Jersey Sports Zone is proud to announce the six finalists for the Zoneman Trophy, our version of New Jersey high school football player of the year. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, December 5 during JSZ’s second annual All-Zone football banquet at the APA Hotel in Woodbridge. Watch our profiles of six outstanding players and learn more about JSZ’s top football honor!
The Story of the Zoneman Trophy and Our Football Banquet
By Rich Chrampanis | Jersey Sports Zone Chief Operating Officer
In the year 2000, I received the great honor of a Heisman Trophy ballot as I started my tenure on television at WPDE-TV in Myrtle Beach. I was so excited to get the chance to weigh in on such a significant award and it got me thinking of bringing the same kind of excitement to our high school football coverage. So we built a trophy and instead of the Heisman, the Zoneman was born. During my 15 years, we were fortunate to have some outstanding winners of our award starting with former Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins linebacker Lawrence Timmons, former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson and current Clemson University wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who caught the game winning TD pass in the 2016 National Championship game. The Zoneman tradition is still going strong in South Carolina, began its New Jersey chapter on the Jersey Shore and is now a statewide honor. We’re excited to continue this tradition in New Jersey high school football as we will present the most outstanding player in the state with our Second Annual Zoneman Trophy.
The Zoneman Balloting
Our 2018 Zoneman was voted on by head coaches from every part of the state (WJFL, Shore Conference, Greater Middlesex Conference, Mid-State 38 and the NJSFC) as well as the JSZ staff and media representatives from around the state. Every ballot has a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place vote with three points awarded for 1st, two for 2nd and one point for 3rd. We are excited to announce the finalists for the 2018 Zoneman Trophy in alphabetical order:
Meet The 2018 Zoneman Trophy Finalists
Antonio Alfano, Colonia Defensive Lineman
Alfano has been the consensus top-ranked 2019 football recruit all season long and there’s good reason why. He is one of five New Jersey players selected to play in the 2019 All-American Bowl and is committed to play for Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide. Alfano dominated his competition in the Greater Middlesex Conference with 79 tackles and 10 sacks this season, along with a staggering 28 tackles for losses. JSZ’s Jay Cook gives you the inside-look at what makes Alfano such a highly-touted prospect:
Jada Byers, St. Joseph (Hamm.) Running Back
Byers was as electric as they come in the Garden State during his junior campaign. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon with the ball in his hands, rushing for 1,741 yards and 29 touchdowns on the season, all while helping power his St. Joe’s Wildcats to yet another Non-Public Group 2 championship. JSZ’s Nery Rodriguez takes you down to Hammonton for a behind-the-scenes look at South Jersey’s most electrifying runner:
Jalahn Dabney, Somerville Quarterback
Dabney took over the starting quarterback job in Somerville at the end of the 2017 season and showcased his dynamic playmaking ability well throughout 2018. He compiled 3,444 yards from scrimmage this season and reached the end-zone 56 times to lead one of New Jersey’s most dangerous offenses. JSZ’s Courtney DuPont tells us what makes this dual-threat quarterback tick:
Nick Kargman, Woodrow Wilson Quarterback
Kargman will graduate from Woodrow Wilson with plenty of state records compiled during his senior season. The decorated South Jersey passer broke the state record single season passing mark with 3,963 yards and his 41 passing scores rank atop the state lists, as well. But what’s even more impressive is Kargman’s character off the field, as it’s made him an important part of the Woodrow Wilson community. JSZ’s Nery Rodriguez tells us what makes Kargman so special:
Rahmir Johnson, Bergen Catholic Running Back
Johnson became the first Bergen Catholic rusher to break the 1,000-yard mark since 2008, a true testament to the level of competition that the Crusaders face on a week-to-week basis. After teammate Josh McKenzie went down with a torn ACL, Johnson assumed the full-time starting role and showcased his elite speed and craftiness all season long. He closed 2018 with 1,334 yards and 11 rushing scores. JSZ’s Jay Cook has the story about this humble teammate and Nebraska commit:
Steve Lubischer, Red Bank Catholic Quarterback
Intelligence and athleticism is the blend of characteristics that has made Lubischer one of New Jersey’s most talented signal callers. At Red Bank Catholic, Lubischer blossomed into a premier dual-threat passer who had the ability to break the game on any down. JSZ’s chief operating officer Rich Chrampanis followed Lubischer’s trajectory all season long and tells us why this Boston College commit is so special:
Other Top Vote-Getters
Only the top-six vote-getters are on our Zoneman podium, but there were other plenty of players around the Garden State who had great seasons and garnered votes from coaches and media around the state. Those players were:
7th Place: Taquan Roberson, DePaul Catholic quarterback: Roberson, a Penn State commit, closed out his senior season in masterful fashion for the Spartans. He threw 29 touchdowns for 2,432 yards and will go down as one of the most decorated quarterbacks to play in New Jersey.
8th Place: Jalen Berger, Don Bosco Prep running back: Berger led one of New Jersey’s most talented backfields at Don Bosco Prep by displaying elite patience and explosiveness. Only a junior, he holds offers from top-tier Power 5 college football programs and has plenty more in the tank for his senior year.
9th Place: Juwon Jackson, Piscataway running back: Jackson was a main reason why Piscataway reached a 13-0 record and won both a sectional title and a newly-minted “Bowl Game” at MetLife Stadium. He rushed for 1,898 yards and 31 touchdowns on the season.
10th Place: Ronnie Hickman, DePaul Catholic wide receiver/defensive back: Hickman was arguably the most dangerous two-way player in New Jersey. Committed to Ohio State, Hickman was one of five New Jersey football players selected to the 2019 All-American Bowl. His senior season was unfortunately cut short due to a torn ACL late in the year.
The 2018 JSZ Football Banquet
Jersey Sports Zone will honor the top players in the state at our second-annual JSZ Football Banquet set for Dec. 5, 2018 at the APA Hotel in Woodbridge. The All-Zone team will consist of top players at every position from around the state, winners from the Plays of the Week and Plays of the Year polls and the announcement of the coveted 2018 Zoneman Trophy.
We are excited to celebrate the 2018 season with video highlights of every single player in attendance. We will post our All-Zone team, all of our features and the announcement of our 2018 Zoneman Trophy winner right here on Jersey Sports Zone in the days leading up to and just after the banquet. Players and head coaches being honored are part of our guest list. Any family, friends or supporters of your hometown team can purchase tickets to our dinner and program at the link below: