Sussex County Sports Blog

By Dan Cleary

9/19/2014 - Lions Learn Lessons in Tough Losses

    Sometimes the numbers don’t tell the entire story.

   Case in point, Pope John’s football team which is 0-2 for the first time in probably over 40 years and has been outscored 112-31 in the process.
   But when it comes to the Lions you can throw those numbers out the window and chalk it up to a learning experience and that is exactly what coach Brian Carlson is doing.
   You see, Pope John’s 0-2 is not your typical 0-2,  No, sir.  The Lions fell to two top five quality teams in DePaul 49-21 on opening night and 63-10 to Non-Public Group 4 behemoth Paramus Catholic in the rain in their home opener.
   Never in the history of Sussex County football has a team opened the regular season against such top flight competition and the two losses gave the Lions a glimpse of where they need to be if they want the Non-Public “Big Five” to become the “Big Six.”
   Over the course of the last 10-15 years, Don Bosco, Bergen Catholic, St. Joseph’s, St. Peter’s Prep, and most recently Paramus Catholic, have dominated the football landscape not only in New Jersey but throughout the country.
   Everyone has a theory on why this happened and their opinion why its either good or bad for high school football and that is fine.
   But the fact is, I don’t see the Non-Publics dominance changing anytime soon when you look at what Pope John is doing and DePaul, which has really come on like gangbusters over the last five years.
   Pope John has always been one of the top programs in the state under the late, great Vic Paternostro, winning 18 titles since championships have been decided on the field.  The Lions also dominated the old Sussex County Interscholastic League.
   But DePaul was a solid program in the old Colonial Hills Conference and was not a state power with just two state titles until the Spartans won the Non-Public Group 2 crown last year.
   But since the realignment both schools have made a big-time push to join the traditional powers with DePaul taking a huge leap last season which included a win over Bosco.
   This is the new world order in high school football in the state when it comes to the Non-Publics.  
    Now the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has granted some of  the “Big Five” waivers on the 70 percent rule so they can play more out-of-state opponents, which in turn makes their program more attractive. 
   The 70 percent rule states that in order to be eligible for the state tournament 70 percent of your schedule most be against in-state schools.
    So again, right now, whether you like it or not, this is the way of the world.
   That’s why I can’t blame Carlson for picking up the two games to start the season.  He made a pledge when he took over four seasons ago to lead PJ to its first state title in Group 3.
   The Lions got to the final last year and were thumped by Joe’s at MetLife Stadium.  Carlson figured, rightly so, that in order to play that high level competition they need to see it more often.
   That is no knock on the NJAC American Division.  Besides Sparta, no one has given the Lions a game in three years.  That may change this year but I still think the Lions and Spartans the teams to beat
   But by picking up DePaul and Paramus Catholic the Lions know where they stand and where they need to go against the state powers.
   In my opinion, Pope John would have had a much better showing with last year’s experienced team but Pope John wasn’t able to get the scheduling done.  The school also needed a waiver from the NJAC to open early and to opt out of its NJAC crossover game.
   And to the league’s credit, it allowed the Lions to do that.
   Pope John’s highly-touted junior quarterback Sonny Abramson has taken his lumps the last two weeks but he is in no way, shape or form letting it get him down.  In fact, the classy signal-caller was mature enough to use it as a learning experience.
   “One of the biggest reasons we played those two teams is to get us ready for the playoffs,” said Abramson after the PC loss.  “We need to play teams like Paramus and DePaul in order to get ready for the Joes and Red Bank Catholics and those teams.
   “So we are really just trying to learn as much as we can from these games,” he added.  “Moving forward when we are in this situation the next time we will know how to pull out the game and make sure we win.”
   And he is absolutely right.
   Said Carlson: “We’re not where we want to be.  We are in a transition phase right now and trying to catch those type of teams…But you have to go through the fire.”
   And Carlson is absolutely right.
   Carlson said he broke up the Lions’ season into three phases:  The first two games, the NJAC and the states.
   “The takeaway from today at the varsity level you have to play 48 minutes,” he said after the PC game.  “Right now our biggest focus is on the NJAC.”
    The Lions have all the makings of making another state run and defending their division title.  
   With Abramson leading the offense with talented wideouts in Austin Bailey and Michael Josephs and hard charging running back Nick Esposito the Lions will get on track.
   PJ also has a huge line in Scott Black (6-4, 295), Sam Howson (6-3, 240), Michael Anderson (6-0, 210), John Cotis (6-2, 240) and Jake Barchers (6-5, 275).
   In fact Howson held his own last week against one of the top defensive lineman in the nation in Rashaan Gary of PC.
   It is funny to me to type the heights and weights of the lineman because I remember all those years when PJ dominated the SCIL and Group 2 it never had a huge line.  They were strong, tough and well-coached but never huge.
    Frank Wilpert, who went onto Boston College, was the exception to the rule at 6-5, 275 back in the 1990s.
   Times are a changing.
   PJ’s young defense led by Dew Daniel, will get better as well.
   Time will tell if PJ can crack the “Big Five” and as long as Carlson is coaching that will be the main focus of the program.  And again, like it or not, give Carlson credit for sticking to his goal.
   And maybe, just maybe, all of this will lead to the formation of a Non-Public football league so we won’t have the Non-Public vs. Public issue in the regular season at least in football.
   I just hope after getting beat like they did the last two weeks that the Lions keep that in mind when they play their NJAC schedule.  Scores like 63-10 in NJAC play benefit no one.
   That’s it for now see you on the sidelines.
9/19/2014
Lions Learn Lessons in Tough Losses


9/14/2014
SCCC Men Off To Great Start


9/11/2014
We Should Never Forget


9/9/2014
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9/7/2014
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9/1/2014
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8/20/2014
Sussex Hall of Fame Inductees Announced


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7/26/2014
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7/18/2014
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7/11/2014
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7/7/2014
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6/26/2014
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6/19/2014
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6/13/2014
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6/9/2014
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6/4/2014
Wildcats Heading To The Shore


5/26/2014
Talent Gap Shrinking In Lacrosse


5/19/2014
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5/12/2014
Lacrosse State Pairings


5/12/2014
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5/5/2014
HWS Lacrosse To Get Under Way


4/28/2014
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4/16/2014
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4/10/2014
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4/7/2014
Lenape's LaBell Named Scholar Athlete


3/31/2014
NJAC Adds Boys Lacrosse


3/24/2014
Super Season For Hoops


3/17/2014
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3/6/2014
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2/27/2014
Nanius Rings Up 2,000th Point


2/20/2014
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2/13/2014
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2/7/2014
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1/31/2014
Jefferson Boys Hoops Snubbed


1/26/2014
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1/17/2014
Proposal Takes Aim At Transfers


1/10/2014
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1/8/2014
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1/3/2014
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12/27/2013
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12/20/2013
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12/12/2013
Special Season For Spartans


12/5/2013
Football Plan Rejected Again


11/27/2013
Many Thanks!


11/25/2013
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11/21/2013
Cronin, Braves Just Golden


11/14/2013
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11/7/2013
Braves To Host State Football Game


11/1/2013
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10/24/2013
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10/17/2013
Wallkill's Corti Captures H/W/S


10/9/2013
PJ-Sparta Rivalry Runs Deep


10/2/2013
H/W/S Goes To Power Points


9/23/2013
PJ's Izzo Picks Florida State


9/19/2013
What's Good, Bad About H.S. Sports


9/12/2013
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9/11/2013
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9/6/2013
NJAC Faces Changes


9/3/2013
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8/28/2013
Taunting Rule Tough To Enforce


8/21/2013
Humbled By Hall Honor


8/14/2013
School Choice Athletes Must Sit


8/7/2013
SUCO Hall Announces Candidates


7/31/2013
Team Sweeney Wins Sparta League


7/24/2013
Clarification


7/23/2013
Spartans Tap Connors For Boys Soccer Job


7/18/2013
McCarney Eyes Big Season, NFL


7/10/2013
Aiken Leaves Pope John


7/2/2013
Lenape Valley Looking For New AD Again


6/26/2013
Lowery Steps Down At Sparta


6/19/2013
Jefferson Names MacDermid New Girls Hoops Coach


6/17/2013
All-NJAC American, Freedom Softball


6/17/2013
All-NJAC Freedom Baseball


6/17/2013
All-NJAC American Baseball


6/6/2013
Tommy Martino A True Inspiration


5/29/2013
Delaney Takes Wallkill Football Job


5/23/2013
Canning, Lions Capture Crown


5/16/2013
Pope John Takes Aim At Softball Title


5/9/2013
Wildcats Look to Repeat


5/4/2013
Spartans Eye HWS Lax Crowns


4/27/2013
A Tribute To My Dad


4/3/2013
Firing Rice A Good Start


4/1/2013
Spring Broadcast Schedule


3/25/2013
Soccer Coaches Will Be Missed


3/18/2013
Hoops Season Review


3/13/2013
O'Connor Goes Out A Winner


2/21/2013
High Point Eyes H/W/S Crown


2/20/2013
PJ-Sparta III


2/18/2013
Wildcats Bounce Back To Win State Title


2/5/2013
Wynne, Lions Continue to Roar


2/4/2013
Girls Hoops Power Points


2/4/2013
Boys Hoops Power Points


1/29/2013
H/W/S Boys Hoops Preview


1/27/2013
H/W/S Girls Hoops Preview


1/18/2013
Jones Steps Down As Wallkill Football Coach


1/10/2013
How Are Good Are the Lions?


1/2/2013
2013 Comes in With A Bang; Pretty in Pink Saturday


12/27/2012
Winter Broadcast Schedule


12/12/2012
NJAC Football All-Stars Freedom


12/12/2012
NJAC Football All-Stars American -2


12/11/2012
NJAC Girls Soccer All-Stars


12/10/2012
NJAC Football All-Stars American


12/9/2012
NJAC Girls Tennis All-Stars


12/8/2012
NJAC Boys Soccer All-Stars


12/3/2012
Newton Win Worthy Of Parade


11/27/2012
Pats Making History


11/11/2012
State Football Pairings


11/5/2012
Sandy Wreaks Havoc


10/24/2012
SUCO Hall Has New Look


10/17/2012
Pope John Soccer Eyes History


10/3/2012
H/W/S Soccer Set To Start


9/27/2012
H/W/S Field Hockey Starts; State Makes Right Call


9/20/2012
NJSIAA Comes Up Snake Eyes


9/12/2012
Fall Broadcast Schedule


9/11/2012
We Should Never Forget


9/7/2012
Academies Not The Right Way To Go


8/17/2012
Football Group Classifications


8/7/2012
Horse Show Trots On


7/31/2012
Turf Field Great For Newton


7/24/2012
Martinek, Big Blue Good Fit


7/9/2012
BBCOR Bats Right Move


6/27/2012
NJAC Baseball, Softball Stars


6/20/2012
(Mugs Media Exclusive) Van Orden Takes High Point Job


6/17/2012
Wildcats Win Thriller


6/7/2012
High Point Continues Magical Ride


5/30/2012
Tech Caps Record Season


5/21/2012
Wildcats Capture Crown


5/16/2012
State Should Break Lax Tourney Into Sections


5/8/2012
Spartans Eye H/W/S Title


5/1/2012
Girls Lacrosse Tourney Set To Start


4/22/2012
Wildcats Eye Tourney Title


4/13/2012
Games of the Week Back on The Air !


4/6/2012
Scholar-Athlete Dinner Great Event


3/27/2012
Lipscomb Perfect Fit For SCCC


3/20/2012
Geffken Leaves Lasting Legacy


3/5/2012
Mugs Media Will Survive


2/20/2012
Lawrence Makes Big Splash With PJ


1/30/2012
Paternostro Passes Away


1/24/2012
(Mugs Media Exclusive) Falcons Hire DeGennaro


1/23/2012
When Paterno Came to Wallkill


1/19/2012
Vikes Hit Rough Seas


1/15/2012
NJAC Races Heating Up


1/7/2012
Martinek Wraps Fine Career


12/14/2011
NJAC Should Push Back Starting Date


12/6/2011
Football Plan Rejected


11/27/2011
Magical Season For Braves


11/15/2011
Wayne Hills Misses Opportunity


11/8/2011
Vikings Back in The Big Dance


10/31/2011
Christensen, Wildcats Roar


10/25/2011
NJAC Makes Changes


10/13/2011
DiSomma Brings Home Title


10/4/2011
H/W/S Soccer To Start


9/27/2011
Mustangs, Leach Make History


9/19/2011
Lions Bounce Back For Carlson


9/11/2011
We Should Never Forget


9/8/2011
Wildcats Show Fight


8/21/2011
Are You Ready For Some Football?


8/12/2011
SUCO Hall of Fame Class Stellar


8/3/2011
PJ's Moore Picks BC


7/24/2011
Ungerman Classic Great For Hoops Fans


7/14/2011
Vernon Drops To Group 3


7/8/2011
Kelly, Dugan To Lead Braves


7/2/2011
Sussex Stars Shine


6/21/2011
High Point Finds Solution With Percey


6/13/2011
What A Ride For Sparta


6/4/2011
Historic Blasts For PJ, Sparta


5/23/2011
Judgment Day for Lions, Vikes


5/15/2011
Ruban Steps Down At Wallkill Valley


5/9/2011
Boys Lax Tourney Should Be Good One


5/6/2011
Vernon Girls Favorite To Win H/WS


4/29/2011
Pope John Names New Basketball Coach


4/23/2011
H/W/S Tourneys To Start


4/10/2011
GIrls Hoops NJAC Stars


4/2/2011
History Made At Pope John


4/1/2011
Pope John Names Football Coach


3/25/2011
Local Boys Hoops Stars Honored


3/20/2011
Hopatcong's Rey Wins National Title


3/16/2011
Lions Saga Continues


3/9/2011
(Mugs Media Exclusive) Paternostro Steps Down


3/5/2011
Great Run For High Point Girls


2/17/2011
Hats Off To Cats


2/12/2011
American Division Up For Grabs


2/3/2011
A Look At H/W/S Girls Hoops Tourney


1/25/2011
H/W/S Boys Hoops Preview


1/18/2011
More Females Join Coaching Ranks


1/9/2011
Pretty In Pink Classic Great Success


1/2/2011
Wildcats Look To Make History


12/21/2010
Skyhawks May Fly The Coop


12/14/2010
Alumni Game Fun


12/6/2010
NJAC Girls Soccer Honors


11/30/2010
NJAC Field Hockey Honors


11/18/2010
Local Boys Soccer Players Honored


11/11/2010
Rangers Return To Playoffs


11/6/2010
Vikings Make History


10/28/2010
Tourney Time Brings Questions


10/20/2010
Power Point Presentation


10/14/2010
North Warren Football On The Rise


10/7/2010
H/W/S Tourney Under Way


9/30/2010
Stop The Insanity


9/22/2010
Tough Break For Chiefs


9/11/2010
We Should Never Forget


9/8/2010
NJSIAA Moving In Right Direction


8/17/2010
Activity Fees New Reality


8/10/2010
Zabriskie Makes County Proud


8/2/2010
PJ Soccer Family Rallies For Good Cause


7/24/2010
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7/15/2010
Marchiano Named Sparta Coach


7/7/2010
Change Good For Vikings


6/27/2010
Up And Down Year For NJAC


6/15/2010
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6/8/2010
Shea Steps Down At Sparta


6/1/2010
TOC On Chopping Block


5/20/2010
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5/3/2010
Spartans Gain Top Seed


5/1/2010
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4/23/2010
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4/18/2010
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4/17/2010
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4/11/2010
Local NJAC Standings


4/5/2010
Girls Lacrosse Has New Look


3/22/2010
Sports Programs In Doubt


3/15/2010
NJSIAA In Fight For Its Life


3/8/2010
No 'Rocky' Ending For Orr


3/1/2010
What We Learned At H/W/S


2/28/2010
Local NJAC Hoops Standings


2/19/2010
Wrestling Needs A TOC


2/12/2010
H/W/S Tourney To Tip Off


2/10/2010
Local NJAC Hoops Standings


2/8/2010
Clearing Up Tourney Questions


2/6/2010
Local NJAC Hoops Standings


2/1/2010
(Exclusive to Mugs Media) Levens, Falcons Part Ways


1/31/2010
Local NJAC Hoops Standings


1/20/2010
Great Night For Wrestling


1/18/2010
Local NJAC Basketball Standings


1/11/2010
Geffken Makes Right Choice


1/3/2010
Top Teams Of The Decade


12/27/2009
O'Connor Hits Magic Mark


12/15/2009
Sports-Specific Way to Go


12/3/2009
NJAC Makes Changes


11/23/2009
Geary, Spartans Play Instant Classic


11/16/2009
NJAC Should Look At Football


11/8/2009
Sussex Football Puts On Show


10/29/2009
Great Start To H/W/S Tourney


10/22/2009
Expanded Brackets Good Idea


10/13/2009
New Tourney Set To Kick Off


10/7/2009
Classy Chernati wins 300th Game


9/29/2009
Tough Start For ex-SCIL Teams


9/11/2009
We Should Never Forget


9/8/2009
NJAC Era Begins


9/1/2009
Parzero Perfect For Pats


8/23/2009
New World For Mugs Media


8/9/2009
Fun At The Fair


8/2/2009
Fond Memories of Dick Stoltenborg


7/24/2009
Hall Nominees All Deserving


7/14/2009
Opening Day Will Be Tough


6/28/2009
SCIL Show Special


6/2/2009
Newton Makes Disque Proud


5/19/2009
Tri-County Tourney Great Idea


5/12/2009
NJSIAA Hits Grand Slam


5/1/2009
How About A Lacrosse Tourney?


4/19/2009
Levens Keeps On Winning


4/11/2009
Everyone's Favorite Uncle Mo'


4/2/2009
Morris Will Be Missed


3/21/2009
SCIL Athletes Talk Of The Town


3/12/2009
Wrestlebacks Not For The Meek


3/3/2009
Kuntz Built SCCC Into Winner


2/25/2009
Festival Goes Out In Style


2/17/2009
SCIL Swim Festival First Class


2/11/2009
Heartbreak For Wildcats


2/4/2009
Expanded Brackets A Home Run


1/27/2009
Coaches Sit On Hot Seat


1/20/2009
NJAC Releases Schedules (Part 2)


1/13/2009
NJAC Releases Schedules (Part 1)


1/5/2009
I'm One Lucky Guy


12/21/2008
Tough Break For Sisco


12/7/2008
Nice Guys Finish First


11/28/2008
Back To The Future For Falcons


11/20/2008
Sussex Perfect For Runners


11/14/2008
Fitting End For SCIL Football


11/8/2008
Other Side of Cinderella


10/31/2008
Edelman, Vikes Make Good Point


10/23/2008
Rangers Riding High


10/16/2008
Old Lion Still Roaring


10/9/2008
State Plays 52-Pickup


10/3/2008
SCIL Soccer Plan Perfect


9/25/2008
NJSIAA Lacks Direction


9/17/2008
High Point's Keur Happy To Be Back


9/11/2008
We Should Never Forget


9/1/2008
Football Deaths Sobering Reminder


8/25/2008
State Plan Needs Second Look


8/14/2008
Realingment Plan Disbands SCIL (Exclusive to MugsMedia.Com)


8/11/2008
Martinek Gives Me Knight Fever


8/6/2008
Remembering Ryan Olsen


7/30/2008
No Place Like Home For Crespi


7/21/2008
Trudgeon, Braves Had Great Run


7/13/2008
Safety First For Little Leaguers


7/6/2008
Wolf, Nottle Find Winning Ways


6/29/2008
Are You Ready For The Summer?


6/22/2008
Lanier Right Man For Skyhawks


6/15/2008
A Special Thanks to Dad


6/7/2008
Defense Never Rests


5/30/2008
Kittatinny Crew Saves the Day


5/23/2008
Bello makes right call


5/16/2008
Great to be back at Festival


5/9/2008
Softball Should Have Tourney


4/25/2008
Realignment Could Be Done Deal


4/18/2008
SCIL Teams Born to Score Runs


4/11/2008
SCIL Home to Top Hurlers


4/4/2008
Lacrosse Teams Riding the Wave


3/28/2008
Wallkill's VanZile Set to Retire (Exclusive to MugsMedia.com)


3/21/2008
A Little "Mercy" for Football Teams


3/14/2008
Valenti's Title Caps Banner Year for SCIL Wrestling


3/7/2008
Taking a Hard Look at the New Transfer Rules


2/29/2008
Giving SCIL Basketball a Boost


2/22/2008
Rasslin' to the Top... Finally


2/15/2008
Handicapping the Festival


2/8/2008
The Power of Power Points


1/31/2008
SCIL Adopts Innovative Soccer Plan (Exclusive to MugsMedia.com)


1/25/2008
On the Track to an Elite Program


1/18/2008
Adding Up the Numbers


1/11/2008
Dominating the Paint


1/3/2008
Bowling with the Knights


12/27/2007
Playing Games Over the Holidays


12/20/2007
The Mitchell Report Hits Home


12/13/2007
Are You Ready for the Winter?


12/6/2007
Reform Comes Slowly to New Jersey High School Sports


11/28/2007
Handing Out the Golden Statues


11/21/2007
Time for Change in NJ High School Sports


11/14/2007
Going a Little Extra


11/7/2007
The Single-Sport Athlete Dilemma


10/31/2007
Friday Night Lights


10/23/2007
Kicking Around Re-alignment


10/1/2007
I'm baaaack...


3/17/204
Great Run For Braves