Falcons gain confidence, respect with every win


Staff Writer

Above, Monroe’s Jarred Jimenez scores one of his two touchdowns during the Falcons’ win over Colonia on Saturday in Colonia. At left, Brett Rutzler breaks a tackle and rumbles for some yards for the Falcons.  Above, Monroe’s Jarred Jimenez scores one of his two touchdowns during the Falcons’ win over Colonia on Saturday in Colonia. At left, Brett Rutzler breaks a tackle and rumbles for some yards for the Falcons. With each passing week, the Monroe Falcons are making believers out of more and more people.

The Falcons are not only 3-0, but they are playing like a team that believes in itself, and its chances against the best the Greater Middlesex Conference’s White Division has to offer.

“I think we’re the most well-conditioned team in the conference,” star tailback Jarred Jimenez said. “The coaching staff has done an amazing job getting this team ready for the season.”

PHOTOS BY MIGUEL JUAREZ staff PHOTOS BY MIGUEL JUAREZ staff Head coach Pat Dowling, now in his second season, agrees that the Falcons have been able to wear opponents down thus far.

“It’s been a big factor for us,” he said. “We’ve been able to out-physical our opponents, and that’s the sign of a well-conditioned team. The kids really bought into the program during the offseason, and I feel good for them that they’re seeing their hard work come to fruition.”

The Falcons’ superb conditioning has allowed them to finish games strongly. Take Saturday’s win over Colonia for example.

The Falcons and Patriots traded punches in the first half, and went into their respective locker rooms tied at 14-14. Monroe struck first, as the Falcons put together an 11-play, 70-yard drive and capped it with a 24-yard TD pass from junior QB Ryan Cushman to junior wideout T.J. Denehy.

Colonia, a team struggling to restore its traditional winning ways after suffering its worst season ever under head coach Ben LaSala last year, responded with a TD on its first possession — a 56-yard scamper from impressive sophomore running back Eric LeGrand.

But it didn’t take long for Jimenez to get his Falcons back on top, returning the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for the 14-7 lead. Colonia then knotted the score once again as QB Nick Allan ran into the end zone from 12 yards out in the second quarter.

Once the second half started, it was all Monroe. Whether it was their superior conditioning or some well-executed adjustments made by Dowling and his coaching staff, the Falcons took control of the game and never looked back.

After Allan fumbled on Colonia’s opening possession of the half, Monroe calmly went 36 yards and got the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run from Jimenez. They later added another Jimenez TD (from two yards out) to seal the contest in the fourth quarter.

But it was Colonia’s inability to move the ball against the Monroe defense that was the difference in the second half. The Pats managed just 26 yards on 11 carries after the break. Meanwhile, Jimenez got stronger as the game went on, running for 128 of his 227 total yards rushing in the second half.

It’s that type of four-quarter performance that Dowling is hoping to get from his team the rest of the way. With some increasingly difficult games looming ahead for the Falcons, starting with this Saturday’s game against 1-2 Perth Amboy, Monroe has to keep its foot on the accelerator.

“We can’t sneak up on anyone anymore,” the coach said.

And Dowling added that he’s expecting a battle this weekend.

“They’re coming off their first win after a couple of tough losses to East Brunswick and New Brunswick,” he said. “And against New Brunswick they were right in that game. I think it was 14-14 going into the fourth quarter. It should be a real stiff test for us.”

While the Falcons’ running game has been dominant thus far, Dowling thinks his offense will need to show some balance over the next few weeks.

“I think we’ll have to start opening up the offense a little bit,” he said. “We’ve been able to line up in one or two formations thus far and just pound the ball, but against some of the bigger teams, we’re not going to be able to do that.”

With some very tough opponents lined up for Monroe the rest of the way, we’ll find out just how far this program has come.

“The kids are walking around with a little more of a swagger,” Dowling said. “And our confidence is gaining every week.

“But getting the kids to concentrate on each opponent one game at a time becomes more a challenge with each week,” he added. “We try to address that with the kids, not to fall into the trap of looking ahead.”

But Dowling can’t help but be proud of the fact that nobody is looking past the Falcons anymore.

“I think teams might be paying a little more attention to us now,” he said.

Deservedly so.

The Old Bridge Knights is another local team that improved to 3-0 this past weekend, blanking a struggling Edison team, 55-0.

The Knights took control from the opening snap, scoring on all six of their possessions in the first half — and with relative ease at that.

While Old Bridge entered Friday’s game having already proved to be a powerful running team, the Knights also have a pretty impressive passing attack, as evidenced by three first-half touchdown passes from senior quarterback Greg Frischman to senior wideout Kenny Cardullo. Their ability to hurt teams with the option certainly opened up the passing game, which is something they will need more of the rest of the season.

The Knights will enjoy their bye this week, and will use the time to figure out a way to stop North Brunswick’s Aaron Jackson, one of the most dangerous backs in the GMC, who will be coming to Old Bridge on Oct. 7.

Perhaps they should watch the game films from Saturday night’s game in North Brunswick, where the Sayreville Bombers used some big plays to capture a big 35-13 win over the Raiders and improve to 1-2 on the season.

Sayreville got a huge play from Reinaldo Rodriguez — an 83-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first half — and another one from injured tailback Shaune Thomas — a 90-yard kickoff return — en route to building an insurmountable first-half lead.

The Bombers’ offense added a pair of touchdowns on its first and last possessions of the half, while the Sayreville defense did an excellent job of slowing what has been a dangerous Raider offense.

The Bombers will now turn their attention to a struggling Woodbridge team that is coming to Sayreville tomorrow night at 0-3 following a thrilling, but disappointing, 35-33 loss to J.P. Stevens this past Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.

The remainder of the local teams all suffered losses this past weekend.

Both East Brunswick and South River ran into two of the GMC’s better teams and were simply overmatched.

The Bears took on top-ranked Piscataway and found out what everybody knew coming into the season — the Chiefs are simply loaded once again.

Piscataway dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball en route to building a 35-0 lead midway through the third quarter. The Bears, who fell to 2-1 on the year, had no answer for Piscataway’s size and athleticism up front, and will hope to have more success tomorrow night when they take on Aaron Jackson and North Brunswick. Game time is 7 p.m.

South River learned just how good the Carteret defense is on Friday night. They also got a good look at the explosiveness of the Rambler offense.

By the time the 32-0 game was over, the Rams had to be impressed. Carteret’s defense allowed just one South River first down all game, while the Rambler offense was almost as impressive, mixing the run and the pass flawlessly. The result was a rather forgettable night for a 1-2 Rams team that hopes to even its record on Saturday against a rival Spotswood team that has struggled thus far.

The Chargers fell to Perth Amboy, 28-17, on Friday, despite leading at halftime.

Spotswood responded to the Panthers’ first touchdown with a TD of their own in the first quarter — a 5-yard run from Anthony Addone, capping a nine-play, 60-yard drive.

Spotswood then got a 30-yard field goal in the second quarter from Bill Becker to take the 9-6 lead into the locker room. But it was Perth Amboy that made the necessary adjustments in the second stanza, scoring three consecutive touchdowns to put the game away, while the Chargers could only manage a late TD on an 8-yard scamper from Becker.

With the loss, the Chargers fell to 0-3 on the young season. They’ll have their hands full with an angry South River team on Saturday, in a rivalry game that always has plenty of juice. Game time is 1 p.m. in Spotswood.