Gridiron Classic: Central’s Foursome That Keyed Program’s Turnaround Set for One Final Game
LAKEWOOD – After being part of the foundation that propelled Central to its best stretch in nearly 20 years, four Golden Eagles players will take to the field one final time on Thursday night in New Jersey’s longest running high school football all-star game.
Running back Mike Bickford, tight end Denis Corbin, defensive end Jared Giaimo and defensive back Anthony Holloway will represent Central when Ocean County takes on Monmouth County in the 40th annual All-Shore Gridiron Classic at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Shore Regional’s Robert Feeney Field. Over the course of their careers they helped the Golden Eagles to a pair of playoff appearances and three straight winning seasons for the first time since the late 1990s.
“It’s a culmination of their hard work for four years to get to play in this game,” said Central head coach Justin Fumando, who is also one of Ocean County’s assistant coaches. “This is their hard work being celebrated. We didn’t get a shot at the playoffs so this is another chance for them to come out and redeem themselves.”
In Fumando’s first season as head coach the Golden Eagles went 7-2 with their only losses coming to No. 1 Toms River North and to South Jersey Group III champion Wall. Leading the way was Bickford, who was one of the Shore’s best offensive players over the last three years and a two-time SSN first-team All-Shore selection. Bickford ran for 1,737 yards and 17 touchdowns on an average of 8.2 yards per carry, including a 363-yard, 6-touchdown game against Brick Memorial. Bickford ran for over 2,000 yards as a sophomore to set the program’s single-season record and finished his career as Central’s all-time leading rusher with over 5,000 yards.
‘It’s an honor to play in this game and to get to know everyone from Ocean and even Monmouth,” Bickford said. “It’s a fun game, practice is fun and you get to become a family again. I did a lot at Central but I couldn’t have done any of it without my teammates and my coaches.”
“It helps when your philosophy is to run the ball and control the clock and you have one of the best guys in the game,” Fumando said. “It’s no secret that you win games when you have good players. Mike was a special player and he was surrounded by a group of very talented players.”
Bickford will continue his career at East Stroudsburg University, as will his teammate and close friend Corbin. A menacing blocker and a clutch pass-catcher over the middle of the field as a tight end, plus a disruptive player on defense, Corbin was a player who didn’t always show up on the stat sheet but was vital to Central’s success.
Holloway was a big-play threat at the wide receiver position and also a standout defensive back, which is where he’ll play in the Gridiron Classic. Giaimo is a 6-foot-5, 250-pound beast who excelled at defensive end and offensive tackle for the Eagles. Giaimo will continue his career at West Virginia Wesleyan University while Holloway will attend Bryant University on an academic scholarship.
“I’m excited for Mike and for Denis who is going with him, Jared is going out to a good spot at West Virginia Wesleyan, and I joke with Anthony Holloway since he’s going to one of the best business schools in the country,” Fumando said. “He’s going to come back and be one of those alumni that donates a lot of money.”
“He right there is a great example of what we have at Central,” Fumando added. “We have kids that work their tails off and don’t look to be celebrated. This is the first time people are knowing about all this for these kids. It’s a testament to all their hard work.”
While Central will have to replace these four players plus several others, the program is in a good spot going forward. Among the returners for 2017 are junior quarterback Joe Fowler, senior offensive lineman Brandon Voss and sophomore running back Kavon Chambers.
“I hope the kids behind us achieve as many goals as they can and break all the records we have,” Bickford said. “I want to see them do big things down there.”
Bickford will be the main horse in Ocean County’s rushing attack while Corbin, Giaimo and Holloway will each start at their respective positions. Together they’ll try to help Ocean County become the first team to win four consecutive Gridiron Classic games.
“We’ve been game planning all week just getting ready for Monmouth, and we know It’ll be tough competition,” Bickford said. “When Thursday comes we’ll be ready to go to battle.”
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.