Nate Ortiz just wanted to have the chance to soak up the entire experience as he participated in the 33rd Annual New Jersey Scholastic Football Coaches Association’s North-South All-Star Classic, held last Monday night at Kean University.
The recent St. Anthony High School graduate and former Friar standout tight end was one of five Hudson County football standouts who were selected to play in the contest. Headed to Delaware State in a month or so to begin his college career, Ortiz wanted to get a chance to feel what college life will be like. The All-Star Classic gave him that opportunity.
“I loved the camp,” Ortiz said. “The practices were tough [three sessions on Saturday], but we got used to it. The best part was getting to know the other guys from Hudson County. We made sure we represented Hudson County well. It was a great experience.”
What made the experience even better was the fact that the North All-Stars, the team that featured Ortiz, Steve Le of Union City, J.R. Robinson of St. Peter’s Prep, Malcolm Robinson of Bayonne (no relation) and Spencer Perez of Hoboken, won the game by a score of 14-7, with Perez throwing a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to give the North the victory.
It meant that all five local grid stars won in their final high school football game.
“I made a lot of friends there,” Ortiz said. “Being in the dorm was great. I got to spend time with J.R. [who will attend Delaware State as well] and we became better friends. Spencer was fun, messing with everyone. I told J.R. that we had to show everyone why we’re going to Delaware State together and whether he liked it or not, he was stuck with me for the next five years. We’re good friends now. Our relationship got better.”
Perez wasn’t the only local player to do well. The trio of J.R. and Malcolm Robinson formed three-fourths of the North’s starting secondary and all three played together for most of the evening. Le intercepted a pass and J.R. Robinson deflected a key pass in the closing seconds.
“It was great that we had all five of us go to the game this year to represent Hudson County,” Ortiz said. “Since the South won last year’s game, we had to make sure we won this year. I was so blessed and so grateful to be a part of the game. It shows that if five of us from Hudson County could make it this year, then others can make it next year.”
Le, headed to Monroe College in New York in the coming weeks to help start the school’s fledgling football program, also enjoyed the weekend.
“Honestly, it was a great feeling,” Le said. “Not only did I get the opportunity to play one more high school football game, but we won and I had a part in that. It was a blessing and something I’ll always remember.”
Le thought that after the Soaring Eagles lost to North Bergen in the NJSIAA state playoffs that his high school career was over.
But Le was selected to be part of the North team and the defense, headed by his own head coach Wilber Valdez.
“It was great to be with Coach Valdez one more time,” Le said. “I wanted to get ready for college and to be selected for this game, I knew I had to get back to the grind. I think it was great we had five guys from the county there. We all love the game and we had the opportunity to show everyone we belonged there.”
Le also liked the part that he developed relationships with the other Hudson County grid All-Stars.
“When we first got there, it was strange, because we all knew of each other, but we really didn’t know each other,” Le said. “But as the weekend went on, we got to know each other better and we left like we were brothers. We’re all going to keep in touch now. It was a special time, especially when we had the three Hudson County guys together in the secondary. Like I said, I’ll never forget it.”
Especially since they all left high school football fittingly as winners. – Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.