A prominent player at Linden, Kyle Phipps, transferred to Don Bosco Prep for his sophomore year after making the varsity and playing some at that level his freshman year at Linden.
For whatever reasons, it didn’t work out for Phipps in Ramsey.
Phipps came back to Linden and played there again on the varsity level his junior and senior seasons. In 2014 as one of the top senior running backs in the state Phipps helped lead the Tigers to the North 2, Group 5 state championship, which was Linden’s first state title in the playoff era since 1985 and the program’s second overall.
We have a similar situation in Rahway.
Antonio Alfano, a highly-regarded 6-5, 270-pound two-way junior lineman, went to Bergen Catholic and played some on the varsity level there his freshman and sophomore seasons after attending Rahway public schools for nine years.
Last week Alfano let it become known that he is transferring from the Oradell school to his hometown high school – Rahway – so that he can play his final two seasons for the Indians. He hopes to help lead Rahway to its first state championship since 1984.
It’s becoming more commonplace that athletes are leaving their hometowns – hometowns such as Linden and Rahway – for what they believe are “it looks like the grass is greener pastures” at a Bergen County or another county non-public school setting.
Here are two cases where athletes came back. The first one concluded in a happy ending with Linden winning its first state championship in 29 years and Phipps moving on to Blair for one year and now he’s getting ready for his redshirt-freshman year as a running back at the University of New Hampshire.
We will soon see what life has in store for Alfano – already getting serious looks from the likes of Penn State, Ohio State, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Miami and Rutgers – during his time at Rahway High.
“We’re now finalizing the registration and making sure that it’s complete regarding his transfer,” Rahway third-year head coach Brian Russo said Monday.
As for Alfano’s first day of practice with the Indians, Russo said it could be one day this week.
“He’s been around the team and showing up,” Russo said. “Once everything is complete it will take some time for him to become acclimated.”
Russo said that he was informed Alfano played some varsity his freshman and sophomore seasons at Bergen Catholic, a little more on offense last year. Russo is also Rahway’s offensive line coach.
“Like any coach would be, we’re all excited he’s here,” Russo said. “Like anyone else he has to compete and get ready to do so. The sky is the limit for him once he’s able to ignore all the outside influences and just play football.”
Russo, who guided Rahway to the Central Jersey, Group 3 playoffs his first two years at the helm – the Indians are back in North 2, Group 3 this year – is well aware of what goes on as far as kids transferring out of town.
“We’ve had two players leave since I’ve been here and there were a lot more before that,” said Russo, who previously was the head coach at Woodbridge. “When you see all the talent that has come through Rahway, the list goes on and on. Players have gone on to do great things coming out of this school.
“Education is what you make of it. Losing those two kids was tough, but getting this kid (Alfano) back is a step in the right direction. I hope that will help our program continue to build.”
Alfano will also work with Rahway volunteer coach Antonio Garay, a former NFL player who came through the Rahway High School system and achieved a great deal of success as both a football player and state champion heavyweight wrestler.”
The Garay name in Rahway is synonymous with athletic success, including Antonio’s father Tony who played in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams.
“Not many guys like Antonio dedicate their time to the kids on the field the way he does,” Russo said. “He makes sure they are at practice. His body is beat up from playing in the NFL, but he helps out in any way that he can.”
Antonio’s younger brother Dan – the defensive line coach and special teams coordinator – has been a Rahway assistant coach mainstay for a long time now.
“Dan’s tremendous,” Russo said. “He’s in the building where I am not, so he’s my eyes and ears there to stay on top of the kids and help handle the recruiting end of things.
“Dan is the ultimate Rahway guy. He lives and breathes Rahway athletics.”
RAHWAY OPENS AT HILLSIDE SEPT. 9, NOT THE 8TH
To clarify a mistake in some schedules that are appearing on line or in newspapers, Rahway opens its 2017 season at Hillside on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. at John Zappulla Field – not on the 8th. If the game was to be played on the 8th – a school day – it would have to be played at night and Hillside has never had lights.
Last year – on a very hot and muggy day – Rahway held off Hillside 26-19 in the season-opener for both at Veterans Field.
The Indians then defeated Cranford 40-34 at Veterans Field two games later, which was their final home game of the year at Veterans Field.
On Friday night, Oct. 7 – in a battle of 4-0 squads at the time – Rahway was defeated by Somerville 59-35 in Rahway’s first home game played on the new field turf at Rahway River Park.
The Indians played one more game at Rahway River Park, which was a 55-12 win over North Plainfield on the cutoff date weekend. Rahway was then defeated by Somerville again 47-21 on the road in a CJ, G3 first round game before wrapping up a 7-3 season with a 34-33 Thanksgiving Day win at holiday rival Johnson.
This year Rahway has five home dates among its present nine games that are scheduled, with the first four to be played at Rahway River Park. Its Thanksgiving Day game vs. Johnson – the morning of Nov. 23 – will be played at Veterans Field.
“A lot of (Rahway) alumni want to try to keep the tradition of the Thanksgiving Day game at Veterans Field,” Russo said.
Rahway’s first Thanksgiving Day game at Veterans Field under Russo’s tenure was in 2015, which was a 21-17 Johnson triumph. The Indians went 3-7 in 2015, including a CJ, G3 first round 43-6 playoff loss at eventual champion Rumson-Fair Haven.
“With the exception of a flood, the alumni believe heavily in keeping the tradition of having the game at Veterans Field,” Russo said.
Like any new field, there are things to concern ones self with, but Russo is overall pleased with having his team compete at the new Rahway River Park facility.
“There are pros and cons, but playing on the turf field, the kids get excited,” Russo said. “From the standpoint of just playing football everything there is great for the kids.
“It fires them up. We practice there. We make the most of it, with our hard-hat mentality. We like to think things are going in the right direction.”