37 sacks (led by senior DE Matt Tholis with 13 1/2), and the Cougars picked off 11 passes all year.

But this year’s team is forging its own way, with a group of players that isn’t necessarily young, but isn’t exactly rife with seniors either. Schmelzer already has thrown for 760 yards in three games, but more impressively, the junior has thrown seven touchdown passes and just one interception.

Fellow junior Matt D’Avino is his top target (270 yds, 5 TDs) and senior Chris Eubanks can run the ball (253 yards, 1 TD). Gavin Guidette leads the flexible “3-3 stack” defense at middle linebacker with a team-leading 18 tackles, 15 solo, and junior safety Zack Schick already has three interceptions of the year.

And a win over Somerville would go a long way, with the Pioneers being a program that has had immense success over the past several years, including a state title and three finals appearances under the combination of Jeff Vanderbeek and Dallas Whitaker as head coaches.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the game live Friday night as its Big Central Game of the Week, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the play-by-play. Kickoff is at 7 pm at Montgomery High School in Skillman, and the pregame show begins around 6:45. Click here to listen.

Somerville leads the all-time series 6-4, but Montgomery has won four of the last six in the series. The Pioneers, however, beat the Cougars 55-12 in 2018 en route to a sectional final, where they lost to Rumson-Fair Haven at Brooks Field.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk about Montgomery, and the Somerville matchup, with Cougars head coach Zoran Milich:

Benitez, Cougars know a tall task awaits them in top-seed Northern Highlands

The last time Northern Highlands played in a playoff game, they beat Woodbridge to win the North 1 Group 4 championship in 2019.

Then came the pandemic, but the Highlanders (9-0) are right back at it: No. 8 in the state, and the second highest ranked public school in the NJ.com Top 20.

That’s the task that awaits the 8th-seeded Montgomery Cougars Friday night in the opening round of the North 1, Group 4 playoffs, although they may be one of the more deceptive 8-seeds in the state at 3-5.

The Cougars lost their first four games of the season, then won three straight after making a change at quarterback, bringing a newcomer into the fold and moving program guy Alex Benitez back to his natural runningback position (though they still have designed passing plays for him).

Click below to hear Montgomery head coach Zoran Millich talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about the Cougars’ season, as heard on CJSR’s special playoff projection show last Saturday night:

Montgomery wins third straight to set up critical matchup against Cranford on Cutoff Weekend

After starting the season 0-4, and facing winless Franklin, Montgomery head coach Zoran Milich thought he would make some changes to the lineup.

He put in transfer quarterback Michael Schmelzer – who had to sit out 30 days after coming back from from Notre Dame – and moved Alex Benitez – who began his Cougar career as a runningback before moving to QB – back to runningback.

Worked like a charm.

Montgomery snapped the skid and now is 3-4 after a 45-27 home win over JFK.

Next week, they’ll wrap up the regular season on Cutoff Weekend with a home game against No. 4 Cranford, which stayed unbeaten (7-0) with a 42-13 win at Linden Friday night.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Montgomery head coach Zoran Milich about the Cougars’ turnaround:

This Week in the Big Central – Episode 2: The Sitkowskis

Week Zero is in the books, and the bulk of the Big Central opens up this weekend on Week One, unless Ida’s aftermath has anything to say about it.

Either way, it’s time for Episode 2 of “This Week in the Big Central,” driven by Mark Montenero and his team at the world-famous Autoland.

This Week on TWiBC, Mike Pavlichko talks to former Rutgers and Old Bridge quarterback Art Sitkowski, who came off the bench to rally Illinois to a season-opening win over Nebraska.

Then, he’s joined by NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire to talk about her first year at the helm as we head into 2021-22.

Finally, it’s a look at the official NJSIAA football classifications, released Wednesday, and a peek ahead at the weekend’s games.

Mix of seniors and inexperience will lead Montgomery in wide-open Division 4

CORRECTION: Montgomery and Watchung Hills play their opener Thursday, not Friday.

A look around the Big Central Conference’s Division 4 seems to indicate wide-open race among the eight teams in what is the league’s largest grouping.

And that might be just the way Montgomery likes it.

That’s not to say it’s an easy division. Woodbridge, which dominated last year, has lost standouts Ali Lee Jr. and Anthony Santino, bringing more parity to Division 4.

The Cougars have a small senior core, and a lot of inexperience. But senior quarterback Alex Benitez believes there’s a good mixture down in Skillman, and head coach Zoran Milich agrees, saying that perhaps what the young ones don’t know won’t hurt ’em, and may even help them.

The Cougars’ season gets underway Thursday night when they host Watchung Hills in their first of two out-of-division matchups this fall..

Click below to hear Milich and Benitez preview the upcoming season.

Senior QB Alex Benitez:

Head Coach Zoran Milich: