Vikings snap early losing streak with pair of wins

VARSITY REPORT

By WARREN RAPPLEYEA
Correspondent

 Middlesex County College’s Brittany Clayton, left, dribbles around the Community College of Philadelphia’s Saviare Gilliam during a recent game in Edison. The Middlesex women’s basketball team is having a great season. The women are 12-1 overall and in first place in the Garden State Athletic Conference and Region 19.  SCOTT FRIEDMAN Middlesex County College’s Brittany Clayton, left, dribbles around the Community College of Philadelphia’s Saviare Gilliam during a recent game in Edison. The Middlesex women’s basketball team is having a great season. The women are 12-1 overall and in first place in the Garden State Athletic Conference and Region 19. SCOTT FRIEDMAN After dropping three games in a row, South Brunswick High School’s ice hockey team reeled off a pair of impressive victories before running into Hunterdon Central Regional High School Dec. 27 in the second round of the Protec Ponds High School Holiday Tournament in Somerset.

After falling to Old Bridge High School, 6-4, Dec. 18 in a match the Vikings led, 4- 1, after two periods, things were beginning to look dim for South Brunswick. The team returned to the ice Dec. 23 at home against Montgomery High School and after two periods, the Vikings were looking up from a 2-0 deficit. First-year coach Sergei Starikov’s team rallied in the third on goals by Sean Bocknack, Steven Borke and Tyler Allen, who also had a pair of assists, to pull out a 3-2 victory. Freshman netminder Clayton Romanok made 40 saves in the win.

“We were only down, 2-0, and I told them they could come back,” said Starikov, a former player for the New Jersey Devils. “They came out and took the game in the third.”

The Vikings picked up where they left off Dec. 26, downing Bernards High School, 8-2, in the first round of the Protec tournament. Allen turned in a stellar performance, netting four goals and adding a trio of assists. The senior forward leads the team in scoring with 18 goals and 10 assists.

Sophomore Mason Jenne picked up two goals and five assists, and Borke also had five assists in the win. Jenne now has six goals to go along with 16 assists, while Borke has tallied five goals and nine assists. Despite all the South Brunswick scoring, Bernards fired 50 shots on Romanok, who made 48 saves.

On Dec. 27, Hunterdon Central jumped out to a 1-0 lead and was able to extend it to 4-1 after two periods en route to a 7-1 victory. Allen scored the lone Vikings goal on a power play.

South Brunswick (4-4) was scheduled to return to action Dec. 29 against Bridgewater Raritan High School in the consolation round of the Protec tournament Starikov’s team resumes the regular season Jan. 6 at Jefferson Township High School.

Girls’ basketball

North Brunswick Township High School’s girls’ basketball team is 2-0 after a double-overtime win, 44-42, over Colonia High School Dec. 22. Renee Halas scored 11 points and hauled in 13 rebounds for the Raiders. Alex Walker added 10 points and eight caroms, while Samantha Mehalick pulled in 15 rebounds to go along with seven points.

North Brunswick was set to meet Morris Knolls High School Dec. 29 in the Crusader Tournament at Arthur L. Johnson High School.

South Brunswick’s girls basketball team is also 2-0 following a 54-40 success against Old Bridge Dec. 22. A 16-6 surge in the third quarter propelled the Lady Vikings to victory. Four players reached double figures in scoring for the winners. Natalia Louhisdon scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Amber Brown added 14 points, Gillian Chambres scored 13 points and Samia Baig added 10 points.

South Brunswick was slated to meet West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South Dec. 28 in the Brunswick-Windsor Classic.

Boys’ basketball

Michael Ugarte scored 16 points and Eric Savage had 15 points to pace South Brunswick’s boys’ basketball team to a 54- 40 win over Old Bridge Dec. 22. Ryan Moran connected on four 3-pointers to help the Vikings improve to 1-1. The Vikings were set to meet West Windsor-Plainsboro South Dec. 28 in the boys Brunswick- Windsor Classic.

North Brunswick’s boys stand at 1-2 following a 67-53 loss to Piscataway Township High School Dec. 22. Francis Omowole led the Raiders with 18 points, and Adryan Salazar also hit double figures with 11 points. The Raiders were scheduled to take the floor Dec. 29 against Hunterdon Central in the Hillsborough Classic.

Raiders, Vikings winners in girls basketball openers

VARSITY REPORT

By WARREN RAPPLEYEA
Correspondent

 Middlesex Community College’s Ziykara Hicks, driving for two in a recent game at the Community College of Philadelphia, was named the Garden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) Player of the Week when she averaged 25 points, three steals and 3.5 assists a game in leading Middlesex to a pair of victories. The Middlesex women’s basketball team is 11-1 overall, first in the GSAC with a 7-0 mark and tops in Regional 19 with a 10-0 record.  MATT DENTON Middlesex Community College’s Ziykara Hicks, driving for two in a recent game at the Community College of Philadelphia, was named the Garden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) Player of the Week when she averaged 25 points, three steals and 3.5 assists a game in leading Middlesex to a pair of victories. The Middlesex women’s basketball team is 11-1 overall, first in the GSAC with a 7-0 mark and tops in Regional 19 with a 10-0 record. MATT DENTON Both the North Brunswick Township High School and South Brunswick High School girls’ basketball teams opened their seasons with wins Dec. 18.

Coach Shaun Morrell’s Raiders, looking to turn things around after going 6-19 a year ago, downed Colonia High School, 38-33. North Brunswick was clinging to a 23-22 lead after three quarters, but the Raiders scored 15 points in the final quarter to seal the win. Alex Walker led the way with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Kayla Scher added nine points. Morrell noted that while defense is his team’s hallmark, lack of scoring at times was an issue last season. The coach said he was pleased and encouraged with his team’s showing in the final quarter.

Neighboring South Brunswick dominated Woodbridge High School, 43-18, in its season opener. The Lady Vikings, who were 15-6 last winter, used a balanced offense to down the Barrons. Gillian Chambres scored 14 points, while Natalia Louhisdon added nine points and Amber Brown contributed eight points to go along with 10 rebounds.

Boys’ basketball

North Brunswick’s boys bounced back from a season-opening loss with a convincing 71-45 victory over Perth Amboy High School Dec. 19, as Francis Omowole scored 22 points. Point guard Pranay Bhandare added 14 points and Elijah Hicks had seven points.

Bhandare scored 15 points and Omowole had 13 points in a 66-44 loss to East Brunswick High School Dec. 18.

North Brunswick went 11-12 a year ago.

“[East Brunswick has] the size advantage, and they beat us twice last year,” coach Ed Breheny. “We knew we had to use our quickness to increase the pace of the game and make their guys work harder.”

It looked like an upset might happen in Metuchen Dec. 18 when South Brunswick’s boys carried a 26-20 lead into halftime against powerful St. Joseph High School of Metuchen. The Falcons, however, took control in the third thanks to a 19-6 run. Eric Savage and Danesh Thirukumaran had 12 points apiece for the Vikings, who were 14-9 last winter.

Ice hockey

On the ice, South Brunswick has struggled through three straight losses after winning its first two games.

A pair of goals by Shjon Stonehill and single tallies by Steven Borke and Tyler Allen, who leads the team with 14 goals, propelled the Vikings to a 4-1 lead after two periods against Old Bridge High School Dec. 18. The Knights rallied to score five unanswered goals over the final 15 minutes, though.

Sean Bocknack scored the lone goal for South Brunswick in a well-played game against Ocean Township High School Dec. 16, but the Vikings still fell, 3-1.

Earlier in the week, the Vikings fell behind Woodbridge High School, 5-0, after two periods. A third-period comeback, which included goals from Allen and Brian Mazur, fell short.

Bowling

On the lanes, South Brunswick raised its record to 4-2-1 with a 3-1 win over Woodbridge Dec. 17. Alex Sorge turned in a 730 series and Anthony Fama was at 642 pins over the three games.

Sorge leads the team with a 238-pin average and a high series of 730 pins. Fama averages 195 pins, and Tyler Kohutaycz averages 191 pins.

North Brunswick’s girls are coming off of a 2.5-1.5 success against New Brunswick High School Dec. 17. Elizabeth Ruffe led the Raiders with a 529 series and is now averaging 183 pins per game.

With the win, North Brunswick improved to 4-4.

Going up for the layup

 STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Brookdale Community College’s Dillon Salva, left, a Bishop George Ahr High School graduate via North Brunswick, is airborne as he goes up for a layup during the Jersey Blues’ Dec. 10 game against Ocean County College at Brookdale’s Collins Arena. The Jersey Blues edged the Vikings, 71-69.

Young Raiders’ girls look to improve on hardwood

NORTH BRUNSWICK

By WARREN RAPPLEYEA
Correspondent

North Brunswick Township High School’s girls’ basketball team will again put a youthful lineup on the floor as it looks to improve on last winter’s 6-19 mark.

Coach Shaun Morrell is optimistic that his Raiders are heading in the right direction and will look to a trio of seniors to provide leadership.

Tatum Altman returns at point guard, where she did a solid job getting the ball up the floor last year. A tough defender, Altman is not known for scoring but can drive to the hoop on occasion.

Three-year veteran Danielle Segerholm is the center. She averaged just less than seven points a year ago and at 5 feet 11 inches tall, she gives the Raiders a presence under the boards, where she averaged six rebounds.

Samantha Mehalick, who is also entering her third varsity season, averaged four points and as many rebounds last winter. She will hold down one of the forward spots. Morrell is looking for big things from dynamic junior Alex Walker. As a sophomore, the shooting guard averaged 11 points, pulled own eight rebounds per game and led North Brunswick with 47 3-pointers.

To aid his team’s offense, Morrell said he’s going to mix up the Raiders defense this time around. Look for North Brunswick to try and create points by pressing and trapping.

“Last year, we had a very strong defensive team,” the coach said. “We sometimes had trouble scoring, though. If we’re going to win, we can’t have quarters where we’re only getting four points. We’re looking for Alex to step up and as other teams see that, it will create scoring opportunities for our other girls, too. We’re looking for more scoring from our seniors.”

Junior guard Rhica Austin will likely see increased time this year along with sophomore Emily Farrell, a forward who will provide help in the paint.

In addition, two freshmen will both see significant playing time. Kayla Scher, a guard/forward, is likely to start, and forward Renee Hales will see a lot of action off the bench. Morrell said both girls are strong all-around players who can put the ball in the hoop. The two girls keyed a 23- 1 season for North Brunswick’s Linwood Middle School.

North Brunswick will, however, be without senior guard Nicole Lopez and sophomore forward Khayla Flemmings, both of whom will miss the season with injuries. Lopez is an aggressive defender who can create turnovers, while Flemmings is coming off a promising freshman campaign that showed her to be an emerging scorer, putting up a season-high 21 points in loss to Bishop George Ahr High School.

“We’re going to miss them both, but they’re going to be with us helping out on the bench,” Morrell said. “They’ve already been a positive influence on the other girls, and they want to be part of the team. We’re glad to have them.”

North Brunswick is scheduled to open the season at home Dec. 18 against Greater Middlesex Conference White Division foe Colonia High School. The Raiders visit J.P. Stevens High School in another divisional matchup Dec. 22. and will compete in the Arthur L. Johnson Holiday tournament in Clark during the schools’ holiday break.

Vikings rout Knights for sectional football title

SOUTH BRUNSWICK

By WARREN RAPPLEYEA
Correspondent

 South Brunswick High School’s Wendell Allen sprints upfield during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship game played Dec. 5 at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions Stadium against Old Bridge High School. The Vikings rolled to their second state sectional title in four years, 42-0.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR South Brunswick High School’s Wendell Allen sprints upfield during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship game played Dec. 5 at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions Stadium against Old Bridge High School. The Vikings rolled to their second state sectional title in four years, 42-0. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR The South Brunswick High School football team turned in a dominant performance Dec. 5 to win the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship.

Coach Joe Goerge’s top-seeded Vikings handed Old Bridge High School a stunning 42-0 defeat at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers University.

The victory capped an 11-game winning streak that also saw South Brunswick win the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division title.

The season didn’t start out that well, as the Vikings fell, 41-21, to Shore Conference power Middletown High School South on opening night. Goerge’s team got itself in gear after that and never looked back. A year ago, South Brunswick opened the campaign with 11 successive wins but lost for the only time to Manalapan High School, 21-7, in the Central Jersey Group V finals.

“It’s always difficult to beat a team twice in the same year,” said George, whose team downed the Knights, 20-9, in a regular-season game. “Old Bridge is a very good team, and they won some big games. They played well the first time we played against them, but I didn’t think we were really at our best. We made some mistakes that we don’t usually make and generally didn’t execute well. We wanted things to be different this time.”

Things were indeed quite different. The Vikings went up 7-0 in the first quarter thanks to a 39-yard touchdown run by Jaier Garrett. On the other side of the ball, South Brunswick’s defense contained the Knights’ running game, holding Old Bridge to three first downs through two quarters.

Goerge’s team scored twice in the second quarter. Junior quarterback Josh Liao scored on a short keeper and, before the break, he teamed up with Justin Shorter for a 50-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0 at the half.

Garrett scored again, this time on a 31- yard run, to extend the lead in the third quarter. The third-seeded Knights tried to get back into the match through the air, but Mo Jabbie intercepted an Artur Sitkowski pass and ran it back 30 yards to pretty much put the game away.

Fullback Phil Campbell closed out the scoring with a 5-yard fourth-quarter run. Drew Fehte added the PAT — his sixth of the afternoon. Campbell ended up with 90 yards on 17 carries, while Garrett ran four times for 87 yards. Liao completed five of eight passes for 89 yards.

“Our guys wanted this game, especially after what happened last year,” Goerge said. “They prepared well and were very focused — and it showed. They knew what it would take, and they got it done.”

South Brunswick (11-1) roared past its opening-round opponent, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, the eighth seed, 46-7.

The Vikings were tested in the semifinals by Manalapan. South Brunswick lost a 14-point lead but recovered to win, 27-21, on the final play of the game as Liao found Wendell Allen all alone in the end zone.

“Playing in the Red Division has helped prepare us,” Goerge said. “It’s one of the toughest divisions in the state. No matter who you are playing against, you have to go up against a tough team every week.”

Vikings look to cap win streak with a state football title

SOUTH BRUNSWICK

By WARREN RAPPLEYEA
Correspondent

 Wendell Allen and the South Brunswick High School football team warmed up for their state sectional championship game by beating North Brunswick Township High School, 41-14, Thanksgiving Day in Monmouth Junction. The Vikings will take a 10-game winning streak into the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V title game against Old Bridge High School Dec. 5 at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers University.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Wendell Allen and the South Brunswick High School football team warmed up for their state sectional championship game by beating North Brunswick Township High School, 41-14, Thanksgiving Day in Monmouth Junction. The Vikings will take a 10-game winning streak into the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V title game against Old Bridge High School Dec. 5 at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers University. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR South Brunswick High School’s football team will put its 10-game winning streak on the line Dec. 5 when it meets Old Bridge High School (7-3) in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group V championship game at High Point Solutions Stadium at Rutgers University.

Both teams hail from the Greater Middlesex Conference’s (GMC) Red Division and previously played Sept. 25 in a game won by the Vikings, 20-9. The Vikings earned a berth in the finals with a 27-21 win over Manalapan High School Nov. 20.

Third-seeded Old Bridge, which defeated East Brunswick High School, 21-7, on Thanksgiving, downed New Brunswick High School, the second seed, 26-12, in the semifinals. The Knights’ Nick Sodano and Jake Esposito each scored a pair of touchdowns in the win. Old Bridge also boasts a talented junior quarterback of its own in Artur Sitkowski.

“It’s always tough to play a team twice,” South Brunswick coach Joe Goerge said. “They played well against us, and we were fortunate to come out with the win. This is it. The championship game. We have to be at our best.”

In what could be considered a tune-up for the championship game, South Brunswick easily downed North Brunswick Township High School, 41-14, for the sixth straight time in the annual Thanksgiving Day game between the two teams. North Brunswick (2- 8) still leads the series, however, 23-16-1.

The host Vikings got out of the gate a little slower than usual and found themselves down, 8-7, in the first quarter. It was pretty much all South Brunswick from there. By the time the opening quarter was over, the Vikings were up 14-8. Fullback Phil Campbell opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run. After the Raiders took the lead thanks to a 65-yard scoring run by Max Emmanuel, South Brunswick bounced back as quarterback Josh Liao got into the end zone on a 9-yard keeper.

Mo Jabbie’s 62-yard punt return extended the lead early in the second quarter. Liao scored again on a 20-yard run before the visitors scored again when Dylan Seel connected with Elijah Hicks for a 59-yard touchdown pass.

South Brunswick (10-1) scored two more times in the third quarter. Liao found Justin Shorter for a 56-yard scoring pass, and Wendell Allen closed out the scoring with a 7-yard run.

The victory sends the top-seeded Vikings into the Old Bridge game on a positive note. In their previous meeting during the regular season, the Vikings made two big plays that turned out to be the difference. Jabbie returned a punt for a touchdown and Liao found Shorter for a 46-yard touchdown pass.

Previously, the Vikings got three touchdowns from Campbell but needed a big fourth quarter drive to defeat fourth-seeded Manalapan, 27-21, in the semifinals. Facing a fourth-and-goal, the game ended with Liao finding Jabbie all alone in the end zone as time ran out. Liao had kept the drive going with a 32-yard completion to Allen.

Earlier in the quarter, the Braves (6-5) had come from 14 points behind to tie things up and take the momentum. An uncharacteristic turnover led to Manalapan’s tying touchdown.

“Our guys kept their poise and focus,” Goerge said. “You have to give Manalapan credit for coming back; they have a very strong team. All the teams that are still playing at this time of the year are strong. We settled down, though, and made some big plays on that last drive.”

Vikings shift focus to Raiders for Thanksgiving showdown

 STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR South Brunswick High School, with Mohamed Jabbie, right, running upfield against Hunterdon Central Regional High School, won its opening-round state playoff game. On Thanksgiving Day, the Vikings turn their attention to their neighbor, North Brunswick Township High School, when the rivals meet in South Brunswick for their annual clash.

Raiders learned as season went on under coach Zsak

By WARREN RAPPLEYEA
Correspondent

It’s been a season of learning for the North Brunswick Township High School football team under first-year coach Don Zsak.

Despite a 2-7 record, the Raiders are making progress and look to upset powerful South Brunswick High School in the annual Thanksgiving game between the two teams.

Zsak came to North Brunswick after a 25-year career in law enforcement, during which he served as an assistant at Arthur L. Johnson Regional High School, Scotch Plains- Fanwood High School, Cranford High School, Roselle Park High School and Morristown High School.

Right from the start Zsak said his team would come straight at its opponents and play a more physical game, especially on defense.

“I’m a defense guy, and I want other teams to know we’re coming to compete,” Zsak said.

The Raiders opened the season by falling to Old Bridge High School, 27-6, and Sayreville War Memorial High School, 22-6. Both teams went on to qualify for their respective state sectionals.

Old Bridge jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, but the game was fairly even after that. Sayreville also got out front early, as North Brunswick hurt itself with turnovers. “I’m glad we played them early in the season,” Old Bridge coach Anthony Lanzafama said of North Brunswick. “They have talent, and they just got better and better.”

A safety proved the difference in a 16-14 loss to East Brunswick High School in the next game, which saw Max Emmanuel return a punt for a touchdown. In the fourth game, Zsak’s defense held Monroe Township High School to nine points, but the Raiders were shut out.

“That was a tough way to start the season,” Zsak said. “It would have been easy for our guys to get discouraged. They kept working. Our practices were good. They wanted to win.”

North Brunswick got that first win in a 40-21 decision over Edison High School — another team that qualified for the playoffs. Eddie Carpenter led the way, running for 175 yards and two touchdowns, and Quamere Nance also scored a pair of touchdowns in the win. Carpenter injured his knee during the game and missed the remainder of the season.

After a loss against Piscataway Township High School, 42-18, North Brunswick defeated J.P. Stevens High School, 34-20, as Zach Rowell ran for 191 yards and a touchdown, while Nance and Tyler Brant scored two touchdowns each.

Meanwhile, Zsak’s team was battling injuries. Emmanuel, Rowell and two-way lineman Esberth Pereyra were all injured. After a 36-16 loss to Middletown High School North that was close until the fourth quarter, the Raiders fell to Franklin High School, 22-18, Nov. 12.

That was a particularly tough loss, as North Brunswick out-gained Franklin, 249-42 yards, on the ground. A costly roughing-the-passer call and the Raiders’ inability to make PATs or conversions proved the difference.

“That was a very tough loss; it was a game we should have won,” Zsak said. “Overall, we played pretty well, and I can say that for the season. We really weren’t blown out of any games, and our defense had a good year. Also, a lot of our younger guys got to play, and they’re buying into our system.”

Among the key returnees are several juniors: tight end Bryce Priester, lineman Jeremy Tan, running back Francis Omowole and linebacker Nate Rowell. Sophomore quarterback Dylan Seal also returns, along with lineman Tyler Hernandez, wide receiver Isaiah Hill and safety Jeremy Cole.

On Thanksgiving, the Raiders will finish the year against a team that played Manalapan High School in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V tournament Nov. 20 — a game the Vikings entered on an eight-game winning streak.

“We’re going to come straight at them,” Zsak said.

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