Hudson Catholic was also able to celebrate National Signing Day last week, when three of the school’s products signed National Letters of Intent to attend major colleges on scholarships in the fall.
Standout linebacker Steven Harper, a four-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree, signed his letter to attend the University of New Hampshire in the fall.
Defensive back Javeon Ensley signed with the University of New Haven, an NCAA Division II school.
Lineman Nick Giordano signed on with St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, also a Division II program.
For a grid program that struggled to even get players six years ago, this was a major coup, having three kids participate in National Signing Day.
“It’s really big for us,” Hudson Catholic head football coach Lou Zampella said. “I’m happy for the kids. Their hard work and dedication has paid off. More importantly, they did what they had to do academically to get into these schools. They serve as role models to our younger kids that if they do right in the classroom, then there are opportunities out there.”
Harper was a devastating linebacker, first at Marist and for the last two years at Hudson Catholic. He also showed his dedication to the team by lining up as an offensive tackle last year.
“I don’t think most schools realize how fast Steven truly is,” Zampella said. “He has tremendous football instincts.”
Harper said that he had a tough decision leaving Marist in the first place.
“It was the hardest decision I ever had to make, leaving a team that I started with and had a bond with,” Harper said. “I just had to leave and move on. I had to do what was right for me. When I showed up here, I never realized there were so many people who cared about football and wanted to be great. From the first day, I felt like they invited me into their program.”
After Harper got settled in at Hudson Catholic, it was just a matter of picking up where he left off.
Harper was a little surprised that he didn’t have more offers to choose from. Central Connecticut State was in the mix. So was the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
“I seriously considered Navy, but after I thought about it, I realized that life wasn’t for me,” Harper said. “I wanted to make sure that wherever I went, people knew who I was. When I went on my official visit to New Hampshire, it was the place. The campus is beautiful. The layout is perfect. It was a real community there and I felt like I belonged, a lot like here at Hudson Catholic.”
Harper couldn’t believe that he was actually becoming a Division I football player.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Harper said. “I know a lot of kids don’t get this chance. I started thinking about this day when I was young. Now, as it’s happening, it’s sort of surreal.”
Harper will now head to the same school that former Hawk great Dwayne Sabb played at before going off to the New England Patriots and an appearance in the Super Bowl.
“I found that to be very ironic, especially since we’re both linebackers,” Harper said of Sabb. “They spoke about him when I was there for the visit.”
Ensley chose New Haven over similar schools such as American International College and Assumption.
“It was very tough to do, but after I thought about it, I based my decision on the coaching staff,” Ensley said. “There was also great campus life.”
Ensley will major in business and marketing at New Haven.
Giordano chose St. Anselm over Mount Union and Stevenson, two NCAA Division III schools. The offer to St. Anselm just came within the last few weeks.
“They called me and said that they were willing to offer me,” Giordano said. “I went to visit the school and really loved it. It means a lot to be a scholarship athlete. It was definitely a goal for me growing up. I’m so glad I got to share the day with my teammates, because they’re like my brothers.”
Giordano will more than likely play center at St. Anselm. He owns a 3.7 grade point average and will major in business at the school.
“This is the first year that I’ve had bonafide scholarship athletes,” Zampella said. “We’re also going to have others who go to Division III schools. First and foremost, we’re working on getting the kids into colleges. That’s the most important thing.”
Sure looks as if Hudson Catholic is doing it the right way…
Speaking of Hudson Catholic, the school’s basketball program lost a player and gained one for next year.
First, the one who left. Patrick Strzala, the sharpshooting small forward, has decided to transfer to Bayonne High School. Strzala will not play for Bayonne the rest of this season, but has enrolled in the school. He has a standing offer to attend Holy Cross in 2017 on scholarship, but it’s not known whether the scholarship will be jeopardized with the transfer….
Now, the arrival. The school announced that Louis King, a highly regarded 6-foot-8 forward from Pope John in Sparta, has enrolled at Hudson Catholic, but will not play for the remainder of this season. King is listed as one of the top 10 recruits in New Jersey with offers from Kansas, Syracuse, Seton Hall and St. John’s on the table…
And it was learned that current junior guard Tyheem Burno, a two-sport standout, has basketball offers from both Iona and Siena. Burno is also a fine football player.
Condolences go out to Ferris High School athletic director Mike Burgess, who tragically lost his wife, Barbara, suddenly last weekend. Burgess, the former long-time track and field coach at St. Peter’s Prep before taking the Ferris administrator’s position two years ago, is a beloved member of the Hudson County sports community.
And condolences to the Perkins family as well, as legendary figure Bill Perkins passed away after a long illness. Perkins, a former attorney and Jersey City politician, was a great football player in his day at Snyder and later the University of Iowa.
Perkins went on to play for the New York Jets in the franchise’s early days before injuries forced him to concentrate on his law practice. He later became a New Jersey state assemblyman representing Jersey City. A member of the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame, Bill Perkins was 76 years old.
His son, Guy Perkins, just donated $1.5 million to his alma mater, St. Peter’s Prep, to build a new athletic training facility near the school…
St. Anthony remains undefeated at 18-0 and the Friars are still the No. 1-ranked team in New Jersey, but they had to survive a scare from little-known Coastal Academy Blue of Belmar, winning 64-61 last Monday.
Asante Gist had 12 points and Jagan Mosely and Shyquan Gibbs had 11 points each in that game. The Friars have a big one upcoming next Saturday Feb. 20 at St. Augustine Prep in southern Jersey…
New Jersey City University’s men’s basketball team is on the verge of winning the New Jersey Athletic Conference regular season title. The Gothic Knights are now 13-3 in what is considered the toughest league in NCAA Division III basketball…
Next week, there will be another athlete who signed a National Letter of Intent for football featured here, from a public school in North Hudson, so stay tuned…
Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Anthony (18-0). 2. Hudson Catholic (15-3). 3. Union City (17-3). 4. St. Peter’s Prep (10-8). 5. Snyder (12-7)…
Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (16-2). 2. Lincoln (15-2). 3. Secaucus (14-5). 4. Marist (15-7). 5. North Bergen (13-5).—Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.