Giraldo eager for 1st season as Huskies’ hoops coach



John Giraldo could not wait until the start of high school basketball practices with him serving as the new head coach at Matawan Regional High School.

“It’s fantastic; things are going well. I can’t be any happier than I am now,” Giraldo said.

The coach is never at a loss for adrenalin going back to his playing days at Marist High School in Bayonne and Monmouth University, where he scored 1,749 career points and finished first in steals and second in assists at the NCAA Division I school. He played on the 1995-96 team that earned the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament.

“We have kids who can shoot the ball and run up and down the court and who are quick,” Giraldo said. “We’re not going to out-physical or be bigger than most teams.”

Giraldo succeeds longtime Matawan coach Tom Stead, who stepped down to become director of athletics at Lakewood High School. Stead coached the Huskies to their finest season two years ago with a program-best 24-5 record and their first NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II title since 1957 behind Jason Dunne, who went on to a college career at the University of Hartford.

Only one starter, Mergim Gyjrigi, returns from last year’s team that went 15- 12 and lost, 50-47, to Manasquan High School in the Central Jersey, Group II semifinals. Sharp-shooting guard Joe Piscopo is the top player who graduated.

“We’re finding our niche, getting guys who can shoot the ball good looks,” said Giraldo, whose season opener is 6:45 p.m. Dec. 18 hosting Neptune High School.

The Huskies had a tri-scrimmage with Lakewood and Notre Dame High School Dec. 7. They had home scrimmages against Barnegat High School Dec. 10 and Governor Livingston High School Dec. 12, followed by a road scrimmage against Freehold Township High School Dec. 15.

“I want to make sure they’re competing all the time,” Giraldo said. “It’s a high-energy team where every play is fast paced.”

Gyjrigi, a 6-foot-3 senior, scored nine points per game last year, but Giraldo said he likes that he has stepped forward to a leadership role after playing in the shadows of Piscopo and Dunne, who starred on the section championship team. Giraldo said he is happy how the players developed while in a fall league in Linden that included teams from the Patrick School in Elizabeth, Snyder High School in Jersey City and Roselle Catholic High School, where Giraldo was an assistant coach the past eight seasons. Roselle Catholic reached the Tournament of Champions the last three years, winning the overall title this past season and two years before that.

Giraldo also played on Marist’s team that advanced to the 1992 Tournament of Champions finals, losing, 46-42, to Shawnee High School. Marist was ranked No. 3 in the nation in USA Today at the time.

Giraldo’s teams that reached the Tournament of Champions as player and coach beat nationally acclaimed St. Anthony High School to win the Non-Public B title all four times to get to the state showcase.

He also played internationally in five different countries: Colombia (Piratas of Bogota and Paisas of Medellin), where he was a three-time MVP; Venezuela (Trotamundos of Valencia); Portugal (Ginasio of Figuera de Foz); Germany (Poco Izerlohn); and Argentina (Obras Sanitaria). It gave him the experience he used toward his coaching career and the importance of being committed to hard work.

Now he is trying to guide Matawan’s players to understand the commitment needed to compete at that level.

It starts with Gyjrigi, a power forward who can hit the jump shot, rebound and handle the ball.

“[He is] an extremely good shooter with good basketball IQ who can fill in for a lot of spots,” the coach said.

Randy Myers, a 6-foot-3 senior forward with high energy and good rebounding ability, is expected to contribute. Junior Pat Hennessey is a good shooter who will be asked to play an expanded role along with 6-foot-2 sophomore Reggie Towiah and 6- foot-2 sophomore guard Michael Dunne, Jason’s brother.

Giraldo said Michael Dunne can shoot but has to learn to play on the varsity level.

Sophomore Zaire Jackson is extremely quick at the point guard spot, Giraldo said. Joe Bueckers, a 6-foot-4 junior forward, is the tallest player.

“We’ll look to be extremely aggressive on defense because we have extremely good guards who can put on the pressure,” Giraldo said.

Mike Pelkey remains as varsity assistant and junior varsity coach and John Saffiano is freshman coach.

Eagles cap perfect football season with state crown


 Middletown High School South’s Cole Rogers (27) sprints by Phillipsburg High School defenders during the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section II, Group IV final at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. Rogers scored a pair of touchdowns in the 35-7 victory on Dec. 5 that completed a perfect 12-0 season for the Eagles.  RICH GRAESSLE Middletown High School South’s Cole Rogers (27) sprints by Phillipsburg High School defenders during the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section II, Group IV final at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. Rogers scored a pair of touchdowns in the 35-7 victory on Dec. 5 that completed a perfect 12-0 season for the Eagles. RICH GRAESSLE Middletown High School South’s football team silenced any skeptics of its consensus No. 1 state ranking.

The Eagles roared to a four-touchdown lead after three quarters and went on to a 35- 7 victory in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section II, Group IV final over Phillipsburg High School at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford Dec. 5 to cap a 12-0 season.

Phillipsburg, which won this title the past two years, ended 9-3.

Add to that the team outscored its 12 opponents by a combined 492-89, and there is little room for argument to Middletown South’s No. 1 ranking in New Jersey.

It was Rogers and Rogers on both sides of the ball, as Cole Rogers rushed for 155 yards on 27 carries and scored three touchdowns, while twin brother Dylan Rogers sealed off Phillipsburg’s run game at linebacker, along with a smothering defensive rush up front, and also harassed Phillipsburg’s quarterbacks. Middletown South outrushed Phillipsburg, 175 yards to 109.

It was Middletown South’s first state championship since 2006 and 10th overall. It fell short in last year’s title game to Jackson Memorial High School, 21-18.

Middletown South struck quickly within the first minute of the championship game on Cole Rogers’ 6-yard touchdown run, set up by Jeff Lewandowski’s 79-yard kickoff return. Jeremy Joyce made a leaping grab of a 28-yard touchdown pass on fourth down from quarterback Matt Mosquera for his only catch of the game and his second touchdown reception of the season in the second quarter, giving Middletown South a 14-0 lead at halftime.

Mosquera passed for 109 yards.

James McCarthy ended a Phillipsburg threat at Middletown South’s 26-yard line early in the third quarter with an interception that led to a 9-yard touchdown run by Cole Rogers. Mosquera ran 4 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and Tom Marron capped the scoring with a 7-yard run to the end zone in the fourth to securely tuck away coach Steve Antonucci’s most resounding victory in his tenure as Middletown South coach.

It also established a legacy that may never be matched, left behind by the senior class that included Dylan and Cole Rogers and Mosquera, who kicked all five extra points to finish at 59 of 61 PATs on the season. Mosquera also threw 18 touchdown passes and 1,485 yards on the season.

Cole Rogers finished the season with 1,586 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns despite missing a game with a shoulder injury. His efforts were helped by the blocking of an offensive line that included tackles Tom Lopez and Bob Burke, guards Mike Wilson and Adam Markmann and center Joe Rutkowski, who is the only senior of the group. It was also the final game for Marron and two-way standouts Spencer Pereless and Tom Coffey.

Phillipsburg’s Manny Romero spoiled Middletown South’s shutout bid in the championship game when he ran 14 yards for a touchdown.

McCarthy, who had two interceptions in the championship game, anchors a nucleus of returnees with his play at running back, where he rushed for 15 touchdowns and just under 600 yards, and at linebacker, where he is joined next season by fellow junior Kevin Higgins. Also returning are defensive back Maxx Imsho and wideouts Samson Dube and Joyce

Along with the state crown, Middletown South won its first Shore Conference A North Division title since 2009 (17th overall) with a 39-0 victory on Thanksgiving over Middletown High School North.

Politz raised bar high for future Lancers gymnasts

Staff Writer

Kristen Politz knew she only had one chance to leave her mark in high school gymnastics.

St. John Vianney High School fielded a varsity team for the first time this fall, affording Politz, a senior, an opportunity to prove she is one of the best in the state. The Lancers’ standout turned out to be the best.

Politz captured the all-around championship at the NJSIAA individual state championship meet Nov. 14 at Montgomery High School. Politz’s score of 38.525 edged her teammate, Ari Agrapides (38.500), for the most prestigious title in the sport. She also won the floor exercise state title scoring 9.8 with her routine.

“It was a one-time chance. I had to put it all out there,” Politz said. “[The all-around title] was a goal of mine, and I’m happy to achieve it. “I knew I had to be clean and consistent.” She placed in the top five in all four events. In addition to the floor exercise victory, she tied for second on the vault (9.725), placed fourth on the beam (9.525) and tied for fifth on the uneven bars (9.525). Politz noted that it was her solid effort on the bars, which was her first event of the competition, that got her started on the right foot. From there, she was on a roll.

Politz credited putting more energy into her floor exercise routine with helping her win that state championship in the event.

The state all-around crown completed an extraordinary season for Politz, who was undefeated in the championship meets. She was the all-around champion at the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Central Jersey, Section I championships en route to the state finals. Her mark of 38.725 at the sectional was the highest score of the year.

Politz gained further momentum at the state team championships Nov. 12, when she had the highest all-around score to lead the Lancers to second place behind Red Bank Catholic High School (112.925- 112.650), which won its second straight NJSIAA crown. Politz pointed out it was important because she was able to get used to the equipment at Montgomery.

Those meets gave Politz confidence heading to Montgomery, but it also put the pressure on her as the favorite.

She said the way she handles pressure is to pretend she’s at practice.

To prepare for the season, Politz, who lives in Marlboro and competes for Rebound Gymnastics, got herself up to date on the rules and requirements for high school gymnastics — compared to club gymnastics.

“I changed my routine a lot,” she said.

As impressive as Politz’s season was, St. John Vianney’s was just as stunning. The Lancers finished second at the NJSIAA Team Championships, also at Montgomery, in their debut season. Their season-high score of 113.225 (at the state sectional) was extraordinary. It’s higher than most established successful programs have ever scored.

For Politz, who is headed to Penn State University, being a part of her school team was added incentive to excel.

“[The team] definitely helps to have people motivate you,” she said. “You are competing for your team.”

Politz was the team captain, and she took the leadership role seriously, doing everything she could to encourage and help her teammates.

The result was a surprise second-place finish at the state finals.

That result, along with Politz and Agrapides finishing first and second in the all-around competition, put the Lancers on the map.

“The one-two [punch in the all-around] was great for the program,” Politz said.

Politz set the bar very high for a program that is just starting off.

Late touchdown wins Rockets Central Jersey Group II title



Raritan High School, after stumbling into the NJSIAA football playoffs, stunned previously undefeated Lincoln High School with a last-minute touchdown to win its first state championship since 2004.

Facing a fourth-and-9 with 10 seconds before the final whistle, the Rockets surged back in front when quarterback Marc Carnivale found Nick Pasquin for an 11-yard touchdown pass that gave Raritan a 28-26 win and the Central Jersey, Group II title.

The Rockets (7-5) lost five straight games on the heels of the states. Still, they weren’t surprised by their late-season turnaround, head coach Anthony Petruzzi said.

“We weren’t happy with the way we went into the playoffs, but it’s about who you play and not necessarily the outcomes,” he said, referring to Raritan’s tough schedule. “We’ve been down before, but we learned from those mistakes. Our imperfection was really our ultimate strength.”

Pasquin’s touchdown capped a thrilling sectional final Dec. 5 at Kean University in Union.

The sixth-seeded Rockets took a 21-6 lead late in the third quarter after Pasquin, the hero on both sides of the field for Raritan, picked off a pass and returned it 35 yards to the end zone.

Lincoln (11-1) took charge of the game on the next possession, as Lions running back Kamani Addison scored his second of two touchdowns on the night. Lincoln was successful on the two-point conversion to pull within one score, 21-14, at the conclusion of the third quarter.

Quarterback Zymire Gordon crossed the goal line again on a fourth-and-3 play at the 9:23 mark in the fourth quarter. Lincoln went for two points but could not convert. Later, a 50-yard touchdown pass from Gordon to wide receiver Jason Harrison handed the top-seeded Lions their first advantage at 26-21.

Raritan’s defense rose to the occasion, making a huge stop to give the offense one more chance. The Lions fumbled the snap on fourth down and passed the momentum back to the Rockets, who proceeded to march down the field on the game-winning drive.

The Central Jersey, Group II championship is a huge boost for the program. The Rockets entered the states with a losing record, but they ultimately prevailed with three upset victories on their way to the title.

“We have to keep things going in a positive direction. Winning a championship certainly helps,” Petruzzi said. “Winning is a byproduct of doing things the right way.”

The Rockets also got a lift from recovering two onside kicks in the second half that kept the ball out of Lincoln’s hands. Petruzzi had said special teams would play a critical role in the sectional championship because the Lions had an explosive return game. For Raritan, the reward outweighed the risk, and the daring calls paid off.

On offense, Raritan continued to sport a formidable ground game with senior running back Derek Ernst amassing 144 yards on 35 carries in his final game as a Rocket.


DePaul Catholic High School spoiled St. John Vianney High School’s bid for a perfect season, defeating the Lancers, 40-17, in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group III finals.

The championship game was played Dec. 5 at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions Stadium.

The Spartans, seeded seventh, broke open a tight game, scoring 20 unanswered points.

Anthony Brown’s 6-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter lifted top-seeded St. John Vianney to within a field goal of the Spartans at 20-17. However, De- Paul responded with a 61-yard scoring drive capped by Kareem Walker’s 7-yard run to push the lead to, 27-17.

Nasir Hooker scored on runs of 34 and 2 yards in the fourth quarter to put the game away for the Spartans (6-6). Brown passed for 244 yards and a touchdown — 21 yards to Marc Ellington — in the loss.

Chris Chukwuneke was the best defensive player on the field. The Lancers’ standout had 15 total tackles, 12 of which were solo stops.

The Lancers, champions of the Shore Conference A Central Division, finished the year at 11-1.

It was a big year for Lancers football as St. John Vianney signaled a changing of the guard in Shore football among the Non-Public schools. The Lancers thrashed defending state champion Red Bank Catholic High School, 49-6, in the state semifinals.


Trenton will be the motorsports entertainment epicenter with the nation’s most competitive monster trucks as they invade the Sun National Bank Center Feb. 12 and 13. See these incredible 10,000-pound, carcrushing giants compete in Racing and Wheelie Contests, and then rock the house with amazing Freestyle Action during the Monster X Tour.

Tickets and Pit Party Passes are available online at, by phone at 1-800-298-4200 or in person at the Sun National Bank Center box office. Group discounts are available by calling 609-656-3234. Ticket prices will increase $2 day of show.

The Central Jersey Umpire Association is looking for men and women who enjoy baseball and would like to make extra money. The group has many games on weekends, weeknights and weekdays from 7U to summer college level.

Cadet training for 2016 will begin in February. Call or email Ron Marino for more info at 732-829-8036 or Experienced umpires wanted as well.

Running away in first

 STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Christian Brothers Academy’s (CBA) Blaise Ferro, who is seen here placing second at the Meet of Champions on Nov. 21 at Holmdel Park, won the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional Nov. 28 at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls, New York. The senior clocked 15:45.90 for the 5K course. The meet was a qualifier for the Dec. 5 Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon. CBA finished second at the regional, grabbing one of the two automatic qualifying places. CBA last won the national title in 2011.

Rockets one win away from state football title


Raritan High School’s roller coaster of a football season is about to enter its apex.

The Rockets have come a long way since their five-game losing streak leading up to the NJSIAA tournament. A strong defense and a prolific running game spearheaded by Derek Ernst carried the Rockets to back-to-back upset victories, putting Raritan in the Central Jersey, Group II championship game against top-seeded Lincoln High School (11-0) of Jersey City.

Raritan (6-5), a team that was winless for more than a month when the playoffs began, now has a state title within arm’s reach. The sixth-seeded Rockets will play Lincoln at Kean University Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. to decide who takes home the championship trophy.

“We got a second chance in the state playoffs, and we’re trying to make the most of it,” head coach Anthony Petruzzi said. “Winning helps inspire more belief.”

The remarkable turnaround started in the quarterfinals against fellow Shore Conference program Point Pleasant Borough High School, which managed just one scoring drive as the Rockets advanced, 17-7.

Then came a semifinals matchup with Delaware Valley Regional High School. Ernst exploded for 217 yards and three touchdowns to lead the offensive attack, while the defense again rose to the occasion in a 42-13 blowout.

And to add a little icing to the cake, Raritan won a Thanksgiving Day game sandwiched between the state tournament rounds. The Rockets had another big day on offense at Holmdel High School, where they raced to a 24-0 lead at halftime. Ernst took MVP honors with 172 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries, propelling the Rockets past the Hornets, 46-25. A 56-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Marc Carnivale to senior Jordan Smith helped Raritan pull away following a second half comeback attempt by Holmdel.

Raritan has succeeded where most teams would crumble. The Rockets got back on track even after a string of five consecutive defeats that culminated in a demoralizing loss to Monmouth Regional High School, 30-21. But the team never lost its way entirely. “People might give me weird looks when I say we played well during those five losses (which included a game against stillundefeated Red Bank Regional High School),” Petruzzi said. “After those four heartbreakers, we didn’t have what it took to get back up against Monmouth.”

Still, the rough stretch did not change Raritan’s outlook for the postseason.

“In that five-game span, we never started to think we didn’t have enough to win a state championship,” Petruzzi said.

Raritan has one more hill to climb: defeating Lincoln. Petruzzi believes a third upset in the state playoffs will require winning the turnover ratio. The Rockets need to force turnovers and secure the ball on offense, he said.

Special teams will also be crucial because Lincoln has some weapons in the return game.

“They have guys who can score whenever they touch the ball,” Petruzzi said.

“Lincoln is a tough team. They have been handling their business. But we can’t worry too much about what they’re thinking. We have to play to our strengths, and we have to play our best to win.”

Other Shore Conference teams in action

In addition to Raritan, Shore Conference teams are competing for other state titles this week.

Middletown High School South takes on Phillipsburg High School for the North Jersey, II, Group III championship Dec. 5 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. Game time is 7 p.m.

Red Bank Regional faces Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School for the Central Jersey, Group III championship at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers University Dec. 5, with kickoff at 7 p.m.

The Central Jersey, Group I title game is a matchup between Shore Regional High School and Palmyra High School scheduled for 4 p.m. at Kean University, Union.

St. John Vianney High School goes for the Non-Public Group III title Dec. 5 at Rutgers against DePaul Catholic High School of Wayne at 10 a.m.

Eagles look to cap unbeaten season with state football title


Unbeaten Middletown High School South has been the top football team throughout the season and will look to stay that way at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford as it searches for its sixth playoff championship — its first since 2006 — when it plays Phillipsburg High School, which has won the last two NJSIAA North Jersey, II, Group IV titles.

The Eagles carry an 11-0 record and their first Shore Conference A North Division championship since 2009 (17th overall) after dominating Middletown High School North, 39-16, on their home field on Thanksgiving Day. It was a fitting encore to Middletown South’s state semifinal playoff victory over the same Middletown North team, 41-14, Nov. 20. Middletown South leads the holiday series, 26-11-1, after its 15th straight victory over the Lions.

As for upcoming opponent Phillipsburg, Middletown South coach Steve Antonucci sees comparisons to his club.

“They’re much like our program — a traditional program,” Antonucci said.

Middletown North coach Steve Bush said Middletown South is good on both sides of the ball.

“Their defense is excellent with good coverage and can run the ball well,” he said. “They’re big and strong up front, and the quarterback is efficient. They’re solid on special teams with a great kicker who can put you back in a hole.

“They’ve dominated everybody they’ve played. I’d be surprised if they don’t win this one.”

Phillipsburg (9-2) comes off a 26-0 loss to rival EastonHigh School, with its other loss being a 31-28 setback to undefeated Bridgewater-Raritan High School Sept. 18.

Middletown North, meanwhile, also had a chance to win a piece of the A North championship in the Thanksgiving game, but it fell behind big at halftime against Middletown South, 39-0, to end its best season since 2000 at 7-4. The Lions have some key losses to graduation, particularly Chad Freshnock, whom Bush called the best player on the team, and offensive tackle and defensive end Matt Dombrowski, who Bush said made a lot of big plays on defense as he was credited with nine sacks and 14 tackles for a loss.

Just like against Middletown North, Antonucci believes his Middletown South team must strike quickly behind senior quarterback Matt Mosquera, who threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to senior Tom Coffey on the first play of the Thanksgiving Day game, and senior running back Cole Rogers, who scored three touchdowns, as it has for most of the season. Middletown South outscored its opponents, 457-82. Rogers leads the way with 22 touchdowns and 1,431 yards rushing, despite missing one game with an injury, and James McCarthy has 15 touchdowns and 592 yards while capably stepping into the lead rushing role when Rogers was out.

Mosquera has thrown for 17 touchdowns and 1,075 yards on 75-for-131 passing. He’s been intercepted only seven times. Mosquera has been a reliable kicker for the second straight year as well, making 54 of 56 extra-point kicks and three of four field goals, with 47 yards as the longest. He also has kicked off 25 times, with 15 of them going for touchbacks, and averages 30 yards a punt.

Middletown South’s closest victory was a 21-3 triumph Oct. 18 over Brick Memorial High School, which will look to unseat defending Central Jersey, Group IV champion Jackson Memorial High School at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions Stadium at 4 p.m.

Antonucci will rely on all three phases of the game in the Eagles’ return to a sectional championship game, losing to Jackson

Memorial, 21-18, in last year’s Central Jersey Group IV final.

“I thought our defense played well on Thanksgiving, almost the total opposite of [the previous game],” Antonucci said. “We caused havoc and put some pressure that we did not do [in the previous game]. We put their quarterback (Don Glenn) constantly under duress and didn’t let him sit in the pocket like he did in the other game, and it made it difficult for him to find receivers.”

Phillipsburg poses a different challenge, as it is heavily run-oriented.

“They’re like Manalapan in that they run first with a big line and two pretty good backs — a senior who gets most of the carries, but the junior who runs the ball with him is pretty good, too,” Antonucci said. “They run the football and pull it out when they catch you sleeping and try to beat you deep.”

With a senior-laden lineup that remains the same coming off the two games against Middletown North, Antonucci said consistency in all three phases is essential, led by Mosquera’s passing and kicking and Rogers’ running on offense.

Defensively, strong safety Maxx Imsho, a junior, moves up as linebacker and leads the Eagles with seven of their 18 interceptions. Defensive back Coffey has six. Spencer Pereless also has been solid in the defensive backfield as well as at wide receiver, where he has 15 receptions for 240 yards and two touchdowns, trailing only the 16 catches each by Coffey (for 326 yards and six touchdowns) and junior Samson Dube (for 291 yards and four touchdowns). Juniors McCarthy and Kevin Higgins and senior Dylan Rogers have anchored the defense at linebacker.

Also powering the offense has been the reliable blocking of tackles Tom Lopez and Bob Burke, a junior; guards Mike Wilson, a junior, and Adam Markmann, a sophomore; and center Joe Rutkowski.

Middletown North, meanwhile, finished with the most victories in 19 years after its second straight winning season and first state playoff victory since 2000.

Along with Freshnock and Dombrowski, other seniors are resourceful offensive tackles Cory Baliatico and Tyler Vivian; center Mike Hoverson; offensive guard Patrick Dowling; cornerback Demetrius Redway, who was out with an injury the last few games; and tight end/outside linebacker Josh Gomez, who caught 15 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown. Matt Harrison also served a number of roles as a utility player, and Jacob Dean contributed well at offensive guard.

“I’m real proud of our seniors who played a big part in getting this program turned around,” Bush said. “We accomplished a lot and want to be playing meaningful games at the end of the year.”

There is a good nucleus coming back, according to Bush, including junior linebacker Nick Kish, who again led the team with 118 tackles, including 63 solos and 55 assists.

“They’ve bought into the system and did everything asked of them. We have guys who are ready to step up and guys who have been playing a long time,” Bush said.

Glenn will head into his fourth season as a starter next fall after completing 59.7 percent of his passes (117-for-196) for 1,854 yards and 16 touchdowns. He had nine passes intercepted. Sophomore Connor Welsh filled in well when Freshnock was injured with a team-leading 739 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. He caught nine passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns.

Brandon Kube, a junior, also returns after catching 58 passes for 997 yards and six touchdowns. Dwight Wilkerson caught 22 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns while also playing solidly at safety.

Also back are offensive tackle and defensive end Jake Goldfarb, sophomore fullback Austin DeWise and junior cornerbacks Marc Cerbo and Sam Santiago.

Hawks’ Robinson National Player of the Week

It’s been a historic season for the Monmouth University men’s basketball team, and December is just beginning. During the month of November, Monmouth stunned national power UCLA on the Bruins’ legendary home floor, Pauley Pavilion.

The Hawks followed that up at the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Florida, by scoring their first victory over a top-25 team when they beat the University of Notre Dame in the quarterfinals Nov. 27.

Monmouth went on to place third in the tournament, defeating the University of Southern California, 83-73, in the third-place consolation game Nov. 29. It was their second win against a Pac- 12 team (after UCLA) this year.

Tournament Most Valuable Player Justin Robinson (Lake Katrine, New York) scored 27 points and set a tourney scoring record with his 77 total points in the three games. Robinson’s scoring output topped the previous record of 73 points set by former NBA first-round pick Michael Beasley in 2007 while playing for Kansas State University.

In addition to being the tournament MVP, Robinson was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Player of the Week and the Lou Jenson National Player of the Week by Micah Seaborn earned MAAC Rookie of the Week honors. The pair were integral in Monmouth’s third-place finish at the AdvoCare Invitational.

Robinson hit the game-winning free throws in Monmouth’s 72- 71 win over No. 17 Notre Dame in the tournament quarterfinals.

Against USC, Robinson finished with 27 points, seven rebounds, three steals and three assists. He shot 9-of-15 from the floor and knocked home five 3-pointers for the second consecutive game.

Seaborn netted a career-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting, making four threes for the first time in his young career.

Deon Jones added his fifth career double-double with 14 points and 10 caroms, shooting 4-of-11 and 6-of-7 from the foul line.

Monmouth, now 4-2 on the season, will open MAAC play on the road Dec. 4, visiting Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, and then Niagara University Dec. 6.

The Hawks’ first home game of the season is Dec. 13 against Wagner College and will be televised on ESPN3. The tipoff is at 2 p.m.

Monmouth will not return home to West Long Branch until 2016 when the Hawks host Canisius and Quinnipiac University on Jan. 4 and 9.