Talent evaluator David McCarthy is as enthused as ever about just how strong Essex County football will be this upcoming season and his high praises go beyond what should be an outstanding East Orange Campus team along with intriguing possibilities for other large schools such as West Orange and Montclair.
But, other areas of the county also have him anticipating terrific tidings come November and possibly early December as both Irvington and the city of Newark are simply stocked to the brim with athletes to watch in 2019.
“There has been a resurgence in both Irvington and the city of Newark and the coaches there are doing great jobs of developing some sensational talent coming up,” said McCarthy, who puts together The McCarthy Report, which has evaluated talent around the state for college recruiters for the past 60 years, including more than a half a century with its founder, David’s dad, Dennis McCarthy, running the show before he passed away in May of 2017. “My dad always talked about the great potential in so many of the kids coming out of Newark and Irvington, and now coaches like Marion Bell at West Side, Brian Logan at Weequahic, Darrin Davis at Newark Collegiate and Ashley ‘Smoke’ Pierre at Irvington are grooming some simply outstanding kids into college prospects the recruiters are going to be coming out to see for sure.”
In Irvington, where Pierre has a simply loaded squad this coming season, two rising juniors, outside linebacker Mikai Gbayor (6-2, 210) and D-lineman Justin Jenkins (6-2, 275) have already received offers from Nick Saban and the University of Alabama.
Add in key rising seniors such as reigning Sideline Chatter Essex County Offensive Player of the Year Zakee Swann (5-8, 175) at running back, his twin Zahir (5-8, 175) at slot receiver Nasir Clark (6-2, 165), Tyrell Edwards (6-2 185) and Taiyon Battle (6-0, 185) in the secondary and there is plenty on hand to portend that the Blue Knights could be right there at the end with the likes of East Orange Campus and perhaps West Orange, Montclair or Seton Hall Prep as far as being among the top teams in Essex County when it’s all said and done.
“My man Smoke Pierre has it going on all cylinders right now,” said McCarthy. “They’ve been real good for a few years now, and they have some of the best young talent on the entire East Coast.
“To have two underclassmen already receive offers from ‘Bama is pretty impressive indeed and seniors like the Swans make them an explosive offensive team to watch this season.”
Irvington, which was 3-7 in 2015, has gone 8-2, 8-3 and 8-4 in Pierre’s first three seasons at the helm and there have been some hard-fought playoff battles, including last fall with a 20-17 double-overtime win at Randolph in the North 2, Group 4 semifinals before a tough loss at Phillipsburg in the final.
While Shabazz was hit hard by graduation and has bid adieu to Darnell Grant, who is now fully immersed with the new challenges at West Orange, McCarthy sees the Bulldogs remaining a solid program under their new leadership with Tyrone Turner at the helm.
“Coach Turner will keep the ship headed in the right direction,” he said. “They lost a lot of seniors from last year but the future remains bright at Shabazz.”
Newark Collegiate Academy is a program that has made inroads in its relatively short football history as former Immaculate standout Davis has been guiding that Brick City program which keeps getting better each fall.