Changes considered for non-public schools

By WARREN RAPPLEYEA
Correspondent

High school football in New Jersey may change dramatically in 2016 as a result of the NJSIAA’s vote to create a separate conference for non-public high schools.

NJSIAA members voted, 215-128, Dec. 7, with two members abstaining, to make the change. However, there is a possibility that the decision could be overturned by state Education Commissioner David C. Hespe.

In addition, the NJSIAA voted, 216-212, to create two non-public districts and one non-public region for wrestling.

“If the commissioner believes this is not in the best interests of the schools, he can rule against it,” Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School Athletic Director Joe Montano said.

While such a decision is not likely before Jan. 1, Montano noted that there is a precedent.

In 2009, a rule that would have public and non-public schools competing in separate divisions at the district and region tournaments was rejected by Lucille Davy, the education commissioner at the time.

For his part, Montano, who is also the secretary for the Shore Conference, said he was disappointed by the NJSIAA vote. He added that the votes were sparked by a push from several dominant Big North Conference schools that have long done well in both sports. “At RBC, we take great pride in being a member of the Shore Conference, and we work hard to follow all of the rules,” Montano said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of issues with the rules throughout the state for public and non-public schools.”

Should Hespe accept the vote, Montano said RBC would first consult with the diocese and then possibly other schools to determine a course of action, if any.

“What’s next?” he asked. “Another sport? Total separation? How far can this go? I don’t know what this means for the NJSIAA. That is a private governing body, and schools are voluntary members. Any school can leave if it wishes. St. Benedict’s left to play as an independent and play schools from out-of-state. I respect what they did.”

When asked if RBC could leave the NJSIAA, Montano said, “First, we’ll wait for the commissioner to make a decision. Then we’ll look at what our options are and make a decision.”

The RBC athletic director added that until a decision is final, it will be difficult for schools to finalize overall athletic schedules as football dates will have a ripple effect for field usage and transportation.

“This is not just about football and wrestling; it affects every sport,” he said. “Still, no matter what happens, the teachers, staff and coaches here at Red Bank Catholic are going to make sure it’s a great situation for our kids.”

Falcons expect to be major state basketball threat

ST. JOSEPH

By JIMMY ALLINDER
Correspondent

It would have been impossible for last season’s St. Joseph High School of Metuchen basketball team to top the previous year’s achievement.

All the Falcons did in 2013-14 was win the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions and, in the process, send four scholarship starters to the college ranks, including Karl-Anthony Towns, who spent a year at the University of Kentucky before joining the Minnesota Timberwolves as the NBA’s top overall draft choice.

As it was, St. Joe’s ended 2014-15 with a 21-5 record, including another Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division title. Only one starter graduated from that team, Marcus Ashamole, and the addition of senior Tyus Battle (Syracuse University commit) to a rotation that is rich in talent and depth should make the Falcons a serious threat to duplicate what they did two seasons ago.

The architect of this formidable program is Dave Turco, who is in his 10th season as head coach. Turco will call on seniors Breein Tyree (University of Mississippi commit), Branislav Vujadinovic, Bryan Carley and Bryce Lane, as well as juniors Michael Granda and Xavier Townes. All are seasoned and understand what winning is about, but it’s the addition of Battle, who played at Gill St. Bernard’s School last year, that solidifies St. Joe’s chances of winning back the Tournament of Champions title.

Other members of the talent-rich squad include seniors Deladem Adadevoh and Jose Medina Jr.; juniors Dexter Jackson, Letrell West and Malachi Walker; sophomore Alanzo Frink; and freshman Khalif Battle, Tyus’ brother.

The Falcons’ streak of five consecutive GMC Tournament titles was interrupted by Colonia High School last year, but look for them to be favored to begin a new streak this season. Beyond their regularly scheduled Red Division games, St. Joe’s will play quality teams throughout the state, beginning with its participation in the Jingle Bells Jubilee Holiday Tournament at the Paterson Charter School. The tournament, which takes place Dec. 26-29, will feature such powerhouse teams as Gill St. Bernard’s, Columbia High School, Plainfield High School, St. Joseph High School of Montvale, Immaculate High School, Paterson Eastside High School and Hackensack High School.

SPORT SHORTS

The fourth annual Friends of South Amboy charity basketball games will be held Dec. 19 at South Amboy High School.

The three games begin at 4 p.m. when South Amboy’s girls team plays Koinonia Academy. At 6 p.m. Perth Amboy Vo-Tech’s boys will take the court against Mater Dei Prep. In the nightcap at 8 p.m., South Amboy’s boys team will take on Sayreville War Memorial High School.

Proceeds from the games will benefit long-time South Amboy fireman and former chief Ken Walczak, who is struggling with illness.

The Friends of South Amboy is a nonprofit organization whose sole mission is to help local people in need. An ad book will be available for all attendees. Businesses or individuals who wish to purchase space in the ad book should contact Thomas Reilly at 732-721-0853.

Due to popular demand, the Mansfield University baseball program will host an expanded nine sessions of its Christmas Baseball Clinics this year, including a Mini Camp option for those seeking a more intensified experience.

A long-time stocking stuffer tradition, the seven sessions are broken down into age groups of 5-6, 7-8, 9-11, 12-14 and 15-18, and they are offered Dec. 27 and 28 and Jan. 2.

Costs for the clinics range from $30 to $80 per player. Registration is available by calling Harry Hillson at 570- 404-2632. Call for team rates.

You may also register on the Mansfield baseball webpage at www.GoMounties.com and click on the baseball page and then on the Camp and Clinic page.

Spectra by Comcast Spectacor, which provides venue management, food services and hospitality and ticketing and fan engagement to Mercer County’s Sun National Bank Center, announced a partnership with River Horse Brewing Co. to sell their local craft beer at the Sun National Bank Center.

The newly branded pub area, which is located near section 109 on the Sun National Bank Center concourse, debuted Dec. 8 at the Premier Boxing Champions event and featured River Horse’s IPA, Special Ale and Tripel Horse craft beers.

Working against the defender

 MATT DENTON MATT DENTON Middlesex Community College’s Nazjae Imes, left, searches for an open teammate during the team’s Dec. 3 game against the Community College of Philadelphia in Edison. Middlesex scored 104 points in the victory. The women’s basketball team is off to a 6-1 start overall and 6-0 in Region 19 play.

Falcons fall to 0-2 in start of ice hockey campaign

By JIMMY ALLINDER
Correspondent

Last season, the Monroe Township High School ice hockey team started 0-3 but did not lose consecutive games for the rest of the winter and ended up 11-9-1.

The Falcons will have to fashion a similar turnaround this season if they are to finish with a respectable record. Two games into the campaign, Monroe was 0-2 before meeting Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) opponent Old Bridge High School Dec. 9 and Shore Conference foe Manalapan High School Dec. 11.

Head coach Jerry Minter has always believed that success runs in circles, and 2015-16 appears to be one of those seasons where his team will be in a rebuilding mode. “Our program numbers are the lowest we’ve had here in five years,” he said. “We graduated two large classes, and this year we didn’t get as many to come out for the team.”

Still, the goals are the same regardless of how many wear Falcons uniforms.

“We will continue to work hard as a team and improve individually every day,” he said. “Making the GMC and state playoffs is always on our list. We have a good group of returning and new players, and we’re looking to build on our [season-ending success] of last year.”

Up front, Monroe will rely on returning players Gerald Marrett and Jason Gizzi to provide the bulk of the scoring. Additionally, a strong sophomore class consisting of Kyle Lange, Michael Benedetti, Michael Conover, Dominic Micalizzi, Anthony

Lane and Austen Poye looks to step up and contribute to the offense. A freshman, Samuel Fishteyn, could also see action.

Defensively, the Falcons return the majority of their regulars. Nicholas Petri, Joseph Minerva and Kevin Broskie, along with freshman Matthew Skobelev, make up the backliners who will protect goaltenders Matthew Freitas and Brian Nichols.

Minter said St. Joe’s continues to be the top team in the conference but will receive competition from Old Bridge, Woodbridge High School, Colonia High School and South Brunswick High School.

“I believe high school ice hockey, in general, continues to grow in New Jersey,” Minter said. “Over the course of the 10 years we have had a team, I’ve seen the quality increase. We’re hoping we can keep pace, too.”

Warren’s success based on hard work and dedication

By JIMMY ALLINDER
Correspondent

 Allie Warren Allie Warren East Brunswick High School student-athlete Allie Warren learned early in life that success in any endeavor requires a coordinated effort built around hard work.

As a 10-year-old, Warren followed in the footsteps of her mother, Laurell, a former twirler for the University of Michigan, and won the New Jersey Baton championship for her age group. In addition, after an active youth playing township recreation basketball and tee-ball, Warren entered high school and became a valuable contributor to the basketball team and, a year later, to the softball team.

Besides that whirlwind of extracurricular activity, Warren was tasked with handling a demanding schedule of classes and the homework that came with them. It was difficult at first, but she learned the importance of time management and attacked her studies with the same vigor as if she was defending a shooting guard or hitting a softball. The result is a 3.5 grade-point average and the likelihood Warren will receive a college scholarship to play basketball at the next level.

“My family has taught me I always need to prioritize the most important things in my life,” said Warren, who was named to the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) All- Red Division team last season. “It starts with school, then sports and finally my social life.”

Now that Warren is about to begin her final season playing hoops for East Brunswick, she is clearly enjoying her favorite time of year.

“I’ve played on the basketball team since I was a freshman,” said Warren, who has consistently averaged between seven and eight points a game as a guard-forward and said hoops is the sport she enjoys most. “I have a few schools in the Philadelphia area interested in me, and we’ll see where that goes. When I do make a college choice, I plan to major in criminal justice and hopefully attend law school after graduation.”

Warren has also been an important member of the Bears’ softball team as the starting first baseman since her sophomore year, but she admitted the sport takes a back seat to basketball. That’s also true with twirling for the Hazlet Thunderettes, which is more of a fun activity these days, she said.

Whatever sport she’s playing, Warren is all about team.

“I’ve learned that for any team to be successful, there has to be chemistry among the players,” she said. “That doesn’t mean everybody has to be best friends because we’re all different. But I personally try to be the kind of teammate I know I would want playing with me — someone who works hard, is dedicated, trustworthy and caring. Fortunately, I’ve played with girls who have demonstrated those traits and I’ve tried to emulate them. As a result, I feel I’m a better-rounded player.”

Warren confessed she seeks perfection in nearly everything she does, which is why she has been driven to succeed on and off the court. She also feels fortunate to have been surrounded by people who helped her along the way and named three individuals who have been most responsible for her success: Keith Lane, Orin Taylor and Richard Lewis. Lane is Warren’s high school basketball coach who has not only taught her some of the finer points of the game, but also how to be an effective leader.

“[Coach Lane] offered me so many opportunities during summer and fall workouts,” she said. “He taught me how to develop my skills and to lead by example — showing and not telling,” Warren said.

“Basketball is a 12-month-a-year sport for Allie, and it shows,” Lane said. “Her skills have improved markedly and being selected captain was well-earned.” Taylor coaches Team Miller Lightning, Warren’s AAU club where she has improved her skills even more by playing against other college-bound competition.

“I’ve played for [Coach Taylor] four years now; it seems a lot longer because I’ve learned so much,” she said. “He has spent hours with me after practice, taught me to never give up in any situation and develop the ‘IF’ factor, which is intestinal fortitude.”

Last but not least is Lewis, who is Warren’s grandfather. Grandpa, as she calls him, has never missed one of his granddaughter’s basketball or softball games and has been a steel-like source of strength.

“He played sports himself, so he understands what competition is about and has related his experiences to me,” Warren said. “My brother, Haydn (an East Brunswick graduate), plays football at Widener University, and Grandpa has worked with him, too. He would do anything for [us]. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without his love and help.”

Perhaps the most important message Warren has gleaned from Lane, Taylor and her grandfather is that dedication, hard work and love are the keys to success, no matter what she does.

It’s a mantra Warren plans to carry with her throughout the rest of her life — wherever that takes her.

SPORT SHORTS

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 cjuaumpire@gmail.com. Experienced umpires wanted as well.

SPORT SHORTS

The Sayreville U8 Jr. MetroStars are a high-level boys travel soccer team playing for Sayreville Soccer Club in the MAPS league. The team is comprised of 7- and 8-year-old boys from South Amboy, Sayreville, South River and Avenel. They completed their regular season undefeated at 10-0 with 49 goals scored and six goals against. They also played in two tourneys: the Marlboro MegaBlast, going 4-0, and the MAPS Fall Classic, going 2-2 against the top competition in the state.

Bears football team headed in right direction under Molarz

By JIMMY ALLINDER
Correspondent

EAST BRUNSWICK

If the East Brunswick High School football team’s 20-7 loss to Old Bridge High

School is any indication, the Bears are on track to become a better football team under head coach Bob Molarz.

But in Molarz’s own words, the team is not quite there yet.

“I believe the program is headed in the right direction,” said Molarz, who completed his third season at East Brunswick, which finished with a 3-7 record. “We really could have ended this season .500, but there were two games we lost when we were leading in the fourth quarter by double digits.”

The Bears’ relatively close game with Old Bridge came against a team that will play for the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship. The Knights (8-3) meet South Brunswick High School (10-1) Dec. 5 at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions

Stadium in an all-Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) final.

Finishing games is just one area Molarz and his staff will focus on during the offseason. That and utilizing a growing pool of experienced talent could finally enable East Brunswick to be a legitimate contender in the GMC Red Division next fall. The Bears have not had a winning season since 2010, and Molarz’s cumulative record as East Brunswick coach is 8-22.

Kyle Wiggins, who will be a senior, has two seasons under his belt as an often-used running back and should be one of the better rushers in the division. James Schuld, who split quarterback duties with senior Brendan Kennedy, will become the full-time signal caller and has the size at 6 feet, 180 pounds and arm strength to make him a threat to run or throw with equal effectiveness.

Wide receiver Owen McSweeney and tight end Matt Bartus are excellent targets when Schuld decides to air the ball. East Brunswick will also return size and experience on the line and an active secondary including Anthony Torres, who will be joined by Wiggins and McSweeney.

“We were in the red zone a lot but didn’t score,” Molarz said. “All we need to do is finish a couple of times, and that will give us the confidence we can do it more often.”

SPOTSWOOD

Once again, Spotswood High School, which finished 7-3, will be faced with a major rebuilding job because of the graduation of key seniors who occupied skilled positions. However, that’s nothing new to head coach Andy Cammarano and his staff, which has had to replace the starting quarterback in each of the last two seasons. Both times, the Chargers won the GMC Blue Division championship.

However, the most difficult task next year will be finding somebody who can do what senior receiver Marlon Hart accomplished this season. He was a game-changer every time he touched the ball.

Before putting on a football uniform this season, Hart devoted his athletic career to playing basketball. However, once he made the decision to play football, he became an instant star, amassing over 600 receiving yards and six touchdowns, a pair of kickoffs returned for touchdowns and a punt return for another score.

Senior Shawn O’Conner successfully eased into the quarterback job, taking over for Ryan Smolin, who guided the Chargers to their first division title since 2000. The agile O’Conner ran well and displayed a surprisingly strong arm.

Joe Hayford, a small but tough-nosed player, was valuable as a bulldozing running back who could gain tough yards and was equally valuable as the middle linebacker on defense. He will also be hard to replace.

Finally, two-way tackle Lou Vacca will be sorely missed because of his size, at 6 feet 2 inches tall and 295 pounds, and toughness.

Cammarano has built his team’s success based on a regimented weightlifting and condition program during the offseason that has proved to work every year.

Winning has contributed to more players joining the team, and the coach is hoping that will be the case next season when the Chargers once again compete for a division title.