UNION – For one player – Elizabeth’s Phillip Walker – this was just the beginning.
For another – Bloomfield’s Javon Santos – this was the end a stellar high school football career.
Walker, on offense, and Santos, on defense, played integral roles in leading the North to a record-setting 54-8 triumph over the South in Monday night’s 35th annual North-South All-Star Football Game at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium.
Walker, The Star-Ledger’s 2012 Offensive Player of the Year, will continue on scholarship at Temple.
“It was exciting to hang around with all of these players,” Walker said. “We formed a very special bond.”
Santos, a key player for Bloomfield in its quest to capture North 1, Group 5 last fall, will attend William Paterson University after playing his final game.
“To go out with a win like this is a great feeling,” Santos said. “For this to be my last game is something I will always remember.”
Both Walker and Santos played in state championship games last fall, with Walker leading Elizabeth to the first North 2, Group 5 championship and the program to its first state title since 2006.
Santos helped lead Bloomfield to its very first state playoff victory and the program’s second state championship game and first in 38 years.
2013 NORTH-SOUTH ALL-STAR GAME MVPs
South defense: 33-Dylan Dobzanski, LB, (6-1, 220), Delsea
South offense: 5-Cameron Nash, RB, (5-8, 180), Piscataway
North defense: 10-Marquise Watson, LB, (6-0, 250), Paramus Catholic
North offense: 21-Akrum Wadley, RB, (5-11, 180), Weequahic
Walker – a finesse dropback quarterback with an accurate, strong throwing arm who can also keep the ball and run east-west or up the middle – threw touchdown passes in the first and second quarters as the North scored on its first five possessions. On the same field last December, he drove Elizabeth down the field on its final drive – one that covered 98 yards in the final minute – and threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Jahad Thomas to beat Piscataway 37-33 en route to a perfect 11-0 campaign.
“I watch that play every day,” Walker said.
Walker (6-1, 210) then led the North to touchdowns on its first two drives at Alumni Stadium, which is just down the road – Morris Avenue to be exact – where he guided Elizabeth to 26 victories the past four seasons.
He might also like what he sees on film of him hitting wide receiver Joe Jordan of Lakeland in stride for a 66-yard touchdown pass and the game’s first points.
“We had a lot of speed, so it was my job to find the receiver,” Walker said. “The main thing is to hit the receiver in stride.
“I used to throw to the player, not to the spot. That’s one of the things I worked on and developed as I matured.”
Behind Walker and Caldwell’s Sonny Puzzo behind center and Weequahic’s Akram Wadley and Madison’s Justin Goodwin running and catching the ball, not only did the North become the first team to score more than 50 points, but it tied the series for the first time since 1992 when the second tie was produced to put the series at 6-6-2 at the time.
The North, which has now won the last two games and three of the last four, will attempt next year – for the first time since 1993 – to take its first series lead.
The North’s previous high of 37 points came in its 37-15 win at Rutgers in 1995. The South’s high of 41 points came in its 41-7 triumph at Rutgers in 1983.
Santos (5-10, 195) was part of a North defense that limited the South to just one score, which came right before halftime and after the North built a commanding 38-0 lead.
Santos, from his linebacker position, was in on several tackles, including a solo stop of South quarterback Nick Palladino on the final play of the third quarter.
“We were very prepared on defense after working hard all weekend long,” Santos said. “The atmosphere here was just ridiculous with all of these great players.
“We made sure to contain, emphasizing containment. At the end of the day it was our hustle that prevailed.”
Walker, who started at quarterback for Elizabeth since the first game of his freshman season back in 2009, is ready for the challenge Temple football will present.
“Temple gave me the opportunity to compete and play as a freshman,” Walker said.
Walker could have turned his back on the Owls once head coach Steve Addazio left in December to become the head coach at Boston College. However, he felt very comfortable with new head coach Matt Rhule, who is a former Penn State player who grew up in State College, Pa.
“Coach Rhule is a very honest man,” Walker said.
Walker played for former Penn State captain Chet Parlavecchio his freshman season in 2009, which is the only season Elizabeth finished under .500 since 1980. Parlavecchio, in his first season at the helm of the Minutemen, guided Elizabeth to the 2006 North 2, Group 4 crown.
“Coach P was a great coach,” Walker said. “I was only 14 years old and the guys made it comfortable for me to play.”
John Quinn took over as head coach in 2010, with Elizabeth rebounding from an uncharacteristic 1-9 campaign to finish 5-5, winning five of its final six contests.
“Coach Quinn is the greatest coach in Elizabeth history,” Walker said. “He wanted us to succeed on the football field and to also grow up as men.”
Santos starred for longtime Bloomfield head coach Mike Carter, who took over as head of the staff in 1991 after Parlavecchio guided the Bengals for four seasons. Carter, a 1979 Bloomfield graduate, was one of Parlavecchio’s assistants.
The Bengals, after winning their first two state playoff games, came within less than a minute from upsetting Montclair in the North 1, Group 5 championship game. The favored Mounties prevailed 16-13 in double overtime in a thrilling contest at East Rutherford’s MetLife Stadium.
“To be on the first Bloomfield team to win a playoff game and then get to the championship game was pretty special,” Santos said. “Then to come here and represent Bloomfield football and the town was an honor.”
35TH ANNUAL NORTH-SOUTH ALL-STAR FOOTBALL GAME
NORTH (16-16-2) 24 20 3 7 – 54
SOUTH (16-16-2) 0 8 0 0 – 8
NORTH – Joe Jordan 66 pass from Phillip Walker, Young Hoe Koo kick (N 7-0)
NORTH – Justin Goodwin 1 run, Young Hoe Koo kick (N 14-0)
NORTH – FG Young Hoe Koo Kick 27 (N 17-0)
NORTH – Akrum Wadley 53 run, Young Hoe Koo kick (N 24-0)
NORTH – Gerrod Gainer 22 pass from Phillip Walker, Young Hoe Koo kick (N 31-0)
NORTH – Akrum Wadley 8 run, Young Hoe Koo kick (N 38-0)
SOUTH – Anthony Firsker 17 pass from Nick Palladino, Anthony Firsker pass from Nick Palladino (N 38-8)
NORTH – Justin Goodwin 35 run, kick failed (N 44-8)
NORTH – FG John Hinchen 33 (N 47-8)
NORTH – Kire Milevski 65 pass from Sonny Puzzo, John Hinchen kick (N 54-8)
SERIES TIED AT 16-16-2:
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