Bragging rights: North wins All-Star Classic
The last time Tyler Condit had exited Kean University's Alumni Field, it was with slow, heavy steps brought on by exhaustion and disappointment.
Big difference on his return visit Monday night when the talented linebacker from Caldwell was practically carried off the field.
Condit intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter that led to Elijah Hughes' go-ahead touchdown and he also thwarted a South drive later in the game to power the North to a 14-7 win at the 34th New Jersey North-South All-Star Football Classic in Union. That narrowed the North's series disadvantage to 16-15-2.
The clutch performance by Condit could not alter Caldwell's heartbreaking loss to Madison Dec. 2010 in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 2 championship at Kean. But it did extricate some of the bad memories about the place and capped his high school career on a high note.
"When we lost the state championship here, that was a tough pill to swallow. I came in here with a little chip on my shoulder," Condit said. "Nice to finish off this year with a win, and fitting to finish it here."
Condit, who'll continue at New Haven, was in on eight tackles to go along with his interception and sack to anchor a hard-hitting defense that allowed 197 yards and shut out the South in the second half. The South defense, led by Rumson lineman Jack Eisenstadt, gave up only 180 total yards, but was put in a very tough spot after Condit's interception.
He dropped back from inside linebacker and made a nice over-the-shoulder grab on the pass down the middle, then turned and bolted for the end zone. Condit was stopped at the South 17 following a 41-yard return, and Hughes swept left end from there two plays later to snap a 7-7 tie with 8:34 to go. Diamo Streaser of Glen Rock added his second PAT.
"Of course I wanted to score," Condit said. "Not too many people know I played running back this year, as well. But I tried to make it. I just didn’t have enough left."
He was completely recharged when the South went for the first down on fourth-and-two from the North 10 with 3:15 left in the game. Condit and Seton Hall Prep lineman A.J Pravada stopped Colonia's Greg Jones for no gain.
The South got the ball back with 1:27 to go, but Paterson Eastside's Jeron Addison and Rahway's Dion Dawkins sacked Steinert QB Adam Reise at the North 47 with under a minute remaining.
"It was a challenge, but I kept pushing to get through," Addison said. "We wanted to get to the quarterback and we did. We talked about it at halftime and said defense had to win this game. Defense had to step up."
Addison has made a summer of doing just that. He was named defensive MVP for the North after receiving the same honor two weeks earlier for the winning East squad at the Paul Robeson All-Star Classic in East Orange.
"The past few days of practice, we became like brothers," Addison said. "It wasn’t a long time (that they practiced together), but we worked together and knew what we had to do here."
The teams practiced for three days at Kean, and that was ample time for the defense to become a cohesive group, according to Condit.
"As much as we don’t know each other, we really do know each other," he said. "We've been together the whole time. We eat together, watch movies together on down time, we're always together. I can't say enough about them."
Pennsauken quarterback Manny Cortez helped the South grab the lead when he engineered an 18-play, 83-yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard run by Colonia's Greg Jones with 7:24 to go in the first half. Cortez led the South in rushing with 48 yards on 10 carries and was named his team's offensive MVP. Nutley running back Matt DelMauro earned that honor for the North with a game-high 50 yards on 12 attempts.
"Everything I do, it's because of my line first. I've got to thank them," DelMauro said. "But I do work hard. That's all I know. If I'm not breaking it, I'm gonna work as hard as I can to get as much as I can. It's all heart."
DelMauro's sense of industry was apparent during the North's 16-play, 78-yard drive that opened the third quarter and knotted the score at 7-7 on a 28-yard pass from Hoboken's Spencer Perez to Lakeland's Jason Fuehring. DelMauro ran five times for 21 yards to help keep the chains moving.
"It's all line and defense," DelMauro said. "He (Condit) made a great play and set up that touchdown, and the line was great."
Mike Kinney covers football for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS