A North champs reached semifinals of state sectional tournament BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer BY WARREN RAPPLEYEAStaff Writer The Middletown High School South girls basketball team usually finds a way to win its games, but the Eagles came up short in their NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinal game against West Windsor North. The 42-29 loss ended an otherwise solid South on a sour note. The Eagles shot just 12-for-50 from the floor, the 29 points were their lowest output of the year, yet they remained in the game until late in the fourth quarter when a Michelle Whalen 3-pointer cut the lead to three points. “If you ask me about our season next week, I’d be better able to put things in perspective and focus on the positives because this was just a frustrating loss,” coach Tom Brennan said. “All game long, we seemed to have a level of anxiety that we didn’t have in any other game. It was a tough, physical game and it wasn’t our best day, but the girls wouldn’t quit.” The Eagles defense, a key all year long while holding opponents to an average of 33 points, played reasonably well, though it just missed its goal of holding the opposition to 39 points or less. Whalen, a senior playing in what turned out to be her final game, scored 11 points, while pulling down six caroms and making six steals, to help keep things within reach. Middletown South finished the campaign at 22-3 and won the Shore Conference’s A North division, thanks, in part, to a pair of regular season triumphs over rival Howell. The Eagles only other losses came against quality teams as well. South lost in December in the finals of the Point Pleasant Beach Holiday Classic when Neptune won a 72-67 overtime thriller. Red Bank Catholic downed the Eagles in the semifinals of Shore tourney. The Caseys went on to win the Shore crown. Another big victory for South came against Freehold Borough in CJ Group III play. Middletown South was undefeated on the road, had only the loss to West Windsor North at home, and was 2-2 on neutral courts. A come-from-behind win over Point Pleasant Beach in the Holiday Classic helped set the tone for the season and give the Eagles confidence that they could come back, Brennan said. That came in handy in a home game against Howell when Christina Longo canned a later 3-pointer to give South a crucial division win. “I kind of look at this year as another third stage of our growth process,” Brennan said. “In many ways they’ve become like a family. They do a lot of things together and they look out for each other. Of course, we’ll miss Michelle [Whalen], but everyone else is coming back.” That concept clearly extends to the Eagles balanced offense. Shealyn Taggert led the team in scoring with an 8-point-per-game average, while pulling down seven boards per game. Whalen, Shawna Hagen and sophomores Jillian Gannon and Danielle Pankey averaged seven points, and Longo, Julie Gannon, Courtney Herring and point guard Brittany Hoffman, averaged six points. Herring and Longo each average six boards, while Herring and Hoffman pull down an average of four caroms. “The girls had a great season. Winning the division was a big step, and we only lost three games,” Brennan said. “But next year, we’ll still be looking to do more.”
It wasn’t easy, but the Freehold Clippers captured their first Atlantic Baseball Confederation Collegiate League (ABCCL) championship on Aug. 6, beating the regular season’s top two teams in a pair of playoff series. After a grueling second-round playoff, the Freehold Clippers claimed the team’s first-ever spot in the ABCCL championship finals. To get there, the underdog Clippers had to first defeat 2005 champion Toms River Black Sox, and then fight it out for four straight days with the 2006 regular-season champion Wall Angels. After splitting the first two games, the Clippers and Angels left the field Friday night still tied 8-8 at the end of nine innings. The contest resumed on Saturday, and in the top of the 10th, Dave Drechsel (Lafayette) led off with a single to left. Jackson’s Tim Doherty (St. Francis) followed with a sacrifice bunt advancing Drechsel to second. The next batter, Vinny DiBenedetti (Felician), was hit by a pitch. Jackson’s Dan Morvay (Wagner) followed with an infield hit, loading the bases. Middletown’s Pat Rogers (Wagner) laid down a successful squeeze bunt to score the ninth run and put the Clippers up 9-8. In the bottom of the inning, the Angels managed to get a runner to third base but were unable to push him across, securing the victory for the Clippers. The Clippers had no time to rest on their laurels. The first game in the best-of-three championship round began immediately after, and the Clippers left off where they began the day, claiming a 5-3 win over the Manchester Yankees, the regular season’s second-place finishers. Hazlet’s Mike Nunes (Montclair State) was 3-for-5 on the day with a triple and two singles and one RBI, while Drechsel had the big blow of the day, driving in two runs in the four-run fifth inning, that sealed the victory for the Clippers. Morvay’s single and DiBenedetti’s three-bagger also contributed to the offense. Terry Wells (Bentley) was the winning pitcher for the Clippers, and Lincroft’s Chris Yamaguchi (Bucknell) recorded the save. On Sunday, the championship series switched to Monmouth University. Faced with elimination, the Yankees dominated in the first game of the day, scoring an 8-4 win. For the winning Yankees, Adam Taha (Central Connecticut State) was 2-for-4 and Brick’s Rob Parks (Villanova) was 2-for-4 with a double, pacing the offense. Lefty Matt Coulson (Monmouth), of Freehold, pitched nine strong innings, allowing four runs, eight hits and striking out 12 Clippers to earn the win. For the Clippers, Morvay continued his hot hitting, going 3-for-3, including a double and one RBI, and Jackson’s Bruce Reibis (Rowan) blasted a two-run homer, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the four-run deficit. In the second and deciding game of the day, the Yankees sprinted out to a three-run lead at the end of the third inning, aided by two errors by the Clippers. The Clippers responded with two runs of their own in the top of the fifth inning. Reibis led off with a double to left center. A hit batter and a walk loaded the bases for Rogers, who singled, driving in two runs and narrowing the Yankees’ lead to 3-2. The score remained unchanged until the top of the seventh. A leadoff walk, a hit batter, and another walk loaded the bases. Consecutive singles by DiBenedetti and Nunes gave the comeback Clippers a 6-3 lead. The Clippers added another run in the top of the eighth on a leadoff double by Drechsel and a run-producing sacrifice fly by Tim Doherty. In the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees generated an unearned run aided by a Clipper error and a single by Taha. Holding a 7-4 lead, the Clippers slammed the door on the Yankees in the ninth, claiming their first ABCCL championship. Matt Singer (Seton Hall) picked up the win for the Clippers, and East Brunswick’s Dan Lanzano (Wagner College) earned the save with one and a third innings of shutout relief. Steve Pfeil (Caldwell College) suffered the loss while Billy Ryan (Caldwell) and Taha each went 2-for-3, as Taha picked up three RBIs for the Manchester Yankees.
State’s longest winning streak snapped at 43 games BY DOUG McKENZIE Staff Writer BY DOUG McKENZIEStaff Writer JEFFGRANIT staff Above, Middletown South quarterback Patrick Campbell looks to hit Dayon Lane with a pass during the Eagles’ loss to Ocean on Friday in Middletown. Below, South’s Brian Meeker looks for some running room. Nothing lasts forever, so you knew sooner or later, Middletown South was going to lose a football game again. And you figured it would take a championship-caliber effort to knock them off. After all, the Eagles hadn’t lost a game since falling to Wall Township in the state finals back in 2002, and had rolled through the first seven games of the year in their typical dominating fashion. So, when the Ocean Township Spartans made the short trip to Middletown on Friday night to take on the Eagles, you had to figure they had a chance, right? I mean, the Spartans are the defending Central Jersey Group III champions. This is a group of guys who have played in big games before – and a group that has proved it can excel in the underdog role. Why couldn’t they be the team to end the state’s longest winning streak at 43 games? Well, they could be. In fact, they were. Ocean Township beat Middletown South 19-14 Friday night in Middletown, sending shock waves through the state, and reaffirming the notion that the Spartans will be a force once again in the upcoming CJ Group III playoffs. It was a battle in which the Eagles were beaten at their own game. For the past four years, Middletown South has been beating teams with a punishing ground game and a shut-down defense, proving week in and week out to be one of the more balanced football teams in the state. Friday night, it was that exact formula that was their undoing, as the Spartans ran the ball down the Eagles’ throats, while their defense shut down the potent South attack, especially late in the game. The Spartans ran for 212 yards on the day, led by Joey Falco’s 127 yards on 23 carries, while allowing just 181 total yards by the Eagle offense, including an astounding minus-12 yards in the second half. With the win, the Spartans claimed the Shore’s Federal Division title – the first team other than Middletown South to claim the crown. The upset began like many of South’s games have over the past four years – with the Eagles scoring first, on a 29-yard Dave Dosil touchdown run on the second play of the second quarter. But Ocean came right back and responded with a nine-play, 54-yard scoring drive that tied the game when Alex Levy (18 rushes for 72 yards) found the end zone from a yard out. South’s Chris Bunge then returned the ensuing kickoff 51 yards, setting up the Eagles’ second score – a one-yard QB keeper that followed a 24-yard scamper from Brian Meeker. However, the Spartans responded once again, as quarterback Yinka Soda hit Levy for a 58-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14 heading into the half. The two teams traded punches in the first half, and while momentum remained up in the air for the most part, Ocean’s early perseverance was simply the opening act of this championship-caliber performance. Ocean managed to add a 30-yard Umit Kaygisiz field goal with just over three minutes to play in the third quarter to take the 17-14 lead, and from there, the Spartan defense took over. South simply had no answer for the Spartan D in the second half, as Ocean got an additional two points when South QB Patrick Campbell was called for intentional grounding in his own end zone, resulting in a safety. Once they got the ball back, Ocean ran out the clock, and completed the upset. When it was over, the South players and fans were left to celebrate the Conference-record streak, one which included more than a couple of close calls along the way. The Eagles of head coach Steve Antonucci had won 43 straight games, including 28 at home, before Ocean found a way to beat them on Friday. Just don’t assume this is the end of South’s state championship run. The three-time defending champion Eagles are still very much alive in the Central Jersey Group III playoff hunt. In fact, they’re still in good shape to secure at least one home game. Needless to say, they will be a very tough team to beat. And while there are several strong teams in this year’s CJ III bracket, there is one squad that the Eagles, to a man, would love to see in the sectional final. That would be the defending champion Ocean Township Spartans.
Despite its struggles so far this season, coach Bob Krieg believes his Holmdel High School boys golf team has a bright future. The Hornets, who are loaded with underclassmen, are currently 1-13- with the lone victory coming against Point Pleasant Beach in the season opener. “As a team we’ve had it tough, but I look at it as an opportunity for our freshmen and sophomores,” Krieg said. “Every time one of them gets to play, they’re getting better and learning more about the game. If we have a bunch of seniors and juniors, they wouldn’t even be playing.We graduated a lot of our starters, so our younger guys are now playing a lot and getting very valuable experience.” Freshmen RyanWetmore and Ben Pac have been Holmdel’s top golfers.Wetmore averages 48 shots and has shown good accuracy on the course and a nice touch around the greens. Pac plays a similar style and is an excellent putter. He averages 50 strokes per nine holes. Sophomore Reggie Hot and P.J. Murray hold down the three and four spots in the Hornets’ lineup. Both are big hitters and Krieg noted that they are working to shore up the short game. “When you can hit the ball like those two can, it’s a big advantage,” the coach said. “They both have great technique and they just need to refine their games a bit.” Michael Chun, the lone junior on the team, along with freshmen James Chen and Mike Saltzman have split time in the fifth spot. Krieg added that several other freshmen are showing good promise while vying for playing time. “We have a few guys who are really on the cusp and I’m hoping they get the golf bug,” Krieg said. “This is a sport where you really have to practice and show dedication to succeed. We have quite a few guys who are capable of turning into outstanding golfers. This is a game you’ve got to want to play. It’s also a game of honor; you actually have to call penalties on yourself. It’s a good character builder.” Holmdel, which still calls Bamm Hollow Country Club home, was slated to meet Rumson-Fair Haven onMonday and return to host St. John Vianney this afternoon and Matawan on Thursday. BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer
BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer For the past two seasons, the Keyport High School football team has been building a strong foundation, and this year the Red Raiders are among the favorites in the Shore Conference’s Patriot Division. Coach Mike Ciccotelli’s team returns an experienced and sizable line on both sides of scrimmage. Defensively, Keyport also returns its starting linebackers and its secondary. “Experience is our primary strength and most of our players played varsity last year and several of our seniors played as sophomores,” said Ciccotelli, now is his 32nd season at the Keyport helm. “That should really pay off for us this year.” Two-way lineman Bryan Thomson (6-1-277) moves from guard to center this season to anchor the offensive line. He will be flanked on the right side by sophomore guard E.J. Frick (6-0, 199) and tackle Matt Cummons (6-1, 215). On the left side, Dustin Thomas (5-10, 210) lines up at guard with junior Gregg Velasco (6-1, 295) at tackle. Mike Dowd (6-3, 210) adds more bulk to the line from his tight end position. Senior quarterback Jimmy Maguire will run the Red Raiders Wing-T attack. Christian Castell is the fullback, with Todd Jordan at wingback and junior Jordan Edmunds at halfback. Jake Bellamy is the split end. Velasco and Thomson will be the defensive tackles, with Dowd and sophomore Dave Hamilton (6-4, 265) at the ends. Castell, Cummons, Thomas and Cody Carroll are all back at linebacker. Maguire, Bellamy and Mike Miele are the defensive backs. R.J. Haedden will handle the placekicking and punting jobs. “We only have 34 kids so it’s important that we stay healthy,” Ciccotelli said. “If we can do that, we should be all right with the talent and experience we have.” Keyport has long been a force in NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I, but this fall the Red Raiders were moved to Group II because the enrollment of Henry Hudson Regional High School was added to Keyport’s total. Since Hudson does not have a football team, the two schools have a cooperative agreement allowing Hudson students to play football for Keyport. Six Hudson students will suit up for the Red Raiders this fall. Ciccotelli noted that the combined enrollment total made Keyport miss the Group I cut-off by one student. Since the Red Raiders schedule is populated with Group I teams, Keyport will have to have a very strong season to garner enough Power Points to qualify. “We’re in a position where we have to win almost every game,” the veteran mentor said. “If we lose one, we may still be able to get in but it will be very difficult if we lose more than that.” Since his team has set its sights on the Patriot Division title, it will be particularly important for Ciccotelli’s team to not look past any opponent. Keyport opens the season on Saturday at Metuchen, a Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) foe. Ciccotelli said the Bulldogs, 8-4-0 a year ago, are a well-coached and talented team that will be a stiff test for his club. The following week the Red Raiders travel to Highland Park, another GMC team before opening their conference schedule on Oct. 2 at Point Pleasant Beach.
I ndoor auto racing will return to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the 10th consecutive year under the promotion of Len Sammons.Sammons has confirmed that the events will be held on Feb. 3-4.Ted Christopher from Plainville, Conn., will return to defend the “Gambler’s Classic” title he won in 2011 in the headline Three-Quarter Midget division.Christopher, the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion, also won the “Coffee Cup” Three-Quarter Midget feature held in the Dunkin’Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., to sweep last winter’s indoor racing series. The Providence event will be held on March 10-11.The Three-Quarter Midgets will hit speeds near 70 mph while running a course set up on the Boardwalk Hall concrete floor. Feature events find a minimum of 24 cars taking the green flag, providing some hairraising action for fans.Each year, professional race car drivers from many different divisions of the sport and more than 10 states compete at the event.The Champ Kart and Slingshot divisions will also be included in the Atlantic City race weekend. Racing will begin on Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m. and on Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. Each night will include qualifying races and a feature event for the headline division.To purchase tickets and for further information, call 609-888-3618 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or visit www.aarn.com.
Andre Villas-Boas was sacked as Tottenham Hotspur manager on Monday as two Premier League thrashings in three weeks exposed the side’s frailties despite a transfer outlay of over 100 million pounds during the summer.Spurs were humiliated 5-0 by Liverpool in front of their own fans on Sunday, having been thrashed 6-0 by Manchester City last month, and the club announced the Portuguese coach’s departure “by mutual consent” in a statement on their website (www.tottenhamhotspur.com).The former Porto coach, who took over in July 2012, lasted longer than in his previous job at Chelsea, where he was sacked eight months into his first season.Spurs brought in a host of new players including Roberto Soldado – for 26 million pounds – Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Paulinho with the transfer booty received from the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a world record 100 million euros ($137.30 million).The vast number of new faces of varied nationalities have seemed to make it difficult for Villas-Boas to settle on a preferred side, resulting in an inconsistent season for the club.A paltry return of 15 goals in 16 league matches has left the fans frustrated, while some appalling defending contributed to the Man City and Liverpool heavy defeats.Although they are going strong in the Europa League and Capital One Cup, they are seventh in the league, eight points behind local rivals and leaders Arsenal.Following Sunday’s defeat Villas-Boas was questioned about the players he is working with and said:“We had worked hard to build a strong team and we are happy with the signings.“The players we have are top quality and we have to work hard to bond them together. We have been extremely unfortunate with injuries.”Pressed on his future, he said: “It’s not my call. I can’t control that. I have to get down to work. That’s the only thing I can focus on. The call on that decision is not mine. I won’t resign and I’m not a quitter. The only thing I can do is work hard with the players and try and get the results back on track.”Instead, he was not given the chance and becomes the fifth Premier League manager to lose his job this season after Paolo Di Canio (Sunderland), Ian Holloway (Crystal Palace), Martin Jol (Fulham) and Steve Clarke (West Bromwich Albion).
By Martyn HermanIn case they needed it, the short trip to Crystal Palace will re-focus Chelsea’s globe-trotting players on matters at home as the Premier League slips back into gear this weekend after the second international break of the season.Like most of their Premier League rivals, Chelsea’s squad was scattered far and wide after their 2-0 home win over Arsenal on October 5, a result that left them five points clear after six wins and a draw from their opening seven matches.The leaders will need no reminding, however, that modest Palace will have scant regard for Chelsea’s clear squad superiority come Saturday afternoon in south east London.A 1-0 defeat at Palace in late March, when John Terry’s own goal sealed their fate, put a serious dent in Chelsea’s title ambitions last season and had Mourinho accusing some of his players of “disappearing” against certain low-key opponents.It is unlikely to happen again, given the improvements Mourinho has made to his squad during the close-season and the clear hunger of his side to reclaim the Premier League trophy after an absence of four seasons.Chelsea’s German World Cup-winning forward Andre Schuerrle said Mourinho’s unrelenting will to win is one of the driving forces behind their blistering early season form.“To him, finishing second is a failure,” the 23-year-old told Bild. “He doesn’t know the word ‘losing’. That’s how he holds his talk before the matches. His thinking is impressive — as impressive as the way he gets his message across.“He challenges you to be robust on the pitch, to play like a man. To commit a foul. I feel much better since joining Chelsea and I have become much more confident.”Yet Mourinho would still have been anxious as he counted his players back in through the training ground gates this week.FLYING STARTHe would have kept a particularly careful eye on Spain striker Diego Costa, whose nine league goals since signing from Atletico Madrid have fuelled Chelsea’s flying start.Despite concerns over his hamstring, Brazilian-born Costa played the full 90 minutes in Spain’s surprise Euro 2016 qualifier loss to Slovakia and all but eight minutes in the win over Luxembourg when he scored his first goal for his adopted country.Cesc Fabregas and Cesar Azpilicueta were also on Spain duty, Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, who suffered a head injury against Arsenal, were with Belgium while Gary Cahill featured in England’s wins over San Marino and Estonia.Serbia’s Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic both played in Serbia’s flashpoint match against Albania in Belgrade that was abandoned after fighting broke out on Tuesday.Palace, sitting in 15th place with eight points, have also seen their preparations for the Chelsea clash disrupted by international call-ups but striker Fraizer Campbell says a clash against Mourinho’s side is the perfect motivation.“When you’re playing against the better teams, you need every man to perform,” he said.“It is a lot easier to get up for those type of games because they’re the games that everyone wants to play in.”Like Mourinho, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini would also have found himself kicking his heels since his side’s last game, a 2-0 win at Aston Villa.The champions, five points behind Chelsea in second place, return to action with a Saturday lunchtime kickoff at home to sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.Before City’s recent rise it was a fixture that filled their fans with dread.The tables have turned though and City have won the last four between the sides at the Etihad, including a 6-0 drubbing of the north London side last November.City will likely be without midfielder Yaya Toure who was in action for the Ivory Coast on Wednesday night against Congo and will have precious little recovery time.Sergio Aguero travelled to Hong Kong for Argentina’s friendly but, unlike team mate Pablo Zabaleta, was rested.Arsenal will hope to make up some lost ground with a home match against Hull City while third-placed Southampton, beaten by Tottenham before the international stoppage, have the chance to maintain their spot in the top four at home to Sunderland.Fourth-placed Manchester United must wait until Monday for their away match at West Bromwich Albion while Liverpool have a Sunday lunchtime assignment at bottom club Queens Park Rangers.
By Patrick JohnstonFormer World Cup winner and Arsenal’s record goal-scorer Thierry Henry announced his retirement from football on Tuesday, bringing an end to his a glittering 20-year career.The 37-year-old Frenchman scored 51 goals in 123 appearances for his country as he helped them win the 1998 World Cup and European Championships in 2000, while picking up trophies with Monaco, Arsenal, Barcelona and New York Red Bulls in a success-laden club career.“It has been an incredible journey and I would like to thank all the fans, team-mates and individuals involved with AS Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal FC, FC Barcelona, the New York Red Bulls and of course the French National Team that have made my time in the game so special,” he said in a statement.“It is now time for a different career path.“I have had some amazing memories (mostly good!) and a wonderful experience. I hope you have enjoyed watching as much as I have enjoyed taking part.”He left the Red Bulls earlier this month at the end of his four-year contract in Major League Soccer, saying he needed time to contemplate his next move.On Tuesday Henry said he had taken up a role as a television pundit with Sky Sports in Britain starting next year.The speedy winger made his name in England where he became one of Europe’s most feared strikers after Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger switched him to a central role following his arrival from Juventus.He scored 228 goals for the Londoners in two spells, winning two English Premier League titles before moving to Spanish giants Barcelona where he won a pair of La Liga crowns and the Champions League in 2009.
By Brian HomewoodCHAMPIONS League and Europa League revenue will be distributed more evenly next season, the European Clubs Association (ECA) and UEFA said on Tuesday.The announcement came amid concern the gulf between the richest clubs and the rest was widening, with the result that domestic leagues and the Champions League are becoming increasingly predictable.“ECA and UEFA have together developed a revolutionary distribution mechanism for the Champions League and Europa League aimed at sharing … revenue growth more evenly among European clubs,” ECA and UEFA said in a joint statement after an ECA meeting.“A record funding pot of 2.24 billion euros will be divided (per season) with a new focus on solidarity.“A greater proportion of funds than ever before will go to Europa League participants, to participants in the qualifying rounds and to clubs in medium/smaller championships.“The concept means more funding for all because the new percentage-based system ensures every stakeholder will benefit proportionally from the competitions’ continued growth.”ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said he was pleased with the outcome.“We have something like 220 clubs as members so we have big clubs like Real Madrid, mid-sized clubs like Porto and small clubs coming from Malta, Cyprus and so on,” Rummenigge told Reuters.“We have to care about club football as a whole and not just for the big and rich clubs. We are very happy with the outcome … because it’s very favourable for club football and once more a signal that club football is in very good shape.“ECA is still a very young organisation and these achievements are an extraordinary success which will strengthen the solidarity among the clubs and our sense of responsibility for football,” added Rummenigge.The ECA said more money would also be distributed to clubs who release players for Euro 2020 and that, for the first time, the amount would be calculated as a percentage rather than a fixed figure.“Clubs will receive eight percent of income from broadcast, commercial and ticketing/hospitality, with the minimum set at 200 million euros, a 50 million increase on the clubs’ share of Euro 2016 revenues,” said the ECA.Gianni Infantino, general secretary of European football’s ruling body UEFA, said: “The key words in all of this are good governance…dynamic governance with the involvement of the clubs directly in the executive committee of UEFA.”