By Jimmy Allinder
The Edison High School boys’ soccer team has posted a 6-5-2 record thanks to high-scoring sophomore Benito Rojas (five goals, two assists), but others have made contributions that aren’t necessarily reflected on the stat sheet.
Chief among them is junior Jason Salazar (two goals, one assist) — the catalyst for Edison’s offense and one of the top defenders. He is joined on the backline by Rojas, who is also a quality defender.
“We try and work our offense through [Jason],” said Brian Murtagh, who is in is seventh season as coach and owns a career record of 45-26-7. “We initiate our attack by targeting him [after a defensive stop] and getting him to distribute the ball to our midfielders and forwards.”
Another important player who has been important to the team’s success is junior captain Brandon Meyers (one assist), who is the backbone of the defense.
“Brandon is undoubtedly the leader of our team,” Murtagh said. “He wants to succeed at soccer and in life more than any player I have coached. I’m hoping his work ethic and determination rubs off on some of our other players.”
A pair of freshmen, Jordan Jackson and Andrew Solomon (one goal), surprised the coach with their play and are now starters on the defense and in the midfield, respectively.
Edison competes in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) White Division (6-5-1 division, 6-5-2 overall) where some of the Middlesex County loop’s most dangerous teams reside, including South Plainfield High School (11-1 division, 11-3 overall) and North Brunswick Township High School (8-3-1 division, 8-3-2 overall). The Eagles have found those clubs to be an obstacle in their quest to win a division title (1-3 against those clubs with the win coming against the Raiders).
Edison’s competition should prepare it for the GMC Tournament, which begins with play-in games Oct. 17.
“We went into this season believing it would be a rebuilding project because we play so many juniors,” Murtagh said. “This is an extremely close-knit group, which has bonded together well. That’s enabled them to learn each other’s tendencies faster than I would have expected.”
JOHN P. STEVENS
The drought is finally over.
It was 2013 when the John P. Stevens High School football team last defeated a GMC division opponent — until the Hawks knocked off North Brunswick, 23-14, Oct. 7. Other than NJSIAA consolation victories over William L. Dickinson High School of Jersey City the last two years and a win in 2014 against Marlboro High School of the Shore Conference, J.P. Stevens had not prevailed against a GMC foe.
Joe Riggi, head coach in his second stint at J.P. Stevens, said his team has the potential to keep playing winning football if it maintains a concerted work ethic.
“I thought the game before (a 19-14 loss to John F. Kennedy Memorial High School Sept. 30) was one we could have won, but we let it slip away,” he said. “[The North Brunswick win] is a good victory, and we hope to continue to make strides. There’s always room for improvement, and that will be our focus.”
The Hawks have a chance of reaching the .500 mark with wins against their next two GMC White Division teams, which are struggling. On Oct. 14, J.P. Stevens visits winless Perth Amboy High School, which has given up an average of 40 points a game. On Oct. 21, the Hawks are at home against Colonia High School (1-4).
Senior quarterback Luke Jacobi has been the offensive catalyst with 14 completions for 105 yards and a touchdown, and he has run for 140 yards — second only to rushing leader, Quian Muse (218 yards).
Big plays were important in the North Brunswick win. After the Raiders had taken a 14-6 lead shortly before halftime, Muse returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown to knot the score, 14-14.
The biggest play, however, was when Jared Martinez recovered a ball knocked loose by Javon Scott at North Brunswick’s 16-yard line with six minutes left in the game. On the next play, Devon Fowlkes dashed to the end zone for the clinching touchdown.
“The first year after a new coaching staff takes over is usually a transition season,” Riggi said. “The players are getting to know the coach and a new system. This being the second year, the players have a better understanding of what we expect.”
Former Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen athlete Michael Cintron, the punter for the Rutgers University football team, was called on 16 times to kick out of harm’s way after an inept Scarlet Knights defense did virtually nothing in a 78-0 loss to the University of Michigan Oct. 8 at High Point Solutions Stadium.
A sophomore, Cintron walked on as a freshman but is now on scholarship. He only played football his senior year at St. Joe’s, where he was also a member of the Falcons’ 2014 NJSIAA Tournament of Champions basketball team and played soccer and volleyball.