Bulldogs solid on gridiron despite missing state playoffs

By JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

Before closing the book on the fall high school season, it’s worth looking back at some of the more notable accomplishments by area teams.

Arguably the top performance by a football team was the one by Metuchen High School, which didn’t even qualify for the state playoffs. The Bulldogs put together a 7-3 record, led by a dominant defense that pitched four shutouts and a productive offense that scored 40 or more points in five victories.

The one hiccup that cost Metuchen a Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division title and a berth in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I playoffs was a heartbreaking, 27-24 loss to Spotswood High School Nov. 7.

Still, Bob Ulmer, whose third season in his second stint as coach is now complete, was proud of how his team performed, especially a special group of seniors who willingly switched positions for the sake of improving the team’s effectiveness on both sides of the ball.

Trevor Figau, who split quarterback duty with Jake Lebovitz last year, became Metuchen’s feature running back and eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the final game of the season, a 49-19 victory against traditional rival Highland Park High School. Lebovitz responded as fulltime quarterback by nearly doubling his completions (52) in addition to handling the signalcalling duties.

Finally, Peter DiMeglio, an undersized fullback, assumed the position after a successful offseason in the weight room and proved to be a solid blocker and excellent cornerback on defense. He punctuated his career with three interceptions in the Highland Park victory.

Ulmer also had high praise for lineman Fabian Maragh, who was dominant on both sides of the ball, and Jarrett Sims, who was a physical presence at linebacker after being out the entire season a year ago.

With those seniors playing their last games, Metuchen will be faced with filling huge holes, and Ulmer admits it will be a tough task. However, he will have back junior Trevor Miller, one of the top players in the state. The junior was on the field nearly every play at tight end and linebacker, but

Ulmer said he is looking at putting Miller in positions where he gets more touches and can take advantage of his explosiveness.

Another quality returning player is junior Justin Briggs, who was moved from free safety to linebacker, a move Ulmer says made him an even more effective player.

Also back for his fourth season is Ulmer.

“Our principal, Bruce Peragallo, came to me three years ago and asked if I would take over the program,” Ulmer said. “We went 4- 6 the first year and 6-4 last season. This year’s record is a testament not only to the players but our coaching staff who really developed the program into what it has become.”

Two other area football teams finished the season with victories at the expense of their rivals. St. Joseph High School of Metuchen earned a 35-0 victory over Bishop George Ahr High School Nov. 21 to finish with a 4-5 record in the White Division. The Trojans, also a White Division team but scheduled to move to the Blue Division next year, ended the campaign at 4-6 and have yet to defeat St. Joe’s in the four times the teams have met.

In the annual Thanksgiving Day clash between Edison High School and J.P. Stevens High School, the Eagles prevailed, 35-21, to finish with a 4-6 record. The Hawks ended with a 1-9 mark.

Metuchen was also in the spotlight for the performance of its other fall sports teams. The boys and girls soccer teams made it to their respective sectional finals, while the boys and girls cross-country teams also had success in the state group meets. The Bulldogs’ boys captured the Group I title, while the girls finished fourth in the team standings.

In the state individual gymnastics meet Nov. 14, Bishop Ahr freshman Ariyana Agarwala tied for first place on the uneven bars (9.65), finished tied for sixth in the allaround competition (37.725) and tied for fifth in the floor exercise (9.575). J.P. Stevens’ Shannon Gregory placed ninth in the all-around competition (37.625).