Monday, December 29, 2008

WOBM Christmas Classic: Championship Tuesday

Championship Tuesday is all set following Monday’s Boys semifinals in which Point Pleasant Boro topped St. Rose 55-45 and Brick Memorial escaped with a 61-55 over Toms River East.

The Panthers victory was once again sparked by forward Pat Hart who has been the most impressive player in the tournament so far. The 6’4 senior scored a game-high 25 points, including two of Boro’s five 3-pointers. Will Hawthorne was solid, adding 11 points for the Panthers who outscored St. Rose 16-8 in the final quarter to improve to 5-0 on the season. Center Sean McPaul led the Purple Roses with 20 points as they drop to 3-2 on the season.

Memorial led by as many as 16 points in the 3rd quarter before the Raiders rallied, just like they did in their quarterfinal upset of top-seeded Toms River North. East got within a point in the 4th quarter and had a chance to take the lead but their rally came up short and the Mustangs pulled away down the stretch. Matt O’Brien led Brick Memorial with 17 points, 12 of them in the second half. Jose Ramos added 15 for Memorial while Richie Suhr scored 18 for East and Alex Bergstrom added 17.

Memorial and Point Boro meet in the Boys Championship game at 7:30. It’s the second straight appearance in the finals for Boro, who fell to Toms River North last year 40-38. The Panthers won their only WOBM title in 2002. Memorial won the title in 2005, the only other time they reached the championship game.

The Girls Final at 5:30 on Tuesday will find top-seed and heavy favorite Rumson meeting #3 Southern with both teams pretty much cruising into the final. The Bulldogs feature Princeton-bound Kate Miller and her supporting cast includes Julie Kelly and Ashley Cooper. Southern’s Rams are led by the inside play of Kristen Sharkey and Avery Hodgson along with Alex Spark. The game features two of the shore’s most successful coaches in Rumson’s George Sourlis and Kathy Snyder of Southern, who will match wits for only the second time in their careers with the other coming in the 2005 championship game won by Rumson.

Both games will be broadcast live on the Shore Sports Network (1160 WOBM AM and Fox Sports 1310) and streamed on

The final day of the 7-day tournament begins at 10am with the Boys JV Consolation game between Point Boro and Ocean and following that at 11:30 Brick Memorial and St. Rose play in the JV Final. Then it’s the Girls 3rd place Consolation with Manchester facing Wall followed by the Boys 3rd place game between St. Rose and

WOBM Christmas Classic: Saturday

A superb day of basketball ended with one of the most exciting games in the 25-year history of the tournament as Toms River East upset top-seed and defending champion Toms River North 74-72 in overtime in the Boys quarterfinals. The 8th seeded Raiders trailed 55-43 going into the final quarter but rallied behind Richie Suhr, Alex Bergstrom and Charlie Olsen, who hit three key free throws in the final moments to tie the game. Suhr (27pts) and Olsen (14pts) hit key baskets in overtime and a blocked shot in the final seconds by Ray Cochran helped secure the victory as East moves into the semifinals Monday against Brick Memorial. The 4th seeded Mustangs edged Lacey 43-39 behind Steve Zronska’s 10 points and a superb defensive effort.

In the other quarterfinals, #2 St. Rose fought off an upset bid from Ocean for a 45-43 victory and will next face third-seeded Point Boro, who just got past Southern 43-39 with Pat Hart scoring 27 points.

Sunday’s eight-game schedule features the Girls Semifinals with Southern facing Wall at 6:15 and top-seed Rumson taking on Manchester at 8pm. Both games will be broadcast live on the Shore Sports Network (1160 WOBM AM and Fox Sports 1310) and streamed on

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Classic Blog: Girls Round 2

Wall has been the surprise of the Girls Division as they advanced to the quarterfinals after upsetting second-seed Shore Regional 44-40 behind Kathryn Campbell’s 18 points. The #7 seeded Crimson Knights hit 11-12 free throws in the 4th quarter with Jessica Nevins (12pts) making all six of her attempts from the line. Wall had rallied in the opening round to beat
Jackson and will now face #3 Southern in the semifinals Sunday (6:15pm).
The Rams used Kristen Sharkey’s 18 points and a stifling defense to roll past Ocean 53-31. The Spartans were held without a field goal in the middle quarters as they fall into the consolation bracket.

The other Girls semi will find top-seed Rumson going up against #4 Manchester. The Purple Bulldogs had a tough time with Toms River North before finally pulling away in the 4th quarter for a 41-30 victory as Ashley Cooper and Kate Miller each scored 11 points. Meanwhile the Hawks hung on to edge Raritan in Friday’s most exciting game 54-52 as Ariele Parrish led three players in double figures with 17 points. Alexa Ryan had a game-high 23 for the Rockets.

Saturday features the Boys quarterfinals beginning at 2:30pm.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How "Green" Will Christmas Be?

(The Hometown View resumes Monday with blogs from the WOBM Christmas Classic)

The holiday season is when many retailers ring up enough sales to make their year a good one or at worst at least salvage an average year. However 2008 is very different and those who depend on strong sales this time of year are just hoping to do enough business to be able to open the doors in 2009. All you have to do is look closely while driving around at the number of stores with signs that say “Going out of Business” to know we are in shaky times. Probably the biggest concern is nobody knows what to expect after the holiday season when consumers are likely to tighten their belts more than any other time in recent history.

There is no doubt the financial crisis is having a major impact on Christmas and you can see it in so many ways. It seems like many have decided not to decorate their homes like in the past and Christmas card sending has to be at an all-time low. Businesses have cut out everything from holiday parties to gifts and forget about bonuses…although most agree that just having a job is a bonus. Companies large and small are trying to keep their people working
and to do so will consider just about everything from slashing hours and some benefits to even asking workers to take unpaid vacation time.

Clearly the good times for many are over and we are now in a survival mode which is completely unfamiliar to those who have grown up only to know what it’s like to pretty much have whatever they want. Some insist that what we are experiencing is necessary to change the mindsets of Americans, who will learn the harsh lesson of living with less which will make us all appreciate things that we’ve taken for granted.

Maybe the end result will be that Christmas and the holiday season will be more about what it’s supposed to be then gifts themselves. That’s a nice thought but it would be somewhat devastating to an economy that dependson us displaying our feelings by pulling out a credit card.

Monday, December 22, 2008

WOBM Christmas Classic: Round 1

In the final minute of their 59-50 win over Manchester in the opening round of the WOBM Christmas Classic, Toms River East coach Tom Carpenter sent a substitute player in for Ray Cochran. The Raider fans then rose to their feet and gave Cochran a loud standing ovation as headed to the bench where he was embraced by his coach and teammates. He had scored 8 points and there were many in the Poland Spring Arena who probably had no idea why the crowd stood for a couple of minutes and continued to applaud the senior. Those that did know realized they had witnessed a courageous performance by a young man suffering like few of us could ever imagine.

Kathleen Cochran, just 44 years old died rather suddenly Friday which was the opening night of the basketball season. Despite dealing with the shock and loss of his mother Ray decided to play in East’s home game that night against Lacey and amazingly the outcome would rest with him. He sent the game into overtime with a big basket in the final seconds and then had a chance to be the hero but in what seems like a cruel twist of fate missed a pair of free throws as the Raiders lost by one point.

However losing a basketball game is nothing compared to the devastating loss of his mother and he would go home to share that agony with his three younger brothers and sisters and father Raymond. The next game for East would be Sunday at 5pm, the same time the viewing for Kathleen would end and certainly nobody really expected Ray to play. But there he was with his teammates and shortly after the start of the game his entire family arrived and sat behind the Raider bench having just come from the funeral home.

Cochran would score 8 points and help his team advance into the quarterfinals on Saturday against Toms River North. However it’s not the biggest thing on his mind….today is the funeral for his beloved mother and he has to be the big brother for Patrick, Logan & Erin. He’s already shown that being “big” is not a problem.
The first round of the WOBM Christmas Classic saw all the higher seeded Girl’s teams prevail but there were some minor upsets on the Boys side where 5th seeded Raritan, #6 Central and 7th rated Toms River South all lost.

# 12 Lacey knocked off Raritan 47-41 in a game that saw both teams struggle from the free throw line. Next up for the Lions is a quarterfinal date with 4th seeded Brick Memorial, who ripped Wall 56-41 as Matt O’Brien scored all 15 of his points in the first half. #11 Southern upset Central 60-49 behind Joe Tomczuk’s 24 points and will face #3 Point Boro, who coasted past Old Bridge 57-35. 10th seed Ocean, used six three-pointers from Scott Nelson to outlast Toms River South 53-42 in double overtime and meets St. Rose in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The second-seeded Purple Roses used Joey Quinn’s 25 points to coast past Brick 70-47. The other round-of-8 matchup is an all-Toms River affair as the top-ranked North Mariners (49-44 winners over Jackson) will play 8th seeded East, who topped Manchester 59-50.

Form held up when it came to the Girls bracket with top-seed Rumson rolling past Monsignor Donovan 75-26 to move into the quarterfinals Friday against Toms River North. The Mariners ripped Lacey 51-29 behind Dana Coronato’s 12 points. #2 Shore used 18 points from Liz West to rout Toms River East 55-28 and will play #7 Wall, who came from behind to topple Jackson Memorial 47-36 as Kathryn Campbell scored 23 points.
Southern had no trouble with Old Bridge 62-39 as Kristen Sharkey scored 21 points for the third-seeded Rams, who will oppose #6 Ocean, a 44-30 winner over Point Boro. 4th seeded Manchester led by Camille (22pts) & Gabrielle (18pts) Valmon raced past Toms River South 59-30 and plays Raritan in the quarterfinals. The fifth-seeded Rockets shut down Central 31-21 in the opening round.

After a break for Christmas the tournament resumes with the Girls Quarterfinals and Consolations on December 26th with the Boys to take the court the following day.

Friday, December 19, 2008

WOBM Christmas Classic Starts This Weekend

The winter sports season for shore high schools gets in full swing this weekend with basketball and wrestling teams taking to the court and mat.
Most of the basketball teams play their first games tonight while wrestling fans have the season-opening Neptune Classic as the traditional start to the season.

Of course the 25th annual WOBM Christmas Classic plays its first-round games this weekend at the Ritacco Center in Toms River. Tomorrow will feature eight games in the girl’s division in both the Poland Spring Arena and Toms River North gym beginning at 1pm. Among the matchups, top-seed Rumson will play Monsignor Donovan, second-seeded Shore faces Toms River East, #3 Southern battles Old Bridge and fourth-seeded Manchester opposes Toms River South. Top players to watch include Kate Miller of Rumson, Shore’s Liz West, Kristen Sharkey of Southern and Manchester’s Camille Valmon.
The complete schedule and brackets are available at

The boys take over the Ritacco Center Sunday starting at 1pm with defending champion and top-seed Toms River North, under first-year head coach Chris Kane playing Jackson Memorial. Some of the other matchups pit St. Rose against Brick, Point Boro facing Old Bridge and Brick Memorial battling Wall. A host of outstanding players from last year’s tournament are back including Steve Nyisztor and Pat Szukics of Toms River North, Point Boro’s Patrick Hart, Joey Quinn of St. Rose and Central’s Ibn Moye.
Again you can get the complete schedule and other tournament information at

After this weekend’s opening round the WOBM Christmas Classic will resume on December 26th and games will be played every day after that leading up to the championship games on Tuesday, December 30th

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Coming Home For Christmas Break

I can’t tell you with any hint of accuracy how many Hometown Views I have done over the years but it’s in the thousands. There are some which have generated a lot of response because they touched a nerve or were subjects which people could relate to and among them was one I did in 2004 right about this time of year. I was reminded of it by a woman I spoke with yesterday who said she has recounted part of what I said time and time again.

The segment was aimed at parents whose sons and daughters were coming home from college for their first extended trip since leaving in late August. Many of course might have been home for Thanksgiving but that was just a long weekend as opposed to the 2-3 weeks most would be at home for winter recess. What I found and many of you agreed was the children we sent away were often very different from the ones returning to the nest for what they called a vacation.

First thing we had to deal with were the strange hours they operated by which might remind you of vampires, more than college freshman. During that first winter break I remember getting up for work around 2:30 and usually finding my son was not home and if he was it was more likely he was watching TV or on the computer than sleeping. Speaking of sleeping….if it was an Olympic sport he might have been a gold medal contender. Noon or later was not unusual as the time to finally get out of bed and get on with the day.

What you had to realize quickly was they had changed quite a bit in those three months or so living on their own. They not only acted differently but even their appearance changed…it seemed like they had gotten older by years not months. As much as you love them you had moments when you wondered if this really was your child. After a couple of weeks of dealing with their lifestyle you were ready for them to return to school in which you would return to normal and live by these words….”out of sight, out of mind.”

Not that I’m any expert but if you are about to experience this phenomenon for the first time fasten your seat belt because it’s a roller coaster ride complete with loads of laundry. The good news…it does get better.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday Quick Hitters

Joe Paterno obviously believes age is just a number that doesn’t mean all that much. Just days before his 82nd birthday Paterno has agreed to a new three-year contract to stay on as head football coach and beloved icon
at Penn State University. While he has had health issues in recent years and just last month underwent hip replacement surgery, Paterno still loves the game and players and has no plans to retire. JoePa has been at the school
for 59 years and has been head coach since 1966….three years before man walked on the moon. We may be taking vacations there before he finally leaves the sidelines.

I don’t know what is more amazing…the fact that two of the nation’s top college running backs played on the same Pop Warner football team or that they didn’t win a National Championship. Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno and Donald Brown of the University of Connecticut were both named 2nd team All-Americans by the Associated Press Tuesday. They were in the same backfield while playing youth football in Atlantic Highlands…of course Moreno would later play at Middletown South and Brown at Red Bank Catholic.

No surprise here….the Giants-Cowboys game the other night drew the most viewers ever for a Sunday Night Football game. The Giants get the Sunday night nod again this week when they host Carolina with a lot on the line.

For the past nine years downtown Toms River has housed the Colonel Charles Waterhouse Historical Museum which has been enjoyed by thousands of visitors, including students from the local area. Sadly the museum will close its doors on December 31st although officials hope to relocate it in the future. Colonel Waterhouse is the only Artist-in-Residence
In the history of the United States Marine Corps and a trip to the museum was an up-close history lesson which came with his vivid recollections of the military and Marine Corps. Hopefully a good home will be found for the Colonel’s artwork so it can be viewed by future generations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday's Random Thoughts

52 employees at Community Medical Center have lost their jobs as the Saint Barnabas Health Care System continues to try and cut costs to deal with revenue shortfalls. The latest job cuts are in addition to 35 made at Community in November and a total of 63 at Kimball Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center over that same time span.

In the case of Community the biggest problem is federal and state reimbursement for charity care programs along with Medicare and Medicaid. Community has spent about $15 million in charity care this year but was reimbursed only $3 million….an equation that just doesn’t work.
The Medicare and Medicaid numbers are challenging because of the high number of seniors treated at the Toms River hospital.

One of the few good things to come out of Trenton in the last couple of years has been the NJ STARS and STARS II program which rewards students for excellence in the classroom and encourages them to stay in New Jersey for their higher education. However that program is headed for changes next year once Governor Corzine signs revisions which will exclude families with more than $250,000 in income. In addition under the STARS program high school students will have to graduate in the top 15% of their class (instead of 20%) to receive free tuition to community colleges like OCC. They can then move onto four-year colleges and universities through STARS II scholarships if they graduate with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. However the new proposal will result in a required GPA of at least 3.25 and will cap the scholarship at $7,000. It is still a good program but many students will now find themselves on the outside looking in.

This is the third Tuesday of the month and at the First United Methodist Church in Toms River on the corner of Old Freehold Road and Chestnut Street that means the “Paula Brown Soup Kitchen” will be in operation from 2-6pm. The monthly gathering is open to everyone and as times get tougher more and more are taking advantage of a free hot meal. When volunteers started last year they would feed about 15 and that’s increased to about 40 each month. In addition to a meal a woman shows up with a trailer to give out free clothing to those in need. Organizers of this and other soup kitchens are concerned that donations will not keep up with demand for their services. This is just another program that people can support and help make a difference in their communities.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some Good Out Of A Bad Economy

It would be hard to find anything really good in the current economic crisis that is affecting nearly all of us whether it is directly or indirectly. However what has happened or will happen is an appreciation for the simple things in life like having a job, roof over your head and food to eat. I have heard many people in the past few weeks say they are just happy to have a job and
they don’t even care that some of the perks that might have gone with that are gone. Is it possible that we will learn to live with less and in the end not worry about trying to keep up with others but be content with what we do have? Only time will tell but we are heading in that direction, not by choice but by necessity.

As long as people have a few dollars they will spend during the holiday season but the great unknown is what happens after it’s over. Retailers just don’t know what’s around the corner and have no idea what to expect for the first part of 2009. There really is no manual to read to tell you how to survive and most people I have spoken with said their greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. If we have not hit rock bottom yet you almost want it to get here as soon as possible so we can at least begin the slow process of recovery.

On a more uplifting note is the fact so many people really do care about their neighbors and we always seen at our best when times are at their worst. We hear, read and see all about the bad because that’s news but there are an amazing number of people from all ages who go out of their way to help others. Whether its donating food, clothes, toys or money we do have large hearts even when we have small pockets because in the back of our mind is the knowledge that so many have less than we do.

So was we approach this holiday season I chose to focus on the good things we do for one another rather than the bad because the difference between thriving and surviving is not as great as you might think and the gap can narrow very quickly.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Charity & The Economy

There is no doubt that the state of the economy is having a major impact on
Non-profit organizations that depend on the generosity of companies and individuals. Going even further it’s making it very difficult for organizations like food banks and the Salvation Army to meet the growing demand for their services and it’s only going to get worse. That’s why it’s vital we do what we can to support the many campaigns and drives to help those badly in need which is magnified during the holiday season.

The Gamer’s Arena is working in conjunction with Ocean County Hunger Relief to collect and distribute food to families in the Toms River area all during the month of December. Anyone who brings a non-perishable food item into their store on the corner of Route 37 and Hooper Avenue will receive 20 minutes of free game time on the system of their choice, including XBOX 360 or Wii. Sounds like a nice way to help yourself and others at the same time.

The Salvation Army, Ocean County Citadel is in desperate need of new unwrapped toys as they attempt to bring joy to as many families as possible.
The demand this year is greater than ever and you can drop the toys off at their location on Route 37 East in Toms River. Thursday the Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce was able help the Salvation Army at their annual Holiday Luncheon at which attendees donated a new toy. The event at the Holiday Inn of Toms River also saw Seaside Park Realtor Linda Stefanik honored for many years of service to the chamber and the community. A well-deserved tribute to a wonderful woman.

Our Shore Sports Network honored the top football players in the shore Thursday night on the season-finale of The AutoLenders High School Football Show. Our first-ever All-Ocean and All-Monmouth County Football teams can be viewed on line at
Players of the Year were Glenn Carson of Southern and Red Bank Catholic’s Nolan Vill while Coach of the Year honors go to Southern’s Chuck Donohue and Mark Ciccotelli of Freehold.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

WOBM Christmas Classic Tipoff Brunch

The defending champion Toms River North boy’s basketball team was awarded the top seed for the 25th annual WOBM Christmas Classic and will open their bid for back-to-back titles on Sunday, December 21st against Jackson Memorial at the Ritacco Center. The seeds and pairings were announced Tuesday during our annual “Tipoff Brunch” which was hosted once again by the Quality Inn of Toms River and featured more than 270 players, coaches and tournament officials. St. Rose is the second seed in the boys division and will face Brick Township while #3 Point Boro takes on Old Bridge and fourth-seeded Brick Memorial plays Wall as part of the 8-game opening round.

Rumson-Fair Haven as expected was the #1 seed in the girls division and opens with Monsignor Donovan on Saturday, December 20th. Second-seed Shore Regional faces Toms River East, #3 Southern plays Old Bridge and 4th ranked Manchester battles Toms River South in first-round games. All the pairings are available at

The tournaments 32 head coaches decided the seeds Sunday night as part of
a Coaches Dinner at Klee’s Bar and Grill in Seaside Heights but they were not revealed to anyone until Tuesday. Yesterday’s event also featured the announcement of this year’s scholarship recipients, who are now college freshman and will receive their awards at halftime of the championships games on December 30th. They are Lacey graduates Amanda Malkiewicz and Justin Rand, Ocean’s Karl Eichorn, Bill Carey of Southern, Brianna Crowe of Monsignor Donovan and Nicole Vaccarella of Colts Neck.
They bring the total to 65 student-athletes who have received scholarship awards from proceeds of the tournament.

Toms River Regional Schools Superintendent Michael J. Ritacco welcomed all the players and coaches and said the school district is delighted to once again host the WOBM Christmas Classic, which moved to the Ritacco Center in 2003.

On an unrelated note…former football star Keith Elias and Reggie Dabbs, two well-known motivational speakers will appear at Central Regional High School tomorrow night at 6:30pm. The free event is open to students, parents, teachers and everyone from the community and promises to be an enlightening experience.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

WOBM Christmas Classic

In the early part of 1984 a meeting of high school basketball coaches took place in a classroom at Toms River High School North. The topic of conversation that evening was the Southern Regional Roundball Festival, a holiday tournament that the coaches and schools had participated in a couple of months earlier. Southern was willing to give up running the tournament if someone else could pick up the ball and possibly relocate it to a more central location in Ocean County. Enter yours truly.

I was invited to attend the meeting and after listening to the conversation I spoke about the possibility of WOBM hosting a holiday tournament and doing so at Ocean County College. If I remember correctly everyone was pretty much in agreement that OCC would be an ideal location but doubted the college would get involved.

The following day I typed up (on my manual typewriter) a memo to my General Manager as to my suggestion and that December the WOBM Christmas Classic was born. Brick, Central, Manchester, Monsignor Donovan, Point Boro, Southern, Toms River North and Toms River South made up the original field and the tournament was an immediate success. We established a scholarship which would be awarded to the top scholar who played in the tournament and the first recipient was John Klimkiewicz of Southern Regional High School, who is now a highly acclaimed Orthopedic Surgeon and Associate Professor at Georgetown University Hospital.

59 other former student-athletes have received scholarships from the WOBM Christmas Classic and this year another six will be added to that list. In addition we have used proceeds to donate thousands of dollars to organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ocean County and others.
That original eight-team tournament continued to expand to 10, 12 and eventually 16 teams. We added a Girls Division in 1994 and now have a total of 32 teams playing 54 games over seven days. The expansion forced us to leave OCC after 19 wonderful years for the Ritacco Center where we use both the Poland Spring Arena and Toms River North gym. This morning one of the highlights surrounding the Classic will take place when we host over 200 players, coaches and officials for a “Tipoff Brunch” at the Quality Inn of Toms River. The kids will be well-fed and then we will announce the pairings for the 25th annual tournament which opens on the weekend of December 20th and 21st. You will be able to view them later today on the Shore Sports Network website…

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Cold Monday

Some random thoughts on a Monday morning:

The calendar says winter does not officially arrive until December 21st but
for all intents and purposes it made its debut this weekend. Unfortunately it
will be here for a long time.

67 years ago today President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his famous speech to congress in which he said “yesterday December 7th, 1941…a date which will live in infamy….the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” Within an hour a formal declaration of war was passed and we were officially involved in World War II. December 7th, 1941 always will be a significant date in our history but sadly each year less and less people who remember it well are around to reflect back on the attack which took over 2,400 lives.

I have marveled at the ability of the Giants to not let anything get in their way this football season from injuries to player issues. However it did appear Sunday they could not recover from the Plaxico Burress hangover
As they played like a team which could not focus on the task at hand. The only good news after the loss to the Eagles was later in the day they would clinch the NFC East title when Dallas lost in Pittsburgh. As for the Jets…there is no excuse for their poor effort in San Francisco.

Belated congratulations to the Brick Memorial Mustangs for winning the second state football championship in school history with a dominating performance against Sayreville Saturday night at Rutgers University. Earlier in the day Southern showed their character in almost coming back from a 21-point deficit before falling to undefeated Mainland. Saturday was a good day for Shore Conference schools as Manasquan, Freehold and Asbury Park also won state sectional titles at Rutgers.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ocean County held a very successful “Thanks for Giving Gala” Friday at the Crystal Point Yacht Club. Honorees included
Architect and builder Paul Barlo, the Lakewood BlueClaws, Ocean County YMCA and artist Francis McGinley.

Friday, December 5, 2008

NJSIAA Playoffs

For all its faults the NJSIAA Football Playoffs are still a very big deal and if you take the attitude that high school sports is supposed to be about the kids then we should not minimize the achievement of winning one of the 20 state sectional championships up for grabs each fall. Saturday Southern and Brick Memorial are among the six Shore Conference teams that will play for the right to call themselves a state champion.

Southern had never even won a playoff game until last season and now find themselves in the South Jersey Group 4 Finals at undefeated Mainland tomorrow at 1pm. Many are ready to coronate the Mustangs as among the best in south Jersey history as they have outscored their opponents by an average score of 41-6. However the Rams have truly arrived this season with their only loss being by one point to Toms River North, a defeat they would avenge in the opening round of the playoffs in mid-November. They feature a trio of seniors…Glenn Carson, Anthony Stroffolino and Steve Sibona who are among the best players to wear the black and gold. Certainly they are the underdog heading to Linwood tomorrow but veteran coach Chuck Donohue has assembled a group of players who are comfortable with that role and know the only thing that counts is the final score.

Walt Currie was 4-6 in his first season as a head coach at Brick Memorial in 2007 and while improvement was expected I don’t know too many who thought they’d be playing the first Saturday in December. The Mustangs finished behind Toms River North and Southern in the American Division but have worked their way into the Central Jersey Group 4 Championship game at Rutgers University where they meet Sayreville tomorrow night at 7pm. Quarterback Brian Staub has rushed for over 1,000 yards as the leader of their option attack and he gets plenty of help from lineman Anthony D’Elia. The Stangs are looking for their second state title against a Sayreville team that has made the playoffs 12 straight years but won only one championship in that period.

The Brick Memorial-Sayreville game will the finale of a tripleheader we will broadcast tomorrow from Rutgers on the Shore Sports Network. We will start at 1pm when Manasquan meets A.L. Johnson and following that Freehold plays Middletown South. The games can be heard on 1160 WOBM AM, Fox Sports 1310 and at

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A "Half Full" Story

With all the negative that’s going on in the world today it would be easy to
feel that the glass is always half-empty. Everywhere you turn you’re reminded that for many this holiday season is about what they’ve lost and don’t have, including the simple things like jobs, homes and health. We wonder where the good is and when is it headed in our direction and just about the time you’re ready to give up hope comes a story that gives you a little ray of sunshine.

Nicole (Nikki) Sprague of Toms River has every reason to say “why me”
after her husband Steve was killed in mid-October while working on the New Jersey Turnpike. The high school sweethearts were married less than two years and were enjoying life as the parents of 8-month old Abigail when tragedy struck. As if the story could not get worse days after the accident Nikki’s van was burglarized and she later realized among the items missing was her camera, which held a chip with more than 500 family pictures from the past year. Those pictures included the birth of their daughter, her Christening and other impossible to replace moments of a young family that had so little time together.

However the day after Thanksgiving Nikki’s sister Jamie saw a flier on a telephone pole that contained a picture of the young Sprague family with the message, “Do you know us” and a phone number to call to claim the camera. It took a few days to connect but finally camera, chip and memories to last a lifetime were reunited. It turns out that the camera had been found by Earth Groomers, a Toms River landscaping company shortly after the burglary and they had been trying to find the owner since. They even went as far as to place an ad in the newspaper but had to pull it because there were so many calls from people claiming the camera belonged to them. Who would blame these people for giving up hope of finding the owners but they went an extra step by printing up fliers in the neighborhood where they found the camera in the hope they would get lucky which they did.

Steve Davidson and Kerry Betz of Earth Groomers found the camera and they did not know the entire story of the Sprague family and recent tragedy in their lives. All they did know was that camera was important to someone and they had to make every effort to find the owner and return it. What they have done is given a family an early Christmas present and one that gives them hope that maybe at some time their glass will be half-full.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Retirement Of Warren Wolf

In the end even Warren Wolf could not beat “father time” and at age 81 his body more than anything told him it was time. The most successful high school football coach in New Jersey history announced his retirement Monday in a packed cafeteria at Brick Township High School where it all started in 1958. It was a bittersweet event in which the legendary “silver fox” strolled down memory lane about his days in West New York and then coming to Brick after a successful career as an assistant coach under Joe Coviello at Memorial High School. Wolf took the job just two months before the inaugural season and notified Coviello by letter which was not well received. Ironically when Wolf became the winningest coach in state history in 1992 it was Coviello’s record he surpassed.

The Brick icon held his emotions in check yesterday as he looked out and saw faces which helped him build a once small community into a state football power. Sam Riello, Dave Vivino, Bob Auriemma, Ron Signorino, Pete Panuska, Dan Duddy, Tim Osborn, Jack Myers, Dick Roberts and high school Principal Dennis Filippone were among those part of a golden era
that put Brick and shore football on the map. It was a time in which you had to arrive early at a home game if you wanted a seat and they even sold reserved tickets. Keller Memorial Field on a Saturday afternoon was magical and Wolf was the wizard who made things happen which left opponents wondering if he really did have a direct pipeline to the man upstairs.

My first real contact with him came in 1979, my first year at WOBM. His Green Dragons went 9-1-1 and were to receive a trophy as our top team in Ocean County. I was invited by the late Hank Handchen, the longtime Athletic Director to make the presentation at the annual football banquet at the old Kings Grant Inn. It was a Sunday in January and I figured it would not take very long but of course this was my first real experience with Brick football. Wolf spoke personally and passionately about nearly every player on the varsity team and by the time I got up to make my presentation the banquet was about 4 hours old. When I asked Handchen afterwards how come he never told me I would be spending an entire afternoon for a 3-minute presentation he replied, “because you never asked.”

Warren Wolf will be in charge of one more end of season banquet…I’m sure it will be a beauty.

Monday, December 1, 2008

This And That

A little of this and a little of that on the first day of December:

It’s easy to pick on anything associated with government but Friday I was once again reminded on the improvements made when it comes to the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles. My daughter took her road test (which I’m happy to say she passed with flying colors) at the Robert J. Miller Airpark in Berkeley Township and then it was on to the motor vehicle office in Toms River to obtain her first driver’s license. Knowing that it was the last weekday of the month and the day after a holiday we expected it to be crowded and it was. But everyone working there treated people like customers, which was not the case many years ago. They were friendly, helpful and made the experience painless…a real upgrade from the way things used to be.

The movie “Australia” has been pretty much panned by the critics but my wife and I both enjoyed it although at three hours it’s a tad long. Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman star….he’s very good in his role while she seemed out of place a bit. The movie wavers at times but is big and bold…sort of an old-style epic which we found entertaining.

I guess the Jets Super Bowl talk can stop a bit…I mean if you can’t beat Denver in November at home how can you expect to win on the road in January? The Giants meanwhile look better and better and as long as they don’t shoot themselves in the foot are on the Super Bowl fast-track. That was a bad attempt at humor as is Plaxico Burress pleading “not guilty” to charges of criminal possession of a weapon today. I mean how do you accidentally shoot yourself in the thigh if you don’t have the gun illegally in a nightclub? It appears Plaxico’s Giants career is over and don’t underestimate what he means to the team on the field where he drew constant double-coverage and made it easier for others. Off the field however he has become a public relations nightmare and a divorce is likely.