PISCATAWAY – Linden’s BJ George, his school’s all-time leading rusher, will be there.
Summit’s Max Jackson, who this past season set school records for most yards rushing in a single season and a single game, will be there.
In all 10 players from Union County high schools comprise one fourth of the North roster for this year’s 41st annual Phil Simms New Jersey North-South All-Star Football Classic.
The 40th game – there was no game at Rutgers in 2002 due to a lightning storm right before kickoff – is scheduled to be contested June 24 at 7 p.m. at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium in Union.
This will be the 10th game in the series played at Kean and the fifth straight.
The South leads 20-17-2 and has won the last two and four of the last five. The North has never led in the series.
Players and their parents from both squads were in attendance Sunday at Piscataway High School to get a feel from coaches what the game will be all about.
Phil Simms, who first increased attention to the event with his participation beginning with the 2014 game, could not be present Sunday, but will be at all of the practices as well the night-before-dinner and the game.
The head coaches this time will be former New York Giants standout David Diehl for the North and Garry Cobb, who played for the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, for the South.
Diehl, who played for the Giants for 11 seasons from 2003-2013, strengthened his Croatian-American ties after he moved to New Jersey, where the local Croatian community often have him as a visitor.
Diehl, 38, played offensive guard and tackle and was a key member of the last two New York Giants Super Bowl winning teams after the 2007 and 2011 seasons. In between, Diehl (6-6, 310) played in the Pro Bowl after the 2009 season. Diehl was born in Chicago and played his collegiate football in the Big Ten at Illinois.
Cobb, a current radio personality on WTEL and who was the Republican nominee for Congress in the House election for New Jersey’s 1st congressional district, was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1979 out of USC. Cobb, who last month turned 62, played on two Rose Bowl championship teams and one National Championship team with the Trojans.
A linebacker, Cobb (6-2, 230) earned Honorable Mention All-Pac 10 honors while at USC in 1978 and in 1986 while playing for the Eagles earned an NFC Defensive Player of the Week honor that season.
Cobb, presently a resident of Cherry Hill, was born in Carthage, NC and attended high school in Stamford, Conn.
The 10 players from Union County high schools on the North roster include:
1-Lamar Moore, Roselle, WR, (6-1, 190) – coach James Williams
3-Michel Lucien, Union, LB, (6-1 225) – coach Lou Grasso, Jr.
7-BJ George, Linden, RB, (5-10, 190) – coach Al Chiola
8-Shadon Willis, Hillside, WR, (6-1, 170) – coach Barris Grant
12-Isaiah Stewart, Union, WR, (6-2, 195) – coach Lou Grasso, Jr.
20-Jesiah West, Elizabeth, LB, (6-4, 215) – coach Jamil Jackson
24-Zion Pendleton, Rahway, RB, (5-8, 170) – coach Brian Russo
29-Max Jackson, Summit, RB, (6-2, 215) – coach Kevin Kostibos
54-Randy Lopez, Plainfield, OL, (6-1, 275) – coach Corey Tucker
58-Dawan White, Roselle, DL, (6-4, 265) – coach James Williams
All but West were able to attend Sunday’s introductory program.
It’s not often Union County has three running backs in the game.
All three were highly-prominent players for their teams, with two of them playing against each other in a state championship game last fall.
George, who in the middle of last season passed 2015 graduate Juwan Dolbrice as Linden’s all-time leading rusher, will start off playing collegiately – running back and slot – at Lackawanna Junior College.
“It was a magical and memorable season,” George said of his senior campaign, with Linden finishing 7-3 and gaining a share of the Mid-State Conference’s Watchung Division championship along with Union and Elizabeth.
You could have made the argument that Linden was playing the best overall football of any team in Union County at 7-1 and on a seven-game winning streak before falling to Ridge and then Cranford in the North 2, Group 4 playoffs.
Linden bounced back from a season-opening 14-7 overtime loss at Union – the Tigers were 40 seconds away from winning the game 7-0 in regulation – to knock off visiting Westfield 14-7 in its home-opener the following Friday night.
Linden, which was the school Westfield last lost to, snapped Westfield’s 37-game winning streak. George carried 26 times for 190 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown on a two-yard run up the middle with less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“That was very big,” George said. “For the school, for the city, that night of football changed a lot.”
George finished with 3,504 career rushing yards. Dolbrice had the previous record of 2,959. Dolbrice represented Linden and played quarterback for the North squad in the 2015 North-South All-Star Game. He was selected the North’s Offensive MVP.
Jackson, who helped lead Summit to its first state championship since 2013, rushed for a school-record 1,796 yards in 2018. In Summit’s 64-25 win at Scotch Plains he rushed for a school-record 249 yards. The previous record of 238 was established by 1982 American League batting champion Willie Wilson during his senior season of 1973.
Summit defeated Rahway 36-14 at home to capture its fifth North 2, Group 3 state championship in the playoff era. The Hilltoppers were then defeated by Ramapo 42-22 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford in the first-ever North 1 state champion vs. North 2 state champion Group 3 Bowl Game.
Summit also won the Mid-State’s Raritan Division title perfect at 5-0.
“We came on real strong at the end of last year,” Jackson said.
Jackson was in the unique position of being a player that won a state championship, but walked off the field for the final time after a loss.
“I will never forget that I lost my last high school game,” Jackson said. “But we got the ring and bringing back a state championship at Summit should do a lot to influence Summit football.”
Jackson was one of several standout options offensively for the Hilltoppers. He talked more about how important senior Jackson Tyler and junior Joe Lusardi were to the success of Summit’s Wing-T offense. Lusardi was a late-season fill in for the injured Tyler and scored three touchdowns vs. Rahway, one of the ground and two receiving.
“They were both a big part of our team’s success,” Jackson said.
Jackson proved tough to bring down again vs. Rahway, leading all rushers with 177 yards on 25 carries. His 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter increased Summit’s lead at the time to 28-14.
“He’s honed his craft and the kid has really grown,” said Summit head coach Kevin Kostibos after the Rahway win. Kostibos has now led the Hilltoppers to their last two state championships.
“You like to see the evolution of your kids,” Kostibos continued. “He’s a man.”
After the North-South All-Star Game, Jackson will prepare himself for a collegiate career at Marist, a Division 1 FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) school located in Poughkeepsie, NY.
“The biggest thing for me is that it will be my home, but it will not be too far away (from home),” Jackson said.
Pendleton, Rahway’s leading rusher and also a standout on defense, carried the ball 53 times on 12 attempts in the state championship game at Summit before a leg injury he suffered on defense in the third quarter prevented him from carrying the ball anymore.
Pendleton, considering Pace University and Delaware Valley University, scored Rahway’s second and final touchdown earlier in the third quarter on eight-yard run to cap a 48-yard drive. His long kickoff return gave Rahway good field position to start at the Summit 48.
Pendleton, who will get to wear the number he wore at Rahway – 24 – was also a standout basketball player the past four years for varsity head coach Jeff Lubreski.
Moore will attend Division 2 Pace. Although his Roselle Rams did not have the same kind of success that Summit and Rahway did, they were able to end a 2-6 season on a winning note, defeating Spotswood 22-20 in their season-finale.
“To be able to play at Pace is a blessing, that will be my home for the next four years,” Moore said. “It’s a nice fit.
“They were very accommodating. The coaches treated me like family.”
Moore, who will continue playing receiver at the next level, did not come out for football until his junior year. Basketball was his game.
“I gave football a try and now look at me, I have a scholarship to play in college,” Moore said.
Willis, who at receiver on offense and back on defense helped lead Hillside to the past two Central Jersey, Group 2 state championships, will next play at Division 2 Assumption College in Worcester, Ma.
West was also a starter on Elizabeth’s basketball team this winter that had quite a turnaround under first-year head coach Phil Colicchio. Elizabeth finished 26-2 after reaching the North 2, Group 4 state championship game where it lost to eventual Group 4 state champion Newark East Side 50-48 in the final second.
Elizabeth was 23-0, including a thrilling home win over The Patrick School, before losing to the Celtics in the Union County Tournament semifinals. The Minutemen captured the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division championship undefeated at 6-0.
Lucien excelled for Union in its come-from-behind 28-17 home win over Elizabeth in last year’s North 2, Group 5 playoffs. He carried 15 times for 178 yards, including second half touchdown runs of 43, 65 and five yards.
Stewart, son of Union High School Athletic Hall of Famer Tony Stewart (Class of 1986), will attempt to walk-on at Pitt, according to head coach Lou Grasso, Jr. Stewart was among the state’s leading receivers his junior season at Scotch Plains before being slowed down by injuries last year.
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: Andrew Luehs of Verona
North Defense: Nasir Givens of Orange
South Offense: Nahsir Morgan of Atlantic City
South Defense: Ji’Ayir Brown of Trenton
North Offense: Isiah Byrd of Roselle
North Defense: Harrison Fernandez of Union City
South Offense: James Joseph of Seneca
South Defense: Amir Murray of Willingboro
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 20-17-2
2018: South 38, North 16 – at Kean University
2017: South 30, North 22 – at Kean University
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 lightning 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