Every time I get together with my old coaches and teammates from high school, we all somehow end up talking about how ESPN or some other network needs to feature this story as a documentary. Sitting here today a retired football player, looking back at my career and now having a website, I decided to take it upon myself to share this story.
I do not know where I would be without the influence and growth that this program nurtured inside me. I can almost guarantee my teammates all feel the same. The coaches and players of this program from this time period will forever share an unbreakable bond. Those guys are all family to me and I love them to death. The coaches of the program poured their heart and souls into us and the players bought in.
This is an incredible story that had to be told. Once word got around to my teammates and coaches, they all let me know they were counting on me to do this right. So if you clicked on this looking for something to pass by the next 30-45 seconds, you may as well click off the page. This is three months of hard work put in by myself along with my former teammates and coaches. So I hope I can do this incredible time some justice.
Before I dive into the story I felt it was necessary to go into LIVIN and what it meant to this team. People from the outside looking in thought it was some goofy saying that we printed on T-shirts and had painted on our stadium. I could try to explain it to you and convince you otherwise but, I felt it would be better to ask my former teammates and coaches what exactly this meant.
Chris Partridge c/o 1997
Its not easy to put down on paper what LIVIN truly is but I'll do my best. LIVIN is a concept, a feeling, an emotion, a way to be.....
When Blake Costanzo and I were living together, we decided to go for a run one early morning around 3AM. He was in the NFL playing for the San Francisco 49ers and I was going into my 2nd year of coaching at PC. It was during the off season and we did crazy stuff like this all the time.
We went down to Hackensack High School (near where we were living) and began running 100 yard sprints, challenging one another to go until one of us quit. He was finishing each rep way ahead of me, but I refused to quit. I was in full body cramps and basically crawling across the finish line and he kept going, and calling out "another one" then running back for another rep. I was dragging myself through, saying "you can't kill me" as I tried to keep up and hobbled down the field. Finally we decided to end it after about 30 and just crashed and lay at the goal line in exhaustion and began to talk about our lives. He was living his dream in the NFL (although at that time he was rehabbing from wrist and shoulder surgery) and I was coaching my alma mater and coming off a 4-6 record. It was then, at that moment, I had an awakening and I realized that I WAS LIVING MY DREAM dream too, and life was about what I was making of it.
I'll never forget that feeling I had and the revelation on that field. Its actually Ironic because I grew up in Hackensack and the first ever tackle football game I played in 5th Grade was on that same field! Blake and I both talked more about how good we really had it and then started to just say "we were LIVIN".
Life had brought us to that moment and we were determined from that minute forward, that nothing was going to bring us down ever again. We agreed that we were both going to do great things and that through every moment we would realize how lucky we were and that we were truly LIVIN!!!!. No matter how hard the training and rehab was for him or how bad the 63- 0 score at the hands of Don Bosco felt we would embrace it, learn from it, and be LIVIN through it.
That word LIVIN, seemed to pull us through in every situation from that day on.
We brought it to our respective teams and in our daily lives. When people would be negative or complain we would respond that it was simple, to look at it differently, because they are LIVIN!!!! Either in the NFL or playing HS football, look at the rest of the world, and instead of complaining, realize how good your life is and understand you truly are LIVIN.
It became a Mantra, a rallying cry! We might get knocked down, we might have our backs against the wall but inside of us we knew how lucky we were, we knew how grateful we were to have each others backs and so we tried to instill the feeling of LIVIN inside of anyone that touched our programs.
If we look inside of ourselves, we will see that LIVIN is inside all of us. No matter what you are going through, what your situation is, whether you were feeling down on yourself or were flying high. Deep inside you is a power that could bring you to greatness if things were going well or pull you out of a hole if things weren't. At times of dispair you need to remember that you have the ability to pull yourself out of it. Reach down deep, understand that you can always pull out of it.
Blake Costanzo Former NFL Pro-Bowler
"Livin to me is embracing each moment we have in our lives. To not let any one moment pass us by, without living it with love and passion. To be the best teammate, brother, son, friend. A constant reminder that in any situation a positive could always be brought to light. Livin to me is not just a phrase but the way I truly live my life."
Matt Giachinta c/o 2011
"Livin is something that has extended past just being a football player. Whether it was on the field lead blocking for the quarterback or in the army rucking up mountains with 100 plus pounds on my back, livin means beings that guy out front leading the way and embracing anything that is thrown your way. I've had plenty of challenges since retiring as a football player, but what I learned as an athlete still carries me to this day. It's all about perspective."
Marquise Watson c/o 2013
"LIVIN is tatooed on my body beacuse it means more than just a word, its a bond and a brotherhood of people that believe in giving back and doing whatever they can for their family. You dont go about your life to exist you are LIVING your life"
Nick Flores c/o 2014
"LIVIN" was always way more than a word to us, it was a lifestyle. To be LIVIN meant that you were excelling at every aspect in your life. Putting everything you had into everything you do. Whether it was on the field, in the classroom, or at home doing chores getting everything done to the best of your ability. It helped us hold ourselves accountable with anything that we were doing. LIVIN helped me become a man.
Erik Santiago c/o 2013
"LIVIN is more than a word, more than a motto, more than a rally cry. LIVIN is a way of life. It encourages those who follow to get the most out of each day. to attack not only football, but life with passion and purpose. you could have never played a down in ur life, but still be LIVIN. Unless you went to PC, it's tough to explain and put into words, but the way the movement swept our community and ignited our team was a thing of legend. 4 years from graduating and im still LIVIN because i use the motto to drive me when thing get rough, a constant reminder that i am capable of all things despite what other may do or say"
Tyrone Washington c/o 2014
"Livin to me was a way of us living with no worries especially on the football field, whenever you would make that big hit, touchdown catch you was livin doing what you loved to do."
Eddie Albert c/o 2000 Defensive Backs Coach
"At first, Livin was a relatively new term to me. Before I became a coach at PC I thought it was a corny slogan that Chris made up. I bought in when I became involved with my Alma Mater. Playing at PC, we were lucky to fill up half the stands for a big game. When I saw the program transform to a national powerhouse and see the pride that the students, faculty, parents, and alumni, showed, it really hit me that this was something to believe in. It was truly an awesome thing to be a part of and I cherish the time that I was back on the field and in the school with my fellow paladins."
Najee Clayton c/o 2015
""Livin" is far from just a word. It's a lifestyle to us & every single man who's help bring this program back to life. Livin is the code I live by. "Livin" goes beyond football! This is a brotherhood, livin is being the best man, husband& father that you can possibly be. Attacking everything in your life & forgetting about all distractions to be able to sacrifice & ultimately reach our goals whatever they may be."
Jay Fortino c/o 2005
"LIVIN was a term that our PC football program created a handful of years ago meant to bring the dynamics of passion, dedication, faith, relentless work ethic and of course school spirit to our community. It has been embraced by so many and defined in so many ways. I know I’ve been LIVIN since 2001 when I first stepped foot through the doors of PC as a 14 year old and I couldn’t be more thankful for it. Working hard, caring for others, having faith, bringing the most passionate attitude to every possible thing that I have had the opportunity to do and now being able to have witnessed so many of our outstanding PC students and student-athletes do the same, that’s LIVIN.”
Billy Ray Mitchel co/ 2014
"Livin extends so much farther than just football. To me, Livin is how I try to live my life every single day. I always strive to be the best version of myself, whether its making a difference in the community, being a great student, or just trying to be an all around stand up guy and live the best life I can. Football was all I knew for most of my life and now that I can't play anymore, I have been attacking life with the same energy and passion I had for Football."
Upon arrival at Paramus Catholic, Coach partridge went right to work in changing the culture and feeling around the school. Rules and a new mindset were laid out. Players that were considered cancerous or comfortable to just coast were asked to leave. Coach made sure everyone understood this program wasn't here to simply exist or participate, we were here to work harder than any other team in the state and take over.
After the weeding out process, what remained was some talent and solid players, but the talent level wasn't close to what you saw at the schools we wanted to beat, so there was a long way to go. Most of our players went two ways and almost all the freshman I came in with only played at the freshman or JV level to develop.
When I arrived at PC, the football program was the doormat of our conference. To give you some insight, the non-athletes at our school weren't even repping our team. You would see our fellow classmates out and about or even at school wearing Bosco, Bergen or Joes football gear. As infuriating as this was, it was what was normal at PC to that point. Our football program had been laughable for the past decade and just wasn't something that mattered. The younger players and coaches around the team tucked that away and knew we were going to do anything and everything we could to change that.
That first season came and went. Paramus Catholic went 4-6 and was thrashed in the first round of the playoffs by the #3 team in America and eventual state champion, Don Bosco (62-0). PC finished as the 1934th team nationally and the 42nd ranked team in the STATE. Talk about looking up from the bottom of the mountain... However, we had a solid group of freshman that came in and we had a firery and motivated coach in Chris Partridge, who was hungry. This was the season the foundation was set. We all knew where we wanted this program to go and who we wanted to become. All that was left was to put in the work and start climbing that mountain.
2011 rolled around and you could tell the team started to embrace what CP and company were preaching. Practice was a little bit crisper along with everything else around the program. The team started to finally have the depth to move on from having to play the majority of the team on both sides of the ball week in and week out. This was a big step because the other rosters across the big north, talent was so plentiful that most teams only had a handful of players that went two ways.
Some of the defining moments of the season were when PC beat Northern Valley Old Tappan 26-9 to avenge a 27-13 loss from the year before. NVOT had one of the best players in the Northeast, Devin Fuller (currently on the Atlanta Falcons). Later on that year, PC also was able to win their first out of state games in Coach Partridges tenure with a 27-24 win over Salesianum (Deleware) and a 23-20 win over Brooklyn Poly Prep (New York) .
At the end of the season, PC improved on last year finishing with a 5-1 record at home and finished 6-5 after making it to the second round of the playoffs and losing to the eventual state and national championship team, Don Bosco, again (42-3). PC finished the season ranked 14th in the state and 757th nationally. Although, the season didn't end with a title, the seniors from this class really believed in what we were trying to do and helped the program take a crucial step in the right direction.
The off season following the 2011 campaign was when the program turned a corner. The hunger to win and desire to be relevant on a national level was as all this team cared about. We attacked the weight room different, we believed in ourselves, and felt like we were ready to be the team Partridge knew we could be. Then out of nowhere, arguably the most historic move in NJ high school football happened.
Jabrill Peppers decided he needed something new and saw something in the PC program, so he decided to transfer. Jabrill was a nationally touted STUD. Ranked as the number 4 player in the country and number one overall prospect in the state for his respective class. In the 2 games he played in against Paramus Catholic, Jabrill had 331 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Along with Jabrill came a few other key players from other programs such as Keyon Washington (also from DBP), Marquise Watson (from St. Peters Prep), Terrence Harris (from SJR), Alec Bowman (from Bergen Catholic), and Izaiha Pitts (from St. Mary's). Other teams around the state took note of the program changing. With all the transfers coming in, people around the state started to question how we were getting all these kids. Coaches around our conference (some of which who had athletes transfer from states hundreds of miles away year after year) accused us of cheating, poaching, paying players; anything to try to make sense of all this. "PC is supposed to be a dump? How can they get all these talented kids to buy into something that didn't exist (yet)?" It was simple, the kids didn’t buy into rings, jet flights to play teams in California, or any of that. They were buying into the culture. The culture that Coach Partridge planted and had been nurturing since the day he arrived.
Coach partridge is hands down the most intense and driven coach I have ever been around. He is demanding, hard nosed, energetic, and was a living description of tough love. All that being said every single one of the players would walk to the end of the universe for that man. Coach Partridge was that father figure some of my teammates never had. He cared about us as individuals, made sure we handled our business on the field and in the classroom. On the other hand, coach let us be ourselves. We were different from any other program. We were a brotherhood. All of us did everything together. From basketball, pool ball, or going to the big east tournament, we always did it together. There were no groups or cliques. We were all a bunch of kids that loved the game and loved each other. That’s a monumental reason why we were able to climb that mountain. If we weren't practicing or playing we were all together doing something. Kids wanted to be a part of that, it was unique and above the norm. They saw us roll up 20-30 deep together on bye weeks to watch the other schools around the state play. They saw us run out to smoke and the Ray Lewis dance before games. They saw we embraced the hate and negativity thrown at our program and used it to fuel our internal fire. We were the U of the 90's just on a high school scale. We were the best show in all of NJ. All that was left now was to win.
Leading into 2012 PC put together its best offseason to date. The way we attacked everything was just different from years past. PC had enough of losing to these other schools and had a "why not us" mentality. We knew we worked harder than everybody. We had world class talent and elite level coaching. All we needed to make a push to be champions come December. Our off season strength and conditioning programs had changed the entire look of this team. We finally had the confidence and the swagger this program had been lacking and we were ready to dominate the state.
In 2013, we started a new summer camp structure where the Touchdown Club would raise money by working with the parents of the players to make enough for a trip up to New York Military Academy. NYMA was a sleep away camp we went to that was 50 Miles north in a town called Cornwall-On-Hudson, New York. This place was in the middle of scenic nowhere. Literally… we practiced on a grass field next to a cow farm and had no air conditioning, no phones, no computers, no contact with anyone outside the program. We slept in bunks that they had in dorms. We ate together, trained together, slept in the same building and had to embrace the suck together. And yes, it did suck. The thing was though it got us away from all the distractions. At a PC practice, it wasn’t abnormal to see Les Miles, David Shaw, and coaches from all over the country. We would have media around practice: Max Preps, ESPN, 24/7, everybody wanted to see this team. At NYMA, all the noise was back in New Jersey. It was the players, the coaches, and a football. This is where the team made the biggest strides.
The days would start with a 6 a.m. swimming conditioning or a run around the campus following coach Westervelt in his golf cart for around an hour. After that we’d have breakfast and meetings to prepare for practice #1. We always practiced harder than any team in the country and that’s why we beat the hell outta people, but these practices were different… As soon as stretch was over a competition drill would kick off every practice. Could be Oklahoma, block destruction, nutcrackers, anything to get the juice flowing. After that, we practiced hard and intense until no one had anything left. We went and ate lunch and did it again. Two practices a day of all out nonstop effort and strain (not counting the extra special teams practices they would sprinkle in). After that, we watched film, ate dinner, and would have an hour or so to do whatever we wanted. The coaches would bring clippers and dye so (with the players permission) they could get mohawks and bleach their hair. We were all best friends having a blast while going through something incredibly challenging that brought us even closer. It was hell week. It is what separated this team. I don’t think any other staff would be willing to do something like this and spend that much time away from their families and I don’t see other programs getting on board with this. It was hot, the hours were long, and the work was grueling. We all bought in and thrived off one another to get through it. I have zero doubt it gave us a huge upper hand over every team in the country.
Once the season finally came, we hit the ground running. The first 5 games, we beat our opponents (Delbarton, Depaul, NV Demarest, and Ridgewood) by a combined score of 167-53. Next came the matchup the entire state had circled on their calendar. Paramus Catholic was headed to Ramsey to play Jabrill and Keyon's former school and reigning national champions, Don Bosco, under the lights. Both teams were undefeated and this game had been talked about all season.
The environment was incredible, the stage was set, and we felt this was our chance to break out and show the state, we were the alpha. As fate would have it, that wouldn’t be the case. Once the game began, an early sack fumble given up by yours truly and a few quick scores by Bosco put the Paladins in a hole they couldn't climb out of. After a 31-8 beat down, the Paladins headed back to the drawing board.
This was a tough loss to swallow, but PC had no time to hang their heads as Saint Joes was coming to town for Homecoming the upcoming week. The senior captains held a players only meeting that Sunday making sure the team was focused and ready to have a great week of practice to get back in the win column. Last year SJR embarrassed PC 34-0, so the coaches were hell bent on finding a way to find a spark and get this win.
When we came into practice Monday, Coach Partridge and Coach Russo informed us all that we were going to come out and run the wildcat. Jabrill would play QB and run the read option with Keyon while Marquise Watson would come play fullback (yea, good luck with that). The entire team was chomping at the bit to get back out there and see what kind of damage we could do.
Once Saturday rolled around and the game began, SJR had NO answer for the wild cat. PC accumulated 483 yards on 52 carries, averaging 9.29 yards a carry, and 5 touchdowns. After an offensive thriller, PC found themselves in position to kick a game winning field goal as time expired. Matt Golabek (who quit soccer a few weeks before) came in and kicked this game winning field goal to give PC the win. On a side note, Steve Shanley had to sacrifice a lot this game as he was only behind center once or twice all game due to the offensive change up. In a spot where some people would complain or get frustrated, Steve handled this like a champion. After the game, all he cared about was the fact that we had won. This was just one of the countless examples of the sacrifices players made for the team.
After the SJR game, PC rattled off 5 wins row (including a win over Friendship Academy from Maryland in Rutgers Stadium) leading up to an exhibition game against Bergen Catholic on Thanksgiving.
Bergen Catholic was the third ranked team in the state at that time and had beaten PC soundly in every game since I could remember. The game didn't count toward the record or playoff positioning, so it was essentially a scrimmage. However, Bergen Catholic was the team we strived to be the opposite of and knew they did not respect us. We wanted to show a message that we were in pursuit of a championship that year.
In a penalty filled game, Bergen walked away with a tough win (35-21). The loss motivated us to see them again, but something else lit a fire under PC. Some of the students and fans attending the game displayed distasteful acts singling out some of our players. It was an ugly situation that the state eventually had to step in and address. We just took note of it and hoped we would have the opportunity to play Bergen Catholic again.
One week later, we had a matchup with St. Peter’s prep, a solid football team that has talent across the board. They came in and we played on what seemed like a 100 yard rectangle of dirt. The field was so bad that the grounds crew at Paramus Catholic laid down green sand in order to mimic the appearance of grass. As wild as all that was, it kind of fit us. To people around the state, we were considered the misfits and the bad guys. However, we were just hard nosed, tough kids that wanted to compete any time, any place, no matter the conditions. The night before, Bergen Catholic had upset Don Bosco 28-14 to punch their ticket to the state championship. There was no way we were going to let anyone keep us from seeing them again. We beat St. Peter’s 21-0 and Paramus Catholic was headed to MetLife for the State Championship.
We knew that even after our efforts on Thanksgiving, BC still didn’t respect us. They believed they had the game won before kickoff. We wanted to set the tone as soon as the game began, and PC did just that...
On the opening drive of the first quarter, Marquise Watson blew up a crossing route and delivered a devastating hit. The kid's helmet must have went 10 feet before he hit the ground. This eventually led BC to punt, which then led to a 52 yard touchdown run by Jabrill Peppers to get things rolling. Following another Bergen Catholic punt, Jabrill exploded for another incredible 83 yard touchdown to bring the lead to 14-0.
After that, BC answered with 2 straight touchdowns through the air to tie it up just before the half. Then the Legend of MetLife ,Steve Shanley, was born. Shanley marched the PC offense down the field with two absolute dimes to Najee Clayton. The latter of the two a 20 yard TD to give PC a 21-14 lead heading into halftime.
The third and fourth quarters were a grudge match with no team taking control. It then came down to this: PC holding on to a 28-29 lead with less than 2 minutes to go and Bergen Catholic inside the 5 yard line looking to take the lead. Coach Partridge called timeout and told his defense to let BC score. Partridge told his defense "Trust me, the offense is gonna win this game." The defense followed his direction and BC plunged into the end zone to capture a 29-34 (after a failed 2 point conversion). What happened next was nothing short of incredible. Shanley and the PC offense took over around the 28 yard line and a few plays later, Shanley delivered a 55 yard strike to a wide open Tyrone Washington for 6. After completing the 2 point conversion to Dejon Harrison Steve was a perfect 7-7 with 138 yards and two touchdowns to help win the game for Paramus Catholic. Their first state title since 1997 (when Coach Partridge won as a player).
Paramus Catholic had pulled off the impossible. In 3 Short years, Coach Partridge and his staff took over, a group of teenagers, for them to buy into one another and went from being the 42nd ranked team in just our own state - to winning a state championship in one of the best leagues in High School football across America (the toughest league in the US according to Max Preps).
This team was able to climb to the top of the mountain and prove everyone wrong. No one believed in us from the beginning and thought we were a group of misfits that didn't fit in anywhere else ran by some lunatic head coach. We took all that and used it to motivate us to beat the hell out of everyone we played. No other team had the swag, the mentality, and the brotherhood we had and that is what made this team special.
The 2012 Paramus Catholic team finished 2nd in the state (behind SJR who we beat) and 38th nationally.
After the magical season of 2012, everyone in the state knew PC was going to be a force this year. The loss of Marquise and some other leaders across the roster presented several voids that needed to be filled , but on paper this was the most talented team in New Jersey.
After our second annual trip to the NYMA, we got ready to open up the season on our brand new turf field against the Gilman School from Maryland. Gilman has a week head start as they started a week earlier than us in a loss to Manatee Florida on ESPN. Gilman was loaded with players like Troy Vincent Jr., Melvin Keihn, and Kai Locksley just to name a few. Gilman came to Paramus Road and got throttled 28-0. PC accrewed 495 all purpose yards while the defense forced 6 sacks and 4 Interceptions.
The following two weeks, PC beat Delbarton on the road 30-18 and division rival Depaul. This was a very talented Depaul team that featured players like Justin Nelson, Kiy Hester (Rutgers), Kareem Walker (Michigan), and Courtel Jenkins (Miami). PC grinded out a win 35-21.
The next week Paramus Catholic faced a new and unique challenge. We were facing an out of state rival in St. Ignatious (OH), who was a national power house. The catch was we were playing in Ohio. This meant a 7 and a half hour bus ride.
We hopped on the bus the morning of the game. When we got off the bus, we put our equipment on, and beat the hell out of St. Ignatious, handing them their worst loss since 1966. Paramus Catholic only allowed 74 yards rushing (48 of which came in the fourth quarter with the starters on the bench). After the win, we did some interviews and got on the bus and went home. This was what this team was about. We didn’t need a hotel, or a flight for the team like some of our counterparts. We just needed a place to play and a way to get there. We didn’t care how we got there. We embraced that hard nose, blue collar mentality. It was a direct reflection of our coaches and how we had been training these past 3 years. That next week, St. Marks of Deleware came to town and left with a 56-6 loss.
These next two weeks were the most challenging to date for this group and it started with a rematch with Don Bosco prep, which was nationally televised by ESPN. This was followed by a game on the road against St. Joes. PC came into the Bosco game wanting to win by a thousand points. We had the talent, we had the confidence, we had it all. For some reason that night, nothing went right. It almost seemed like the team was pressing or trying to do to much. Jabrill was hampered by cramps the entire night. Even with all of that PC almost pulled it out, but lost in the last minute 20-13.
After that game, the wheels seemed to fall off a bit when we went to Saint Joes. We had lost that edge and confidence. It felt like we were running on empty. PC fought hard against St. Joes overcoming a terrible first half, but ended up losing 27-14. PC needed something to change. Two losses in a row to division rivals and we needed answers. The players called a meeting and we looked around and realized we had more talent in this room than any team in the country. We realized all the fanfare, all the media, and all the talking heads telling us how good we were and bragging on our offers were not relevant. All that mattered was the 60 kids in that locker room. We all knew we were too great for this. From NYMA to strongman competitions to 3-a-days at camp to 37 period practices, we worked too hard all off season to let our goals slip out of reach. We drew the line and it was time for change. Our incredible media personnel put together an awesome video they played before that next game. We were going to turn the page and get back on track. We did just that and got ready for the Friendship Academy (MD). Friendship came and took a 41-13 loss and PC was back.
Then came the game we ALL couldn't wait for... Bergen Catholic at their place. Bergen Catholic was having a terrible year and bolstered a 2-6 record. It also happened to be senior day at their place and (unfortuanately for them) they caught us at just the wrong time. After losing an emotional triple overtime game to Don Bosco, their playoff hopes were crushed, but they still had to play us to wrap up the season. We needed no motivation to get up for this game. This was STILL personal even a year after all that nonsense on Thanksgiving. We absolutely overwhelmed Bergen Catholic from opening kick to the final whistle on both sides of the ball.
Defensively PC forced ELEVEN sacks, totaling 68 yards lost. Jabrill dominated with 192 yards and two interceptions that game on the way to handing BC a 44-6 loss. This was undoubtedly one of my favoriate games I ever played in. We were dominating a team that had ran up the score on us for years. For as long as I could remember, we were on the other side of lopsided scores like this. Finally, that red and gold was under our boot and we didn’t let up until the game was over. After we handled business in Oradell, it was playoff time. After our first round win (55-14) against Notre Dame, we had Don Bosco coming to town for the semifinals. A matchup that the entire state was not going to miss.
Since 1999, Paramus Catholic was 0-16 against the Ironmen and this one was for a trip to the State championship. Bosco had this mystique and aura surrounding their team. The entire state believed we couldn't beat this team. For some reason, these guys had always given us trouble. The year before we didn't face them in the playoffs, so for us seniors, we had one last go at it. After what seemed to be the longest week of practice, it finally came to an end and the game was finally time. Najee Clayton did his dance, we ran through the smoke, and it was finally time to play ball!
The game opened with a bang as all the built up energy and excitement of this team was put on full display for the opening kickoff. Jabrill fielded the kick and in the blink of an eye, took it all the way back for a touchdown. For the rest of the game, it was a complete dog fight. I'm just going to skip ahead right to the tail end of the fourth quarter. The score was 20-14, DBP in the lead with a little over four minutes remaining. Steve Shanley and Dejon Harrison took it from there. On two separate fourth and longs when we were down to our last play, Shanley connected with Dejon Harrison on both occasions to keep the drive alive. Specifically, the second fourth down conversion was thrown in the vicinity of Najee Clayton, who was sitting on the far sideline and Steve let it fly... Somehow out of nowhere Dejon Harrison managed to snag the pass and throw both of his feet down in bounds to secure the catch. You can see for yourself below, but this was one of the most incredible plays my eyeballs had ever seen. A few plays later, Steve connected with Dejon again on a bubble pass and we took a 21-20 lead with 2:35 left. Bosco took over and moved the ball down the field all the way to the 16 yard line. After an off sides penalty on DB followed by a kneel down, Bosco was looking at a 41 yard field goal attempt with one second left on the clock.
Both teams crowded the sidelines and awaited the kick. The ball was snapped and Keyon Washington missed blocking the attempt by a matter of Inches. The kick was away and all the Bosco fans rushed toward the field untill they realized the kick just missed! For the second year in a row, Paramus Catholic was headed back to the State Championship. We had finally gotten that burden off our back and beat Bosco. The place went absolutely bananas. Our school president, Mr. Vail, was driving the golf cart Marshawn Lynch style all over the field and the entire PC bench flooded onto the field. It was absolute jubilation. I was on the receiving end of 4 years of getting beaten by this team. No one thought we’d ever end up beating them and somehow we pulled off this incredible win.
Two weeks later, PC traveled back to Metlife to take on two of the best players in the country, Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) and Brandon Wimbush (Notre Dame). It was a torrential downpour in East Rutherford. What ensued was a hard fought game all the way through, but there was no stopping this Paramus Catholic team from reaching its destiny. The loss of Brandon Wimbush to a concussion hampered Peter's offensive production and Paramus Catholic repeated as state champions with a gutty 13-6 win.
The journey was incredible and to imagine this team as repeating state champions from where we came from is a testimony to the quality of coaches, players, and parents that helped contribute.
And just like that my high school career was over...
2014 and beyond
Even after that first freshman class from the Partridge era moved on, it was clear PC was a force to stay since the program continued to excel. In 2014, the Paladins reloaded and came one game away from winning their third state championship in a row if it weren’t for the two best players in the state, Brandon Wimbush and Minkah Fitzpatrick, along with the rest of the St. peters prep team.
After that season, CP was ready for the next challenge. He completely changed the landscape of NJHSFB forever and did it in just a few short seasons. Now the program has new faces, a bunch of new coaches and is still one of the juggernauts in NJ.
It has been seven years since PC lost to Don Bosco. Yes, that same team that used to hang 60+ on them, each and every year. Back in 2016, PC also won the state championship over that Don Bosco team. Currently PC is in the playoffs yet again and is seeking another title. I will forever love my school and bleed black and gold.
The Coaching Staff
Before I go into all the former players and where we all ended up, I wanted to take the time to talk about some of the incredible men that molded us all into the people we are today. The coaches at Paramus Catholic were 110% commited to the kids of this program. It was the norm for them to literally sleep on the floor of the office to try and gain an edge on the opponents we faced. They all understood no two kids learned the same ways and responded by taking the time to individually understand every player. These coaches weren't in it for the money, or doing it just as a hobby. These coaches loved every single one of their players. They were always 100% honest and turned us all from kids into young men.
With all of the time spent at the office, I can say that this was truly ran like a college program. From the 20+ page position specific playbooks and day by day schedules outlining study halls, training tables, practices, meetings, etc., everything was so organized and above and beyond what other programs did.
Here is a look into some of the coaches from Paramus Catholic.
Chris Partridge- Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
From Marquise Watson PC 2013
"Partridge not only changed my life he shaped and made a Bunch of young men from many different walks of life buy in. He was doing what college coaches and nfl head coaches have to do at a high school level and that is why we won championships. In college and the nfl you have kids from different states and different dynamics. At Paramus catholic we had kids from different states but were focused on one common goal: to get a great education and play some good ball. Partridge not only helped me become the coach I am today he gave me some core values I apply today in my day to day life. Partridge will forever be one of my great mentors in this game of football and in this walk of life... CRANK IT UP!."
Pretty sure Coach Partridge wore this exact outfit every single day as long as it wasn't freezing cold. Only thing cropped out is the 56 period practice sheet tucked into his shorts. Coach Partridge coached me from 6th grade (Westwood Wolverines) all the way through highschool. CP went above and beyond in everything he did and had an energy that was rare. He had a way of inspiring men and getting the most out of them. I drove him crazy, along with all my teammates on a daily basis, whether it was Mr. Manno calling him on the radio saying we were racing in the hallways during lunch time or me sailing the ball 15 feet over Shanley's head in our season opener.
Partridge loved the kids and all he ever cared about was us. ANYTHING we needed, he would do it. The year after we graduated, the sports media across New Jersey really tried to blow up a situation into something bigger than it was and put legendary Coach Greg Toal and Coach Partridge against eachother. After an emotional win over Don Bosco, Coach Partridge came out of the locker room and reiterated his love for the kids and how both of these coaches have done everything they could to impact the lives of young people across the state.
Ever since I met Coach Partridge, I knew he was an elite level coach and a great leader of men. Low and behold one season after I graduated, Coach Partridge accepted a recruiting position at the University of Michigan. After just one year, he earned a promotion to take over the role of linebacker coach and special teams coordinator.
This summer I was able to catch up with coach at his wedding back in his home state of New Jersey. He has never forgotten his roots and constantly keeps tabs on how everyone is doing. I love Coach Partridge like a father and he played a huge part in developing me into the man I am today.
Greg Russo - Offensive Coordinator
"Guys, honestly we should blow these guys out by 50."
From Steve Shanley PC 2014
“Knowing Russo since 3rd grade and the entirety of my football life leading up to college was huge as far as gaining knowledge of the game and overall growth as a quarterback. I think the biggest thing coach Russo brought to the table, not only for me but for the team as a whole was how hard he was to please. He asked for a lot from plenty of us on offense and if you didn’t come through you’d hear about it. Seeing him get animated and excited when stuff went right was awesome though and I know that was the case for mostly everyone on the squad. Russo is the epitome of the coach that truly loves his players, working his full time job, coaching and still finding time to be there for any of the guys on the team that needed his help is a lot to ask of a man. I think we can all thank him for that.”
Russo was another former coach of the Westwood Wolverines. Russo grew up with Coach Partridge and they have been bestfriends since then. Coach Russo always looked out for his guys, whether it was rides after practice helping kids get home or working an hour after practice to reteach me how to snap a football every other day. Russo was a player's coach to a T. He always had his player's backs. It seems like every other week Partridge would let me have it for ruining his beloved special teams periods by sailing the snaps on punt team. Russo was always the first to come over and pat me on the back and get me back on track. Russo was the mastermind behind the electric offense Paramus Catholic put out week in and week out.
After winning the state championship last year, Coach Russo took the Head coaching job at Queen of Peace. Unfortunately, in a wild turn of events, the school ended up shutting down, but Coach landed on his feet and is now the offensive coordinator for Northern Highlands.
John Westervelt - Defensive line coach
"To whom much is given, much is expected."
Terrence Harris PC 2014
"Coach West is one of the most selfless coaches I've had to this point in my career. He taught me what sacrifice truly is, no matter how hard or how tough it became I always knew it could be worse. He missed out on parts of his kids childhoods to Coach us, for the love of the game and the love for his players. I wouldn't be half the player I am today if it weren't for Coach West he bought the dog out of me and I will forever be grateful!!"
The third and last coach from the Westwood organization, Coach West. He worked with me ever since I was a second grader. He was a weightlifting and fitness guru that worked with Steve Shanley and I year round. He took charge of my diet, cardio, and strength program and it gave me that edge that I needed. Coach West was the enforcer and was the man that connected the players and coaches best. As former marine, he was big on respect, honor, and loyalty.
When we all got to PC, he implemented a college level strength and conditioning program that was catered specifically to each individual player. Whenever the head man had enough of our shennanigans or we were in the doghouse, we would go down to the track for a punishment run. The famous and most beautiful words that you could hear from him were "Fellas, Coach Partridge just told me to run your faces off... I'm not going to do that we are going to get some good work in and get ready for practice." Coach West was a voice of reason and always was giving life tips to all of us that he had learned from his own. I can say whole heartedly that without the years of him pushing me and training me, there is no way that I would have been in a position to play at the next level.
Above all, Coach Westervelt loved his defensive line and loved coaching in general. He is a fiery competitor and a phenominal teacher. Today, Coach Westervelt moved on from football to work full time as a union electrician and spend more time with his kids and family.
Rob Petrosino - Offensive Line Coach
"Any questions, comments, concerns, problems, quals,quandaries?"
Fom Juwann Bushell-Beatty
"Coach petro played a large role in my development as football player, person and most importantly as a man. He taught me many life skills over my four years in Paramus Catholic. Before I got to high school, I only played a team sport for one year when I was still very young. Going into high school and playing football for the very first time wasn't necessarily a easy task, I had not yet developed any of the skills that some of my teammates who had been playing for years had. On top of that going into my first year of high school I weighed in at about 320lbs at the age of 14, I was completely out of shape, and I didn't have very much confidence in myself either.
I think I can speak for the whole population when I this, but playing football is a grind. It's a very emotional sport filled with highs and lows, and happy and sad moments. Things aren't always easy, it truly teaches you many life lessons. This was something I had no experience in prior to entering high school. I didn't know how to fight for what I believed in, I didn't know how to attack adversity. Coach petro played a large role in helping me to learn these things as well as teaching me the game of football and the ins and outs of playing offensive line. Till this day I remember there were days where I wanted to quit, days where I thought I wasn't good enough or questioning if the work would all pay off. But he and the rest of my coaches didn't let me quit because they saw the potential that I carried with me. Over the years the skills he taught me continued to stack up and the work eventually paid off and I received D1 scholarship offers from all over the country. Even today I still try to manifest the the attitude and work ethic he instilled in me when I go out to practice everyday."
Coach Petro, part time art teacher and overtime coach; Day in and day out, he had to deal with hands down the most mind numbing group of misfits. In his final season (2014), he had me - A clinical ADHD lunatic who had the memory retention of a squirrel. The twins - Who both refused to take out their mouthpiece to convey information. Bowman - a testy temper with witty remarks. Lastly, Juwann - Who would look back with a blank stare if you asked him a question. He loved all of us and somehow he took all of these goobers and molded us into what would be the best offensive line in the state. He helped every starting senior land a spot to play at the collegiate level.
Coach Petro had a "unique" coaching style. whether it was dressing up in wacky outfits to help the players smile during 3-a-days, or the countless smashed keyboards during film sessions. One time, he made us practice indoors on the stage of the PC auditorium because team practice was cancelled due to lightning. Coach petro literally took years off of his life to make us the best possible group we could be.
From a personal standpoint, aside from helping me earn a college football scholarship, Petro taught me what compartmentalization means, which has helped me immensely in college. But most importantly, he has always been there when I needed advice or guidance. Coach has gone out of his way to help me get this website up and is constantly keeping tabs and giving me suggestions.
Today, Coach lives down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where he is married and is a senior creative recruiter for Creative Circle. I love this man to death and can't thank him enough for all he's done for me as a man and a football player.
Eddie Albert - Cornerbacks
Coach Eddie was a PC graduate from back in the late 90's. He was a defensive backs coach who loved coaching and mentoring these kids.
Here's a quick story for you, Curtis Oliver was a 5"9' wide reciever listed dead last on the depth chart. Eddie begged Coach Partridge to let him come be a corner, so he could work with him. CP didn't think much of it and said, "sure go for it." Curtis worked his tail off every single day, lived in the weight room, and loved football even though to that point he didnt see any results. Eddie saw a bit of himself in Curtis and spent hours with him working on his game. After that summer, Curtis finished as a rotating starter in the PC defensive backfield. Curtis went on to earn a full scholarship to play at JMU, where this past season they won the national championship, in large part to an interception by the kid everyone doubted.
Eddie on Curtis Oliver
"I saw something in Curtis because...
1. He was a kid that was quiet, wanted to learn, and didn’t give a shit about where he stood on the team. Like you said, I saw a lot of myself in him. The determination, the aggression.
2. He was incredibly humble and hardworking. two traits that I have the utmost respect for.
This is a kid that wanted to be great and he became great because he willed himself to get better and did the work himself. I was only there as a guide. When I say I saw a lot of myself in him, it means we had a lot in common, with the exception that he was incredibly gifted and a much better football player than I could’ve ever imagined. I’m so proud of the success that he’s had at JMU."
Eddie now lives in California with his wife and one and a half kids (one year old, Brady, and a baby girl, Beckham, who is on the way). He is constantly checking on former players and making sure we are all still on the right path. I talk to coach Eddie about once a week and he is like a brother to me.
Brian Walker - Defensive Backs
From Keyon Washington PC 2014
"I've known Coach Walker since I was young. He's always been someone I can look up to. On the field, he was a motivator. He made sure that each day we were getting better. Preparation was emphasized! No matter the day we were prepared for everything. That's why we were good on Fridays/Saturdays. It was a mentality also. Nobody was better than us. No matter who we played. When you have that mentality with a group a guys who are willing to go get it everyday, that's dangerous. Coach Walker and Coach Durango made sure we were prepared everyday. There was no slackin' off. And the rest is history, that's why we were successful."
Coach Walker played football at the arena level for a few years after he graduated from Washington State. Then a few years later, came into PC and was immediately a mentor to the players. Coming from Englewood, New Jersey, he had been with the Englewood kids since they were little. Similar to what Coach Russo, Partridge and Westervelt were to me, was what B-walk was for the Englewood crew. He was one of the coaches that worked inside the school as a subsitute and also worked with the track team so he was constantly around.
Today, Coach Walker still works at PC as a physical education teacher, a football and track coach, while also running a speed and skills program that works with athletes across all sports (BTX Sports).
Bryan Durango - Defensive Backs
"Curtis it's cloud, c'mon bro."
From Tyrone Washington PC 2014
"Coach Durango was my guy, I remember when I first started playing defense he wanted to make sure I put on weight so I had to eat lunch with him everyday during camp he made sure I put that weight on. Coach Durango and coach Walker both knew what they were talking about when it came to playing defensive back taught me a lot of great things."
Coach Durango was a defensive back himself back in his heyday and one hell of a defensive back at that. He was originally from West New York and earned a scholarship to play division one football at Rutgers University. At PC, he was a gym and health teacher, who was lucky enough to have me for two semesters. Coach Durango also played a big part in helping Defensive Back, Curtis Oliver, evolve his game.
After the departure of the majority of the former coaching staff from PC, Durango also followed Coach Russo and is currently coaching at Northern Highlands.
Tim Shea - Offensive Line and Film
Coach Shea was one of the most committed and hard working individuals I have ever met. He was a math teacher and a real no nonsense type of guy. Coach Shea loved Paramus Catholic with everything inside him. As a former Bergen Catholic grad, he took that rivalry as serious as anyone. Coach Shea could do anything. Broken helmets or equipment, he fixed it. Spending 6 nights infront of a Dell computer screen to find a flaw in our opponents defense , he found it. Coach Shea also ran the scout teams by making cards each week on different looks and fronts.
Coach Shea was one of the many coaches in the program that never really recieved the credit publically that he may have deserved. However, that is what made this program special. Everyone was selfless and just wanted to have the program succeed. Without Coach Shea that would not have been possible.
Frank Marino - OL
From Erik Santiago PC 2013
"Marino was wise beyond his years and paved the way for us as young men. Marino was someone who came from a generation all about grit and grind and instilled that within us. I'd say petro was high intensity and gave us our finesse, while marino was a calmer presences who valued pure toughness above all else. they were as pure of a combination that one could want coaching the o line."
Coach Marino had a burning passion for football. He literally could get struck by lightening and would still make it to practice. Coach Marino assisted Coach Petro on OL duties in 2013 and 2014. He had coached at the collegiate level and for sometime at Bergen Catholic. Coach Marino seemed to always be dealing with serious health issues, but always fought through them. I remember he missed a few days and we all were getting on him for it until the truth came out. Coach Marino had a new pace maker put in and somehow was still at practice a few days later.
When he wasnt talking aout how water was for the weak minded or yelling at us for our zone steps and headbutting us in our helmets, he was a relatively laid back guy. He had a near death experience, where his heart had stopped and he would always talk about his faith and what it was like to have his life teeter on the brink of death. He also had been around the block a few times and was the oldest member of the coaching staff, so he always had great stories from his past and tried to instill life lessons during our time together. I love Coach Marino and he always reaches out to check up on how my back and school has been.
Today coach Marino is coaching the offensive line at Northern Valley Demarest, along with substitute teaching in the northern valley district.
Matt Tarulli – OL
Coach Tarulli was an assistant when I was at PC and like Dan, he was new to coaching. He was a preacher of toughness and grit, but also paid a large amount of attention to technique. This fit right in with Petro and Marino, so he was a great addition to the group. He was another young coach, who loved being around the kids and helping us get better every day. After I left PC, Petro and Marino moved on, so he took the lead and coached guys like Peter Nestrowitz, Daniel Zapata, and my brother Jackson.
Today, Coach Tarulli made the move over to Northern Highlands, where he is currently the offensive line coach. He also is an elementary school teacher in Ridgewood. I had a chance to catch up with Coach Tarulli this past summer and am looking forward to linking up with him over winter break.
Dan Decongelio - LB's
No doubt in my mind I drove Coach Dan Dan Stan out of his mind day in and day out. He was our line backing coach and was a good one, but was also like another one of us. It was his first year of coaching and he picked a great program to start with. Dan loved his players and formed a unique bond with all of them.
Today, Dan is married and living in a new home in Lake Hopatcong .When he started coaching at Paramus Catholic, Dan was working at a bank, but has since opened a new warehouse for Stan’s Sports Center. Stan’s Sports is a team dealer for recreations, high schools, and colleges throughout NJ and some of the tristate area. The Adidas deal that PC has is through Stan’s sports.
Blake Costanzo - LB's
Blake was an NFL linebacker and life long friend of Coach Partridge. As you read earlier, he was one of the founders of the LIVIN movement. Not only did Blake speak about Livin and hold us to this standard, but it also entailed him to truly personify the phrase through his every day actions. Blake was always helping out with the team at practice and on our sidelines on game day whenever he could work it around his tight NFL schedule. Back in the 2011, Coach Partridge and some other coaches flew out to watch the NFC championship game at Candlestick Park in California. Blake, at the time, was a captain for the 49ers due to his incredible production and leadership on the special teams squad. Naturally, every PC player was tuned in to see Blake play. To everyone's surprise, when the broadcast came on, we saw Blake out for the coin toss next to NFL legends like Eli Manning and Frank Gore, and front and center on national TV... LIV was etched into the side of his head.
To this day, Blake still looks out for all the former PC players and we occasionally catch up and talk about the old days. Currently Blake has been volunteering at Ramapo College, while he and his wife are expecting a baby boy in December.
Mike Nunziato - Strength and Conditioning and LB's
From Nick Flores PC 2014
"Before going to Paramus Catholic I was never in a real strength program. My freshmen year I was introduced to Coach Mike Nunziato and the rest was history. Over the four years that I had the privilege to train with coach Nunz I was able to excel on the field. Without the long days of training and constant motivation to be great I wouldn't be the player I am today with out him."
Coach Nunz is a weightlifting guru, linebacker whisperer, and entrepreneur extraordinaire all rolled up into one garlic knot of muscle. Coach Nunz was always around the program helping when he could . However, he took on a more prominent role with our strength and conditioning when Coach West had to take a little time away from the program to be with his family. Nunz took over, kept the ball rolling, and we CONTINUED to be the strongest and most in shape team in the country.
I can remember the days where we would be screwballing around in the weightroom and Nunz (to his credit)
handled it the best he could without killing one of us. Nunz would rip into us then leave it to us to finish the workout, while he stormed off in his Mazda. We all would sprint after his car to come back and finish the workout. We all knew to get where we wanted to be, we needed his help. The one thing we noticed though the few times he stormed off is that he always seemed to pull off in a more luxurious whip. Starting with the blacked out Mazda, he went up to an Infiniti, and eventually upgraded to an Audi. Coach had opened a gym and with the help of a few of his friends and the notoriety of this program, it took over New Jersey.
Nunz's Gym (TNT) has grown into a New Jersey staple and is the go to place for elite athletes across New Jersey. What started as a single gym in a former 18 wheeler garage has grown into a multi location facility.
Today, Nunz and his wife are raising a beautiful baby girl named Mikayla and Nunz continues to work with players all over the state, all while continuing to build his company. He always has an open door to any of his former players and every offseason he keeps me and my former teammates from getting out of shape over break.
Jay Fortino - Strength and Conditioning
"That's a no brainer."
Jay is one of the most likable, down to earth guys you will ever meet. I met Jay through Coach Nunz and he helped bolster that strength and conditioning staff. Jay was one of the younger coaches on the staff ,so he was another great guy to talk to and was always looking out for us. He loved working with the kids, being around the program, and making us better!
We all watched Jay grow and start a great life with his wife, Megan, and he has set an incredible example for all of us at PC on how to live your life and how to treat people. I love Jay like a brother and can't wait to hit the weights with him when I get back north in December.
Al Gavin - RB's and Recruiting
From Izaiha Pitts LB c/o 2014
"I transferred into Paramus Catholic my junior year and played on special teams my first year there. Coach Al Gavin gave everything he had helping me get in to college. I thank that man everyday for what he did for me. Coach Al was constantly reaching out to countless coaches in trying to get me a shot. When I transferred into PC I was only apart of the team for 2 years and only started 1 out of the 2 years I was there, making it difficult for coaches to make a decision to take a kid who only played one year in a highly competitive group and conference. Coach Al did his best to get me into school even after I graduated and I finally ended up at Stevenson. I 100% respect him none of this would have been possible without Al."
Coach Al has a very special place in mine and all the other PCFB players hearts. He is the most selfless human being you could ever meet and did absolutey EVERYTHING he could to help the young men in our program. Al was in charge of getting college coaches across America to get eyes on our players and help them get into college. Whether, you were a top 25 player in the state or a kid just looking to play anywhere, Coach put in the same effort across the board. He would somehow pack five or six kids into his little mazda and drive hundreds of miles across the country to get kids on a campus and make sure it was the right fit for them. Speaking for just myself and my brother, Coach Al pushed us and worked with us to make sure we ended up where we wanted to go.
For the most part, PC kids didn't go to camps around the country because we never had the time, as football was year round. Coach made sure every player from JV to Varsity had a Hudl account and a highlight tape up that was being sent out to coaches. The facts were as long as you were able to qualify, Coach Al would break his back to help you play at the next level and TO THIS DAY I don't know of any player from our program while Al was there who wanted to play in college program that didnt get that opportunity. Outside of football, Al was always available. Even if you needed a ride somewhere at 3 am, Al would be out his front door and on the way before you could hang up the phone.
The Latrella Family/Film crew
Hands down, we had the most ELITE filming crew in the country. I couldn't do justice for everything they did besides filming, but this group handled so much of the behind the scenes work that helped this program succeed. The film Crew had others on it like Nick Megglio and Andrew Mulick. I'd say without a doubt these kids were just as committed as the players and coaches. Late nights, early mornings, they were always there and working.
From Izaiha Pitts PC 2014
"I played on special teams my first year there and my teammate, Billy Ray Mitchel’s father told me something that I would never forget. His words were “you’re a great player who has the potential to be a D1 football player and when you’re on kickoff running down you have to be that man who hair is on fire”. Those words will forever be with me every time I step foot on a football field."
Big Russ. My father absolutely loved football. More than just about anyone I know. When I arrived to Paramus Catholic, he was going to handle my career the way he handles most things... With a hands on full speed ahead approach. As time went by, he developed relationships with the players and tried to help along the program any way he could. He was the conductor of the Smoke Machine (the old guy in the light wash jeans and his 65 pond trenchcoat). He constantly held basketball tournaments, NCAA Final Four and Super Bowl parties, and BBQ's at our house that paid a huge part in bringing this team together and helping us develop that championship chemistry. He was always behind the scenes in helping at practice, in the weight room, or working on logistics to help this team run.
Today, if my pops isn't working, he is either sending me and my brother motivational texts or sitting on the couch with his unsweetened ice tea (with extra lemon) watching any kind of sports he can find.
Couldn't be more thankful of my father and what he did for my teammates and I in high school by bringing us all together to create memories that will last a lifetime. We love you pops!
The Touchdown Club
Almost every coach I spoke to told me not to leave this group out.
My pops, the Shanleys, Mrs. Spearman, Mrs. Spence, the Corralls, and the list goes on and on. These parents did EVERYTHING they could to get this program to the top. They helped find funding for our summer camp at NYMA, state rings, travel, etc. They would also be at the school to hand out and sometimes prepare our meals pregame or pre and post practice. They all sacrificed and gave as much as they could and no doubt about, it paid off. Speaking for the players and the coaches, we all say thank you! Without your help, none of this would have been possible.
Countless individuals contributed to the success of this team and it kills me I cant get to all of them. Some others were men like Coach Cutrona - with his "We’re gonna run it down their throat" speech, week in and week out. Coach Scrivieri had his infamous broken back-story. Coach Pete - A man wise beyond his years that worked with the offensive line. Little Juice Smith who brought the energy to the sidelines. Coach Kanoc and his defensive line sandwiches and hot rod cars. I can go on and on. All the coaches worked together to create a stable and organized environment, focused on turning boys into men. They loved us and treated us as if we were their own kids.
I had the opportunity to reach out to some of the coaches and other people that surrounded the program and asked them to share their thoughts. Here is what they had to say.
Q&A with Coach Partridge
What did the players teach you in your time at PC and how did they help you grow...
"Football is all about relationships, relationships are all about learning from one another, feeding off one another and making one another better. As a coach, I always felt that you need to listen to your players, you need to grow with them and even change at times depending on the group you have. A lot of times as a head coach, you can't even allow the players to see how much you listen to them or are willing to change for them because they need to understand that its your structure they live by but I constantly learned from my guys and then adapted according to things I learned from them. Even if they didn't know it. If I wasn't willing to learn from my players we probably wouldn't have been as successful as we were.
One thing that I learned right away from the PC group was that from hard work, dedication and belief in one another you can form a bond that is impossible to break. Football as seen by many, is a sport, a game that a group of young man play for fun or for money. I see football as a way to form a lasting bond and learning experience from people with like minded interests who come from different backgrounds, cultures, socio economic status and environments. It creates a brotherhood that unites players together for the rest of their lives. Give people a brother that they can lean on forever, give people experiences that allow them to Sweat, Bleed, Laugh and Cry with each other and you have memories, loyalty and trust. I learned with that young group at Paramus Catholic, not to coach players to learn X's and O's first, but to try to bond their lives together and give them the lessons to be successful learning about and working with each other that will last a lifetime. I learned that I can love and sacrifice for the kids on my team more than I ever imagined. In reality as I tried to guide them into becoming men, they were guiding me into becoming a better man."
Why you were willing to pour so much effort and time into these kids to change their lives and give them a better future?
"I love football, I love everything about it. I love the scheme, I love the physicality of it, I love the life lessons it teaches you, I love the bond it gives you with others. I also want to make a difference in peoples lives, always have wanted to. I enjoy leading people and helping them achieve great things.
When we took over the program at Paramus Catholic High School, we were laughed at and people were saying our team had no chance at being successful. We, had little talent on the team and a hard time getting kids to come and play ball. In 2010 we were in the biggest league in the State of New Jersey, among the most powerful teams in the Country and faced with many challenges.
When the staff was put we decided that we were going to go out and get young men that needed us. The other superpower teams left many kids behind. Good, talented kids who didn't fit the academic or cultural requisites the other schools portrayed. Our newly organized staff felt that if we opened our arms to those kids that were being left behind we could develop them into strong young men in more ways then just football. There were many teens who needed guidance and mentors and we knew that if we embraced these kids, we could help in changing their lives for the better.
Our mission was to build a team, one player at a time. We made a decision very early on that any young man that trusted us enough to come play for us and take this leap of faith that we would help them with their personal and academic challenges. We would guide them, stick by them and be there for them for the rest of their lives. My staff was comprised of unbelievable men, that truly cared for kids and were willing to sacrifice whatever they needed for them. We didn't believe in failure and attracted young kids, who weren't scared to take a chance. Our coaches cared about our players and when our players saw that we took a genuine interest in them the energy began to grow. We started LIVIN and creating life long bonds of brotherhood.
In the short time we were at Paramus Catholic we accomplished alot. While outsiders reflected on us as a powerhouse football team that has now won 3 Championships in the last 5 years, I will always remember the young men who grew up, made lifelong lasting friendships and learned to love and trust each other through just playing ball.
Its important to finish by saying that although my name was the one that people talked about as the head coach, the staff that we had at Paramus Catholic for those years was the reason we accomplished what we did. It was comprised of some of the most amazing unselfish men I have ever met.
Those 5 years at Paramus Catholic we went on the ride of our lives and forged friendships that will never be forgotten..."
Coach Bryan Walker on what made PC special
"To me what made Paramus Catholic FB special during that time period were the family connections. Truthfully all the coaches at some point had mentored or coached the athletes before they even got to HS. And if we didn't we loved each other like we did. I had the pleasure to coach great student-athletes who also taught me to the importance of "Livin". (Which means PC unity)
Q&A Coach Russo
What made this program special?
"I think the program was special for a lot of reasons, one, Coach Partidge, and I, and really almost all of the coaches were coming back to program, we were all alumni that wanted to build the program back. Everyone was saying it was impossible, that PC could never compete with Bosco, Bergen, or Joes. Pc and Depaul were actually trying to petition to get out of that league all together the year before we arrived. When we came in we asked to stay in it, and give us a shot at competing. I think we all took it as a challenge, and we loved every second of it. I think coach Partidge did a great job of bringing in coaches that not only were great coaches, but people who knew how to work with kids, and really cared about them. There was a special bond between the players and the Coaches there. There were a lot of different styles of coaches, different opinions, but one common goal set from top. It was to become the best program in the country, and to put the kids first and not us."
What did you learn from your players during your time at PC?
"I think the biggest thing I learned from coaching all of you guys is not every kid is the same. A lot of coaches have one style, and they won’t adapt, they think all players have to adapt to them. You guys were all great players but you were motivated very differently, and I learned that you need to use different coaching styles and different approaches if you are going to get the most from each kid."
Why you were willing to pour so much effort and time into these kids to change their lives and give them a better future?
"We all poured a lot of ourselves into it, because we loved the coaches, players, program and believed in what we were doing. If you remember if really was a full year commitment, and we met and talked with you guys a lot, even in offseason, we did a lot of things outside of Football, it’s why we were a real family, not just coach speak. Like my wife, knew all your names, and who went where, things like that, and for most part I keep in touch with everyone. It really is a special thing that I don’t think other kids have.
I think the other thing we had in our program the others didn’t, was how much fun we were all having, the coaches all genuinely really loved each other and the players. Like we loved getting to practice. We have a great time, still got our work down, the other programs were all good at Football. But I think ours differed in that we got to the point where we were just as good or better and still have fun doing it. We didn’t make you guys prove how tough you were every day in practice . We trained smarter I thought, and I think it was why we stayed healthy more so than other programs."
Q&A With James Vail - President of Paramus catholic
Relationship with Chris Partridge
“Chris was a senior here at Paramus catholic when I was in my first year serving at Paramus Catholic. I was impressed with him upon meeting him as a man and as a leader.” “When the football job opened up, it was an easy search, I offered Chris the job. I did not want to set him up to feel like a failure. I thought the obstacles presented in our league were insurmountable. You never want to say anything is impossible, but I told Chris we want to be competitive but if you don’t win state championships you are not a failure. I told him there is a huge gap I do not expect you right away to start beating these teams that had blown us out year after year and game after game. I said, if anyone can do it, you can. Chris responded and said “give me a few years and ill bring home a state championship…” I was taken back and said that would be tremendous but I don’t want you to think you failed, if you didn’t accomplish that. He told me “were going to get it done” Sure enough he did just that."
“We decided to put our backs together and make it so no one could get between us. There were plenty of times where I had to challenge him and get after him, but it was from someone who believe in him and cared about him. We made an excellent team, but some people thought Chris and I had a love fest every day, Chris and I butted heads quite a bit.”
Accusations of poaching
“Coach Partridge and I took most of heat on this subject.” "When a team improves so dramatically over a short period, no one says it comes from hard work, institutional support culture of the school, or pride of the school. They all think people are getting paid. That there are bags of money and all that and we took unbelievable heat.” “We certainly had transfers. However, it would always get me. We’d have two or three transfers and other schools may have 10 or 12 but no one really seemed to get to worked up over all that. But, when you have a couple of very prominent players come in. I guess that causes some heat.” “What people never realized is we may have five or six transfers on the football team but in those days we would have 200 transfers throughout the entire school.” “Not that 200 people would transfer in to PC in one season but any given year you had 200 students that may not have started in PC. People come and go. People transfer and move towns.” ”We never took a kid into our school that mentioned anything along the lines of seeking competitive advantage.” “I would grill Chris on these students and verify no outside contacts made, determine there was no promises made nor things offered. I had some kids who were ready to transfer and were accepted. When it came down to telling them they’d have to pay tuition you never heard from them again. Then they would end up at another school."
Describe the character and personality of the school.
“We were the newest of these schools back when we opened some 50+ years ago.” “All the other schools were in line ahead of us. Over the course of time the school really grew and developed into a very prestigious academic program, a fantastic faculty. I don’t know if anyone can measure up to the array of extracurricular activities. Including a full musical theatre and arts program to go along with our sports programs. Also we had a fantastic retreat campus ministry program.” “Some schools seemed to thrive on the false image that they could look down on Paramus Catholic. As the school began to get more diverse, and not just in terms of racial diversity but in terms of cultural diversity, heritage, the program, learning style, Etc. We were inclusive in every aspect, not just heritage and race. Some people were critical of that. They assumed that somehow since we were diverse it meant we were inferior. “I felt like that was our biggest strength. We saw enrollment go up because so many people were attracted to the diversity and inclusivity of the school. It was rare if ever that a kid would ever feel left out because they were different because at PC everyone was different.” "We had suburban kids, we had kids who were very economically advantaged, we had urban kids, families that struggled to pay the tuition, a socio economic range. We had kids who came from a different countries. The football team was reflective of that. When you look at the football team, along with Chris in comparison to the school they were held to the same standard as everyone else. In terms of academic work, discipline, tuition.”
"The kids felt a part of the school they never wanted to let it down.” "I was also a firm believer in that if a student is living up to the expectations set. You give them a little space, some room to breathe and let them grow.” I found the football players to be very dynamic, spirited, and very proud to be in the school not only part of the team. They loved their coaches they loved their teammates. It became a large community that the football team was a significant part of. The team was not a separate entity within the school; they were enmeshed into the overall life of the school. “You saw them supporting or even joining some of the other groups around the school. That’s why everyone came out to support the football team every week. Going to the games and seeing all these kids standing in unison.”
When was the moment you realized this program was becoming elite?
I believe the turning point of the program (not so much in terms of becoming elite) but the turning point was Chris was in his second year. We were playing Poly Tech from Brooklyn at our field. It was a tight game and the last four plays or so of the game was on our goal line with the other team about to score. Our team was still a work in progress.” “The boys on defense that day put up a heroic goal line stand. They held them off multiple plays inside the one yard line.” “We ended up winning the game by two points and I believe that momentum really helped spark the growth of the team.” “To me that was the turning point.”
“The first state semifinal game is when I saw us as approaching elite. We played at home vs. St. Peters that day. A home game. That is when I really saw that something special could happen. We had a great season with few big wins; I saw we had made significant progress.” “I believe we won that game 21 to nothing if I have my facts right.” “Going to MetLife that year we jumped off to a substantial lead and all of a sudden a few things happened and we ended falling behind.” “Then of course we all know what happened after that… “Actually when everyone was celebrating the famous Shanley to Wasington bomb I was the only person on the field not celebrating. I was telling my wife don’t celebrate, there has to be a flag! Until we attempted the 2 point conversion I didn’t think it was really happening.” When we converted the two-point play I actually couldn’t celebrate. I actually thought I was having a heart attack. I was hyperventilating, having chest pains, I had to sit down. It was terrible weather that night.
"I don’t know if this was necessarily my proudest moment, but one of my proudest moments at that school came that night. It wasn’t because of the win. It was a game, in the big picture a school of 1600 kids an individual football team is important but certainly not the most important. What was important to me was this. Despite this terrible weather, as I am down on the field and we had just won and I looked up at the stands. I saw 1400 kids in unison standing as one, cheering for their school. It overwhelmed me emotionally and it brought me to tears. Not because we won but to see 1400 kids unified, One school, one team and everyone of those kids had done their job. They showed up for their team and supported that team and they did their job and it represented the school very well.” “It was a beautiful thing. The student body the band, cheerleaders, student body all in unison. We had all kinds of people. Little freshmen, international students, athletes for other sports, kids that excelled in theater, technology, they were all there and showed up for their school. It elevated the institution and the team became bigger than it’s self."
After the interview concluded, I had talked for a while with my former president who many of you know has “retired” from Paramus Catholic and is currently traveling around the country to visit former students. Mr. Vail had some amazing parting words for anyone that is still at the school he devoted 20+ years to and still loves with everything he has. He said, “It is crucial that today’s Paladins do everything they can to carry on the spirit pride and tradition that was built up over 20 years. Never stop LIVIN!”
Jim was an incredible leader and loves Paramus Catholic to this day. I can speak for the players and student body from the time we were all there. Thank you for your leadership, love, and support over those special years. You created an environment in that school that was one of a kind. We love you and we thank you!
Coach Al Gavin
On his time at PC
"It really was a once in a lifetime situation. A group of players and coaches from so many different places, geographically, economically, racially, athletically. We all came together so quickly and really became a family. I know a lot of teams say that or feel it but this really was a family. We cared about each other, and fought for one another just like any real family would."
"Every player mattered and every coach mattered, and that was Chris' real greatness as a coach. He could x and o with anybody but what set him apart was his ability to make you feel like you mattered and without you and without your input as a Coach or as a Player the team just wouldn't be as good or as complete. Now seeing our kids play college ball, earn college degrees and most importantly make a positive impact in their communities fills me with a kind of pride and happiness that is life changing. Winning State Championships is great, seeing our kids succeed in life is LIVIN..."
Email from Fr. Don with his input on the program under Chris Partridge
"As you may remember, I was at PC for 2 years back when Chris Partridge was a student. Mike Campanile was the Head coach and it was an "interesting" change for me as I had been 6 years at IHA withal girls. Somehow I got into the habit of saying mass for the team before games. I was transferred the year before they won that state championship .
When I arrived back at PC many years later, Chris was one of the first people I saw in the office. He immediately said he remembered that I had said mass and asked if I would do it again for the team . He said he'd do anything I wanted ... I said anything ? He said yeah ... I said OK ... I want to be on the sidelines for the games he said OK and that was that ! Every leader/coach needs to find a way to motivate his "troops" and often a sharp motto or expression helps to focus the energy ... Military units have mottos and unit crests/ coats of arms etc.... LIVIN was Chris' way ... it was catchy, lent itself to cheers and became a mantra for Chris's teams here. My recollection is that he got it somewhere along the line in his playing days at Lafayette ? In any case, it WORKED !!! He had/has his unique and personal leadership style and LIVIN embodied it perfectly .
LIVIN can mean different things to different people ... From my perspective it was a rallying call for all the football PALADINs ...as well as the fans etc... You could feel the energy and synergy ... it empowered guys to go above and beyond ... to dream big ... and when we did it ... you remember ? That first championship at MetLife we were all hugging and you actually tackled me to the ground ... you were so moved you were in tears ( of joy ? disbelief ? whatever ? ) We really were LIVIN !!!!!
Chris said several times I was his good luck charm ... not sure about that ...but I'll take it as my part of the magic !!!
I still treasure that first ring in a special way ... the other 2 are beautiful - don't get me wrong ... but that first one ...ah how sweet !!!! I'm grateful that I was able to be aprt of it ... that kind of LIVIN, that level of LIVIN is a soul touching something that we will all carry for the rest of our lives ....
We've moved on ... it's different now ... not better, not worse ...just different ... we won again last year ... Dan Sabella is a quality coach and a truly fine person and some people are trying to keep LIVIN alive ... but it isn't the same ...nor can it be ... he and these teams have to discover their personality and mantra .... we're having a tough season as you know - for a lot of reasons ... let's see what happens ...every year is a new challenge with new possibilities ...
But there will always be a part of us - inside - like Camelot ... we'll remember we were LIVIN !!!
Hope that you can use some this ... I think it's sort of what you had in mind ....
Always .... LIVIN .... with fond memories ....
Q&A with Coach Mike Nunziato
What made this program different and special?
The difference was the true love and caring for each other. You hear it allot but the coaches truly cared about what the players were doing on and off the field. Each player wanted to not only win on the field but succeed to not let the coaches down. I remember one time during a bad lifting session I literally got in my car and left early. As I am driving off a bunch of the players literally sprinted to the front of the school, stood in front of my car, and begged me not to leave. Not because they were worried about being punished, but because they actually cared about upsetting one of their coaches. That was the difference!!
Why were u willing to sacrifice all the time away from your family for the program?
Everyone knew what it took to be successful and that meant long hours, well thought plans, passion, energy and sacrifice. If we expecting these kids to buy in to what we are preaching than we needed to put even more time to ensure it worked. Every minute I spent at Paramus catholic was worth it.
What did you learn from the kids as you were coaching them?
I learned that you had to really relate to the kids in different ways. Yelling at one kid might not work well for another player. You had to find what motivated each player. It was definitely a challenge to find ways to motivate all these high-level players but it really has helped me in training future clients. I also learned that being up front with these kids is how things should be handled. Our players knew everything we said and did came from the heart and was in their best interest. I learned that if players trust you, they will work hard for you.
Coach Dan Decongelio
On his time at Paramus Catholic
"Beyond lucky and blessed that I was hired by Chris and was able to coach at PC and remain coach today. Of course the times have changed and so do the faces but the groundwork and the legacy that was left behind still stands there today. I see it and feel it every time I walk out on that field for practice or games. I see it and feel it in the meeting rooms and most importantly I see it in the kids that walk the halls at PC. It was a change of culture that shook up NJ football and one each and every Paladin should be proud of. Although the times have changed, each team is unique and special including the one we have now. It’s a great feeling to watch the groups of young men I’ve been lucky enough to coach succeed in so many different ways when they leave the halls of PC. The big thing that sticks with me every day when I show up at the start of football season each summer is Chris saying that “it’s time to thinking about football year by year, team by team and start focusing on building the PROGRAM”. To this day I am very proud in saying that us as coaches work very hard to make sure our kids realize this game is much bigger then themselves. It’s for every Paladin that ever wore the uniform, every Paladin that is wearing the uniform and every Paladin that will wear the uniform one day."
Coach Jay Fortino
“I graduated PC in 2005 and it was an experience that would impact every aspect of my life going forward. The school brought me every one of my best friends, so many great mentors, opened the path for me to play hockey in college, led me to one of my great passions in life becoming a strength coach at TNT Training (which is of course owned by a PC alum, Mike Nunziato who has become like family to me) and shaped my overall character into what it is today (which I am very proud of and thankful for)."
"I’ve now been teaching and coaching at PC for four years and been the director of alumni relations for three years. I’ve loved every second of what I’ve been able to give back to the school that shaped so many aspects my life. The roads that have opened up for me because of my experience at PC have been too many to count. I’ve named a few previously but the absolute most amazing and life changing one came from meeting my now wife, Meagan, through our mutual connections related to PC. To me, this is all LIVIN."
Brian Fitzsimmons - Former Beat Writer for NJHSFB via MSG Varsity
On the rise of Paramus Catholic
"It was surreal to see PC rise and ultimately earn a lasting impression in the national spotlight simply because I remember the days of losing to the league rivals by scores of 60-0, 49-0 and so on. It was almost unbelievable to watch. Have you ever heard of a school in New Jersey, over the last three decades, become a laughing-stock bottom-dweller and transform so quickly into a top-5 team in the country for more than one year, no matter the sport? Off the top of my head, I can't. Don Bosco football, under Greg Toal, took more than five years to build the empire it enjoyed from 2003-2015. St Patrick (Elizabeth, NJ) basketball took more than 2-3 years to build itself into a powerhouse -- but that's probably the closest answer I have off the top of my head."
On what Made Chris Partridge unique
"Chris ran his program his way. It was a direct reflection of who he was as a person. Rugged. Full of Grit. Hard work. Late nights at the office watching tape. Not afraid to let you know nobody worked harder than his guys. And for how "no frills" and simple he was, he wasn't afraid to enjoy the moment. The smoke machine before the players took the field. The LIVIN merchandise. The laid-back attitude (most of the time). It was all such an interesting mix. And it was enjoyable to be around. Kids bought into him because he was the perfect blend of relatable and true authority. Rarely you see both in one person."
Todderick Hunt - Star Ledger
Environment surrounding the Big North
"The environment at Big North games was and still is as good as it gets in the state as everyone who is anyone is well aware of what’s going on among the former conference’s top six teams. For a long time P.C. wasn’t mentioned among the big boys or given that respect, both from within the conference and outside of it. But it got to a point where they couldn’t be denied. With historical, highly-successful lifers at schools like St. Peter’s and Bosco at the time, some of those guys weren’t too keen about the new kids on the block’s rise to power. But they earned their place by elevating to the point of not just competing with, but at times, beating those teams. I believe Chris Partridge did what all good coaches do – took bits and pieces from programs that had success in the Big North and outside of it. and added his own flair. For instance, a guy like Greg Toal at Don Bosco, who for a four-to-five year span had one of the very best programs in the world, was doing things like recording each practice from multiple angles, things other schools do today but weren’t back then. But in order to compete, especially with Bosco, everyone had to step up their games. And Partridge rose to the occasion as much as anyone, if not more."
On Partridge and PC's rise to the top
"Partridge was able to build a brand. He took notice of what’s appealing to up and comers at that time -- the modern uniform craze, pre and post-game celebrations, slick uniforms, slogans, and swagger that in a short period of time elevated PC into the most highly-recruited programs in the country. They wore all black, played hard, fast, and with joy, and also took their show on the road, sometimes for nationally televised game, spreading what the program was all about . And I’d say Jabrill Peppers, Rashan Gary after that, and a number of other highly-recruited players to come through there during that three-to-four year span also played strong roles in building that foundation of acclaim. Because at the end of the day, coaching is important, but teams win because of talent. Partridge being willing to fit out instead of fitting in and take some chances helped P.C. sell itself, and the winning was a byproduct of that."
Mike Quick - Former play by play and sports show host MSG Varsity
What made Partridge different than all the other coaches
"Coach Partridge came in with the black hat and did not care what anyone thought about him. He brought the bravado the swagger and the livin nd was able to catch lightning in a bottle. Kids loved that, they wanted to be a art of it it came at the right time. Honestly when he started it I hated it. I thought what are you doing to the game you are polluting Highschool football. What I never realized initially is, I just thought he was this Brash, cocky, all about himself type of guy. I didn’t realise how intelligent Chris was until I got to know him. All that stuff was a smoke screen and gave PC an advantage before the ball was even kicked off. To think that Paramus catholic started beating Don Bosco and that has parlayed into beating the Ironmen seven consecutive wins. I am still blown away. That is the one point that sticks out even after CP left was the ability to beat DB I think resonates throughout the program. That attitude of the school and player that Hey, were gonna beat these guys. That all started back when you and Chris were there. No game was too big, Didn’t matter if it was Bergen catholic or Don Bosco. Were Paramus catholic, we are the new kids on the block… deal with us, and for that stretch there no one could deal with it."
The mystique of the Big North and the rivalry's
"You know what it was Billy Ray, it was college football in the north that is what I always said. It was Notre Dame vs Miami. That’s what PC vs Bosco was or PC vs Bergen. When Bergen played Bosco there wasn’t a dynamic of good vs bad. But when Chris came in he made it college football and turned it into good vs. bad. Those 4 years were like none other. The greatest way I could put it is that teams, and players, schools and people that hated Don Bosco for what they were building on the national stage flipped when CP came along. All those same people loved DB whenever they played Paramus catholic. You guys were the most hated most ostracized, and it happened overnight. And to think that people who hated DB, would pick up the pom poms whenever PC came to town because they couldn’t handle the fact of who the heck is Paramus catholic and how did you just hop on to our national scene which makes you national overnight."
Q&A with Darren Cooper - Sports Columnist for The Record and USA Today and Varsity Aces
What was Partridge like?
He was young. The biggest thing he had going for him was he was young and had a totally different way of relating to his football team. Look at the other coaches in the Big North United then - Toal was older, Karcich was older, Hansen older, McKenna, a little bit older. Nunzio was younger, but struggling to get Bergen rolling again. So Partridge kind this 21st century way of looking at the game and the players. He had all this technology brought in. He realized that yeah, slick jerseys were cool and helped get the players hyped. And he was a daring game coach.
"It didn't mean anything. There was no rivalry whatsoever. Bergen was better. The games weren't close. Paramus Catholic was irrelevant.
Then Partridge came, and he just found a way to get under Nunzio's skin. Nunzio, remember, is a PC graduate, who takes a lot of pride in his alma mater. Then Chris comes out with the whole no wearing the color red thing. Calling Bergen Catholic the school in Oradell. It was a great way to put PC on equal footing with a team that really wasn't its rival at the time. It helped put PC on the map.
And the games were intense. They had extra juice."
What was so great about the Big North?
North Jersey is densely populated, and one of the wealthiest areas in America. The kids lack for nothing, so its like you have an elite group of players. But when it comes to football, we have no college program to support. Rutgers? Uh, no. They dont win enough and North Jersey's population only cares about winning. So the non-public schools in the Big North kind of serve in that role. There are elaborate tailgate parties in the parking lot. Big alumni associations supporting their teams.
And then you have these five (six if you count St. Peter's) elite programs all condensed in one 20-mile radius or so. Then they all have their own unique identities. Bosco was toughness. Joes was physicality and the damn trap play. Bergen would outsmart you and fool you. Peter's always had skill players. DePaul was always smaller in number, but skilled and talented. Then PC kind of blended it all together. They had toughness, skill and great coaching. They also had this resolve about winning games in the final minutes that no one else could match in this period of time.
Match-ups are what makes great football, and the Big North United had amazing match-ups. Throw in the connections with the coaches, and some of the hard feelings there, and it's hard to believe there was anywhere better for HS football in the country.
Why did the state resent them?
The reason I usually when asked this question is, well, because PC upset the hierarchy of New Jersey football. They weren't just going to rollover anymore and be an easy W for teams. Bosco, Bergen and Joes used to get a breather when they played PC. Then, all of the sudden, they were in for a fight when they played. It made everyone's jobs so much harder.
There was also the perception that PC was playing a bit outside the rules. Jabrill transferred in. He kept telling people why, but no one seemed to be listening. He said he wasn't comfortable at Bosco, and people couldn't accept that. The truth is Jabrill transferred, because he wanted to transfer, right? That's all there is to it. I remember still being dubious about whether he would even be enough to lift PC into the state elite, and remember, Bosco spanked PC the first time they played after Jabrill was there up in Ramsey. But then Rashan Gary transfers in and it was like PC was just trolling people. But again, why did Rashan transfer? Because he wanted too. So people were upset at PC's brashness and the fact that it was attracting all these good players.
A look at the players today
You hear it across sports all the time. Everyone claims they are a family. Everyone swears they are a brotherhood and would die for the man next to them. That’s all fine and dandy and it’s a great rallying cry or something to tell yourself or preach to your team before a game. At Paramus Catholic, we didn’t just say it. We didn’t print it on towels or sweatshirts, we didn’t need to do that. We were an actual family. I know that sounds cliché, but we lived it. From the coaching staff, all the way to the players, this was a family. Even to this day, I still tell those guys I love them.
We all grew up together. I had teammates lose family members in their time at PC. Some had difficult lives at home or other personal struggles. The one thing we all knew was the guys in that locker room had your back no matter what. That still rings true to this day. Writing this article was a huge project and took a lot of time. That being said, it has been a pleasure every step of the way. Seeing what all of my former teammates have accomplished and where my coaches are now and hearing them speak about how special this time was and what it meant to them was a very rewarding experience.
The program at PC didn't just teach you the X's and O's on how to play ball. It instilled character and for some people, it turned their lives around and got them on a path to a better life than they may have had if they never came across the people involved in this program (coaches and players). I caught up with as many of these players as I could and here is what I found. Some players I was unable to get a hold of or requested privacy and obviously, I respected that. Here are those young men and where they are today.
***Click on any underlined name to go to the given players highlight film from high school.***
Class of 2011
Brendan Walsh OL - Walsh was an incredibly hard worker and loved Paramus Catholic. He was the anchor of the offensive line and a vocal leader for the team. Even after graduating, Walsh stopped by PC a lot over the summers to help the offensive line unit and the team in the weightroom. My senior year, he spent a lot of time with me and Juwann teaching us how to identify blitzes and different defensive packages.
Walsh signed his LOI to play at Colgate, where he was the starting center of the offense. He led the Patriot League in all offensive categories and eventually won the league championship. Walsh graduated from Colgate with a bachelors in history and has since taken up coaching. He started as a student assistant at Colgate, moved on to Susquehana where he worked with fullbacks and tightends, and now is the offensive line and strength coach at Miseracordia University.
Matt Giachinta RB LB - Matt was always was an all american kid. He was clean cut, respectful, and just an all around good person. He made plays all over the field everygame and was a leader by example for PC.
After he graduated, Matt signed to play football at the U.S Military Academy at West Point. From there, he was named a team captain of the West Point football team and graduated with a degree in systems engineering. He then was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant into the infantry. After graduating from both ranger and airborne school, Matt is now a platoon leader in the 3rd infantry division.
Joe Zito DB – Joe was a leader by example on that first Coach Partridge team and the kid played hard every single down. He played baseball as well as football and even after graduation, he still came back for games and to help out.
Quick story on Zito and me… My senior year I was driving in the PC parking lot and (like an idiot) thought it was cool to slap box my brother as I was driving. Naturally, I literally drove on top of Zito’s car in front of the entire student body. Any person in their right mind would probably lose their mind and he probably should have. However, Joe was cool about it and we got it taken care of.
After PC, Zito went on to play both football and baseball at Kings College, where he graduated with a degree in criminal justice and sociology. He now works for the Lodi DPW and coaches baseball at PC.
Class of 2012
Doug Strickland OL DL - Doug was a huge mentor to me. I started my first game at the Varsity level a quarter of the way through this season and he took me under his wing helping me develop and build my confidence up to get me ready to compete at the next level.
Since graduating from PC, Doug graduated from East Stroudsburg University with a degree in criminal Justice. Doug is currently coaching a Pop Warner Football team and is applying for the Port Authority Police Department.
Chris Szabo LB - Of course, I had to talk about Szabo after Doug. To this day, these two are inseparable. Szabo was a wild man in Highschool. The kid loved to compete. He played football, wrestled, and played baseball so the kid always was doing something. Szabo was cut from the same cloth as Partridge. He had high energy, took pride in everything he did and loved to compete. Szabo was another one of those seniors that mentored me and helped me along the way as I was moved up to the varsity level.
After PC, Chris went on to Miseraccordia University and graduated with a degree in Law. Today, Chris is still dating his highschool sweetheart, Jordan Cavallaro, and is interviewing for a job with the Fort Lee police department. He is currently a firefighter for Fort Lee.
Chris Maldonado QB WR DB - Chris rotated at QB and reciever over the course of the year as Steve Shanley was coming into his own, but you couldn't keep Chris off the field. This kid was a tough player and a great leader, who played hard game in and game out.
After Paramus Catholic, he went on to play football at the University of New Haven, where they won their conference championship in 2012. He then transfered to William Paterson University, where he earned a Bachelors Degree in sports management.
Maciek Bielen LB TE - Maciek has got to be one of the smartest kids I've ever met. He was a great story teller and always knew how to make everyone laugh. One memory that sticks out is when we were goofing around in the weight room and he was running around with a weight lifting bar like a spear and mistakenly hit me in my hip, which resulted in me losing the ability to walk normally for about 3 weeks.
Since he left PC, Maciek graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelors of science and Biological Scienes (pre med). He is currently a case manager for Leading Edge Medical Center in Oradell, New Jersey
Brandon Wickett OL - Wickett was a rolling ball of butcher knives on the field. Max preps has him listed as 5"9' 220lbs and that is about right (Wickett still may have been on his tip toes). He was our center and used the deadsnap technique, which Coach Petro couldn't stand because it is what they did at Saint Joes. He played against guys that towered over him, but he held his own in there and held the OL together.
After PC, Wickett enrolled at the University of Rhode Island and eventually finished his college career at William Patterson, earning a degree in Kinesiology and exercise science. He is currently a strength and conditioning intern at the New Jersey Institute of Tehnology and a assistant strength and conditioning coach at Total Nunziato Training.
Leo Krizanovic RB LB - Leo was one of the most talented players we had over the past 3 years at PC. Kid was built like a bear. He played all over the field and produced game after game. I can't forget the day he came into the locker room with cornrows his senior year. He's lucky I cant find a picture from that.
Haven’t had a chance to catchup with Leo, but I hope he is doing well.
Class of 2013
Erik Santiago OL - Erik was the anchor of the offensive line for the first two years I was contributing at the varsity level. As a team captain, he played an influential role in the growth of Juwann and myself as we were learning the game. He was not the biggest player on the field, but his work ethic and attention to detail is what gave him his edge. Erik had a lunch pail mentality, and was a fantastic teammate. He was always easy to approach and looked out for his guys.
Erik went on to play football at Muhlenberg College and just graduated this past year with a bachelors degree in Political Science and Government. Erik is currently a 4th and 5th grade socialstudies teacher, as well as a youth football coach for the Bogota 5th and 6th grade little league football program (they have a semifinals matchup this weekend vs. Englewood and he’s fired up). Erik and I remain close to this day and he hasn't changed a bit. He is one of the most true to himself, intelligent individuals I have ever met.
Marquise Watson LB - Big Quise. This kid came in from St. Peters prep over the off season, and to this day is hands down the BEST leader I have ever been around. He could convince you that you could run through a brick wall if he wanted too. Marquise was about 280 lbs compacted into 6" frame and 6 feet might be pushing it. He was built like a fire hydrant, and just absolutely PULVERIZED people. Marquise was the purest definition of a leader. He was never outworked, never out hustled, and honestly I never saw him lose a rep of anything. He brought that mentality EVERY SINGLE DAY and the day he arrived, he assumed the leadership role and the entire team responded to him.
Marquise was a force. His intensity, and love for the game was unmatched by anyone, and he was just a flat out ball player. Big Quise went on to sign his LOI to attend Bryant University. He graduated this year with a Bachelors Degree in Communications. On the football field, he wrapped up his career by earning first team all conference honors, served as a team captain, and broke the program record for career tackles (finished with 256). Marquise decided to stay with the sport he loves and is currently working as an assistant football coach for Amherst College. I ran into Marquise at Coach Partridge's wedding this past summer, and he still has that same smile and love for life that he's always had. Glad to see Marquise doing what he loves to do.
Alex Reyes OL -Uniball!!! As much as we ragged on Reyes for being short and tubby (which he was dont get me wrong), Reyes always worked his tail off in the weight room, and played his heart out every time we stepped out on the field. He was the center, and took on some tough assignments throughout the years (toughest probably dealing with Nick Flores at practice every day but always gave it his best), but always held his own. Reyes was a great trammate and was always there for anybody. You could always count on him (except that one time he was going to throw a party after the NV Demarest game).
Reyes currently is studying Criminal Justice at Bergen Community College and recently took his exam for Civil Service. He expects to land a job with the Hackensack police department in the coming weeks.
Khilyni Kennedy DE - Zazu... Khilyni was a dominant defensive end in his time at PC. His long and athletic build allowed him to get his hands on offensive tackles and shed blocks as soon as each play started. Khilyni led by example on the defensive line and set a great example for Marcus and Terrance, who had big shoes to fill the next season.
After Paramus Catholic, Khilyni signed his LOI to Florida Atlantic. After a transfer a few years back, he is currently playing at the University of Rhode Island, where he contributes heavily on special teams and is a staring linebacker.
Brandon Spearman DB - Brandon provided the team with the most laughs out of everyone. There were no dull moments when you were with him. On the field, Brandon played hard and made some big plays all over the field. Arguably his best performance came against BC in the state championship.
I always catch up with Brandon and the Englewood crew over the summer and play some pool basketball, which is always a great time. B-Rad is the same kid we all know and love back from high school. He always has a smile on his face, and is making everyone have a good time.
Brandon is currently working in construction and is planning to return to school in January.
Alvin Russell DL - Two Twelve Al. Ever since transferring back from SJR had always let you know he loved you and cared about you. One memory that sticks out was when he he tried to fight the entire Phillipsburg team (by himself, without his helmet) after they cheap shotted one of our players.
Al rolls with that Englewood crew and I always try to catch up with him whenever I get the opportunity.
Currently, Al is working as a driver delivering around the tristate area.
Vernon Lincoln LB - Vernon was the third and final Englewood kid in this class. The going joke with Vern is he couldnt straighten his arms all the way, and had hands like feet. The kid was one hell of a football player though. Vernon was a team captain both his junior and senior years and loved his school.
He went on after High school to take a job working with the NBA and is now into cinematography. He works with New Jersey r&b artist Justin Love. Got to see Vernon a bit this summer (and his newly shaved head) and he has alot of great things going for him. Vern is a bright and motivated kid, who has an exetremely bright future in whatever he wants to do.
James Colacci DB WR - James was one of the craziest kids I have ever met. Colacci was absolutely fearless and would stick his face into anything. Colacci loved to compete (also a baseball player) and played as hard as he could. James famously coined the "Last play make it good!" Which he would yell whenever we were 10-15 periods overtime on our marathon practices. Partridge usually payed it no mind.
Since High school, James took a job with the New Jersey Department of Corrections, where he is currently a State corrections Police officer for the East Jersey State Prison.
Mike Burke LB - Burke was a great kid and lived the town over from me back in highschool. Mike was always quiet and reserved, but was easy to talk to and was a loyal, great friend. He mostly rotated at line backer and contributed on special teams.
Since graduating, Mike went on to Bergen community college to get his associates in drafting and design. Shortly after his second semester he landed a job within his major. Mike is currently working for a big construction and signage company (RCS). Mike also is expecting a baby girl due in mid March.
Justin Castello LB- Justin (Juwanns cousin) recently graduated from Moorehouse college and is back in Hackensack, NJ and we are both competing in a high level fantasy basketball league. I hope to catchup with him this summer.
Tony Ristevski OL - Craziest memory of Tony R I have was when he came off the sideline in practice and hit Brandon on an interception return. He absolutely drilled Brandon and by the grace of God, the coaches and trainers kept the defense separated from him after. It may have gotten ugly other wise, but looking back it’s a funny memory.
Tony R and Alex Reyes were inseparable and still remain close to this day
Since graduating from PC, Tony has been working and going to school. He worked at WaWa for two years, and currently is working in construction. He is studying Criminal Justice at Berkley College and plans to take his civil service this year.
Class of 2014
Billy Ray Mitchell OL - Coming into PC, I was probably around 6"1 200 lbs. To sum my self up, I was a kid with off the wall ADHD, and loved being around everyone. At the time, I wasn't all that great at football either. Back then, I was lanky, had a decent frame, but no muscle on my bones. Coach Westervelt and Poppa Mitchell took on that challenge and force fed me endless scoops of creatine and protein powder, supplemented with non- stop power cleans and squatting my face off.
I was definitely the most social and loud kid of the group, which no doubt must have been a bit much for my coaches and teammates to deal with sometimes. However, they all grew with me and changed my life in so many different aspects and I am forever grateful for that.
Since graduating PC, I signed my LOI to go on to Virginia Tech and play football. It has been the greatest decision of my life, and I love where I'm at. This past fall my football career came to a sudden, unexpected end following 3 herniated discs in my back. However, VT was gracious enough to keep me on scholarship, and allow me to finish my degree. Along with that, they asked me to join the recruiting department where I’m currently working. I am expecting to graduate with a degree in consumer studies this spring, while dual enrolling into a masters program.
Steve Shanley QB - Shandizzle. Quick back story... Steve and I all the way up until high school pretty much hated each others guts. I'd say about three or four times a year, starting in second grade, we would beat the hell out of each other. Our parents, peers, and even coaches knew we couldn't stand one another. But, in a twist of fate somehow we both ended up enrolling at PC. Steve was going to be my quarterback for the next four years, and I'd have to snap him the ball, so we had to figure it out.
Also, on the first day of school we somehow ended up on the wrong bus and it took us to all the way to Saint Joes. Steve somehow convinced the driver (who spoke no type of English) to drive us all the way to PC. Kid was a master communicator.
Steve, my once childhood arch nemesis is now one of my closest friends.
After 4 years of running the show for one of the most high powered offenses in the country, Steve went on to sign his LOI to go to the University of Albany. After a decision to go elsewhere, Steve is currently playing football at Stevenson University, where he currently holds a 3.75 GPA in pursuit of achieving a Bachelors in Business. Steve also interned with Morgan Stanley this spring in Baltimore and has a extremely bright future in the business world.
Dejon Harrison WR - Stinka or less known as Chip, was skinny as a rail when he arrived at PC. But, he also showed up with a full grown beard as a freshman. At first, Stinka didnt talk much. He stayed to himself and didn't really talk to anyone outside the Englewood crew until a little ways down the road.
Dejon is one of the realest you will ever meet. He won’t ever ever switch up on you, and is one of those kids that is always true to himself. I gotta say I love this kid to death, and am so proud of how far he has come since I first met him.
Stinka is currently working a little on the side, while he is studying at Lincoln Technical Career School to become a construction manager. Oh, and fun fact... Stinka was also our teams punter, couldn't leave that out.
Tyrone Washington DB WR - Tyrone is still the same kid he was at PC. Always looking for a good time and keeping it real. Throughout high school, I can remember he swore he was destined to become Vine famous, and wore the black and red beats everywhere. Thing was even when he had them over his ears you could hear what he was listening too from 100 feet away.
After Highschool Tyrone went off to Lackawanna College, where he plays defensive back and is working toward his degree. Tyrone along with all the Englewood fellas come link up with me and my other teammates at my grandparents pool. Looking forward to it warming up, so we can get back out there.
Terrence Harris DL - Tank... (untill this moment I never realized how much he looked like Anthony Anderson from Kangaroo Jack) Terrance was a kid from Saint Joes, that transferred to PC back in 2011. He came in and had the same flexibilty the Thompson twins had. However, everyone knew once he got some looseness in his hips, he had strength and athleticism to be a dominant player. He just needed some work. Coach Westervelt took it upon himself to turn Tank into that dominant player and once 2012 rolled around terrance was a completely reinvented man ready to dominate opposing offensive lines.
Terrence came a LONG way from that kid he was when he first arrived at PC. At Paramus Catholic, Terrence tragically lost his father to a sudden heart attack. The team and school rallied around him in that difficult time and since then, has lived a life that surely his father and family are very proud of.
Terrence always was destined for great things and actually wrote a phenominal piece for this website a few days ago ( check it out ).
After PC, Terrance signed his LOI to attend the University Iowa but after a few years realized his heart was at home in New Jersey. This past semester, Terrence transferred back homewhere he is currently playing football for Rutgers.
Keyon Washington DB RB - Keyon made the leap from Bosco to PC a few days before Jabrill did and was also one of Jabrills closest friends. Keyon was a reserved, hard working individual who excelled in the classroom. He was a leader by example in the PC locker room and earned the love and respect of all his teammates. Keyon was a loyal all around great kid. He played all over the field, and was a tough kid (played on a broken leg in 2012).Part of the one two punch option read he ran alongside Jabrill, he was also a key of out defensive backfield.
Keyon Signed his LOI to Colgate after being overlooked based on his size. He continues to show that size is overrated, as he is currently a two way starter on offense and defense and is working toward a degree in educational studies.
Jabrill Peppers DB RB - Kid was a different breed. Jabrill came into school looking like he was straight out of a comic book. This was the kid that torched us twice last year while he was at Bosco, and was undoubtedly the best player in the state (in my opinion the nation). On the field, he was a fierce competitor, attacking every drill and workout like it was his last (not necessarily ice baths though, he wouldn't be caught dead in one). Jabrill's level of focus and his work ethic helped elevate this team. As a teammate, he fit right in with everyone and was accepted upon arrival. He never had the "I'm better than everyone mentality" you may expect from a player of his caliber. He just wanted to help this team win.
Jabrill always wanted everyone to know how great of a singer he was. So (naturally) he took to ESPN and rapped a commitment to play for the Michigan Wolverines. After 3 seasons in Ann Arbor, he decided to forego his senior year and enter the NFL draft.
Jabrill was selected in the first round (25th pick) by the Cleveland Browns. Jabrill remains the only player in NJ Highschool football history to have won two state championships from two different programs.
Nick Flores DL - Nicky Flores... Nick put the team first and dominated whatever he was asked to do. Nick loved defense more than anything and no one was better around the state than he was. To his displeasure, the coaches asked him to contribute on offense some and go both ways sometimes. Nick accepted the role and was the battering ram of our Tuff package that just anihalated opposing teams.
That being said, Nick is hands down the most under recruited players I have ever known of in my life. I have played against my fair share of good ball players on the highschool level and collegiate level. Fellas like Dadi Nicholas, Luther Maddy, Courtell Jenkins, and Alquadin Muhammad to name a few, and Nick to this day is one of the best I've ever faced. Nick was the anchor of the PC defense, and was a incredible competitor. He remains a close friend and I’m looking forward to seeing him soon.
After bouncing around a little bit, Nick spent some time at Lackawanna college and eventually signed a LOI to attend Moorehead State where he is curently studying criminal justice.
Izaiha Pitts LB - Izaiha is a man of many talents. Part time DJ, and part time dancer (strictly Jersey club though). In his time at PC, he was constantly making everyone laugh or asking people to record him dancing.
Since Graduating PC, Izaiha has taught himself to play multiple instruments, and is considering becoming a musical producer. This past summer, Izaiah worked for FedEX and we were able to play some basketball and catchup in Newark.
Now, back at Stevenson University, he is pursing a degree in Criminal Justice, while alsoplaying linebacker for the football team. After college, Izaiha is looking to join one of the Federal agencies across the United States.
Marcus Pantoja DL - Marcus was a quiet, reserved kid that just overpowered people on the football field. He led by example, and played 3 sports over the time he spent at PC (Track, Wrestling, and Football). Another thing was Marcus had the largest fan section at every game as his family traveled all over to see him play.
Marcus signed his LOI to go to the University of Rhode Island. Since then, Marcus went through a position change and converted to an offensive lineman (imagine that). Marcus is currently in his senior year, and is eyeing gradation with a degree in Economics.
Juwann Bushell Beatty - In my opinion, no one made leaps and bouds both as a player, and as a person more so than than JBB. This kid physically could not run around a quarter mile track when he first came to PC. Despite all of that, the coaches saw the potential in Juwann and worked with him. Pushing him hard every single day. To his credit, it would have been easy for him to quit, or give up to walk away from the game and just do something else. He stuck with it, and throughout the 4 years completely changed his body and turned into one of the top recruits in the nation earning a spot to the Under Armour All American game.
Juwann is larger than life but friendly and always there for you no matter what.
After Paramus Catholic, JBB signed his LOI to attend the University of Michigan, where he currently is a starter on the Wolverines offensive line. Juwann is currently enrolled in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
Juwann remains a close friend, and we try to talk whenever he has the time (which is rare). I couldn't be more proud of all this kid has accomplished, and he knows I love him to death.
Alec Bowman OL - Big Body Bowman... Bowman transferred in from Bergen Catholic in 2012, and helped fill a void in the offensive line left behind by former guard Dough Strickland. He was a house of a human being, and just like your prototypical Jersey guy took pride in having huge arms. Alec Could play Guard, and center so he also gave the OL some much needed depth. Bowman Graduated Paramus Catholic, and Signed his LOI to go play football at the University of Albany.
After working as a bouncer in Hoboken for a while Bowman left that behind, and is working to start his own physical training company while looking to join the sherrifs department in the next few years.
The Thompson Twins
Coming in as freshman, these two were the most inflexible people I have ever met in my life. They came in and with hard work, completely changed their bodies. They both had an awesome outlook on life, and had on a smile on their face every single day. I always make sure to catch up with them every summer and winter break. I look forward to seeing them soon.
Tyron Thompson OL - Tyron was the muscles of the pair and was built like a WWE character.
Tyron is currently a senior at Assumption College, where he plans to graduate with a major in Human Services, and Rehabilitation Studies, along with minors in Sociology, and Biology. He has also been inducted into two National Honor Societies: Human Services National Honor Society (Tau Upsilon Alpha) and Sociology National Honor Society (Alpha Kappa Delta). Tyron plays football for Assumption, who is currently ranked at #12 in the nation. Upon graduation, he intends to continue his education at New York Chiropractic College, or Bridgeport Chiropractic College, where he will be studying to be a Chiropractor.
Tyshawn Thompson OL - Tyshawn was the brains of the pair and the louder of the two twins.
Today, Tyshawn is currently a senior at Assumption, and plans to graduate with a major in Psychology. Along with minors in English Literature, Human Services, and Rehabilitation Studies. Tyshawn (like his brother) was inducted into two National Honor Societies: Psychology National Honor Society (Psi Chi); Human Services National Honor Society (Tau Upsilon Alpha). He also recieved Assumption College's Augustine Scholarship, which is the colleges highest academic honor for demonstrating initiative and leadership in academic and co-curricular endeavors. He is also plays football for the university with his brother.
Upon graduation, he is searching for a Doctorate of Psychology (Psy.D) program, where he will be studying to be a clinician, and will be able to continue research into emotion regulation as an effective coping strategy.
Anthony Corral DB - Anthony was a happy and energetic kid, who contributed heavily on special teams and saw a good amount of time in a defensive backfield that was probably one of the more talented and deep positions on the team.
Today, Anthony works as a promoter in New York City and seems like every night he is hanging with some of the biggest celebrities in America. Definitely worthy of a follow on his Snapchat.
Kyle Klepacki WR - Eazzy Ed... Kyle is one of the most laid back folks I’ve ever met. Kyle also talked in a way that I had never heard in my life. He would make a precarious statement that he sounded so sure of and somehow would disagree, or contradict himself before concluding that same sentence.
Kyle went onto play football at Muhlenberg College where he is currently in his last year. Kyle plans to graduate this spring with a degree in finance.
Alexander Beards LB - Alex was a transfer from Don Bosco and added much needed depth to the linebacking core and special teams. We all busted his chops for having the knees of a 80 year old man, but the kid played hard and did all he could to help this team win. Alex was quiet for the most part, but was always doing the right thing.
Beards is currently at Johnson C. Smith University, studying Sport and Fitness Administration.
Christopher Buford LB - Chris is one of the most loyal, kind hearted kids you'll ever meet. Every once in a while out of the blue, Chris will reach out just to ask how I am doing. Chris has always been that way. I hope to link up with him soon.
Chris is currently wrapping up his Psychology degree at Rockland Communuty College, and is an honors student currently holding a 3.7 GPA. He also spends his free time working on music.
Matt Golabek K - Kicker guy. Matt was the fella who drilled the game winner against SJR. This came only a few weeks after the coaches somehow got him to walk away from soccer, and kick footballs for us.
Since Matt graduated PC, he now works as a private investigator for Dominican College, and also became a firefighter.
Class of 2015
Najee Clayton WR DB - Jee Sos. Najee was one of the toughest kids you'll ever meet. From Paterson NJ (a Silk City Cardinal Product), he bought into PC before we had any winning to show for it. The kid was a stud. Colleges loved him, even as an eith grader and so did all the elite Highschool programs. However, he decided to break the mold and come to PC. Najee dominated and played in all 4 years starting as a freshman which was rare in this league.
Najee went on to sign his LOI to Rutgers, but this past season decided to transfer. Najee is currently at Western Michigan, where he made the switch to linebacker.
Saleem Brightwell LB - Saleem the dream. Saleem was a softspoken kid, but was a terror on the football field. Saleem was a great teammate that loved the program, and did whatever it took to help us win. Saleem went through a personal tragedy when he lost his father but his PC teammates and coaches rallied around him and let him know we were all there for him.
Since PC Saleem went on to sign his LOI to play at the University of Pittsburg. Last season, Saleem had a massive interception off Deshaun Watson to help Pitt pull the upset win over top ranked Clemson. Saleem is currently enrolled in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.
Kwanii Figeroua DL - Kwanni transfered into PC after I had already left, but we became really close over all the time I spent coming back to help out the program. Kwanni was as driven and intense kid on the football field, but an awesome kid outside those lines. As a leader, Kwanni reminded me a lot of Marquise Watson. He was the leader of that defense for the one season he spent in Black and gold. Only thing I wish was that he came a little earlier to play with my team!
Kwanni graduated from PC and signed his LOI to go play ball at Eastern Michigan University where he is studying communications. Look forward to linking up with Kwanni over winter break.
Willy Hansen QB - This kid came in as a transfer from some school called Morris Hills as he was coming off a shoulder fracture and seperation. The kid came in to take the keys from Steve Shanley upon his graduation. Willy went from a relatively unknown transfer, to one of the most clutch players around the state (also one of the most under recruited). The kid took over the garden state, and did it all while his mother was overcoming severe breast cancer.
To this day Willy is one of my closest friends. The kid is genuine, loves ball, and is a true winner on and off the field. After going to Assumption for a few years to play ball he realized it was time for him to step away from the game, and get ready for the next chapter of his life. He has since transfered to rutgers, and is studying business. Willy and I also have a podcast called hungup where we talk sports weekly, check it out here!
Marquis Spence WR – Marquis was another kid, who always had a huge smile on his face. Another one of the Englewood boys, Marquise was slightly on the small side, but played BIG. The kid was a cold blooded killer, making big plays anytie PC needed it. He had an incredible grab with seconds left against don bosco his senior year back in 2014 to clinch the win (I was there. And yes, I went nuts).
Marquis after PC signed his LOI to play ball at Merrimack College in Massachusets, where he is currently studying communications
Curtis Oliver DB – Curtis is an incredible kid. He came from the city of Paterson, and was just a fighter. Like coach Albert mentioned earlier, he came all the way from being a kid that rarely saw the field IN PRACTICE, to a shutdown starting corner. During his time at PC, Curtis’s father passed away suddenly and it was a difficult time for Curt. His team, and school rallied around him and helped him through that tough time. One of the memories I have that sticks out, was back in 2013 where he made a crucial interception in that Don Bosco semifinals game. The kid had on a massive cast from having broken his wrist earlier that season. It was a jump ball and he was one on one with the Bosco tight end in the end zone, and somehow he came down with the ball.
After PC, Curt signed his LOI to go to James Madison University, where he is a key part of the Dukes defense. Last year, JMU won the D1 National Championship where Curtis had 6 tackles, and an interception in that game. He is currently studying Sports and Recreational Management.
Joe Baccas DL – Joe was a defensive end who wasn’t the biggest kid on the field by any stretch. He was skinny as a rail but just played nasty. No matter if it were practice or a game, he was bringing it on every single play. The kid was a grinder and poured everything he had into this game. This kid also overcame incredible adversity when he lost his mother to cancer in 2016. I’m sure Joe’s mother is proud of the young man Joe is becoming.
Today, Joe is enrolled at the Lincoln Tech Electrical School, and searching for a job in that field.
Jamad Thomas LB FB – Moddy. Moddy was a fiery kid, who was just about as talkative and loud as I was. The kid also played that way. He thrived off contact and was just a tough kid. He fought through multiple injuries throughout his career, and never wanted to miss a snap.
Moddy is famously known for his stellar driving performance behind a golf cart that ended up ramming into the side of my fathers truck. To his credit he took it like a man and owned up to it and it was resolved. We just all know not to let Moddy around any golf carts.
Moddy is currently playing football at Alivia in Kansas. This season, he had 91 tackles and was the 6th ranked player in the conference. He currently holds a 3.2 GPA
Louis Gartner DL – Louis was a gentle giant. I think I heard him utter two or three words in my entire time knowing him, but he was a monster. He was one of the strongest kids on the team, and dominated people all over the field.
After PC, Louis went on to St. Francis (PA). A few weeks ago, he had an interception return for a touchdown and has been killing it out there.
Class of 2016
Rashan Gary DL - Rashaan was another kid that decided to make the move and join PCFB as a transfer. The kid was the number one recruit in the country for the class of 2016, and was a absolute force. Not only was Rashan one of the most dominant kids you will ever meet, but also was one of the most respectful, and humble kids as well. Rashan led by example and has a motor like nothing I have ever seen. Tribute to his hard work and his mothers guidance, the kid is a all around amazing human being.
After PC, Rashan siged his LOI to go to the University of Michigan. Today, Rashan is a starter for the Wolverines and is a Marketing major with a minor in entrepreneurship.
Dy-shawn Simpkinks CB - DaDa was one of those kids that always had a smile on their face. He was a little after my time, but my brother and his teammates knew him and loved him.
After PC graduation, he bounced around for a while but finally found a home at Norfolk state. Unfortunately, in a tragic shooting back on June 9th of this past summer, Dy-shawn was murdered back in his hometown of East Orange. Dyshawn will be remembered as a loving kid, that enjoyed life, and always had a smile on his face. Rest in Peace.
Donald Stewart WR - Donald was another kid who transferred in and upon arrival this kid took over New Jersey. Every week it seemed he was making some acrobatic, ESPN top 10 type play. The kid was also an absolute genious. Donald was another kid with a huge smile who just loved to play football, and be with his teammates.
Donald Signed his LOI to take his talents across the country, and play for Stanford. He is currently studying STS or science technology and society.
Anthony Dicunto LS – SAUCEMONEY!!! I’ve known sausage since I was a kid back in grade school. This kid has been true to himself ever since. He is a genuine kid with a great smile who just loves to be surrounded by everyone. He was a jokester too, and would always be serving up jokes. To his credit, he could roll with the punches when he was on the receiving end of the jokes. Sausage took over for me when I left, and became the team long snapper and he held it down.
Sausage is still one of my closest friends to this day. Today, he is up in New York playing football for Utica, where he is also studying Physical Education and Minoring in Special Education
Daniel Zapata OL – Zapata was an interesting individual. He had the look of a football player as well. Great frame, played hard, and was very productive. The one thing about Danny is he came from an extremely religious family and he couldn’t come to practice on Sundays. Hats off to him though even missing those practices, he was still an awesome player.
After PC, Danny signed his LOI to play for Liberty University, where he is currently studying Mechanical Engineering.
Ahmad Thomas RB – Nunn bug. Nuni was a kid who played as youngster along with me and that 2013 championship team. Nuni ran the ball hard and loved the Johnny Manziel money sign.
Today, Nuni is currently playing at Mount Union where they are a perfect 10-0 , and also just won their conference championship.
Mark Michaud TE – Mark was an absolute freak. The kid came in to PC with no experience playing football. We put the basketball kid at tight end and he applied those skills to football. He was a raw kid and learned so much every year. The sky is the limit for mark as he continues to learn this game.
Quick story on mark, he had just transferred into Paramus Catholic and we were headed to NYMA for summer camp. The day we got there somehow he found a basketball and started dunking in the gym. Suddenly down the hall I heard a Smash and shards of glass flew down the floor. I run into the gym, and there was Mark. Ball rolling down the court and he was surrounded by the remnants of the rim and backboard.
After PC, Mark went to Avon Old Farms and eventually signed to go play football at Georgia Southern, where he is currently studying Sports Management.
Class of 2017
Jackson Lee Mitchell OL – I can talk about this kid all day. My little brother, who not so many years ago was running up and down the sideline with his camera to take pictures of the PC games, followed in my footsteps as an offensive lineman. Jackson is the complete opposite of me. He is reserved, patient, quiet, but a tough, hard working kid who loves the game of football. I always picked on him, doing what big brothers do. Looking back I probably did it too much, but it made him tough and gave him an edge. He missed a few weeks his senior year due to a meniscus tear, but came back in the playoffs helping his team win a championship.
Jackson graduated PC, and signed to go to the Naval academy after he completes a year at the Naval Prepatory School in Newport, Rhode Island. Its grueling and intense both physically, and mentally in order to weed out the kids that don’t belong at Annapolis. However, I have no doubt in my mind this kid can do anything he sets his mind to. I am so proud of this kid and love him to death. Looking forward to watching him grow into the man I always knew he’d be.
Peter Nestrowitz OL – Peter was the son of coach Pete. Jackson and Pete were best friends throughout high school. He was an absolute mauler that looked to dominate folks. He loved to play football and had a nasty streak in him. He was also a genius in the class room and it showed when schools like Vanderbilt and the service academies came calling.
Peter graduated PC, and signed to play football for the Naval Academy in Annapolis. He has made every one of us proud especially his father, and has been a great supporter of Jackson as he waits to join his old friend next semester.
Andrew Brito QB – I thought about leaving Cha Cha out because he took a vacation at St. Mary’s for a while, but I got to much love for the kid. Andrew is 5”9 and 160 pounds soaking wet. A stud baseball player, but football was his true love. The kid can just flat out play. Everyone was bigger than him, but he played like he was the biggest kid on the field. Third and short if they call zone read, he is looking to pull the ball. He lead PC to a state title win last year when no one believed he could possibly stay healthy or be affective.
Cha cha didn’t catch the attention of the schools he wanted because of his frame so he decided to head out west to Santa Clara, California to play for the College of The Canyon and has put everyone on notice. Every week I see on my twitter timeline he is putting up incredible stats and tearing it up out there. In his first 10 games cha cha has completed 177 of 319 passes, accumulated 3,024 total yards and 30 touchdowns. He is currently the #1 social juco QB in terms of passing yards and TD’s. the kid has been doubted his whole life so I look forward to him once again proving everyone wrong
Corey Bolds DL – I’ve known Corey since he was in little league playing for the Silk City Cardinals along with my brother. Corey is a kid that loves to play football, and when he first arrived he had all the talent in the world, but needed some work. This program changed him. He got to learn from guys like Nick and Terrence when he first arrived and as a freshman was on the scout team going against guys like me and Juwann Eery day. He got better and better, and pushed himself into becoming most dominant defensive lineman in the state.
After PC, Corey signed his LOI to play football for Penn State, where he is currently studying criminology. Corey is one of the younger kids I keep up with over the years. He is a fantastic individual, and I look forward to watching him grow and become a stud at the next level.