Eagles keep it close in state sectional football defeat

By JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

Normally a football team with a 3-5 record doesn’t belong in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V playoffs.

However, Edison High School’s narrow 38-35 loss to Old Bridge High School (5-3) proved the Eagles were more than worthy of being included in the postseason. If not for a last-minute drive that ended on downs in Knights territory, the Eagles might have won the game. And what a punctuation mark that would have been for a team that suffered through three straight losses before upsetting Sayreville War Memorial High School, 20- 19, Nov. 6. It was that victory and the power points that came with it that earned the Eagles the sixth seed in the eight-team bracket.

Despite the close score, Edison head coach Matt Fulham was not interested in talking about his team’s performance being a moral victory, especially since Old Bridge beat the Eagles, 45-27, in a regular-season game in September.

 Metuchen High School’s Carly Lucas, left, screens Shore Regional High School’s Sophie Hauritz to gain control of the ball during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I championship game played in West Long Branch Nov. 12. Shore Regional denied Metuchen’s bid for a state sectional title, 4-0.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Metuchen High School’s Carly Lucas, left, screens Shore Regional High School’s Sophie Hauritz to gain control of the ball during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I championship game played in West Long Branch Nov. 12. Shore Regional denied Metuchen’s bid for a state sectional title, 4-0. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR “Tonight, we had a couple of turnovers in key situations, and that cost us,” he said. “Our mantra all year has been protecting the football and playing physical. When we do that, we’re good, and when we don’t, we’re not.”

Edison did, however, manage numerous outstanding plays throughout the seesaw contest, which included quarterback Haziq Daniels completing 10 of 15 passes with three touchdowns. Old Bridge appeared on its way to an easy victory after scoring three consecutive touchdowns to go up, 19-0, with 11 minutes left in the second quarter. However, Edison stormed back with three scores of its own to take a 20-19 lead at halftime. Another touchdown with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter extended the margin to 28-19 and an upset appeared possible.

That’s when the proverbial light came on for Old Bridge, as the Knights posted three touchdowns, the last coming with 2:30 on the clock, to give them a 38-28 lead.

Still, Edison refused to toss in the towel. Daniels fired an off-balance aerial to a streaking Ben Baez, who cradled the ball into his arms and ran to the end zone to narrow the Knights’ lead to 38-35.

The Eagles used their three timeouts to stop the clock after three Old Bridge running plays on the next possession netted 4 yards. Faced with a fourth-down, the Knights lined up to punt, but the kicker took off on a run and failed to reach the first down marker, thus handing over the ball to Edison in Old

Bridge territory with 1:30 left.

Despite Edison’s loss, the season is not over. On Thanksgiving, the Eagles will meet crosstown rival J.P. Stevens High

School (1-8), which won its first game of the campaign, 42-6, over William L. Dickinson High School in a state crossover game on Nov. 12. The J.P. Stevens game is the only thing on Fulham’s mind.

“Right now, it’s about this season and getting better, eliminating our mistakes,” he said. “We have a lot of young kids, but it seems everybody in [the Greater Middlsex Conference Red Division] has quality sophomore and junior classes. When we’re finished with this year, then we’ll focus on next season.”


The Metuchen High School (16-6) boys’ soccer team finally saw its impressive season come to an end Nov. 13 when South River High School defeated the Bulldogs, 2-0, in the Central Jersey, Group I championship game. Metuchen reached the finals by posting three shutout victories against Highland Park High School, 5-0, New Egypt High School, 1-0, and Burlington City High School, 5-0.

“Losing to South River was tough, especially for the seniors,” first-year Bulldog coach Ed Albanese said. “But we can be thankful we had so many great moments and accomplished so much.”

Albanese credits his team’s success by their approach of “playing the right way — hard with a willingness to fight through obstacles when things didn’t go their way.”

The leading scorers for Metuchen were seniors Cameron O’Connell (19 goals, four assists) and Ryan Josell (15 goals, seven assists).

Albanese, who took over for Ken Graf, complimented the former coach because of what he learned during his 11 years as his assistant.

“Ken established a great tradition here of competing at the highest level,” he said. “I first learned to love high school and college soccer by playing myself and tried to pass that on in addition to what Ken did.”

The Metuchen and Bishop George Ahr High School girls saw their state championship aspirations end as they were defeated in sectional tournament games. The Bulldogs advanced to the championship game by blanking Bound Brook High School, 6-0, New Egypt, 4-0, and Point Pleasant Beach High School, 1-0, before losing to Shore Regional High School, 4-0, in the title game.

The Trojans won their quarterfinals match against Paul VI High School, 2-1, but were eliminated by Notre Dame High School, 3-0, in the Non-Public A South semifinals.


Metuchen’s boys’ cross-country team proved the whole is stronger than the parts by capturing the Group I title without a runner finishing in the top 10.

The race was held at Holmdel Park Nov. 14, with the Bulldogs scoring 112 points to edge Wallkill Valley High School by a point.

Sophomore Jake Beacher was the top Metuchen finisher, placing 11th (17:07), while the order of finish and their times for the Bulldogs’ other races were sophomore Caelen Johnson, 20th (17:27); senior Mike Stonehocker, 27th (17:36); junior Austin Brooks, 30th (17:38); junior James Francobandiero, 32nd (17:43); sophomore Stephen Tang, 40th (17:54); and sophomore Divij Gupta, 42nd (17:55).

The Metuchen girls finished fourth in the Group I race with 140 points after an unfortunate spill by Rachel Suss caused the senior to be unable to complete the course. The other Bulldogs finishers were senior Kristina Lignell, 18th (21:33); freshman Emma Capron, 28th (21:55); junior Rachel Wentnick, 31st (22:02); junior Elizabeth Lawson, 35th (22:08); and freshman Nina Suss, 44th (22:20).


In the state individual gymnastics meet Nov. 14, Bishop Ahr freshman Ariyana Agarwala, who tied for first place on the uneven bars (9.65), finished tied for sixth in the all-around competition (37.725). She also tied for fifth in the floor exercise (9.575). J.P. Stevens’ Shannon Gregory placed ninth in the all-around competition (37.625).