Paramus Catholic hosted Mater Dei last night in a scrimmage that looked like a first scrimmage. First scrimmages can be much like first exhibition games in the NFL: sloppy with a lot of loose parts that haven’t gelled.
It’s also a scrimmage of two Catholic schools that have unique nicknames: the Paladins of Paramus Catholic and the Seraphs of Mater Dei.
For starters, I do not get into who scored more touchdowns; I look for certain things such as who looked good or did not – simple things that stand out. I am not sure who scored more and I don’t care. There are also a lot of substitutions in scrimmages that are not easy to pick up. In short, former Bergen Catholic coach Fred Stengel once told me scrimmages can be misleading and he’s right. 7-on-7’s are even more misleading, but that’s for another day. Lastly, there can be ten people watching that same scrimmage and there will be ten different opinions.
Back to the scrimmage.
It had its moments of sloppiness and the pace bogged down at times. It started as a controlled scrimmage before changing to down-and-distance. It was a 6:30 start and ended around 8:00. The varsity played on the end near where I was standing and the JV was on the other end of the 50-yard line.
Both teams have some very good players with the ability to be competitive. For Mater Dei, I think if we had playoffs this year, they would be on a collision course with DePaul. Paramus Catholic has the tougher road with their schedule, but don’t sell them short.
The player who impressed me was Mater Dei running back Rajahn Cooper. Having to fill the big shoes of Malik Ingram, the hard-nosed back they had the last two years who was built like a Sherman Tank, Cooper showed physical running and some finesse moves. The Seraphs will be in good shape with him carrying the ball. A sign that a player stands out in a scrimmage or game is when one says “who the hell is that?” and I said that about him last night. That’s one reason I go to scrimmages. I asked him afterwards how he spelled his name and hope I did him justice.
Dominick Giudice had his normal good game on the defensive line for Mater Dei and he told me afterwards he pronounces his name “Joo-deese.”
For PC, the publicized newcomer at running back is Sam Martin Jr. and he didn’t disappoint. The difference was I expected it from him, while I was not familiar with Cooper.
I was impressed with quarterback Kai Colon for the Paladins, showing top ability. I recently saw his Hudl film when he was at Minnisink, NY last year and I was impressed. I never would have known he was a sophomore at the time. Their other quarterback, Jahzair Hubbard, also saw action, but he may have had much of the second team with him: I’m not sure. Not to be outdone, Mater Dei’s Alex Brown showed athleticism.
Both teams have good players and neither team was heads and shoulders above the other. PC opens at Don Bosco next week, while Mater Dei travels to Red Bank Catholic. I wish both teams the best and while I didn’t get to mention it to PC’s players, I did to the Mater Dei’s walking by. I also exchanged brief pleasantries with head coach Dino Mangiero and wished him good luck. Ditto with PC’s John Whitehead and a few of his assistants.
With restrictions, including the press on the field and being limited to behind the end zone, I need to invest in some capable field glasses – especially when the action is at the other end of the field.
Please note, early games may not be crisp and precision-like with the restricted practice time the schools have had. In fact Mike Quick, the long-time MSG Network commentator, said they may not be crisp later in the season. Keep that in mind, before criticizing the players and coaches. It has been a difficult year for all of us and we need to appreciate the fact they are playing. Period.
Lastly, I talked with Mike Quick and the topic came to the late Ed Ford, better known as the Faa. He was a columnist for the Jersey Journal and before that, the Hudson Dispatch. I always thought the buildup to the 1992 championship between Paramus Catholic and Bergen Catholic brought me back into watching high school football – more specifically the comments of then-PC coach Mike Campanile. But it dawned on me the Faa may have been responsible, too. He may be why I am writing this right now. I picked up a paper when in Hudson County once and saw his column. After reading it, I picked up a Jersey Journal whenever I was in Hudson County. Quick said he liked to stir it up, who read him everyday – another who did so was Walt Stoll, long-time St. Joe’s line coach. The Faa gave Hudson County sports a vibe it no longer has. He had a way of making things larger than life and was a credit to the players. He surely is missed.