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Roselle's Rutgers-bound running back Isiah Byrd (6) should be a player to keep a close eye on in Monday night's Phil Simms New Jersey North-South Classic at Kean as the Rams standout plays in one more high school football game prior to college ball. (photo courtesy of Roselle football)

Rutgers-Bound Roselle Standout RB
Key Cog For North In Simms Classic
By JR Parachini
For sidelinechatter.com

When Isiah Byrd was given the ball you better have been paying attention.

Because if you weren’t, there was a good chance you were going to miss a Roselle touchdown.

An electrifying 6-point Ram jaunt to the end zone.

That was his job last fall.

The senior tailback didn’t disappoint.

Byrd (5-9, 205) had one of the most productive seasons seen in Union County in recent years in 2016.

Byrd carried the ball 200 times for 2069 yards and scored 34 touchdowns, 31 rushing and three receiving.

Byrd ran for 810 yards and eight touchdowns during his first season with Roselle in 2015. He transferred from East Orange Campus to play with former East Orange Campus coaches Williams and Marion Bell, with Bell serving as Roselle’s offensive coordinator last season.

“He dedicated himself in the weight room and ran track,” Williams said. “Hands down he was one of the top three running backs in New Jersey. I will put his numbers up with anybody.

“He’s just a powerful kid. He squats 400. When he hits the hole he doesn’t dance. He’s a north-south runner.”

That should be perfect for his next game.

That’s because Byrd will represent Roselle in Monday’s (June 26) 39th annual Phil Simms North-South High School All-Star Football Classic, with a kickoff of 7 p.m. at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium in Union.

Williams said that Byrd will attempt to make it at Rutgers as a preferred walk-on.

Williams also said Byrd turned down offers from smaller schools  Seton Hill, East Stroudsburg and St. Francis, Pa .

Byrd was a two-year starter for Williams at Roselle after playing his first two years at East Orang Campus.

“His junior year we didn’t know what to expect,” Williams said.  “It was kind of a so-so year, one he was not expected to have.

“He then ran track and put his body through a rigorous workout plan. He came back ready to go.

“Among his strengths are his ability to read the defense and read his blocks.”

The North won last year’s rain-filled contest at Kean by the score of 7-0 to pull to within 18-17-2 in the series. There was no game in 2002 because of extended inclement weather.

The North has never led in the series. A victory Monday night by the North would put it even again and with another chance – next year – to take its first lead.

Shaquil Jones of Roselle, a 6-3, 225-pound defensive lineman, replaced Summit’s Liam Dougherty, who was originally selected and had his picture taken at Media Day.

Dougherty was a captain and three-year starter at Summit and for his stellar play last fall was named to the New Jersey Football Coaches Association’s Super 100 team.

UNION COUNTY PLAYERS

ON THE NORTH ROSTER:

6-Isiah Byrd, Roselle, (5-9, 205), RB

8-Jahmin Muse, Elizabeth, (6-2, 195), WR

13-Joseph Stuckey, Hillside, (6-0, 190), DB

16-Zahir Wilder, Rahway, (6-0, 180), DB

23-Traivon Hodge, Linden, (5-11, 185), LB

60-Shaquil Jones, Roselle, (6-3, 225), DL

(replaces Liam Dougherty of Summit)

64- Owen Kessler, Westfield (6-3, 245) DL

78-Darrell Davis, Union, (6-4, 285), OL

Jones, projected to be a defensive end at Pace when he arrives in Pleasantville, N.Y., was a four-year starter for Williams.

“He was a tough kid on the field and he always came to practice with his hard hat and ready to work,” Williams said.

Jones produced 61 tackles last year that included 11.5 quarterback sacks. Jones also had one interception and two fumble recoveries.

“He’s a real steady kid, one of the best kids I ever coached,” Williams said.

Byrd and Jones helped Roselle win 10 games for the first time in program history. The Rams finished 10-1 and reached the Central Jersey, Group 2 semifinals for the second time in three years.

Elizabeth standout Jahmin Muse will next play at Boston College, seeking to excel on defense in the secondary.

He will play wide receiver Monday night for the North.

Other players from New Jersey that signed with Boston College included Ben Petrula of St. Peter’s Prep, Paul Theobald of Seton Hall Prep, Marcus Valdez of Don Bosco Prep and T.J. Rayam of the Peddie School. None of those Boston College-bound players are in the North-South Game.

Union lineman Darrell Davis will continue playing at Division 2 Indiana University in Pennsylvania.

Joseph Stuckey of Hillside, who will play on defense for the North, was also a top-notch wide receiver for the Comets.

Wilder helped lead Rahway to the state playoffs the past two seasons under new head coach Brian Russo.

Traivon Hodge was a consistent tackler for Linden, which finished 5-5 last fall following a 1-4 start.

Westfield's Kessler Defensive Star To Watch In North-South Classic

Westfield was led defensively by lineman Owen Kessler, who will continue playing collegiately at Georgetown. He was a defensive MVP in Westfield’s 15-13 win over Bridgewater-Raritan in last year’s North 2, Group 5 championship game at MetLife.

Some kids are considered impact players.

They make special plays every now and then.

Westfield's Kessler is different.

He makes special plays - it seems - all the time.

"He was very special and very dominant," said Westfield head coach Jim DeSarno, who will be excited to see Kessler play one more time before he heads to Georgetown.

An nj.com First Team All-State selection and the Mid-State 38 Conference's Player of the Year in 2016, Kessler will lead the North against the South in Monday's 39th annual Phil Simms North-South High School All-Star Football Classic at Kean University in Union. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

A standout lineman, which is where he will play at Georgetown, Kessler was the main focal point of a Westfield defense that yielded just under 10 points last season. His prowess as a defensive stalwart the past three years as a starter helped the Blue Devils reach the North 2, Group 5 semifinals in 2014 and then win the section for the first times in 2015 and 2016. Westfield went 12-0 the past two seasons for the first time ever.

"He made such an impact every game," DeSarno said. "He did something every game for us. He's the kind of player we won't be able to replace, certainly with one player."

A quiet kid who led by example, Kessler made his presence felt - perhaps - in the biggest manner during Westfield's 15-13 win over Bridgewater-Raritan in last year's N2, G5 final at MetLife. He was simply unblockable at key moments in the game, often pressuring the quarterback and constantly in the backfield to make a tackle.

"He continued to make himself better," DeSarno said. "He is a ferocious pass rusher and more powerful than he looks.

"You put all of those traits together and you have one heck of a player."

Last fall, Kessler produced 56 tackles, including 13 for sacks. His play on the defensive line the last three years is a big reason why Westfield will open its 2017 campaign on a 25-game winning streak.

Follow JR Parachini on Twitter @parachini_jr

Roselle's Isiah Byrd (6) moves behind his blockers. (Photo by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

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