Robeson Classic honors Malcolm Bagley
It was only two months ago that Justin Laroda was chatting with Malcolm Bagley and telling him how much he looked forward to finally playing with him after so many years of sharing a friendly rivalry in their Pop Warner days.
The talented quarterback from East Orange Campus had no way of knowing that the next time he took the field, he'd actually be playing for Bagley.
Just over two weeks after Bagley's murder in his hometown of Orange, Laroda completed all six of his passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score and Orange's Jayquan Watson rushed twice for TD’s to power the East to a 47-0 win over the West in the 19th Paul Robeson All-Star Football Classic Monday night in East Orange. The East won for the third straight year and raised its series advantage to 17-2.
Both Laroda and Watson said they played to honor the memory of Bagley, who was shot to death on an Orange street May 27, not long after arriving back home for the summer from Dean College in Massachusetts. Bagley was a standout at Orange and Dean, and Laroda was set to join his old nemesis in September.
"I've got to do it. I've got to go up there (to Dean) and go represent for Malcolm. I wanted to represent for him tonight, too," Laroda said.
"It's hard knowing that he's not here. Next year was going to be our first year playing together; I was looking forward to it. We always played against each other and that was going to change."
Watson did play with Bagley at Orange in 2009 and '10, helping the Tornadoes go a combined 15-7 in those two seasons and reach the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 2 final in '10.
"I was thinking about him and I was trying to show everybody where I'm at as a back," Watson said. "I'm really an underground guy, so I just wanted to show everybody that I'm here and I'm ready."
Watson scored the game's first touchdown on a 3-yard run that followed a 17-yard pass play from Laroda to East Orange teammate Rammel Tisdale on the East's opening drive of the game. Watson later opened a 40-0 lead with a 55-yard run in the third quarter; his only carry of the half.
"It was kind of a competition we had," Watson said. "I told the receivers there's no way they're going to get more touchdowns than me. I told them the next time I touch the ball, I'm going to score."
Watson finished with 65 yards on five carries to lead the East in rushing, followed by Montclair star Khalif Herbin who registered 56 yards on 11 attempts.
The Temple-bound Herbin rushed for 1,950 yards and led the state with 43 touchdowns last season for the Mounties. He did not reach the end zone on this night, but felt as good about the experience as if he had reached the end zone.
"Regardless if I got in the end zone or not, I was going to enjoy it," Herbin said. "Actually, I was born in East Orange, so, I started here and I'm finishing my high school career here. Had a lot of fun. I enjoyed myself. "
It was difficult to find an East player who didn't. The offense rolled up 358 yards and the defense held the West to 120 total yards. Paterson Eastside lineman Jarod Addison anchored that stingy defensive unit with three of the East's six sacks.
The East is composed of players from Essex County and the western part of Passaic County. The West draws players from Morris, western Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties.
The East's rugged defense helped provide choice field position for the offense throughout the first half. Addison used his strength and quickness apply constant pressure on the QB, along with with Dane Irving of Newark Central, Omaine Stephens of East Orange, Jordan Davis of Columbia, Nate Phillipson of Cedar Grove and others.
The East moved ahead, 13-0, early in the second quarter with a 54-yard pass from Laroda to Tyshawn Headen of Newark Shabazz, and the lead grew to 26-0 later in the quarter with a 25-yard pass from Dontae Booker of Passaic Tech to Farrod Clarke of Orange and a 17-yard run by Laroda.
After helping to set up TD’s in the first half, the East defense got actively involved in the process on the West's first drive of the second. Stephens forced a fumble in the backfield and Anthony Angelone of West Orange recovered it in the end zone for a 33-0 lead.
Bloomfield's James Hull followed with his third of five extra points. Watson scored on his 55-yard run four minutes later for a 40-0 lead and Laroda hit Tiyahnn Bryant with a 24-yard pass later in the period to cap the scoring.
Laroda and Addison earned Outstanding Player awards for the East for offense and defense, respectively. Mountain Lakes QB Peter Breslauer and Lakeland linebacker Steve Secor were named for the West.
The Essex County Football Coaches Association enshrined three new members to its Hall of Fame at halftime. Former West Essex head coach Dave Drozjock, Caldwell head coach Ken Trimmer, and Montclair State assistant Rich O'Connor.
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS