Week One–Friday Night
Regular Season Opens With 11 Games on Friday
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–On Friday evening, the 2015 Greater Middlesex Conference football regular season will begin with a big slate of 11 games. Key match-ups include: Middletown South traveling to South Brunswick in a GMC-Shore crossover, Sayreville hosting Stevens in a GMC Red match-up, as the Bombers return to football, Woodbridge hosting Carteret in a GMC White clash, and in the GMC Gridiron varsity game of the week, Spotswood travels to Dunellen to take on the Destroyers at Columbia Park. Below are game capsules on the contests:
Spotswood (6-4) at Dunellen (9-3)–Over last three years, these two schools have become fierce rivals. After Dunellen rolled past the Chargers in Spotswood in 2011, the Destroyers had to rally in the second half to down the Chargers in 2012 (29-28), and then Spotswood won the past two meetings with a 29-19 victory at Columbia Park in 2013 and a 28-14 win at home in 2014. Winners of the GMC Blue last season, Spotswood is looking to repeat again in 2015 despite the graduation of running back Chase Fee, fullback Ryan Long, and QB Ryan Smolin. The Chargers believe that they can contend for division honors again with the likes of Shawn O’Connor, Joe Hayford, James Liu, Brad Bachetti, Lou Vacca, and Conner McCloskey returning. O’Connor, the younger brother of former Charger standout QB, C.J. O’Connor, has the potential to be very good at QB. Hayford and Liu complete the offensive backfield while Lou Vacca anchors a relatively inexperienced offensive line. Solid placekicker, Conner McCloskey will add punting to his kicking duties. On the other side of the field, Dunellen will be looking to fill the voids left behind by a talented group last year led by QB David Johnson, who is now attending Kutztown University in Pennsylvania to play basketball, and 1,000 yard rusher, Nassan Anderson, and Robert Young. Senior Preston Gibney will anchor both the offensive and defensive lines respectively at center and defensive tackle. This game will be a key match-up in determining who will challenge Metuchen for GMC Blue honors this year. Prediction: Spotswood wins, 20-12.
Middletown South (9-3) at South Brunswick (11-1)–The Vikings will look to contend for a return spot in the Central Jersey Group V Championship in December, but like last year, will face a solid Middletown South squad in the season opener. Last year, GMC Gridiron opened its season in the swamp with the match-up between these two schools. Then, South Brunswick was the favorite, and a contender for a Top 10 spot in the New Jersey High School football rankings. Middletown South, led by Cole Rogers scored first, and controlled the beginning of the game, but eventually, the Vikes led by now Syracuse standout, Dontae Strickland, and QB Amir Johnson took over and won, 36-24. This year, the roles are somewhat reversed with the Eagles having everyone back and going into Monmouth Junction as a favorite for a Top 10 statewide ranking while the Vikes lost a bit to graduation including Strickland and Johnson, but still have a lot returning with the likes of Rutgers bound RB Phil Campbell, WR Mohammed Jabbie, and junior QB Josh Liao, who gained a lot of experience last year when he filled in nicely during Johnson’s absence due to injury. In addition, Trevon Blakey, a QB at New Brunswick last year, transferred in. Chrisjon Summers and Richie Hoff also return on defense for SBHS. Had a chance to see Middletown South play in a scrimmage against Piscataway before the Labor Day Weekend, and the Eagles played very well in a shutout win (20-0). Middletown South has Rogers back at RB along with QB Matt Mosquera will put some points on the board. This will be one of the most entertaining games of the evening. Middletown South will get a tough challenge from South Brunswick, but should prevail. Prediction: Middletown South wins 24-21.
J.P. Stevens (2-8) at Sayreville (2-7)–Both the Hawks and Sayreville will be looking to rebound from last year with solid efforts on opening night. J.P. Stevens was competitive last year despite being below .500. Meanwhile, Sayreville, which soundly defeated JPS in North Edison on opening night last year (42-7), is looking to begin a new chapter under new head coach, Chris Beagan, who comes from Monroe after putting the Falcons on the football map including a CJ Group III championship in 2009. The Bombers, plagued by scandal last year, had their season cancelled at all levels. Sayreville still has some quality talent coming back for the 2015 season including QB Jayson DeMild, who shined on the hardwood last year and Coray Williams and Michael Liberti at WR, and James Lopez at RB. Basketball standout, Jahsim Floyd, the younger brother of Jehyve Floyd, who is now playing hoops at Holy Cross, returns after taking a year off from the gridiron to focus on basketball. Floyd, who really improved on the hardwood this off-season, especially at the Kean Spring League, will be a big target for DeMild at receiver. Jay’von Blacknall returns at QB on offense for the Hawks while Richard Hicks, Leonard Draughn, Al Nolton, and Javon Scott help out in the skill positions. Luke Jacobi turned in a few nice plays including a scramble for a big gain in the tri-scrimmage at Highland Park. Meanwhile, Sergey Kim and Jesse Shiluli lead a group of promising sophomores that finished last year with solid victories over Marlboro and Edison. The Bombers have more experience coming back with DeMild, Williams, Liberti, and Floyd, and have a lot to prove after last year. Sayreville should get off to a good start here. Prediction: Sayreville wins, 34-14.
Carteret (8-4) at Woodbridge (7-4)–For the second straight year, the Ramblers will be facing off against the Barrons in the season opener. This time, it will be at the refurbished Priscoe Field at the campus of WHS. Last year, the Barrons, coming off a sub .500 season in 2013, gave Carteret all it could handle in the season opener at The Pit before losing 14-7. Woodbridge then lost by one to Bishop Ahr on the road (18-17) before winning 7 of their last 9 games. WHS has a lot returning including a solid junior class led by basketball standouts Quassim Glover and Keshaun Henry. Two years ago as freshmen, Woodbridge was undefeated and impressed in wins over J.F. Kennedy and Bishop Ahr. On top of that, Senior QB Tracey Fudge is also back after taking the Barrons to the North Jersey Section 2 Group IV semifinals before losing to eventual sectional champ, Phillipsburg. Carteret took a bit of a hit to graduation with the losses of standouts Brandon Gilder and Ra’Keem Bennett among others. However, the Ramblers still have Angelo Golino, who led the Ramblers to two wins last year in place of a then injured Nelson Baez at QB and Justin Taylor, who is capable of making big plays at TE. Sam Kamara returns along with Taylor and Farhan Khan to anchor the defense. This contest will be another scrapper between two neighborhood rivals. Woodbridge will use its home cooking to get a close win. Prediction: Woodbridge wins, 19-13.
Piscataway (9-2) at East Brunswick (4-6)–The Chiefs return another solid squad led by QBs Danny Haus and Kamal Stewart along with running back Elijah Barnwell into EB for an opening night GMC Red Clash with the Bears at Jay Doyle Field. East Brunswick did catch a break to get into the state playoffs last year, but sometimes a break is all you need to get things going in the right direction from a positive standpoint, and turn the tide. Last year, EB began the season with a 48-0 loss at P-Way followed by a 40-13 loss at North Brunswick. The Chiefs only lost twice last year to sectional finalists South Brunswick (CJ Group V) and Elizabeth (N2 Group V). In addition to having the likes of Haus, Barnwell, and Stewart returning, P-Way also has a fine group of sophomores coming in. Last year as freshmen, the Chiefs won the GMC Red with convincing wins over EB (30-6), Edison (43-18), and Old Bridge (24-0). EB lost several key players from last season in QB Kevin Hemmings, RB Sam Walker, and WR Sean O’Sullivan, but also have solid young talent coming up thanks to a Churchill Middle School program that has only lost one game in the last two years. With good sophomore and freshmen classes, EB is laying the ground work for bigger things beyond this year, but getting in through the front door to qualify for the state playoffs this year would be a great start. Did see Piscataway recently in a scrimmage against Middletown South, and the Chiefs were shut out (20-0) by an Eagles team that figures to be one of the best in the state this season. P-Way’s talent should be enough to get them by, but EB will be much more competitive. Prediction: Piscataway wins, 28-17.
Edison (4-6) at Monroe (6-4)–It will be a Battle of the Birds on Friday night at the Drawl in Edison as the Falcons of Monroe Township drops in for the season opener against the Eagles of EHS. MTHS is rebuilding with a new coach in Dan Lee while top players from last year such as QB Stephen Karoly, RB Akeer Franklin (Montclair State), WR David Matel-Okoh, and TE Cameron Coleman have all graduated. The Purple Birds still have some talent returning with Matt Van de Sande coming back after being at St. Joseph’s while WRs Chase Santiago and Miles Shipp return along with solid kicker Josh Wood. Meanwhile, Edison lost the likes of Joe Kim and Godwin Asamoah from a team that began the year with four straight losses before winning 4 of its last 6 to finish two games under .500. The capper to the strong finish was a explosive performance by freshman quaterback Haaziq Daniels, who completed 11 of 16 passes including 6 for TDs and 240 yards to spark a 54-13 victory over crosstown rival, J.P. Stevens on Thanksgiving. Basketball standout, Justin Turner, also brings versatility by also taking snaps at QB while also making big plays at WR. Elijah Davila, who caught two TDs against JPS on Thanksgiving, will also be a playmaker this year for the Eagles. Isaiah Hunt, Reilly Gonzalez, and Michael Diakunczak are also key returners for EHS. After losing at the Drawl three years ago (12-10), Monroe has won the last two in this series by a combined margin of 82-35. This game will be closer, but Monroe will get the edge thanks to some home cooking. Prediction: Monroe wins 27-19.
North Brunswick (2-8) at Old Bridge (6-4)–The Old Bridge Knights took a bit of a hit to graduation by losing the likes of QB Mike Gargano, RB Myles Williams, and P/K Ed Mish from last year’s squad. However, Jake Esposito and Nick Sodano return in the backfield, and Art Sitkowski, who received a scholarship offer from Rutgers during the off-season, will lead OBHS at QB. Esposito, who transferred in from St. Joseph’s a year ago, is capable of making the big play in many ways for the Knights. Old Bridge also has a solid group of sophomores led by Sitkowski. Last year, at the freshman level, GMC Gridiron saw OB three times and the Little Knights won two of those games with impressive wins over Edison and East Brunswick before losing to Piscataway. Meanwhile, North Brunswick returns with a new coach in Don Zsak, and several players from last year’s squad including QB Max Emmanuel, Zack Rowell, WR Francis Omowole, Eddie Carpenter, and Tyler Bryant. Dylan Seel will also see time at QB for the Raiders while new faces such as Jamel Davis, Isaiah and Artis Hemmingway, and Jayln Cole. Since moving up to the GMC Red several years ago, North Brunswick is 0-3 versus Old Bridge with all three losses coming by a combined score of 104-19. North Brunswick has quite a bit of experience coming back, but OB is playing at home and should get the win. Prediction: Old Bridge wins 27-17.
Bishop Ahr (4-6) at Colonia (11-1)–After a stellar season that produced a GMC White title, and a near sectional championship, Colonia lost a bit to graduation with the graduation of the likes of QB Tenny Adewusi, WR J.J. Corbett, and RB Sam Pero, but the Patriots still appear to be the favorite to win the White Division again this year. Chase Barneys returns this season, and will serve as quarterback, a position played by his older brother Trent Barneys several years ago. Bryce Barneys is also back in the backfield while Bashir Lauderdale will be a key cog at running back. Tyler Santos will be an important target at wide receiver while Solomon Manning, who recently committed to Rutgers. Colonia also has a solid group of sophomores coming up after being undefeated as freshmen a year ago. Big names to look out for from this sophomore group is Luke Pero at RB and Matt Zawacki at WR. Meanwhile, for Bishop Ahr, Tommy Galante returns at QB along with Dane Lupton at RB, and Robert Gee at WR. Colonia has not lost to Ahr since 2010, and have won the last four meetings by a combined score of 132-32. Patriots are playing at home and have too many weapons. Prediction: Colonia wins, 34-7.
St. Joseph’s (4-6) at South Plainfield (4-6)–For the second straight year, St. Joseph’s will face South Plainfield at Frank R. Jost Memorial Field to open the season. Last year, the Tigers surged in the second half behind Zaire Cone to a 35-14 victory. Both teams took a step back in 2014 after having solid campaigns in 2013 that included playoff berths. The Falcons lost Javon Hicks to graduation, but St. John Vianney transfer, Paul Cocozziello steps in to fill the void at QB. In addition, the Falcons have the likes of kicker/punter Jon Sot returning along with Nick Krimin, Luke Yakely, Roderic Carson, Joe Papa, Paul (P.J.) Barr, and Sean Mills. Freshman Duke McDuffie is a promising talent at wide receiver and in the defensive backfield while another freshman, Dylan Johnson is promising at RB. Falcon hoops player Bryan Carley brings his size up from the hardwood as well as the last year’s JV football team to help on the offensive and defensive line along with Krimin. Meanwhile, South Plainfield has several players returning from last year in QBs Patrick Waldrop and Ryan Marston, RB, WR, and QB Jason Lee, WR Josh Siegenthaler, and Justin Counts. Bernie Gonzalez is also a player to watch at scat back. The Tigers do have good talent coming up after having an undefeated JV team two years ago, and a 5-2-1 JV squad last season. In addition, the Tigers tied St. Joseph’s and defeated Woodbridge at the freshman level last year. SP also had a solid Middle School team that went undefeated including a win over Crossroads Middle School of South Brunswick in the regular season finale. The Falcons have a big advantage on both sides of the line of scrimmage with Krimin, Carley, Carson, Papa, Yakely, Barr and Mills. Combine that with the arm of Cocozziello along with the athletic ability and big play capability of McDuffie, and the Falcons will be tough to beat in this one. Waldrop, Lee, and Siegenthaler can make plays for SP. Joes gets the edge here. Prediction: St. Joseph’s wins, 28-14.
J.F. Kennedy (7-4) at New Brunswick (3-7)–For the second year in a row, New Brunswick will be opening the season against J.F. Kennedy. This time though, it will be at the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium, which has been refurbished with field turf. The Zebras with 2nd year head coach, Don Sofilkanich, will be looking to make another step in the rebuilding process after being much more competitive last season en route to a 3-7 record. Returning for the Zebras are RBs Maurice Ffrench and Samad Davila, Carlos Hernandez and at WR, and Mohammed Bangura at T/OLB. Jahbree Jeffery takes the helm at QB with Trevon Blakey transferring to South Brunswick. He will have a big target in newcomer Kadas Reams at wideout. Meanwhile, the Mustangs of Kennedy, which reached the North Jersey Section 2 Group IV semifinals last year, took some hits to graduation last year, particularly in the receiving core with the departures of Terrance Young and Stepp Ogziebe. JFK still has Andrew Roberts back at QB, and a talented junior class that includes back up QB Kyle Heaney that only lost one game as freshmen two years ago. Brandon Redd, Mark Rudolf, Heaney will try to help pick up the slack on offense at WR. New Brunswick will have to find a way to stop Roberts, who had a hand in all six JFK TDs in the opening round playoff win over West Morris (42-14) last year. Last year when these teams played, NBHS gave JFK all it could handle before losing (24-21) despite the Mustangs huge amount of firepower. This year, expect another close one at Bartha Field. Prediction: J.F. Kennedy wins, 21-20.
Perth Amboy (3-7) at Middletown North (6-4)–On opening night, Perth Amboy will travel to Middletown North to take on the Lions in the other GMC-Shore crossover for week one. Last year, these two teams met in Amboy will Middletown North winning 40-0. However, by the end of last season, the Panthers were a much better team winning 3 of its last 4 games. In addition, GMC Gridirion had a chance to see PAHS play in a quad-scrimmage at Franklin High School back on August 26th. Perth Amboy played competitively against Roselle and Barringer, losing both exhibitions by an 18-12 margin, but demonstrated that it could move the ball on offense. Defensively, PAHS struggled, especially with giving up big plays in the air. With all of that said, improvement should continue for Amboy. Freshmen Tahjmere O’Neal will lead the offense at QB while a trio of running backs: Deonte Freeman, Deyonte McMillan, and Hakeem Gunthrie complete the backfield. Quincy Hannah, a standout on the basketball court at PAHS and Shaquan Fullwood look to make plays for PAHS at WR. Meanwhile, Middletown North, which moves into North Jersey Section 2 Group IV along with its crosstown rival, Middletown South, is led by Brandon Kube at WR and FS. The Panthers will play a more competitive game this time around against the Lions, but Middletown North will prevail. Prediction: Middletown North wins, 31-14.
GMC Gridiron will be at Columbia Park in Dunellen for the GMC Blue season opener between Dunellen and Spotswood.
GMC Gridiron Game Capsules–Week One–Saturday Afternoon
Two GMC Blue Games Close Out Opening Week Schedule
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–The opening weekend of the 2015 Greater Middlesex Conference varsity football schedule will conclude with just two games involving GMC Blue teams. Metuchen will travel to South River while Middlesex will host Highland Park. The Bulldogs of Metuchen appear to be the early favorite by most to win the Blue Division while Middlesex is projected to be somewhere in the top three. South River, led by Mario Nigro and Khylil Everett look to bounce back this year after key early season injuries derailed a promising year last season. Highland Park, led by Nasir Boykins, Dylan Boynton, and Ogemdi Nwadike, is looking to improve and be more competitive again. Below are game capsules on the two games (last year’s record in parentheses):
Metuchen (6-4) at South River (4-6)–Last year when these two teams met, the Rams came into the opening weekend clash reeling after the loss of Doug Ryan to injury in a pre-season scrimmage. South River, which had been a pre-season favorite to win the Blue as well as a contender to win CJ Group I scrapped as best as it could, but ultimately fell in a shutout loss on the road to the Bulldogs (9-0). This year, roles are somewhat reversed with Metuchen coming into the contest as the GMC Blue pre-season favorite, but without standout receiver, Evan Collier, who recently transferred to David Brearley Regional in Kenilworth. With the likes of tight-end and defensive end Devin Miller, offensive and defensive tackle Fabian Maragh, wide receiver Shamar Serieux, RB Pete DiMeglio, and QB’s Jake Leibovits and Tyler Firgau returning, Metuchen looks tough to beat. The Rams will counter with the likes of Mario Nigro returning, but now as QB along with Khylil Everett, who is back at RB. South River, which scrimmaged Brearley on August 28th, also sports a talented freshman class as well. Metuchen should have enough to get by in this one. Prediction: Metuchen wins, 27-13.
Highland Park (1-9) at Middlesex (8-3)–Highland Park didn’t win a game in GMC Blue play last year, and finished the season with a lopsided loss at home to Metuchen. However, the Owls did manage to notch a win in a consolation game against Wallington of North Jersey. Meanwhile, Middlesex put together its best season since 2008, which included a victory on Thanksgiving over Route 28 rival, Dunellen at Columbia Park. This year, Highland Park has nowhere to go, but up, and the Owls look to have every intention to improve. In a recent tri-scrimmage with J.P. Stevens and Bernards, the Owls were quite competitive. After having a solid run of playoff appearances, and a couple sectional final berths led by the likes of Nate Smith and Quawi Batchelor, Highland Park had to rebuild with youngsters, but these youngsters, which include QB Ryan O’Shea, RB Ogemdi Nwadike, RB Nasir Boykins, FB Dylan Boynton, and WRs Justin Sims and Noah Pointer are coming of age now. HPHS moved the ball quite well against both Bernards and Stevens in the tri-scrimmage on August 27th. Both Boykins and Boynton turned in nice runs against Stevens on HP’s final drive of the scrimmage and Boykins turned a dump off screen pass into a long TD. QB A.J. Abate and RB Anthony Marshall return to lead the Blue Jays along with the likes of seniors such as basketball standout Ryan Coke at RB. The Jays also have a solid group returning on the offensive line with the likes of Jack Sweeney, Kevin Ambicki, and Bernal Murillo, Joe Choukair, Garry Joaquim, and Nick Del Negro. Middlesex gets the edge at home, but HP will battle in this one. Prediction: Middlesex wins, 21-19.