SOUTH BRUNSWICK: New amateur soccer team hosts first home game

By Davy James, Staff Writer
   Hundreds of spectators turned out to welcome South Brunswick’s own amateur soccer team, the New Jersey Blaze, as the team played its first ever home game in the township at Rowland Park on Friday.
   After splitting its first two games on the road, about 350 people watched as the team earned a hard-fought 1-1 tie against the Pocono Snow, who the Blaze defeated in the season’s first game, according to head coach and general manger Rob Napier.
   ”The team has done well so far,” Mr. Napier said. “Winning the first game away to the Pocono Snow was important as it gave everyone the self-belief and confidence that we could compete in this league and have the talent to do well.”
   A member of the National Premier Soccer League, the top amateur league in the United States, according to Mr. Napier, the Blaze features some of the top players from local colleges as well as players on the cusp of making it to the professional leagues. The Blaze are not short on local flavor either with former South Brunswick High School and current Montclair State players Coron Short and Kevin Gramata along with SBHS graduate and current Fairleigh Dickinson player Kyle Saviano.
   ”I haven’t played at Rowland Park since I was 9 or 10 years old,” Mr. Gramata said. “It was awesome, a really good atmosphere that I hope we’ll have throughout the season.”
   Mr. Napier said South Brunswick provides a great atmosphere for the team because of the strong connection the township has with the sport through its numerous youth leagues.
   ”This is the dream for South Brunswick,” Mr. Napier said. “To see a real community team where the whole family can enjoy themselves, see some top quality soccer and go away happy and safe in the knowledge that they’ve had fun.”
   Because the NPSL, which runs from May through July, is not a professional league, collegiate soccer players can find a competitive off-season venue to showcase their skills without losing NCAA eligibility.
   Mr. Napier said the reception the team received from local fans has been one of the season’s early highlights.
   ”The support we saw at Friday’s game was fantastic,” Mr. Napier said. “To have 350 fans at our home opener showed the local community has already engaged with the team, and the fans’ reactions at the end of the game showed they had a great time, and they saw they have a team they can be proud to call their own.”
   The Blaze are a member of the Northeast Atlantic Conference along with the Boston Aztec, Long Island Academy, Maine Sting, Morris County and New York Athletic Club. Mr. Napier said the team has its sights set on the top spot in the conference.
   ”Our target remains winning the conference in order to progress to the regional playoff final,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work and a run of victories, but it’s important that we believe we can achieve our target.”
   After enjoying some success early in its inaugural season, Mr. Napier said the team could have a bright future in South Brunswick if fans keep coming out to lend support to the team.
   ”This is the highest level of amateur soccer in the country, and we have three graduates from South Brunswick High School on the Blaze so it gives them a fantastic opportunity to represent their hometown in a national league,” he said. “The town deserves a high level sport on its doorstep, and with the passion for soccer in the town and surrounding area, I’m confident the Blaze can go from strength to strength.”
   The Blaze’s next home game at Rowland Park is June 9 at 7:30 p.m. against the Maryland Red Devils. For more information on the New Jersey Blaze, including the home schedule, visit