8-24 Issue:Layout 1
All Shore Media Sports Review
12. The European version of football dominated Salazar’s household when he was younger, but after being convinced by his friends to come out for the team as a freshman, he is a four-year varsity player for the Falcons who doesn’t know what his life would be without football.
n making the rounds at various Shore Conference football training camps during the preseason, I have been reminded of just how much football means to high school athletes and coaches. While all of the players certainly wouldn’t mind a scholarship to a big-time college program, the majority of them are in it just because they love the game. Last year it was Freehold quarterback Nick Tyson sitting in the coaches’ room before practice in August and telling me that all he wanted was his senior season and whatever happened after that was gravy. Tyson was recovering from a broken vertebra in his neck, and as Shore Conference fans know, the rest was history as he went on to help lead the Colonials to their first state sectional title in school history. This year it’s Keansburg senior quarterback Frank Soleo, who is profiled in this issue, willing himself to return for his senior year after a horrific, freakish injury in which he tore up his left arm and nearly lost his life. College and life after the Titans’ season is important, for sure, but Soleo could not have imagined his life without one final year, so he put in the countless hours of rehabilitation to make sure he got cleared by his doctor to participate this year. Soleo is not going to end up at Florida or Oklahoma or any place like that next year, so his motivation was purely just to get back on the field and play, whether it leads to any scholarship money or not. I have also been reminded of how players who come from backgrounds where football was not front in center have come to love the game with the same passion as ones who were playing flag football shortly after they learned to walk. Long Branch linebacker Omar Elsherbeiny was burning to get on the field during the Green Wave’s recent intrasquad scrimmage, as he had to watch from the sidelines with a brace on after suffering a minor MCL injury that sidelined him for two weeks. Elsherbeiny’s parents are Egyptian, so the American version of football was not necessarily something they were intimately familiar with. However, he picked the game up in high school and fell in love with it, and it showed on his face how much it hurt to not even be able to participate in something as routine as an intrasquad scrimmage. In a similar vein to Elsherbeiny, Monmouth Regional senior two-way lineman Fernando Salazar has quickly gotten football into his veins despite having little exposure to it until he and his family moved to the United States from Mexico when he was
He received an award at the team banquet following last season, and he visibly swelled with pride when he recounted how much it meant to his family that he was recognized. It was the same type of pride displayed by the members of the “6 a.m. Club,’’ who are also profiled in this issue. The group of Long Branch players who were a part of the club, which trained five days a week by peeling themselves out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, wore their membership to the club like a badge of honor. They wouldn’t have done it if they didn’t love football and didn’t want to collectively succeed as a team one year after they missed out on a state playoff berth. Their dedication then reminded me of a coach who loved football more than anyone I’ve ever met – Vic Kubu. The two-year anniversary of coach Kubu’s death at 65 years old after a battle with cancer is on Aug. 26, which is a time to remember a man who won a Shore Conference-record 11 state sectional championships and believed that every day you were either getting better or getting worse because there was no inbetween. All who knew him tell stories about how he worked on something football-related every single day, even if the season might be months away, because that’s what it took to be the best and that’s how much satisfaction he got from being involved with the game.
and Manasquan. Even when the cancer was ravaging his body, he never let it stop him from being at the field and coaching his team, just like Soleo and Tyson would not let catastrophic events rob them of the game that defines much of their lives. They didn’t do it for adulation and positive press, they did it because they love the game and everything it has given to them. Sometimes in this job, you start to wonder if players are only in it so that they can get all the credit, or because they are under the thumb of an Vic Kubu overbearing father trying to compensate for his failed career, or because they want the biggest headlines, or they want to get ranked somewhere on a recruiting list. The good thing is that sometimes it’s not all about getting your name on some recruiting website, or getting a headline in the newspaper, or getting a scholarship to a big-time program. I would like to thank a group of Shore Conference players and coaches for reminding me of that.
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The fire that I saw this past week in these current players is something Kubu carried with him for 32 seasons at Middletown North
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August 24 Isuue 11