Jamar Casey suffered a major loss last month, when his father, Mark Casey, Sr. passed away.
“He was with me the whole way,” said the younger Casey, the former Lincoln High School football star who attended University Charter High School. “We were very close. He would have been cheering for me the whole time.”
And when it came time to select American International College as the school where he will continue his football career, Jamar Casey said, “My Dad was with me for the whole process.”
So Casey had a bit of a heavy heart last Monday night, when he led a strong contingency of six Hudson County football standouts selected to play in the 41st Phil Simms New Jersey Scholastic Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic at Kean University in Union.
“I had to show what I was all about,” said Casey, who played defensive back in the thrilling 24-23 victory by the North all-stars. “I had to show what players from Lincoln are all about. I considered this to be a blessing and an honor. Not many players from Jersey City get selected for this game. This is preparing me for college.”
Despite the loss, the South still holds an edge in the series, 20-19-2. The game annually attracts some of the top graduated seniors throughout New Jersey.
Azhaun Dingle of Bayonne also looked at the North-South All-Star Game as a chance to show what he was all about as well. Dingle, headed to Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, was the North squad’s offensive Most Valuable Player by rushing for 92 yards on 11 carries and scoring two touchdowns.
“It felt great to have the opportunity,” Dingle said. “I was very honored to be there. It was one of my goals to get selected for the team. It’s really an achievement.”
Dingle was asked what it was like to represent Hudson County with the other five.
“Sure, it was great to represent the county,” said Dingle, who scored the game-winning touchdown on an 8-yard run late in the fourth quarter. “The six of us are special players. We met a lot of guys in this game, but we had a good group from the county. I looked at it as an opportunity to show what I can do on the field and show everyone what I’m all about. I was excited to get the pads back on.”
Dingle said that he was glad to be playing again, considering that he missed the last three games of the season with an ankle injury.
“I was very excited to get back on the field again,” Dingle said.
Union City was fortunate to have two representatives on the North squad in offensive linemen Zavien Guitian and Eddy Coronado. In fact, at one point during Saturday’s three-a-day practices, Guitian and Coronado represented the starting guards for the North team.
“It feels amazing,” said Coronado, who never played organized football before attending Union City High, but is now headed to Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York. “I’m just honored to be here with the rest of these great players. It’s a great experience that I always wanted to be a part of. I never thought I would get the opportunity, but I got the chance to be here and do my own thing. I was also blessed to get the chance to play with my brother [Guitian] one last time. It was good to have him by my side on the line one more time.”
Guitian, who is headed to the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall and play football there, was also thrilled to be a part of the North All-Stars.
“I’m grateful and honored to be here,” Guitian said. “It’s a great feeling to be considered one of the best players in New Jersey. It’s proof that all my hard work paid off.”
Guitian said that he went through a lot with Coronado as a teammate.
“We have been playing together since freshman year,” Guitian said. “We won a lot of games and been through so many things. So to get a chance to play one last time was a great thing. It just goes to show how respected the Union City program is. The returning players just have to keep following the culture, because we have a great program.”
Guitian was also pleased to see Union City head coach Wilber Valdez in attendance for Saturday morning’s practice session.
“It shows how much he really cares about us,” Guitian said. “He’s the one who put us together on the line, so he should be on the field with us. I think it shows how much we all have a love of the game. That’s what football is all about.”
Jaden Rolling of Hudson Catholic, headed for Villanova in the fall, was also an offensive lineman for the North squad.
“I’m very excited to be on the team,” Rolling said. “It is a great experience. This will prepare me a lot for college. You have to wake up on your own in the dormitory. No one is looking out for you. It’s all on your own. It’s been a lot of fun. I haven’t played football in months, but I was more than ready to get back out there.”
J.J. Scocco of St. Peter’s Prep was part of the defensive secondary for the North squad.
“When I heard I was on the team, I was pretty excited,” said Scocco, who is headed to Pace University in the fall. “I played top competition every week, so I was ready for this game. It was definitely great to get back into playing football again. This gives me a step ahead of everyone else on what college is all about. I had been running and lifting every day to get ready. I think we all had a chance to show people what Hudson County football is all about.”
And the six got a chance to close out their high school careers with a victory. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com