Gridiron Classic – Brick’s Carmen Sclafani Leads Ocean County QBs in His Final Football Game
His high school career numbers are staggering, yet Thursday night's U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic will mark the last time that Brick quarterback Carmen Sclafani will put on the pads in his football career.
After 6,939 total yards and 77 touchdowns between rushing and passing in his three-year varsity career, not to mention a state title and a division title, he leads a trio of talented Ocean County quarterbacks who look to go out in style against Monmouth County at Long Branch High School. Two other talented running and passing threats, Lacey's Conor Davies and Jackson Memorial's Joe DeMaio, also will be under center for the Ocean County all-stars. Sclafani will then turn his attention to preparing himself for a baseball career at Rutgers University.
"This is my last game,'' Sclafani said. "I'm very happy with my high school career, and it would be nice to go out with a win."
One of the most prolific quarterbacks in Shore Conference history, Sclafani had two seasons in which he both rushed for more than 1,000 yards and passed for 1,000 yards in his three years between Toms River North and Brick. He also rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior at Brick, and would have made Shore Conference history as the first quarterback to have three straight 1,000/1,000 seasons if he didn't miss 2 1/2 games with an injury in 2013.
A two-time, first-team All-Shore selection by Shore Sports Network, he went 83-for-156 for 1,399 yards and 18 touchdowns passing and also ran for 1,427 yards and 16 touchdowns on an average of 9.8 yards per carry as a senior this past fall. He helped the Green Dragons win their first division title since 2008, one season after being the catalyst of a team that won the Central Jersey Group IV title for Brick's first state championship since 1994.
However, baseball is his future, as he was a second-team All-Shore selection by SSN this past spring as a shortstop for the Green Dragons. He hit .403 with a .522 on-base percentage along with 29 hits and 26 runs scored.
The Gridiron Classic, now entering its 38th edition as the oldest all-star football game in New Jersey, has long been a part of the fabric of Sclafani's family. His uncle, Chip LaBarca Jr., coached and played in the game, and LaBarca's father, Chip Sr., is a Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Famer who also coached in the game. The younger LaBarca was Sclafani's head coach at Toms River North as a sophomore, then his offensive coordinator the last two years at Brick before joining the staff at Wall for the upcoming season.
"Growing up, I went to a bunch of these games,'' Sclafani said. "My uncle has coached and played in it, and it's just something I've always looked forward to since I was a kid. I'm really happy I got to be a part of this whole experience this week."
The Ocean County team is coached by Jackson Memorial's Walt Krystopik and his staff, whose Jaguars were a fierce rival and a thorn in Brick's side the past two years. They beat the Green Dragons with Sclafani out of the lineup in 2013 to claim the Class A South crown, and then this year Brick handed the Jaguars their only loss of the season in a year in which Jackson Memorial finished No. 1 in the Shore Conference. The Jaguars dethroned Brick as the Central Jersey Group IV champions with a 44-0 win in the semifinals.
"It's weird, but I know a lot of those guys from baseball and playing against them growing up,'' Sclafani said. "The (Jackson) coaches are really nice. They bust chops and crack some jokes, but it's been fun.''
"He was one of the toughest competitors we faced,'' Krystopik said. "We know all about what he is capable of doing."
Sclafani has DeMaio, another baseball standout who is headed to Iona, to help show him and Davies the ropes in Jackson Memorial's pro-style offensive system, which Ocean County will employ. Davies and Sclafani both played in spread systems for their respective teams, and some of those sets have been incorporated this week to take advantage of their talents.
"Everything was under center at practice the first day, so for me and Carmen, that was foreign territory because we were always in the shotgun,'' Davies said. "It's been great, though, because you have four receivers out there that if you throw a bad ball, they're going to go up and get it, plus you also have great linemen and backs."
"Guys are catching everything, and our offensive line is going to be awesome,'' Sclafani said. "They have a very creative offense and run a lot of different types of sets."
DeMaio is one of six Jaguars playing for their head coach one last time, while Davies, like Sclafani, is carrying on a family tradition of his own. His older brother, Ryan, who holds several Shore Conference passing records from his time as a quarterback at Howell, played in the Gridiron Classic in 2012. His father, former Howell head coach and Lacey assistant Cory Davies, who is the new head coach at Freehold Township, also has coached in the Gridiron Classic multiple times.
Davies finished fifth in the Shore Conference with 1,636 yards passing along with 16 touchdowns and a conference-best 164 completions as a senior for the Lions.
"It's the main Shore Conference game, and everyone comes out to watch,'' Davies said. "It's just a great experience."