Final football game for Hudson’s finest players Frias, Mosqueida earn distinction; Rice, Rodger earn respect

After playing in the New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Association’s All-Star Baseball Classic earlier in the month, Emerson High School graduate Edwin Frias had to quickly change gears and prepare for the annual North-South All-Star Football Classic that was held last Monday night at Rutgers Stadium.

Needless to say, it wasn’t an easy transition, going from baseball to football in a matter of two weeks.

“Although it was a little hard, I felt like I was home, because this is what I’m supposed to do,” said Frias, who will head to the University of New Haven in a few weeks to get ready to try to play both sports there. “I felt comfortable doing it. The practices got me back into shape, even though it wasn’t really football shape. It was a reminder of what I have to do to get ready for college.”

The North coaching staff, which featured St. Peter’s Prep head coach Rich Hansen as an offensive coordinator, put the 50 or so players through a rigorous practice schedule once they arrived at Rutgers last Thursday.

“We had a workout Thursday, then three practices Friday, three on Saturday, and two on Sunday,” Hansen said. “It was nine sessions in a span of four days. It was crazy.”

Ferris defensive end Brent Rice, one of the four Hudson County products selected to play in the game, couldn’t believe the workout schedule.

“I mean, they had us in full pads for three-a-days,” Rice said. “We were in full pads for every practice. It wasn’t easy to do.”

But the four Hudson County players, namely Rice, Frias, Ed Rodger of St. Peter’s Prep and Iban Mosqueida of Union Hill, bonded together in Piscataway.

“We had a blast,” Rice said. “We called each other by our school names. The guys called me ‘Ferris’ and I called Rodger ‘Prep.’ Everyone knew Frias, because he’s the funniest dude I’ve ever met. But we all looked out for each other.”

Rice, who will attend the University of Maine on a football scholarship, was named the North squad’s captain.

“That was the highlight of me being there,” Rice said. “I was very honored that I was named a captain. It meant a lot to me, especially being with the others, who I bonded with almost instantly.”

The grueling workout schedule must have worked, because the North emerged with a 31-25 victory.

“It certainly woke me up,” Rice said. “I thought I was ready to put the pads on again. This was an eye-opener. It showed me that I have to do a lot more work before I go to college in terms of conditioning. I looked at it as my last high school football game and my first college game.”

For Frias and Mosqueida, there was another distinction. They were representing their schools, namely Emerson (Frias) and Union Hill (Mosqueida) for the very last time. In September, there will only be one school, Union City High School, so Frias and Mosqueida were the last athletes to ever represent the historic schools.

“I was the last guy to ever wear an Emerson football helmet,” Frias said. “A couple of Emerson people reminded me of that during the day. It was a great feeling to represent Emerson one more time. I didn’t know Iban that well before this week, but now, I really got to know him. Since I played against him all the time, I thought he was my enemy, but now, because of this, we’re now friends. It’s good to have him as a friend. We’ll keep in touch now. I think we both had a lot of pride in representing Union City.”

All of the Hudson County players had their hand in the victory. Frias had about six carries from the backfield. Rodger, headed to Johns Hopkins in the fall, was the anchor of the North offensive line at center. Mosqueida, going to William Paterson University, made a few tackles at defensive tackle and Rice actually blocked a punt that led to a North touchdown.

“I’ve blocked punts before, but that was a huge thrill,” said Rice, who doesn’t know where he will play at Maine.

“I cannot wait to get there,” Rice said. “I don’t know what they have planned for me. I just hope they plan on me playing. I hope they make me into a linebacker.”

“All of our kids played well,” said Hansen, who was coaching in his 15th high school All-Star game and his fifth at the North-South classic.

“It’s a thrill for me, because you’re dealing with kids from all over the state,” Hansen said. “We had a good bunch of kids and we had a good time there. And even though it’s an All-Star game, it’s always good when you win.”

Hansen had a lot of praise for his player.

“Ed was our best offensive lineman in my opinion,” Hansen said. “He worked hard. I think it helped that he knew me and I anchored the offensive line around him.”

Frias said that he had a lot of fun participating in both All-Star games, doing a rare bit of double duty.

“It was really a great time,” Frias said. “I can’t even explain how proud I am to be the last to wear the Emerson helmet.”

Frias is also fortunate to win the baseball All-Star classic and now has a victory in the football version.

“I guess I’m a good luck charm,” Frias said. – Jim Hague