North-South Classic: Shore Stars Help Lead South Past the North
PISCATAWAY - Everywhere you looked on the field in Monday night's 36th annual Phil Simms North-South All-Star Football Classic at Piscataway High School, a Shore Conference standout was making an impact.
"It was nice playing with (other Shore Conference players) all at once,'' Colts Neck running back Anthony Gargiulo said. "Usually we're going against each other and smacking heads, but this time we got to gang up together."
Behind a host of strong performances from Shore stars, the South knocked off the North 20-14, with Gargiulo, a Navy recruit, dragging half of the North defense for a 12-yard touchdown run with 12:55 left in the game to snap a 14-14 tie. Gargiulo finished with 58 yards rushing on 12 carries, and Monsignor Donovan wide receiver Joey Fields also found the end zone for the South with a 10-yard run on a jet sweep in the third quarter on his only carry of the game that helped tie it at 14.
A record 26 Shore Conference players were on the 43-man roster for the South, although a handful of them did not show up to participate on Monday night. Jackson Memorial linebacker Ken Bradley, Brick Memorial safety Mike Basile and Keyport quarterback Alex Thomson were the three captains for the South. They helped end a two-year losing streak for the South, which leads the all-time series 17-16-2.
"We thought we were going to come in and have some fun,'' said Fields, who is headed to Central Connecticut State. "During the season you don't get along with them, but when we were here, the Shore Conference came together like brothers."
Manalapan linebacker Chris Noesges, the Shore Sports Network Defensive Player of the Year, was named the defensive MVP for the South after finishing with 6 tackles and making a fumble recovery at the North's 12-yard line that set up Gargiulo's game-winning touchdown.
After the game, the Assumption College recruit was handed his MVP plaque by Simms, the former Giants great and current CBS NFL analyst, who came aboard as part of the game for the first time this year. Former Redkins great Joe Theismann, who starred at South River in his high school days, also was in the house along with Simms' former Giants teammate, defensive lineman Jim Burt, to hand out the MVP awards. Matawan legend Jim Jeffcoat, a former Cowboys star, was also scheduled to attend but was barred from participating by NCAA rule because he is currently an assistant at Colorado.
"Phil Simms is a great guy,'' Noesges said. "I'm just standing there in practice the other day and here comes NFL legend/Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms right up to me and just talks to me like a normal guy. It was a great experience."
Williamstown's John Chamberlin was named the South's offensive MVP after rushing for a game-high 94 yards on 21 carries. Freehold Boro's Brad Jones also played the majority of the snaps at quarterback for the South after Thomson suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee in the first quarter and did not return.
The South won despite only attempting two passes in the entire game, thanks to a road-grading offensive line that featured five Shore Conference players at times who paved the way for 234 yards rushing. Lakewood's Ben Watson, Brick's Matt Ulufanua, Southern's Bailey Bellissimo, Barnegat's Zach Andrews and Point Beach's Sean Struncius all played at the same time up front, and Point Boro's Matt Gliddon also saw action with parts of that group to help dominate on the ground.
"To be able to play with great backs like Anthony (Gargiulo) from Colts Neck and the kid from Williamstown, just blocking for them was such a pleasure,'' Struncius said. "The coaches put a lot of trust in us to just be pounding the ball up front all game, and we dominated. That's my kind of football."
After helping Point Beach win the Central Jersey Group I title in the fall for the first sectional title in program history, Struncius, who started at center, also was able to show that the small-school guys can hold their own in a game filled with talent.
"Coming to this, at first I was shocked by the speed of the game, but I adjusted to it throughout the three days in practice,'' he said. "I feel like this was a good stepping stone to get me ready for college."
Jackson Memorial defensive back Khani Glover also had a strong game with 5 tackles and an interception, and Basile, a Monmouth University recruit, had a pair of pass break-ups.
"To get that interception with everyone watching, that's something I'll remember forever,'' Glover said.
Mater Dei Prep's Jalanie Mitchell also stood out with 7 tackles at cornerback, and Bradley chipped in with 5 tackles. Central's Jesse Brown also saw significant action on the defensive line, Red Bank Catholic linebacker Frank Olmo had 3 tackles, and Neptune defensive lineman Tyrell Montgomery had a tackle for a loss. Wall's Chris Quinlan, a wide receiver, chipped in as the holder on extra points.
Roselle defensive back Jason McRae was the North's defensive MVP, and Cedar Grove quarterback Joe Slattery, who threw for 189 yards and a pair of touchdown passes, was the offensive MVP. The North took a 6-0 lead on the third play from scrimmage in the game when Slattery hit Queen of Peace's Kevin Momnohin over the middle for a 68-yard touchdown pass before a missed extra point.
The South answered with a 3-yard touchdown run by Palmyra's John Marmon in the second quarter set up by a muffed punt and took a 7-6 lead on the extra point by Matawan's Mike Creamer, who also had a 60-yard punt in the win. The North then took a 14-7 lead into halftime when Slattery found Lakeland's Steve Thompson with a 22-yard touchdown pass and then hit Lincoln's Tyrik Darby with a two-point conversion pass with 1:03 left in the half.
The South responded by going on an 11-play, 70-yard scoring drive to start the second half, with every play coming on the ground. Fields capped the march with his 10-yard scamper to help tie it at 14 with 7:58 left in the third quarter.
"I hadn't touched the ball all game, so I told coach that I wanted to run a jet sweep,'' Fields said. "I knew it was my one chance, so I had to take it to the end zone."
Glover's interception killed the North's ensuing drive, and Noesges helped ultimately swing the game in the South's favor for good with his fumble recovery at the North 12-yard line with 13:06 left in the game. The North tried to run a reverse, and Winslow Township's Devin Brown forced a fumble by Darby that Noesges pounced on.
"I felt if I played like I know I could, I could definitely make an impact and change the game for my team,'' Noesges said.
South 20, North 14
North 6 8 0 0 - 14
South 0 7 7 6 - 20
N: Momnohin 68-yard pass from Slattery (kick failed).
S: Harmon 3-yard run (Creamer kick).
N: Thompson 22-yard pass from Slattery (Darby pass from Slattery).
S: Fields 10-yard run (Creamer kick).
S: Gargiulo 12-yard run (pass failed).