UNION – If you’re a football fan that likes defense, turnovers, skirmishes and plenty of rain, then you thoroughly enjoyed Monday night’s 38th annual Phil Simms New Jersey North-South All-Star Football Classic at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium.
Who knew that the first touchdown of the game – which was scored in the first quarter – would be the last?
Who knew that the extra point following the TD would turn out to be the game’s final point?
Who knew that there would end up being more turnovers – 8 – than points – 7 – produced?
Who could have also predicted one of the chippiest North-South games in some time, with almost as many skirmishes than points scored?
That’s what we got, plus a pretty consistent downpour for most of the contest, a game that the North held on to win by the score of 7-0.
Immediately following the game’s first turnover – a tackle, strip and fumble recovery produced by North defensive lineman Darnell Grant, Jr. of Shabazz – the North struck for the game’s only points.
On the very next play on first-and-10 from the South 15, North quarterback Zach Keller of Seton Hall Prep rolled left and then found wide receiver Mike Pimpinella of Pascack Valley open in the corner of the end zone.
Pimpinella, chosen the North’s Offensive MVP, did a fine job of keeping both feet in bounds to give his team the lead for good. Jake Catalioto of Lakeland added the extra point to make it 7-0.
It was the North’s first shutout triumph since 2001 and third overall. The South, which still leads the series at 18-17-2, has produced four shutout victories.
The South had two field goal attempts – one in each half – blocked. North Defensive MVP Keneek Tomlinson of East Orange Campus blocked the first one.
Tomlinson was also named MVP of the Robeson Classic two weeks ago.
Both teams turned the ball over four times. One of the other turnovers the North squad produced was an interception by defensive back Samad Starling of Linden with 3:48 to go in the first half.
Starling’s pick gave the North a first down at its own 24.
“It’s just amazing to be playing in this game and Phil Simms is great,” said a very excited and emotional Starling moments before he came up with his interception.
Starling’s play on both sides of the ball helped lead Linden to the 2014 North 2, Group 5 championship at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, a 27-20 win over Union County rival Elizabeth his junior season.
“I love the competition and love playing with these guys,” said Starling, who will continue playing on the junior college level at ASA (Advanced Software Analysis) in Brooklyn, N.Y.
There were seven turnovers in the first half before the heaviest rain, which came down during the final 30 minutes of play.
South Offensive MVP Tyreek Jackson of Clayton, from his running back position, reeled off a long run at the end of the third quarter that reached deep into North territory.
A pass from South quarterback Wyatt Thomas of Overbrook to tight end Nick Diaco of West Deptford gave the South a first-and-goal at the North 5 with 12:40 remaining.
The North defense, guided by Delbarton defensive coordinator Chet Parlavecchio Jr., pushed the South back from there and then came up with its second blocked field goal attempt downs later.
Kevin Doran started on the offensive line for Cranford. He ended up winning his final two high school games at Kean, including last December’s more-than-convincing 50-23 victory over Chatham in the North 2, Group 3 final.
“That’s a great feeling, I can’t lie,” Doran said. “This was a lot of fun. “I was excited to play with a lot of great competitors.”
Doran played on Cranford teams that went 23-1 the last two seasons, including appearances in the past two N2, G3 state championship games.
He will next play at Marist College, a Division 1 (FCS – Football Championship Subdivision) school located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
“I’m ready for the challenge,” Doran said.
Playing along side Doran on the offensive line was David Brown of Union, who will set out to play football and wrestle at American International College in Springfield, Mass.
Brown was the Region 3 heavyweight champion this past February, with Doran placing third. Both advanced to the season-ending NJSIAA Tournament, with Brown gaining a medal by placing eighth in Atlantic City.
Brown and Union teammate Charles James, another North lineman, played together for one last time.
North wide receiver Evan Collier of Brearley caught a pass for three yards and then on the next play ran on a reverse-left for a first down to the North 40 with 3:19 left in the third quarter.
Collier, who played his first three years at Metuchen, will continue playing in college at Assumption in Worcester, Mass.
NORTH-SOUTH FOOTBALL MVPS:
North Offense is named after Dave Szott of Clifton.
Szott played collegiately at Penn State and then
in the National Football League for the Kansas City Chiefs,
Washington Redskins and New York Jets.
North Defense is named after Jim Burt of Orchard Park, N.Y.
Burt played collegiately at Miami and then in the NFL for the
New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. Burt played
on the Giants team that won the Super Bowl after the 1986 season.
South Offense is named after Joe Theismann of South River.
Theismann played collegiately at Notre Dame and then in the NFL
for the Washington Redskins. Theismann played on the Redskins
team that won the Super Bowl after the 1982 season.
South Defense is named after Jim Jeffcoat of Matawan. Jeffcoat
played collegiately at Arizona State and then in the NFL for the
Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. Jeffcoat played on the Cowboys
teams that won the Super Bowl after the 1992 and 1993 seasons.
North Offense: Mike Pimpinella of Pascack Valley
North Defense: Keneek Tomlinson of East Orange Campus
South Offense: Tyreek Jackson of Clayton
South Defense: Dashon Burdett of Collingswood
North Offense: Juwan Dolbrice of Linden
North Defense: Tevaughn Grant of Paterson Eastside
South Offense: Vincent Mota of Long Branch
South Defense: Justin Thompson of Palmyra
North Offense: Joe Slattery of Cedar Grove
North Defense: Jason McRae of Roselle
South Offense: John Chamberlin of Williamstown
South Defense: Chris Noesges of Manalapan
SOUTH LEADS SERIES 18-17-2:
2016: North 7, South 0 – at Kean University
2015: South 23, North 21 – at Kean University
2014: South 20, North 14 – at Piscataway High School
2013: North 54, South 8 – at Kean University
2012: North 14, South 7 – at Kean University
2011: South 21, North 14 – at Kean University
2010: North 17, South 3 – at Kean University
2009: South 7, North 0 – at Kean University
2008: North 31, South 25 – at Rutgers Stadium
2007: South 14, North 7 – at Rutgers Stadium
2006: North 31, South 16 – at Rutgers Stadium
2005: North 9, South 7 – at Rutgers Stadium
2004: North 26, South 21 – at Rutgers Stadium
2003: South 3, North 0 – at Rutgers Stadium
2002: No game was played at Rutgers
because of inclement weather before kickoff.
2001: North 24, South 0 – at Rutgers Stadium
2000: South 20, North 5 – at Rutgers Stadium
1999: South 22, North 19 – at Rutgers Stadium
1998: North 33, South 31 – at Rutgers Stadium
1997: South 28, North 24 – at The College of New Jersey
1996: South 32, North 23 – at Rutgers Stadium
1995: North 37, South 15 – at Rutgers Stadium
1994: South 21, North 16 – at Trenton State College
1993: South 9, North 8 – at Giants Stadium
1992: North 7, South 7 (tie) – at Giants Stadium
1991: North 26, South 12 – at Giants Stadium
1990: North 14, South 10 – at Rutgers Stadium
1989: South 24, North 0 – at Rutgers Stadium
1988: South 12, North 9 – at Rutgers Stadium
1987: North 21, South 10 – at Rutgers Stadium
1986: North 20, South 17 – at Rutgers Stadium
1985: North 10, South 10 (tie) – at Rutgers Stadium
1984: North 7, South 0 – at Rutgers Stadium
1983: South 41, North 7 – at Rutgers Stadium
1982: South 16, North 7 – at Rutgers Stadium
1981: South 32, North 0 – at Rutgers Stadium
1980: North 13, South 6 – at Rutgers Stadium
1979: South 34, North 13 – at Rutgers Stadium