BCG Game Preview—Hamilton @ Monroe—September 17, 2021

Falcons Looking to Roll to Third Straight Victory

MONROE, NJ—On Friday night, Big Central Gridiron will travel down to Monroe Township and Hugh P. Walsh Stadium to see the hometown Falcons in action in a non-conference game versus Hamilton of Mercer County and the West Jersey Football League.  This will be the fifth game this season that BCG has covered involving a school from the WJFL.  In Week 0, BCG covered four games between Big Central and WJFL teams in the Battle at the Beach.

The Monroe Falcons enter Week 3 of the New Jersey High School Football season flying high.  The Purple City Bird Gang sits currently at 2-0 with dominant wins over Franklin (52-20) and J.P. Stevens (69-6).  The Falcons have outscored their opponents by an average of 61-13 per game thus far.  Monroe is currently ranked 5th in the latest BCG Middlesex County Top 10.  Although MTHS lost a good deal of talent from last season’s team such as QB Aidan McLaughlin (Montclair State), Jagger Agnew (Montclair State), Kyle Degaw, and Zach Seppi, but it still has a good deal of talent back.

Returning are seniors Tyler Scott, Luca Farinola, Anthony Patti, and John Saloom along with juniors Christian Updale, Chris Chaves, Benjamin Bussiere, Aidan Lane, Anthony Mount, and QB Riley Piscitelli.  The current junior class is very good.  Two years ago as freshmen, the current crop of juniors won the GMC Red at the frosh level by defeating the likes of South Brunswick and Old Bridge on the road.  Piscitelli, the leader of that junior class at QB, and taking the reins of the offense from McLaughlin, is off to a very solid start for the Falcons.

Over the first two games of the 2021 season, Piscitelli has completed 28 of 36 passes for 409 yards and 9 touchdowns.  He is averaging 14.6 yards per completion.  In the opening weekend win over Franklin, Piscitelli completed 18 of 26 passes for 236 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Then, last week versus J.P. Stevens in a BCC Division 5C clash, Piscitelli was a perfect 10 of 10 for 173 yards and 5 more scores.  Piscitelli has a plethora of weapons to work with on offense.

From the likes of running backs Updale and Scott to receivers Chaves and Bussiere, Monroe’s offense is loaded with talent.  A year ago Scott rushed 98 times for 522 yards, or about 5.3 yards per carry along with 7 touchdowns.  Updale rushed 17 times for 98 yards and 4 TDs.  Chaves, meanwhile, is filling the void left behind by Agnew and Degaw.  Over the first two contests, Chaves has pulled in 7 catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns.  In addition, Bussiere has caught 10 passes for 198 yards and 7 touchdowns.

In the opening day contest versus Franklin, Bussiere had a tremendous game with 7 catches for 113 yards, or a little more than 16 yard per catch, and 4 touchdowns.  He also added a 95 yard kickoff return for another score while accounting for 145 total yards on two kickoff returns.  Chaves also has been a huge contributor on defense with 4 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and an interception in the Falcons win over Franklin.  

On top of having a solid kick returner in Bussiere on special teams, Monroe also has a solid kicking game with placekicker Alexander Moses.  Through the first two games, Moses has compiled 19 points on 1 of 2 field goals made, and 16 of 17 extra points made.  On the defensive side, Lane, who along with Piscitelli and senior Ryan Zurawiecki, play on the boys basketball team, had an interception against Franklin.  Zurawiecki, who played very well for the Falcons boys basketball team en route to their championship at the 2021 Bound Brook Summer League, plays tackle and defensive end.

Coached by Dan Lee, who is in his 9th season at the helm in Monroe, the Falcons have been ascending in the BCC Division 5C going back to the days when it was the GMC Red.  After winning the GMC White and Central Jersey Group 3 under Pat Dowling in 2009, the Falcons moved up to the Red Division in 2010, and took its share of lumps for a while.  Monroe particularly struggled against the likes of Old Bridge, Piscataway, Sayreville, and South Brunswick.  Within the past few seasons, however, the Falcons have closed the gap.

The last two meetings with Old Bridge, the Falcons have only lost by a combined total of 8 points including their last loss on opening day of the 2020 season (21-14).  Monroe also beat South Brunswick in Viking Country (35-10) last season.  The development of Monroe’s program in recent years has helped heat up the rivalries with the Knights and Vikings, both neighborhood foes.  All three schools are currently in the BCG Middlesex County Top 10, and are contenders for the title in BCC’s Division 5C.

Monroe has also had a good recent history of solid quarterbacks with the likes of Alex Vizcaino, Stephen Karoly, Dylan Gorhan, Fritz Frage, Aidan McLaughlin, and now Piscitelli.  Other notable players in the recent history of the program include Blake Bascom, Frank Ruopoli, Xavier Selby, Matt Stolte, Akeer Franklin, Matt Van de Sande, Mason Shipp, Cameron Coleman, Carlton Coleman, and Jaroni Coats.  The Hamilton West team the Falcons will be facing is 1-1 on the year after going 3-1 last season with the three wins coming after a 23-20 opening weekend loss to Notre Dame.

Playing in the WJFL’s Capitol League, the Hornets lost their opener against Burlington Township, 43-6 before rebounding to defeat Trenton, 27-6 last weekend.  Sophomore quarterback, Yandel Vargas leads the team in passing with a 50 percent completion rate for 93 yards while senior Andy Figueroa sparks the ground game with 165 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.  Joe Laezza and Xavier Edwards are also contributors to the running game with Edwards rushing 16 times for 66 yards and 2 TDs while Laezza has rushed 15 times for 88 yards and 1 TD.

Figueroa (2 receptions for 29 yards), Laezza, Christian Patterson, and Maurice Williams also contribute in the passing game with a combined total of 6 receptions for 88 yards.  As a team, Hamilton has rushed 64 times for 347 yards and 4 TDs.  Laezza leads the team in tackles with 13 while Sebastian Lacroix leads the team in sacks with 2.  Zachary Howland has made 3 of 5 extra point attempts.

Prediction:  Monroe wins 42-13.