In a world where high school sports are more specialized than ever, with players choosing to focus on one sport as they prepare for the next level, the 2023 Marisa Rose Bowl Football All-Star Game will feature a unit that proves the benefits playing multiple sports.
Team Marisa will feature a talented group of seniors representing their high schools on the gridiron one final time in a contest slated for 7 p.m. June 29 at Woodbridge High School’s Priscoe Stadium. And what most of the receiving corps has in common isn’t just a penchant for making big catches.
The unit is led by South Brunswick’s Damarion Potts, who is fresh off three Top 3 finishes at the NISIAA Track Meet of Champions, including the state high jump title, an event he also won at the New Balance National Championships last weekend in Philadelphia.
Potts caught 21 passes for 373 yards and six touchdowns last year playing for the Vikings and veteran head coach Joe Goerge. He then won the Central Group 4 and state high jump titles (6-10) this spring, placing second at the MOC in the long jump (23-05.75) and third in the triple jump (46-11.00).
“I have always been a big proponent of the combination of football and track,” said Goerge who returned to the South Brunswick helm last fall after a three-year hiatus, having previously coached the Vikings from 2012-2018, and has two years coaching spring track during his time at Dayton High School. “I think there’s a really, really good connection. There’s no doubt how jumping is very relative to speed. Your vertical jump can really indicate what your speed time is. High jump, long jump, triple jump, those are the types of things that relate really well to football. It certainly carries over — and vice versa. And the big guys, I love to see them out throwing shot and discus. And in the winter, every one of the linemen should be wrestling.
As for Potts, who will run track at Rowan next year, the combination of wide receiver and jumper is a perfect match. But his ability outleap most defenders isn’t the only thing that makes him so effective on the gridiron.
“We know about his athleticism, but he’s also got excellent hands and excellent range,” Goerge said. “And you’ve got those ‘alley-oop’ passes in the end zone, which his leaping ability, his hands and his catching ability all lends itself to.
The Team Marisa receiving corps features plenty of other athletic standouts for Edison quarterback Matt Yascko and Old Bridge’s Brady Cavallaro to target in the passing game.
South River’s Joseph Lepore is a three-sport standout, having caught 31 passes for 562 yards and seven touchdowns last fall, before competing for the Rams wrestling team, and then making the Home News Tribune’s GMC All-Area baseball team this spring.
Monroe’s Aidan Lane (45-563-9) also plays baseball for the Falcons, while Edison’s Jon Baio (27-319-1) spends his winter season playing basketball for the Eagles. His Edison teammate, Michel Strachan, rounds out the Team Marisa receiving corps.
With so many phenomenal athletes suiting up for Team Marisa, perhaps it will be one of these receives who will make the different in the game. With limited practices and opportunities to scheme, all-star games are a great opportunity for a big-play receiver to impact things.
“It’s hard in these games when you’re trying to put something together in a week or two, or a handful of practices,” Goerge said. “It’s hard to drive the ball in 10-12 plays, just because of execution and things that take a while to (get right on the practice field). These are the type of games where, I think, you’d want to feature someone who can go make a game-breaking play.”
Staff writer Simeon Pincus has been covering NJ sports since 1997. He can be reached at SPincus@Gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @SimeonPincus