PISCATAWAY – They were the enemy to each other for three seasons.
They were the players that wanted to win each game, each year and bask in the glory with their teammates if they came out on top.
Westfield’s Hank Shapiro realized the joy of victory first.
Union’s Andrew Sanborn finally met that fate this past season, getting past Westfield in Westfield for the first time.
Now, two of the best quarterbacks that Union County has produced in some time will join forces, band with each other and work side-by-side in an attempt win a football game together for a change.
State championship signal-callers Shapiro, he led Westfield to 12-0 and the 2017 North 2, Group 5 title, and Sanborn, he guided Union to 12-0 and the 2019 N2G5 championship, are the North quarterbacks for the 42nd annual Phil Simms North South High School All-Star Football Classic.
The game will take place Monday, June 29 at 7 p.m. at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium in Union.
“Hank and I have trained with the same guy, Tony Racioppi, and we’re cool with each other,” Sanborn said at Sunday’s press conference at Piscataway High School. “We plan on having fun with the experience and are grateful that we were chosen for this game. It should be a lot of fun.”
Shapiro made his college decision last June, he will next play at Lehigh. Sanborn committed to American International College right before the February signing period.
“I know we’ll have a good time working together and, hopefully, we’ll come out with a win,” Shapiro said. “This is a huge honor. Westfield is a big town (to represent) and it’s really exciting to know that I’m going to be a part of this.”
One of the targets Sanborn, the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year in New Jersey, and Shapiro will seek to get the ball to is Rahway’s Mark Bails, one of the North’s wide receivers.
“I want to thank my coaches for putting me through for this game,” Bails said.
Bails will next play wide receiver at the University of Maine.
“I just visited, I was on a plane for the first time, and I really like the coaching staff there,” Bails said.
Joining Sanborn in this game and also at AIC is Union offensive lineman Jared Durand.
“This game means everything,” Durand said. “To be able to play with one of my best friends growing up it’s like a dream come true. We’ll be going to college together.”
Durand was one of the Union linemen that helped protect Sanborn and allow No. 11 to do his magic en route to the Farmers winning a state title for the first time in 26 years.
“Winning the state championship, words still can’t describe the feeling,” Durand said.
One of Essex County’s top defensive linemen the last several seasons has been Abdoul Kone of Columbia, who will continue to terrorize opposing offensive lines at the University of Massachusetts.
“He’s a great kid and excellent academically,” said Columbia head coach Gary Mobley, who is on the North coaching staff.
Kone (6-3, 180) was a three-year starter at outside linebacker and defensive end and played multiple positions on offense before he settled in at wide receiver.
Right now he is slated to play on the defensive line for the North All-Stars.
“From a physical standpoint he can do it all,” Mobley said. “He can rush, he can drop. He’s a prototypical, hybrid linebacker in the 3-4. I think he has NFL potential.
“I’ve coached a couple of kids that have already gone into the pros and they’ve seen him and he fits right into that category.
“He has the size, already, and the demeanor. He needs to get the opportunity at the next level and then who knows?”
Union County players on the North roster:
1-Joe Lusardi, Summit, DB, (6-0, 175)
4-Anu Okungbowa, Hillside, LB, (5-10, 190)
10-Hank Shapiro, Westfield, QB, (6-2, 200)
11-Andrew Sanborn, Union, QB, (5-11, 185)
12-Dami Awoyinfa, Linden, DO, (6-1, 215)
15-Mark Bails, Rahway, WR, (6-3, 180)
54-Jared Durand, Union, OL, (6-2, 285)
76-Trevor Sejour, Roselle, DL, (6-1, 330)
78-Ketwan Graham, Elizabeth, DL, (6-1, 275)
Essex County players on the North roster:
7-Abdoul Kone, Columbia, DL, (6-3, 180)
13-Quadir Scott, East Orange Campus, WR, (5-11, 180)
24-Alky Juan Green, Orange, DL, (6-3, 250)
25-Eric Lopez, Newark West Side, LB, (6-1, 190)
31-Adonis May, West Orange, DB, (5-11, 200)
33-Shua Sutton, Newark West Side, DB, (6-0, 170)
34-Christopher Freid, Belleville, DL, (6-2, 235)
53-Nick Gonzalez, Verona, OL, (6-3, 255)
56-Sebastian Fortune, Montclair, OL, (6-3, 290)
60-Jayden Jarvis, Barringer, DL, (6-1, 285)
72-Patrick Barr, Montclair, OL, (6-3, 270)
74-Thomas Grippo, Seton Hall Prep, OL, (6-3, 260)
77-Bardhyl Gashi, West Essex, OL, (6-3, 305)
81-Dominic Busby, Seton Hall Prep, TE, (6-4, 220)
HONORARY COACHES ATTRACT ATTENTION
OF PLAYERS, COACHES AND PARENTS
The Honorary Coaches for this year’s game are former linebacker Jonathan Casillas of New Brunswick High School for the South and former wide receiver Victor Cruz of Paterson Catholic High School for the North.
Casillas played collegiately at Wisconsin and in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and New York Giants. He won Super Bowls with the Saints (2009 season) and the Patriots(2014 season, his only year with the team).
Cruz played collegiately at UMass and in the NFL for the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears. Cruz won a Super Bowl ring with the 2011 Giants.
When both spoke to the parents in attendance, they had the attention of everyone in the room.
“Parents, send your sons goody bags,” Casillas said. “Goody bags, snacks, money and underwear, definitely underwear.”
Cruz had his moments when he was able to make light of certain things, but also stressed time management and the importance of grades.
“Twice I came home after poor grades and was embarrassed to tell my friends the truth why I was home,” Cruz said. “After my father passed away I had to take care of my family and then realized that I had to get it together.
“I was able to go back to UMass and finish and with a 3.3 grade-point average. Once I took my studies seriously I wondered why I didn’t earlier. Everything else became so easy once I did.”
Casillas was a bit more serious at the end: “your son does not have to play in the NFL,” he told the parents. “But he needs to get that education.”