Players from Linden and Summit lead North to football victory

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UNION, NJ – First Myles Hamilton, even before Halloween, and then Tyler Kessel, just five days after, saw their senior seasons conclude abruptly in state tournament play.

Hamilton helped Linden High School go 6-3-1 last year, but the Tigers fell at Morris Knolls High School, 17-7, in the first round of the North 1, Group 4 playoffs. Kessel sparked Summit High School to a bit more success, but the top-seeded Hilltoppers were ousted at home in the North 2, Group 3 semifinals by eventual champion West Essex High School, 27-17, to finish 7-3.

Those were not quite the endings to their final seasons of high school ball for which Hamilton and Kessel had hoped.

Both got one more chance to go out a winner as they were selected to represent their schools in the state’s premier all-star venue. Both also didn’t disappoint.

Lifted by the defensive exploits of North linebackers Hamilton and Kessel, who both made key plays all game long, especially at the end, the North held on for an exciting 20-18 triumph against the South in the 46th annual Phil Simms North-South High School All-Star Football Classic at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium on Sunday, June 9.

Hamilton made a solo tackle for a one-yard loss deep in North territory late in the fourth quarter. On the game’s final play, Kessel batted down a pass intended to extend the South’s final possession.

So now the North, on a first-time four-game winning streak, leads the series for the first time ever at 21-20-2. It took the North 45 years, with the first game played in 1979, to take the lead. The North has won the last four games by one, five, four and two points.

The South last won in 2018 by the score of 38-16 at Kean University.

Hamilton and fellow North linebacker Kordal Hinton of Union High School tackled South quarterback Jacob Zamot of Millville High School on the South’s two-point conversion attempt, following its first touchdown in the second quarter, when the South took a brief 6-3 lead.

So once again, Union County players on the North squad made a big impact in a North victory in an all-star game played in Union County.

“The South was trash-talking all week,” said Kessel, who was named the North’s defensive MVP. “My senior season ended with a loss, so this is sweet.”

Kessel will continue playing in the Ivy League at Dartmouth College.

“I just wanted to make a play or be in position to make a big play that was going to make a difference and help us win,” said Hamilton, who was named the North’s Ken Trimmer award recipient for excitement and enthusiasm. “I’m glad we eventually figured it out.”
Hamilton will continue playing at Division 1 Fairfield, Connecticut, school Sacred Heart University.

The only scoring that took place in the first quarter was a 27-yard field goal kicked by North’s Jack Morgese of Pope John XXIII High School. With 3:19 left in the first half, 15-minute quarters returned, Morgese made a 42-yarder from the other side of the field to tie the game at 6-6. This field goal came against a slight wind and just made it over the crossbar.

A Florham Park resident whose mom played softball at Whippany Park High School in the early 1990s, Morgese made a 52-yarder for his career-best in a game against Seton Hall Prep last fall. He said that his longest field goal in practice was from 62 yards away.

An interception by North defensive back Damian Kribs of Passaic Valley High School with 1:34 remaining in the second quarter led to the North’s first touchdown. A pass over the middle from quarterback Liam Londergan of Seton Hall Preparatory School to wide receiver Zach Garmont of Verona High School put the ball inside the South 10-yard line with 20 seconds left. Because the North had no timeouts remaining, Londergan had to spike the ball quickly.

Now second down and goal from the South seven with 16 seconds left before halftime, this time, Londergan threw a quick screen pass right to wide receiver Kenyon Massey of Paramus Catholic High School.

Massey in turn flipped the ball to oncoming running back Rashawn Marshall of Weequahic High School, who took the pitch and raced the final three yards untouched into the end zone for the North’s first touchdown. Morgese followed with the point after to give the North a 13-6 edge at the break.

Londergan, who would be named the North’s offensive MVP, completed an 18-yard touchdown pass over the middle to wide receiver Nayad Walker of Malcolm X Shabazz High School with a little more than six minutes to go in the third quarter. Morgese kicked the extra point for his eighth point total to put the North in front by two scores at 20-6.

After the North immediately held the South again, the North drove down the field once more looking for more points as the game moved to the fourth quarter. On fourth and goal from the seven, Morgese lined up for a 24-yard field goal attempt. Most thought Morgese was going to make it, which would have given the North a three-possession advantage of 17 points with less than one quarter to go.
However, Morgese’s kick bounced off the right upright. The score remained 20-6 and the South still had 14 minutes to figure out a way to tie the game or take the lead for the second time.

The South would go on to score a touchdown on its very next possession. Zamot fired a pass to wide receiver AJ Bosch of Woodbridge High School near the right sideline. After coming down with the pass, Bosch was able to break contain of the North backs trying to bring him down as he scored from 34 yards away.
The South snapper, Matt Oliphant, of Point Pleasant Borough High School, on the extra point attempt picked up the ball and looked to pass for two points. Oliphant was tackled before he could make a throw and the score remained 20-12 in favor of the North.

Because the South was still behind, a new rule of going for an onsides kick saw the South try to get a first down from their own 40 on fourth and 12. Again, Zamot and Bosch hooked up, with Bosch catching a pass that covered 15 yards, giving the South a first and 10 at the North 43 with 8:42 to go.

The South continued to move the chains and then, on a third and goal from the one, Oliphant was pushed by his teammates over the goal line with 2:06 left in the contest. The South pulled to within two at 20-18.

Another new rule allowed the South to take the ball at the North 10, seven yards away from the original line of scrimmage of the three-yard line, for an extra point or two-point attempt.

So now, for the first time in the history of the North-South game, a team was attempting to go for three, which in this case would give the South the lead if they made it.

Zamot dropped back to pass and was tackled by defensive end Trumain Lawson of Clifton and others as the North defense came up big again.

On one final attempt to achieve another first down on an onsides kick play from its 40, it was Kessel who ended the South’s hopes by blocking the game’s final pass. One kneel down later and the North began to celebrate.

“We put on a Union County showcase,” Kessel said.

“People would say that, because Linden is only a Group 4 school, that it can’t compete with the private schools,” Hamilton said. “I know, at the end of the day, that I can compete.”

2024 North-South MVPs

North offense: No. 9, Liam Londergan, Seton Hall Prep, QB, (6-2, 200)
North defense: No. 12, Tyler Kessel, Summit, LB, (6-1, 210)
South offense: No. 3, Benny Liles III, Kingsway, WR, (5-11, 170)
South defense: No. 0, Malichi Castle, Rancocas Valley, E, (6-3, 235)

2024 Ken Trimmer Award for Excitement and Enthusiasm

North: No. 7 Myles Hamilton, Linden, LB (6-3, 200)
South: No. 5 Jacob Zamot, Millville, QB, (6-1, 200)

North-South Scoreboard
North leads for first time at 21-20-2

2024: North 20, South 18 – at Kean University
2023: North 10, South 6 – at Kean University
2022: North 21, South 16 – at Kean University
2021: No game because of the COVID-19 pandemic
2020: No game because of the COVID-19 pandemic

2019: North 24, South 23 – at Kean University
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 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

Photos by JR Parachini