Meet the 2012 MSG Varsity All-Metro First Team, our third-annual selections of the best football players in the tri-state area.
The selection process is the most difficult of any team in the tri-state. Players from New Jersey, New York City, Long Island, Connecticut and the Hudson Valley/Westchester region are considered. A limited number of players is chosen at each position, in an attempt to make the team resemble an actual all-star squad. For example, only one quarterback is chosen, while there are two wide receivers and five offensive linemen. All players are seniors unless otherwise noted.
Without further ado, let's meet the 2012 All-Metro First Team:
P.J. WALKER -- Watch video
Elizabeth, N.J., 5-11, 200 pounds, committed to Temple
He put the finishing touches on a fabulous career by orchestrating a three-play, 98-yard drive that ended on a 49-yard screen pass to Jahad Thomas with 36 seconds to play in the Minutemen's 37-33 comeback against Piscataway for the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 title. Walker passed for 357 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Piscataway and compiled 2,012 yards and 23 TDs this season while completing 70 percent of his attempts and throwing only one interception.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: JABRILL PEPPERS (Junior) -- Watch video
Paramus Catholic, N.J. 6-0, 195 pounds
The world as Paramus Catholic knew it changed last spring when Peppers, already a well-known name throughout North Jersey, transferred from powerhouse Don Bosco Prep. Peppers used his splendid mix of speed and power and his outstanding leadership qualities to engineer Paramus Catholic's 37-34 win over Bergen Catholic last Friday for the Non-Public, Group 4 crown, the Paladins' first since 1997. He ran for 210 yards and two TDs in that game to finish his season with 1,552 yards and 18 TDs on just 172 attempts. He also caught 20 passes for 337 yards and five TDs.
JAHAD THOMAS – Watch video
Elizabeth, N.J., 5-10, 180 pounds
His dazzling 49-yard run off a screen pass by P.J. Walker in the final half-minute last Friday, rallied Elizabeth to a 37-33 win over Piscataway and provided one of the signature highlights of the 2012 season. Thomas' X-Atco-knife cuts and instant acceleration displayed on that screen typified his big-play season. He averaged 9.2 yards a carry and scored 15 TDs on the ground and averaged 17.7 yards a reception and caught six scoring passes. Thomas scored eight of his 25 TDs in three playoff games.
CURTIS SAMUEL (Junior) – Watch video
Erasmus Hall, NYC, 6-0, 181
With a chance to win the first-ever PSAL Championship Division in the balance, Erasmus Hall coach Danny Landberg called for something he hadn’t all season: The Curtis Package. Out of the Wildcat, Samuel orchestrated a critical touchdown and scored what proved to be the game-winning 2-point conversion in a 15-14 win over Tottenville at Yankee Stadium. It cemented his spot in Erasmus Hall history, according to Landberg.
J.J. KULCSAR – Watch video
Bergen Catholic, N.J., 6-2, 180
Kulcsar began his routes with an explosive step, executed the path with precision and usually completed it with something very beneficial for his Crusaders. He hauled in 66 passes for 1,250 yards and 14 touchdowns. Kulcsar had 11 catches for 165 yards and two TDs in the Non-Public, Group 4 final against Paramus Catholic, though his Crusaders were stunned, 37-34, with 1:18 left in the game.
JAMES FRUSCIANTE – Watch video
Staples, Conn., 6-1, 175
The big-play, all-state and all-FCIAC West first-teamer averaged over 30 yards per punt return and 20 yards per catch (45 receptions, 932 yards) and totaled 16 touchdowns, 29 tackles and two interceptions. Frusciante also saved his best for last, totaling 10 catches for 274 yards and five touchdowns in the Wreckers' two state tournament games.
JOE TUSTIN – Watch Video
St. Anthony’s, L.I., 6-2, 295
Tustin led a big, mobile offensive line that made running game the featured attraction in the Friars’ vaunted triple-option attack. Tustin played right guard and that was the direction that Anthony Anderson (682 yards), Greg Galligan (397), Jordan Gowins (443), Niam Jones (496) and Brendan Femiano (470) often ran. He has been offered by Army.
SHAWN FLAHERTY – Watch Video
St. Joseph Regional, N.J., 6-2, 270
The Green Knights' rugged center earns All-State honors a second consecutive year, but this time with the added feature of having done so for New Jersey's No. 1 team. Flaherty directed a hard-working line that helped St. Joseph (10-2) carve out 3,023 rushing yards and amass 1,723 through the air. He helped the Green Knights claim two straight Non-Public, Group 3 championships.
DORIAN MILLER – Watch video
Metuchen, N.J., 6-2, 295, committed to Rutgers
Miller's Bulldogs had a tough season at 3-7, but he compensated more than adequately by roughing up any defensive linemen that stood in his path. He averaged just over three pancake blocks a game and played the last three years without ever allowing a sack. His quick feet led the way for 95 percent of Metuchen's running plays.
MARCELL LAZARD – Watch video
Bloomfield, N.J., 6-6, 290, committed to West Virginia
He used his surprising quickness and brute strength to lead the Bengals' balanced ground attack and provide security for QB Mike Carter. Bloomfield produced over 3,500 yards behind Lazard and reached the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 5 final. He helped out at DT in that game and was a big reason why Bloomfield was able to force OT with undefeated Montclair without the injured Carter in the lineup. Bloomfield lost on a field goal, 16-13.
QUENTON NELSON (Junior) – Watch video
Red Bank Catholic, N.J., 6-5, 280
Behind Nelson's sturdy work at left tackle, the Caseys racked up almost 2,700 rushing yards and scored a school-record 386 points on their way to a 10-1 season. He also was a mainstay on the RBC defensive line, compiling 42 tackles (seven for losses), seven sacks, and 15 QB pressures.
JON GERMANO – Watch video
Bergen Catholic, N.J., 5-11, 185
Game after game, Germano fed his receivers well and tested the skills and sanity of talented defensive backs all over North Jersey---and this was with 2011 All-State receiver John Tsimis sidelined the entire season by injury. Germano completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,139 yards and 38 touchdowns and also rushed for 513 yards and 10 TDs. His ability find the open man with a crisp, accurate throw was only surpassed at times by his penchant to scramble for big first downs.
EBENEZER OGUNDEKO – Watch video
Jefferson, NYC, 6-4, 225
The highly touted 6-foot-4, 238-pound two-way lineman lead the PSAL with 15 sacks and has offers from more than 30 BCS-level colleges. Ogundeko, who also had 71 tackles, will announce his college choice at the Under Armor All-American Bowl on Jan. 4.
JAY HAYES (Junior) – Watch video
Poly Prep, NYC, 6-4, 270, committed to Notre Dame
Hayes started his junior year as one of the most coveted offensive linemen in the country. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder ended it as a defensive lineman who verbally committed to the University of Notre Dame, picking the Irish among 53 BCS-level offers.
ALQUADIN MUHAMMAD – Watch video
Don Bosco Prep, N.J., 6-4, 230
This rangy, explosive end was an important part of the Ironmen's last two Non-Public, Group 4 titles and a thoroughly disruptive force again this season, though young Don Bosco was not able to extend its six-year title run. Muhammad made an official visit to Miami last weekend and has a second lined up this weekend with Notre Dame. Muhammad will represent New Jersey in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Jan. 5 in San Antonio.
RAZOHNN GROSS – Watch video
Don Bosco Prep, N.J., 5-11, 215
Gross and Alquadin Muhammad anchored a fierce defensive line that was unarguably the strength of Don Bosco's defense, and perhaps the entire team. Following a 13-6 loss to Gilman (Md.) to open the season, the Ironmen called upon the experience and leadership of that unit to restore order, and Bosco did with a 20-10 win over talented St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) to set off an eight-game winning streak.
KURT HOLUBA – Watch video
Bergen Catholic, N.J., 6-4, 235
He did a tremendous job of funneling ball carriers to the linebackers, but also took matters into his own hands only plenty of occasions. Holuba had 12 solo tackles and 45 assists and compiled eight sacks for the Crusaders.
MARK FOSSATI (Junior) – Watch video
St. Joseph Regional, N.J., 5-10, 195
Passion and durability define the play of this versatile junior. His motor runs at warp speed whether hitting the B gap for a block, tracking down a ball carrier or kicking off. Fossati racked up 154 total tackles (35 on first hits) and 2.5 sacks. He also carried for six touchdowns for the Non-Public, Group 3 champion and No. 1 team in the Tri-State.
STEVEN CASALI – Watch video
Sachem East, L.I., 6-2, 220, committed to UMass
Casali won the Hansen Award as Suffolk’s outstanding player for his sideline-to-sideline performances at linebacker (104 tackles) and bruising running style (1,895 yards, 20 TDs). He also won Suffolk linebacker and running back awards and the Rob Burnett Award as Long Island’s top defensive player.
JOE CLARKE – Watch video
New Rochelle, N.Y., 6-2, 218
From a pure talent standpoint, Clarke just may be the best all-around football player on this list. The tight end/defensive end completely shut down his side of the field, notching 40 tackles, including 7.5 sacks for the Class AA state champs. He also caught 26 passes for 466 yards and nine touchdowns, including the game-winner in the final minute to beat Shaker in the state semifinals. Clarke is also the area’s top punter.
NADIR BARNWELL – Watch video
Piscataway, N.J., 5-11, 185, committed to Rutgers
Barnwell missed the first two games this season (Chiefs were 1-1) with a shoulder injury, but returned to lead Piscataway to a third consecutive sectional final. The Chiefs fell to Elizabeth in the final minute, 37-33, to end a two-year championship run, though Barnwell had already secured his legacy as one of this program's best of all time. He was a sterling talent out of the secondary and he also leaves as one of the school's most prolific QBs ever.
ISAIAH CURETON – Watch video
Sayreville, N.J., 6-1, 175
Cureton's remarkable versatility helped the Bombers' overcome significant graduation losses and lock down a perfect 12-0 record and a third straight Central Jersey, Group 4 title. He made 33 tackles out of the secondary and provided priceless leadership for a defense that allowed only 7.5 points a game. Cureton also threw six TD passes and ran for four as the team's QB.
EDDIE ROBINSON – Watch video
Lawrence, L.I., 6-1, 195, committed to Colgate
The sure-handed receiver had 51 catches for 1,156 yards and a Long Island record 19 touchdowns. On defense, he made 59 tackles, forcing three fumbles and making four interceptions. He returned one of those picks 30 yards for what proved to be the game-winning TD against Sayville in Class III LIC.
JOHN HAGGART – Watch video
Sayville, L.I., 6-1, 213, committed to Stony Brook
This unstoppable edge-rusher had 11.5 sacks among his 41 tackles. Stony Brook liked him so much it offered him a scholarship to play linebacker at the next level. A force on offense, too, Haggart, a second-team All-L.I. selection last year, led the Golden Flashes (11-1) with 1,430 yards rushing and 21 TDs.
SAEED BLACKNALL (Junior) – Watch video
Manalapan, N.J., 6-2, 190
He emerged as one of the most exciting juniors in the state, both for his ability to consume big yardage off receptions and returns and his knack for prohibiting sizable gains out of the secondary. Blacknall hauled in 40 passes for 743 yards, scored 16 touchdowns and averaged 47.1 yards on kick returns. He also was in on 44 tackles for the 11-1 Braves.
ZANE WASP -- Watch video
Chaminade, L.I., 6-0, 170
Wasp made his mark when it counted, nailing the winning 33-yard field goal with 52 seconds left to defeat St. Anthony’s, 17-16, and win Chaminade its first CHSFL title since 1998. Converted 44-of-46 extra points and made three of four field goals, accounting for 53 points. Added 35 touchbacks.
COACH OF THE YEAR
STEPHEN BOYD -- Watch video
Boyd led Chaminade to its first Catholic league championship since 1998, defeating St. Anthony's after losing 18 in a row to the CHSFL juggernaut. The Flyers went 10-1, with their only loss coming in a 24-23 Sept. 29 loss to the Friars.
Profiles compiled by MSGVarsity.com staff