And it’s a location that they probably won’t relinquish any time soon either.
Plain and simple, the Marauders of St. Peter’s Prep have been the premier high school football team in Hudson County since 1999.
The Marauders posted a 9-3 record a year ago and advanced to the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 4 championship game at MetLife Stadium, falling hard to Bergen Catholic, 44-7, in the finale last December.
It marked the fifth time in the last six years that the Marauders appeared in the state championship game, having last captured the state championship in 2014.
The Marauders’ goals have never changed during the tenure of veteran head coach Rich Hansen, who is now the granddaddy of all Hudson County football coaches.
“The goal is to be at MetLife in December,” said Hansen, who begins his 33rd season as the head coach of the Marauders. “That hasn’t changed and won’t change.”
The Marauders welcome back senior quarterback Maasai Maynor (5-11, 190), who has a good chance this season to become the school’s all-time leading passer. That’s some major accomplishment, considering that the school has produced some prolific passing quarterbacks over the years like Anthony Guma, Jeff Skinner, Joe Dailey, Will Hill and in recent years Johnathan Lewis (currently at Rutgers) and Brandon Wimbush (who is one of the favorites to capture the Heisman Trophy this year for Notre Dame).
Maynor, the Hudson Reporter Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player last season, threw for 2,472 yards and 24 touchdowns, while rushing for almost 400 yards and scored five TDs.
It’s hard to do better than what Maynor did last season, but Hansen believes that Maynor, who just last week gave a verbal commitment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, can be even better than he was a year ago.
“Just saying he can be the all-time leading passer here speaks a lot about him,” Hansen said. “He’s committed to having a great senior year for us. He feels good about what he’s doing.”
While Maynor is the main man calling the signals this season, sophomore Tahjmel Bullock (6-3, 180) is ready to step in when called upon. Hansen likes Bullock so much as a player that he is actually designing plays to get Bullock into the game to give Maynor a rest. The Marauders didn’t have that luxury last season.
“He has all the tools to be a very good one,” Hansen said of Bullock, who is already being courted by major colleges. “No doubt, he’s going to get a chance to play this year. He’s going to get meaningful minutes.”
If the Marauders had a major Achilles heel last season, it was their rushing attack – or lack thereof. For years and years, the Marauders prided themselves on owning a solid ground game. It was – needless to say – extremely disappointing a year ago.
“We’ve made a recommitment to running the football,” Hansen said. “In the offseason, we’ve spent a lot of time on our culture and understand what we have to do. We have to hold ourselves to a standard.”
Senior Anthony Summey (6-0, 210) will get the chance to be the main guy out of the Marauders’ crowded backfield. Summey showed some glimpses of brilliance last year, collecting almost 300 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s worked very hard at improving,” Hansen said of Summey.
Others in the backfield include seniors Khyree Parker> (6-0, 180) and Khyrie Robinson (5-9, 180). At the very least, the Marauders have cornered the market on kids named Khyrie.
There is also sophomore Tyion Smith (5-9, 175) and talented freshman Paul Lefkowitz (5-10, 215), who is going to get a chance to play varsity right away. The hopes of a decent running attack lies on the strong shoulders of Summey.
The receiving corps is deep and talented. Senior Chase Jones (6-2, 210) returns. He’s committed to Wake Forest. Senior Ayir Asante (5-10, 160), a former Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week, is also back. He’s committed to Lehigh. Senior Richie Luzzi-Liggins (5-9, 170), the track standout who finished sixth at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions and the New Balance Nationals in the 200-meter dash, is another threat to catch Maynor’s passes.
Juniors Byron Shipman (6-2, 175), Jelani Mason (5-9, 170) and Cody Simon (6-1, 210) are also in the mix at receiver. Mason is a transfer from Seton Hall Prep, while Simon is the younger brother of Shayne Simon, the 2017-2018 Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year who is currently at Notre Dame.
Senior Matt Adams (6-1, 240) and junior Ben Silver (6-0, 210) are sharing time at tight end.
The offensive line is relatively young and inexperienced. Senior Elijah White (6-1, 310), junior Isaiah Wright (6-5, 270), sophomore George Rooks (6-4, 260) and freshman K.J. Miles (6-4, 250) are battling for playing time at tackle.
Seniors Stanley Dennis (5-11, 260) and Andrew Marrero (6-1, 250) and sophomores Aiden Montero (6-2, 240) and Maison Cobb (6-3, 250) are in the mix at guard, with senior Mike Giordano (5-11, 310) at center.
The Marauders utilize a 4-4 defensive front, with senior R.J. Oben (6-4, 230) leading the way at defensive end. Oben, the son of former New York Giants offensive lineman Roman Oben, is headed to Duke next year. This year, the younger Oben will be one of the best defensive football players in New Jersey.
Silver, Miles and Rooks are other defensive ends with White, Dennis and Marrero sharing time at defensive tackle.
The outside linebackers are Jones (who is a very good defensive player), Simon and junior Colin Elliott (6-2, 205), with senior Damani Falconer (5-11, 230) at inside linebacker.
The cornerbacks are senior Adonis McGee (5-10, 170), who is an excellent high jumper on the track in the spring. Juniors Quentin Lemon (6-1, 175) and Dave Benoit (5-10, 175) are also in the mix in the secondary along with Robinson.
The safeties are seniors J.J. Scocco (5-10, 190) and Marcus Woodard (5-10, 170) along with freshman Christian LeBrun (5-11, 185).
The Marauders open their season at Millville on Friday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. They play St. Joseph’s Prep of Philadelphia, the nationally ranked team coached by West New York native Gabe Infante, Sept. 8 at 1 p.m. at Caven Point.
The Marauders are ranked No. 25 in the nation among Catholic schools. They should be among the state’s top 10 when the first rankings come out next week.
“I like these kids,” Hansen said. “I like their work ethic. We just have to keep grinding and get into a good rhythm.”
And let a super quarterback like Maynor weave his magic.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.