Dane Longa was convinced that his high school football career was over. The St. Peter’s Prep senior standout defensive tackle, headed for Kean University in the fall, believed that any chance of playing in an All-Star game would go to his more heralded and recognized teammates.
“I didn’t have too much chance to get much attention being on the field with those guys,” Longa said.
But high-profiled players like Savon Huggins, Keith Lumpkin and Sheldon Royster, all headed to major Division I schools like Rutgers (Huggins and Lumpkin) and South Carolina (Royster) were not selected to play in the 33rd annual New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association’s North-South All-Star Classic.
Longa was one of three local products to be selected to play for the North squad in the game that will be played June 27 at Kean. Longa, Ronald Butler of Lincoln and Jidamon Sparkman of St. Anthony were three players chosen to play in the historic contest.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Longa, who will essentially get a head start on college life by playing in the game that will be held where he plans to attend college. “When I got the call that I was picked to play in the game, I thought they were joking. But when I found out it was real, I was very excited. I never thought I’d get a chance, being on the same high school team with all those big names and athletes. I’m going hard in the weight room right now to get in shape for the game. It means a lot to me.”
Butler is definitely looking forward to the game. Right now, he’s a multi-talented player without a college home, so maybe a strong performance in the All-Star Classic can lead to a future college scholarship.
“I’m looking forward to the game,” Butler said. “Since we had the meeting [last Sunday], I’ve been thinking about the game and I’m very anxious to play. I’m getting the chance to show everyone I could play [NCAA] Division I football.”
While Butler played wide receiver and quarterback on offense and defensive back on defense, he will be asked to serve as a defensive back in the game.
“I hope they have me play a variety of positions like I’m used to,” Butler said. “I really don’t have a true position, but I would prefer to play wide receiver in college. I think I have a natural instinct to go get the ball.”
Butler knows that his grades were the only deterrent from securing a college scholarship. He will probably head to a junior college or a prep school in the fall. One JUCO that is interested in Butler is North Carolina Tech, a junior college that has sent others to big-time college football.
“I will try to go there, because that will get me out of Jersey City,” Butler said. “I know if it wasn’t for my grades, I’d be going somewhere. I’m just going to take this chance to play with the best and see what happens.”
Sparkman, the two-way standout from St. Anthony, has already signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Maine. He is the second Friar product to play in the North-South game, joining former Friar Joshua Ford, who had a big game at tight end last year.
“Making this game really means a lot to me,” Sparkman said. “Getting selected was a big surprise. When my coach [Sean Fallon] told me I was going, I was so happy. This was the highlight of all my accomplishments and my hard work came through.”
Sparkman will also use the game to get accustomed to college life, living in the dormitory setting at Kean for the weekend of training prior to the big game.
“It’s going to give me a little taste of what I can expect in college,” Sparkman said. “I’m going to go out there and make some more noise for St. Anthony, help to put the football program on the map even more. I’ve already started working out to get ready.”
Sparkman said that he’s happy to get selected with Butler, a close childhood friend.
“It’s great that we’re going together,” Sparkman said…
Here’s an interesting item, given by another St. Paul’s of Greenville alumnus, Rich Dwyer of PSE&G.
The high school basketball national champion is St. Anthony, coached by Bob Hurley, who went to the now-defunct St. Paul’s School and grew up on Linden Avenue in Jersey City.
The NCAA national champion is the University of Connecticut, whose assistant coach George Blaney, also went to St. Paul’s School and grew up on Bartholdi Avenue in Jersey City.
Two national championship coaches grew up exactly five blocks apart from each other, attended the same school from the same parish in the Greenville section. That idea is pretty amazing.
They both also happen to be graduates of St. Peter’s Prep as well.
Well, while we’re at it, the same grade school and high school produced this reporter as well and the reporter grew up on Kennedy Boulevard and Greenville Avenue, right between Hurley and Blaney. It was a great neighborhood to grow up in and it was great having guiding lights like Blaney and Hurley to follow as a youngster. Now, both are at the pinnacles of their respective fields….
Jersey City native and former Duke and NBA player Roshown McLeod resigned his head coaching position at St. Benedict’s Prep after just one season. McLeod would like to pursue other coaching opportunities. McLeod replaced Danny Hurley at St. Benedict’s this season, after Hurley took the head coaching position at Wagner College…
Heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek returns to the ring this weekend to face the guy who ended Mike Tyson’s career, namely Kevin McBride. Adamek, the former Jersey City resident who still trains in Jersey City, is a native of Poland. McBride calls Massachusetts his home, but hails from Ireland. It’s also the heritage of this reporter, coming from a Polish mother and an Irish father. It should be interesting to watch this one from a heritage standpoint.
Condolences to former Hoboken Rec official and local softball coach Tom LiCalsi on the passing of his mother. Two weeks ago, LiCalsi lost good friend George Maguire and now he loses his mom. Just a few years ago, Tommy buried his wife as well. Prayers and thoughts go out to LiCalsi at this very tough time….
North Bergen residents and aspiring boxing stars Carlos Zambrano, Jonathan Maicelo and Juan Zegarra, all of whom live together in the same apartment, will fight on the same card at the Estadio Monumental in Lima, Peru April 16 and the card is available to watch online….
Just returned from the annual sojourn to the NCAA Final Four in Houston and once again did a lot of coaching sightings at the NABC’s Coaches’ Convention. Chuck McBreen, the North Bergen native who coaches at Ramapo, and St. Peter’s College head coach John Dunne was greeted. Dunne, courtesy of his great NCAA tourney run this season, was actually being treated like a coaching royalty with all his attention.
But the highlight came when former classmate and current UMass-Lowell head coach Greg Herenda approached in the middle of the coaches’ smorgasbord. And it just happened to be the North Bergen native’s 50th birthday. Herenda hadn’t been spotted by this reporter in almost two years and there’s a reunion of sorts in Houston on his birthday. That’s beyond ironic. – Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.