New Jersey's Become Fertile Ground for Blue-Chip Recruits
Every year you hear about prep football in places like Texas, Ohio, Califorina, Florida, and Georgia, but lately New Jersey has thrust itself into the upper tier of high school football.
With schools like Don Bosco (Ramsey), Bergen Catholic (Oradell), St. Joseph's (Montvale), and Paramus Catholic playing and winning out-of-state games, New Jersey's football community feels it can match up with anyone in the country.
This season, the Garden State has two of the highest-rated college recruits in Saeed Blacknall of Manalapan and Jabrill Peppers of Paramus Catholic.
Blacknall, a wide receiver, has committed to Rutgers, but first hopes to lead the Braves to their first state sectional title after finishing second the past two seasons. Peppers has committed to Michigan as a defensive back, but on the other side of the ball, there is no running back even close to him in New Jersey. Peppers played at Don Bosco for his freshman and sophomore seasons, winning state championships there, and then shocked the state by transferring to Paramus Catholic last season, where he helped that school to a state title.
The top team in New Jersey this season is the defending champion St Joseph's of Montvale, and with many returning starters, they should be right up there again. Mark Fossati is one of the best players in the state, and Rutgers would love to have him next season as a linebacker.
Spencer Aukamp returns at quarterback for the Knights, who seek their fifth Non-Public Group III championship in six years. If they slip, perennial power Don Bosco will step up and take back the top spot in New Jersey. The Ironmen had their Non-Public Group IV championship streak stopped at six last season, and looks to gain some revenge on St. Joe's on Thanksgiving Day. Don Bosco is led by quarterback and Temple recruit Frank Nutile.
Paramus Catholic and Bergen Catholic played a classic Non-Public Group IV championship game last year, with the Paladins from Paramus coming out on top. Paramus Catholic, other than Peppers, will be sending Juwan Bushell-Beatty to Michigan, Billy Ray Mitchell to Virginia Tech, and Terrence Harris to Iowa. Bergen's two best players are uncommitted, but linebacker Cameron Queiro will be attending Northwestern.
South Jersey has Quenton Nelson of Red Bank Catholic going to Notre Dame, Gerald Owens of West Depford to Michigan State, and Rodney Williams of Cherry Hill West to Syracuse. Add to that players like Jonathan Hillman of St. Peter's, Kiy Hester of DePaul, and Adonis Jennings of Timber Creek to Rutgers, and maybe the next time Friday Night Lights comes around, they'll shoot it in New Jersey.