Bears Have Already Matched Win Totals of Last Two Seasons
EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—It has been over a decade since the East Brunswick Bears won the Central Jersey Group 4 crown over Brick Memorial at The College of New Jersey. It has almost been as long since the Bears have enjoyed a winning season. Following its sectional championship in 2009, East Brunswick finished 6-4 in 2010. The Bears have not been better than .500 since.
However, under the guidance of 3rd year head coach, Andy Steinfeld, EB has been making some strides. Each season, Steinfeld’s teams have won at least 4 games including this season. Last season, the Bears had its first non-losing season since 2010 at 4-4 despite the problems of playing during the COVID pandemic. This season, East Brunswick has won 4 of its first 5 games with its only defeat being a 27-24 loss to Old Bridge, ranked 3rd in BCG’s Middlesex County Top 10, and 7th in the Big Central Gridiron Top 10.
A win over Monroe on Saturday at Franklin High School would give the Bears the most wins in a season since the 2010 campaign and surpass win totals of 2014, 2019, and 2020. East Brunswick has an opportunity to qualify for the South Group 5 State Playoffs. Currently ranked 15th in the South Jersey Group 5 super section, the Bears could leapfrog Edison and have a chance to eventually pass South Brunswick, a team they are scheduled to play at home on October 22nd.
The team’s success has not come without obstacles. So far this season, EB has yet to play a home game. East Brunswick has played two games at Sayreville, a contest at Old Bridge, and this week it will host Monroe at Franklin High School. In a year that began with such enthusiasm for the senior members of the EB football team, it has been tempered by an unplayable Jay Doyle Field due to the heavy rains from Tropical Storm Henri and the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
Nevertheless, the team has demonstrated tremendous determination in not letting the issue of being unable to play at Jay Doyle Field prevent it from accomplishing its goals and making a run at the Big Central Conference Division 5C title and a state playoff berth. So far this season, the Bears have outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 165 to 56, or an average of 33 to 11 per game.
East Brunswick, which is currently riding a four game winning streak, has won all four of its games by a combined margin of 141-29, or an average of 35 to 7. The Bears have limited their last three opponents to no more than 9 points. Junior QB Ben Solimini has led the way by rushing for 381 yards on 42 carries, or an average of 9.1 yards per rush along with 6 TDs while completing 15 of 38 pass attempts for another 196 yards and 3 TDs while only throwing one interception.
Senior RB Nori Smith has also been an important contributor with 48 carries for 359 yards and 5 TDs while catching one pass for 21 yards and another TD. Jayden Phillip has chipped in as well with 11 carries for 225 yards, and 2 TDs as well as 2 receptions for 46 yards. Gianfranco Deguida has rushed 27 times for 180 yards and a TD.
James Sparrow leads the team in receptions with 4 and receiving yards with 67 along with a TD. On defense, Romeo Diaz leads the Bears in total tackles with 38 including 25 solo tackles, 7 for loss, and 2 sacks. Kraig Wade leads the squad in sacks with 3 while Sparrow also has EB’s only two interceptions. Deguida and Phillip lead the team in kickoff and punt return yardage while kicker Jeff Podolsky has made one of two FG attempts and all 22 of its extra points.
Through its first 5 games, East Brunswick’s running game has already racked up 1225 yards on 155 carries, or about 7.9 yards per rush. EB’s offense has totaled 1421 yards in 193 plays, or an average of 7.4 yards per play. The Bears have been a fast starting team by scoring the bulk of their points in the first half. East Brunswick has scored 130 points over the first two quarters. EB has scored 91 points in the first quarter, 39 points in the 2nd quarter, and 14 points in the 3rd and 21 points in the 4th quarter.
The success of this season has been in the making. Two years ago, BCG, then GMC Gridiron, took in a JV contest between East Brunswick and South Brunswick at EB’s alternate turf field on September 28, 2019. In perhaps the best JV game of the year, the JV Bears rallied to defeat South Brunswick in a game that went down to the final play. East Brunswick is now back to respectability.