UNION COUNTY, NJ — Media Day for the 42nd annual Phil Simms NJ North-South All-Star Football Classic will take place, for the first time, at the site of where the game is annually played now.
Traditionally at Piscataway High School’s cafeteria, Media Day has been moved to Kean University in Union, where the game has been played since 2009.
Media Day is Sunday, March 19, at 1 p.m., at Kean. The game is set for Sunday, June 11, at 6 p.m., on the newly-installed turf field at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium.
Union County is well-represented on the North roster, with players from eight different schools in the county. In addition, veteran David Brearley High School mentor Scott Miller and Hillside High School’s Barris Grant are two of the North coaches. Miller is listed as an assistant coach on offense and Grant as an assistant on defense.
Miller has been at the helm of the Bears since 2002 and is the longest tenured head coach in Union County. He guided David Brearley to the 2006 North 2, Group 1 state championship and three other state championship games, including the 2022 N1, G1 final.
Grant has guided Hillside to three state championships and also one regional title. Both Miller and Grant have led their teams to 12-0 seasons.
Union County players on the North roster include Omar Ibrahim of Union High School, Matt Sims of David Brearley, Jake Lowry of Summit High School, Dillon Thompson of Linden High School, Gerald Baker III of Elizabeth High School, Brett Makowsky of Arthur L. Johnson High School, Kyon Simonson of Hillside and Samir Cherry of Plainfield High School.
Sims was a four-year varsity player for Miller who passed for more than 2,000 career yards, 20 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He helped lead the Bears last year to their first appearance in a state championship game since 2015. Sims threw a touchdown pass to fellow senior wide receiver Brendan Fitzsimmons for Brearley’s only score in a 16-6 setback at Mountain Lakes in November’s North 1, Group 1 final.
“Matt Sims was one of the top two quarterbacks I’ve had here,” Miller said. “He was a special player for us in so many ways.”
Simonson, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards the past two seasons for Hillside and finished with more than 2,400 career yards, will next play at Army.
The Phil Simms North-South Classic will showcase 90 of the best high school senior football players the state has to offer, coached by 24 of the most innovative and brightest coaches in the game.
The head coaches are Roman Oben for the North and Mohamed Sanu for the South.
Oben was a third round pick in the 1996 NFL draft by the New York Giants out of Louisville. He played for the Giants from 1996 to 1999, the Cleveland Browns in 2000 and 2001, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002 and 2003, and the San Diego Chargers from 2004 to 2007.
Oben was the starting left tackle for the 2002 Buccaneers in January 2003, when Tampa Bay upset the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. Oben was the first Cameroon-born NFL player drafted and started more than 90 percent of the games in his 12-year career at left tackle.
Oben is currently the NFL vice president of Football Development. He joined the NFL as director of Health & Safety in December 2014.
Sanu is a graduate of South Brunswick High School and Rutgers. Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft, Sanu enjoyed a 10-year NFL career, also playing for the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers. He played for the Falcons in Super Bowl LI against the Patriots.
Gates open at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday, June 11, with plenty of free parking for extended family and friends. Stadium concessions begin at 6 p.m.
General admission tickets are $10 per person. Avoid the wait at the gait and secure your online purchase now. Cash tickets at the gate will be $15 the day of the game.
The North won last year’s game 21-16 for its second straight victory. The North also came out on top by a score of 24-23 to win the 2019 contest, which was the only one-point game in the series.
There was a Media Day for the 2020 game but, unfortunately, no game because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was also no game in 2021 because of the lingering effects of COVID-19.
The South leads the series 20-19-2, with the North having an opportunity to tie the series this year. The North has never led.
The first game took place in 1979 at Rutgers. There was also no game in 2002 when it was canceled right before kickoff due to inclement weather.
Union County players on the North roster
Omar Ibrahim, Union Farmers, DB, (6-2, 180)
Matt Sims, David Brearley Bears, DB, (6-0, 185)
Jake Lowry, Summit Hilltoppers, DB, (5-10, 180)
Dillon Thompson, Linden Tigers, DE, (6-2, 220)
Gerald Baker, Elizabeth Minutemen, DT, (6-3, 330)
Brett Makowsky, Arthur L. Johnson Crusaders, PK, (6-0, 160)
Kyon Simonson, Hillside Comets, RB, (6-1, 210)
Samir Cherry, Plainfield Cardinals, WR, (5-6, 160)
Union County coaches on the North roster
Scott Miller: head coach at David Brearley since 2002.
Miller is a 1987 David Brearley Regional graduate who played for the Bears under head coach Bob Taylor, with Brearley winning the North 2, Group 1 state championship Miller’s junior and senior seasons of 1985 and 1986.
Barris Grant: head coach at Hillside since 2016.
Grant is a 1997 Irvington graduate who played for the Blue Knights with head coach Gil Bragg when the 1995 squad went 8-1.
Photos by JR Parachini