Shore stars help lead South to victory in Phil Simms North-South Classic
UNION – The South All-Stars stood head and shoulders above the North All-Stars during Monday night’s 40th Phil Simms North-South Football Classic, and the 12 representatives from the Shore Conference all played a part in the resounding victory.
Freehold’s Ashante Worthy had a pair of touchdowns, Howell’s Eddie Morales had a touchdown catch, Howell’s Matt Mazauskas recorded two sacks and Matawan’s Jon Ogungbenro and Toms River North’s Daryn Blackwell each had an interception to lead the way as the South ran away with a 38-16 victory at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium.
Howell’s Nasiem Brantley caught four passes for 47 yards, Point Boro’s James Fara had a reception for a first down on a scoring drive and Red Bank Catholic offensive lineman Richie Christie helped pave the way for an offense that rolled up 465 yards of offense. In addition to the two sacks by Mazauskas and the interceptions by Ogungbenro and Blackwell, St. John Vianney’s Nick Densieski had a sack and Barnegat’s Juan Abraham had a fumble recovery and a pass breakup in the end zone. Southern linebacker Joe Miele, Point Beach linebacker Luke Frauenheim each had multiple tackles for a defense that forced six turnovers and held the North to 271 yards of offense, including just 68 rushing.
“It just shows the Shore Conference is alive and strong,” said Freehold head coach Dave Ellis, who, along with his staff, coached the South All-Stars. “We had some talented players from here and also had talented players from other places in South Jersey. We got with this group and the second practice they picked up the offense. That’s when we knew we were going to be okay tonight.”
Freehold’s up-tempo offense that featured Worthy and his record-breaking rushing and passing numbers this past season put a strain on the North’s defense. Holy Spirit quarterback Josh Zamot played virtually the entire game and was dynamite in going 21-for-29 for 327 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 84 yards and a score. Atlantic City wide receiver Nahsir Morgan was his favorite target early and finished with five receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown.
Worthy played mostly running back and wide receiver as Zamot had the hot hand early and never slowed down. Worthy scored on a 28-yard touchdown when the South ran a hook and lateral with Morgan flipping it back to Worthy after a 10-yard reception. Worthy then added a 16-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He finished with 58 yards receiving on four catches and 38 yards rushing.
“It was great,” Worthy said. “I got to meet a lot of new people and I’ll probably be friends with some of them for the rest of my life. We got to spend a lot of time to get to know each other off the field and it was very fun.”
Morales, who starred at quarterback for Howell during his career, played mostly wide receiver and came away with a 35-yard touchdown catch early in the third quarter.
“It was amazing,” Morales said. “It’s the best kids in the state and it was just cool to be around them,” Morales said. “We had a great time getting to know everybody and all around it was a great weekend.”
Unlike most of the players who suited on Monday night, Mazauskas won’t be playing college football. Monday’s game along with the Shore Sports Network All-Shore Gridiron Classic on July 12 represent his final opportunities to put on the pads.
“I’m not going to get the experience of playing college football so coming out here and staying in the dorm, eating the cafeteria food and hanging out with the brothers, it was a lot of fun,” Mazauskas said. “Honestly, it was an honor.”
Blackwell echoed the sentiments of his teammates and a chance to play in the state all-star game.
“Honestly, I’ve never had this much fun playing football,” Blackwell said. “I came late Friday after graduation but they welcomed me with open arms, it was like a family. I didn’t know anybody and now I have some brothers for life. I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to play in this game.”
The scoring started in the latter stages of the first quarter and a fake punt attempt by the South gave the North the ball at the 27-yard line. The South defense buckled down to get the stop and force a field goal attempt, which Cranford’s Valentino hit from 37 yards out for a 3-0 lead.
It took the South just two plays to respond and take the lead for good when Zamot connected with Morgan on a deep ball for a 75-yard touchdown. Old Bridge’s Calogero Caruso knocked through the extra point to make it 7-3.
The South defense stopped the next drive on an interception by Salem’s Justin Harris and Ogungbenro had an INT later in the quarter. Late in the quarter, Trenton’s Ji’Ayir Brown came down with the South’s third interception to kick off his huge game en route to being named defensive MVP. Brown had two interceptions, two sacks, a blocked extra point and three pass breakups.
Brown’s INT set up a 7-play, 57-yard drive that put the South up, 14-3. Zamot had a 14-yard run on first down and then connected with Brantley for 25 yards down to the 16-yard line. After a touchdown run was wiped off the board via the first use of the state’s new instant replay system, Zamot scored from one yard out to give the South a 14-3 lead.
The South extended its lead to 17-3 with 4:14 left in the first half when Caruso booted a 27-yard field goal.
A sensational interception by Brown in the back of the end zone squashed a North drive and set up the South to take a 24-3 lead into the locker room. Following the turnover, the South marched 80 yards in eight plays to stretch their advantage to 17 points at the half. Zamot was sacked on a first down but a facemask penalty wiped out the negative play and moved the South to the 31-yard line. After moving to the North 38-yard line, the South executed a perfect hook and lateral when Zamot hit Morgan for 10 yards and Morgan then flipped to Worthy, who finished off the play with a 28-yard scamper down the visiting sideline.
“We only ran it twice in practice and I didn’t know of Coach D (Freehold offensive coordinator Mike D’Antonio) was doing to run it in the game,” Worthy said. “He put me and Flash (Morgan)0 in at the same time and we executed it and got the TD.”
The South’s defense ended the first half emphatically as Carteret’s David Pierre sacked Parsippany Hills quarterback Nick Verducci and West Deptford’s Pete Orio came down with an interception – the fifth of the first half – on the final play of the second quarter.
The South’s lead grew to 31-3 on the first drive of the third quarter when Morales hauled in a 35-yard touchdown to cap a 6-play, 67-yard scoring drive. Morales was wide-open on the same play earlier in the game but Zamot overthrew him. The second time around the play went exactly as planned.
“Beforehand I was on the left side and we ran the same play and the ball was a little over my head,” Morales said. “I told him it was alright, we’ll get it next time. We ran the same play and I was in the right slot. I went to fake block the corner and then just took off behind him.”
The North got into the end zone for the first time when North Plainfield’s Brandon Williams scored on a 3-yard run with 1:42 left in the third quarter. The South went three-and-out and the North came back with another score on a 2-yard touchdown run by Old Tappan’s Marquez Antinori, but Brown blocked the extra point to hold the score at 31-16.
The South answered on the next drive when Worthy burst up the middle for a 16-yard touchdown run and a 38-16 lead with 8:49 left in the game.
The final big play of the game came courtesy of Blackwell when he dropped into the flat and picked off Mount Olive quarterback Liam Anderson. The interception came inside the 10-yard line and Blackwell rumbled out near midfield.
“I was surprised I caught it, actually,” Blackwell said. “It was so clean and hit my right in the chest, I almost didn’t know what to do with hit. I was running down the sideline and was like, ‘I gotta score’, but then I saw the QB coming and thought what would be better, running him over or stiff-arming him. I ran him over.”
The high school football season ends in November for most teams and in early December for those fortunate enough to reach a state sectional final. The players selected to play in summer all-star games are making sure to savor every minute of their final high school days. Eleven of the 12 Shore Conference players who played Monday night will also play in the SSN All-Shore Gridiron Classic in July.
“This game was important because it was the whole state but the Shore Conference is our home,” Morales said. “Everyone knows us and to able to play with my teammates one more game in high school and to be able to show out in front of our Howell fans will be a good day.”
“It’s going to be great,” Mazauskas said. ‘I got to play with Eddie and Naz today and Scotty P (Howell lineman Scott Prendergast) has been one of my best friends forever, so strapping it up with him again is going to be great. I can’t wait for that.”
South 38, North 16
North 3 0 7 6 – 16
South 7 17 7 7 – 38
N – Valentino Ambrosio (Cranford) 37-yard field goal
S – Nahsir Morgan (Atlantic City) 75-yard pass from Josh Zamot (Holy Spirit); Calogero Caruso (Old Bridge) kick
S – Josh Zamot (Holy Spirit) 1-yard run; Calogero Caruso (Old Bridge) kick
S – Calogero Caruso (Old Bridge) 27-yard field goal
S – Ashante Worthy (Freehold) 28-yard TD off hook and lateral; Calogero Caruso (Old Bridge) kick
S – Eddie Morales (Howell) 35-yard pass from Josh Zamot (Holy Spirit); Calogero Caruso (Old Bridge) kick
N – Brandon Smith (North Plainfield) 3-yard run; Valentino Ambrosio (Cranford) kick
N – Marquez Antinori (Old Tappan) 2-yard run; kick blocked by Ji’Ayir Brown (Trenton)
S – Ashante Worthy (Freehold) 16-yard run; Calogero Caruso (Old Bridge) kick
RUSHING – N: Nick Verducci (Parsippany Hills) 7-41, Marquez Antinori (Old Tappan) 9-25, Jha’Mil King (Morristown) 3-13, Brandon Smith (North Plainfield) 1-3, Colin Callahan (Montclair) 1-3, Nick Maniero (Nutley) 2-(-4), Liam Anderson (Mount Olive) 3-(-13); S: Josh Zamot (Holy Spirit) 17-84, Ashante Worthy (Freehold) 11-38, Eddie Morales (Howell) 4-5, No. 25 5-12, Isaiah Shaw (Winslow) 2-14, Devon Banks (Williamstown) 2-2, Team 1-(-17).
PASSING – N: Nick Verducci (Parsippany Hills) 8-24-4 150, Liam Anderson (Mount Olive) 5-13-2 53; S: Josh Zamot (Holy Spirit) 21-29-1 327.
RECEIVING – N: Danilo Romero (Ridgewood) 2-61, Eric Castarina (Sparta) 2-60, Jha’Mil King (Morristown) 1-22, Jerish Halsey (Rahway) 2-16, Nick Maniero 2-15, Michael Radomski (Hanover Park) 1-13, Colin Callahan (Montclair) 1-10, Brandon Smith (North Plainfield) 1-5, Jordan Gray (Roselle) 1-1; S: Nahsir Morgan (Atlantic City) 5-141, Ashante Worthy (Freehold) 4-58, Nasiem Brantley (Howell) 4-47, Eddie Morales (Howell) 1-35, James Fara (Point Boro) 1-16, Dan Russell (Metuchen) 2-13, Devon Banks (Williamstown) 3-14, Anthony Taylor (West Windsor-Plainsboro South) 1-3.
INTERCEPTIONS – N: Abdul Nashid (Newark Collegiate) 1-55; S: Ji’Ayir Brown (Trenton) 2-0, Daryn Blackwell (Toms River North) 1-40, Justin Harris (Salem) 1-0, Jon Ogungbenro (Matawan) 1-10, Pete Orio (West Deptford) 1-0.
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.