BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan High School campus has finally been a bustling place of athletic activity.
After a long summer of questions regarding the role of sports in the world of the COVID-19 virus, the athletic fields appear just as they always have in the fall – extremely busy.
“Our coaches and student athletes are to be commended for the outstanding job they did during the summer training sessions and now during the regular season,” said athletic director John Maggio. “It took a great deal of time and effort on everyone’s part. They made all of the necessary adjustments to ensure they complied with all district and NJSIAA safety and health protocols. In doing so, they demonstrated a great desire to be out on the field practicing and competing this fall. We are all looking forward to a healthy, successful fall season.”
The games began Sept. 30.
Junior quarterback Brady Kurdyla takes over for graduated standout Alex Fromberg. Kurdyla did get varsity time in 2019, completing all four of his pass attempts for 42 yards and a touchdown in a 22–18 loss to Woodbridge.
Kurdyla will have talented senior receivers in Miftar Hasanaj and Bryce Myers. Myers has gotten several college scholarship offers. Both receivers will also play linebacker.
Kurdyla will also play defense. He will be in the secondary with returning senior starter Ryan McKinney, and juniors Dylan Corsi and Evan Goldberg.
Goldberg, senior fullback Sal Cicale and sophomores Thomas Tremarco and Antinoe Hinton will be key in the run game.
Bridgewater-Raritan will rely on senior linemen Keshev Appanna, Jared Karabinos and Michael Winchock, junior Ryan Luis and tight end Myers and junior tight end Matt Messing to clear space for the backs and protect Kurdyla.
Seniors Tushan Dargan and Malachy Morehead, junior Ryan Driscoll and sophomores Colin Knapp and Jordan Okolo should also see time on both offense and defense.
Myers led the team with 59 tackles in 2019.
Senior Michael Pastor has added to the strong B-R kicking game tradition. He converted 9 of 10 field goals and 17 of 19 extra point attempts last year. Three of the field goals came in a 23–20 overtime victory over Hunterdon Central.
The Panthers open the season Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at Ridge.
Coach Chris Gerber’s team went 14–6–1 last season, improving as the season hit its home stretch. The Panthers, NJSIAA Group IV finalists in 2018, made the North 2 Group IV sectional final last season.
The Panthers lost 13 players to graduation, but 19 return.
“The team had a lot of new faces last year, and they really worked hard to earn the successes they had, and they are looking to carry the momentum into this year,” said Gerber, now in his ninth season.
Junior forward Danielle Orecchio and junior keeper Maggie Ousouljoglou earned All-Skyland Conference first team honors in 2019. Senior forward Mia Squicciarini made the second team.
The expected starting team will be Ousouljoglou in goal, and seniors Lauren Sullivan and Rylee Sant’Angelo and junior Sarah Walker on defense. The midfield starters will be senior Corinne Nickle and sophomores Annie Clapp and Alexa DeBarros. Squicciarini and Orecchio, and sophomore Caitlin Dzuroska, will be the forwards.
Seniors Lucy Battafarano, Jackie Salvatore, Sonya Brewer and Alivia Comune will be keys off the bench.
Junior Tessa Minich and sophomores Kaelyn Corbitt and Natalie Thiry are top newcomers.
The Panthers open the season Oct. 3 at the Pingry School.
Coach Rick Szeles’ team is only a couple seasons removed from a North 2 Group IV title. That was followed by a record of 5–9–2 and last season’s 7–8–1.
But this could be another solid season. The young rosters of the last two seasons have grown up. They also have 13 letter winners back, a good number.
“This could be an excellent year,” said Szeles, now in his 28th season. “We have a nice mix of seniors and younger players that could make major contributions to the season. We have a great group of young men this year with strong senior leadership.”
Senior middie Jack Schlow and junior middie Lucas Laughlin return, as do senior keeper Joey Diaz and junior Luca Misko. Diaz and Misko had the bulk of the time among six Panthers who played the position.
“I think that every kid deserves a chance to succeed, that’s what the program is all about,” Szeles said. “If we can get kids to win, play good sportsmanship and have good camaraderie, that’s what we are looking for.”
The boys begin the season Oct. 3 at home at 3 p.m. against the Pingry School.
The Panthers will be looking to get back to their winning ways after last season’s 5–12–1 campaign. The losing season came after a run of outstanding seasons, including back-to-back trips to the NJSIAA Group IV state final game.
They will have to do it without last year’s leading scorers – the graduated Madison Bray and Alex Hobbs. Those two had 22 of the 50 goals scored by third-year coach Lydia Pinto’s team in 2019.
Second team All-Skyland Conference player and junior middie Erin Collins will be among the leaders for the Panthers. She scored for Bridgewater-Raritan in a 2–1 loss to Hunterdon Central in a North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 tournament quarterfinal.
Senior Rayhanah Ahmed has been a steady scorer and playmaker the last two seasons, and should set up a productive scoring duo with Collins.
Sophomore forward Leah Ciocon had three goals and four assists last season.
Senior forwards Kylie DiEsso, Colleen Kelly and Natalie Visconti, junior forward Tori Bugianesi, junior defender Tori Bartolotto and junior forward/middie Sophie Cornet all had points last season.
Senior Brianna Van Patten will be the goalie after playing behind the graduated Makayla Choy last season.
The season begins Oct. 1 at the Pingry School.
Junior Allie Smith moves up to No. 1 singles with senior captain Manali Sheth. She played first doubles the last three seasons. Sophomore Angela Xu is at third singles. She played second doubles in 2019.
Sophomore Crystal Wu will be at doubles, but the next three spots are still being challenged, said coach Constance “Candy” Kuker.
“Everyone returning is playing new positions or were on junior varsity last season,” Kuker said.
Boys Cross Country
Bridgewater-Raritan boys cross country coach David Evans is optimistic that a healthy team will bring success this season.
The defending Skyland Conference Delaware Division champs should be very good with junior Marco Langon and senior Devin Ciarlante returning from injuries that kept them out last fall.
Langon became one of the best freshmen milers in the state as a freshman. He ran a 4:17.56 for the 1,600 meters last season.
Despite not having two standout runners, the Panthers had enough to win the Skyland Conference Delaware Division title.
“It’ll be exciting to see how Marco and Devin do after being out,” said Evans.
“Marco should be in the mix to be overall champ (in the Skyland Conference championship), and maybe Devin as well if he is fully back to normal training by then,” said Evans.
Brian Bartley, Grant Bixon, Vishnu Chennapragada, Matt Frank, Melvin Jabamani Patrick Jiao, Ben Mostow, Ryan Ross and Max Schneidermann will give the team quality depth. Ciarlante and Jiao are the only seniors on the roster.
“Hopefully guys have fun this year and run some fast times,” Evans said. “We would like to repeat as winners of the Delaware Division of the Skyland Conference and hope to qualify several guys for the Skyland Conference individual championships.”
The first meet is scheduled for Oct. 8 against Franklin and Hillsborough at Thompson Park in Monroe.