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Syracuse takes aim at the state of Rutgers

On June 6th, 2010, the traditional New Jersey-Northeast All-Star Classic will once again be held within the confines of Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey. It may seem as if this game has existed since time immemorial, but it actually dates back to 1998.

The 2010 game will be the 13th edition of this annual event.  The game was conceived in 1998 and ran until 2008 as the Governor’s Bowl and the New York-New Jersey All-Star Classic.  In 2009, the New Jersey Football Coaches Association took full control of the event and broadened its reach to include the entire Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Region of the United States.

Bravo to the NJFCA for taking charge. NJ had amassed a 7 to 3 series edge through 2008, and it was clear that the game was a jarring mismatch. From that point onward, the game would be held exclusively in Piscataway instead of alternating between Rutgers Stadium and West Point, and the NY rosters would be expanded to include surrounding states. The results worked beautifully last year, with a NJ-NE All-Star Classic filled to the brim with future Division I talent.

I had been looking for full game rosters, but Scott Stump was kind enough to share a link to the NJFCA site. Be advised that there are several omissions on the rosters. For instance, Reuben Frank from Poughkeepsie (a UConn commit) pulled out from a competing game (read on) when offered an invite. Supposedly kicker Jack Malloy from Harrison and Jeff Mack from Iona prep are among the other additions to the NE roster. Notable from the NJ roster are that K Nick DeLouisa from 'Lata and G Bryan Leoni from Hunterdon Central are listed as attending Rutgers, presumably as walk-ons. They'll be joining '10 signees Dave Milewski, J.T. Tartacoff, and Jorge Vicioso. Typically, many players do choice to forgo these types of postseason events.

Back in December, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone and the New York State High School Football Coaches Association announced creation of their own competing game. It's not as if commits to Syracuse and other regional schools had been shortchanged the year before, but fine, that's within their rights. It's another showcase and postseason reward for programs across the border in New York State. Hence, the upcoming inaugural Upstate/Downstate Football Classic at the Carrier Dome. Through the association with Marrone, it's a game inexorably tied to Syracuse football.

Too bad it can't be as simple as some kids having one last high school football hurrah. U/D Classic's initial media release happened to include this little "gem", which can only be described as complete rubbish.

The New York State High School Football Classic was established following the dissolution of the New York – New Jersey All Star Football Classic (formerly The Governors Bowl).

No! That game was not dissolved! Not only does it still exist, it's going on stronger than ever in its thirteen itineration. Countless media outlets accepted this falsehood hook, line, and sinker when reporting on that game back in January, and it continues to persist to this very day. At least cite negotiations crumbling or something along those lines.

Oh, and there's also the little factoid that the game was scheduled for the first Sunday in June (the 6th); exactly when the NJ-NE game had been played in 2009, and where the contest will yet again occur this year. The Syracuse game starts two hours earlier (at 1 pm, as opposed to 3 pm), so presumably only those lucky few that are Helicopter-enabled will be able to attend both events. I knew there was a reason that Coach Schiano swears by the things.

Many New York coaches do appear to be on board with the competing game. Joe Vito from Roosevelt coached at Rutgers Stadium a mere two years ago, but this year he'll roam the Carrier Dome sidelines in charge of the Downstate team. New Rochelle's Lou DiRienzo, in the midst of this week's Ray Rice day festivities (Rice was another past star of the Governor's Bowl/NY-NJ Classic), is sending his son up to the Dome. Neither necessarily has any implication for Rutgers, although the Scarlet Knight staff undoubtedly understands the importance of cultivating good relationships in the Empire State.

Despite any bluster out of Syracuse and the shared date, the fledgling U/D game is more akin to NJ's long-standing North-South game than a serious competitor to the established NJ-NE Classic as a venue for marquee competition. The latter contest stands shoulders ahead, as it'll be telecast once again on Ch. 9 (and subsequently re-aired on the NFL Network), with Rutgers alumnus Shaun O'Hara from the New York Giants on commentary. U/D will be available on NY Time-Warner Cable systems.

Frankly, the talent disparity between the games is so jarring that they're not very comparable. The NJ-NE game is littered with major conference FBS signees, including New York star (and Virginia Tech signee) Jerome Lewis, and the afore-mentioned Frank, not to mention Syracuse verbal Jerome Smith. There is not a complete roster for the U/D game online at this moment, although the Upstate roster is out, and includes one Syracuse signee. There are partial Downstate rosters here and there, however.

If the game was just about the kids, that'd be all well and good. In fact, it's a savvy move to help Doug Marrone score points and repair damaged relationships to New York high school programs that Greg Robinson torched and burned to the ground. Don't go expecting a magic bullet that somehow turns the Empire State Building orange though. That's clearly not in the cards, and setting expectations that high will inevitably lead to future disappointment. By all means, good luck with the game, but the New Jersey-Northeast All-Star Classic is the premier postseason high school football game for the entire region, and will remain as such.

Now, let's go back to any regularly scheduled NJ-NE pre-week anticipation.