By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Matt Toplin was hoping for one more chance to put on the pads and get on the football field before heading off to college.
Thanks to the Sunshine Football Classic, Toplin will get that chance.
The Princeton High graduate is one of several Packet-area players who will play in the Sunshine Classic on Thursday, June 30 at the College of New Jersey. Now in its 20th year, the Sunshine Football Classic has awarded $102,000 to the Sunshine Foundation and over &50,000 in scholarships at the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Scholar-Leader dinners.
“I am looking forward to one last chance to put on the pads and strap it on and play,” said Toplin, who does not plan to play football when he heads to James Madison University later this summer. “It’s one last chance to play with the kids I grew up playing football with.
“All the other guys are top players in the CVC and there is a lot of talent in the game. It is nice to get one more time guys play against them.”
Toplin had a strong senior season as a lineman for the Little Tigers. While his former teammates who are playing in the Sunshine Classic — Rory Helstrom and David Beamer — are going to be playing football in college, this will be the last time on the field for Toplin.
“I knew I wanted to get name into the process to be selected to play,” Toplin said. “I went to the game last year and all of my teammate who graduated and played last year said they had a fun time. I wasn’t sure if I would be selected to play or not. I know there are a lot of great players at offensive line, so when I took my helmet off after my last game I was not expecting to play again.”
But it worked out well and Toplin was selected to be a part of the game.
“It is nice to get one more game,” Toplin said. “I have been playing football for eight or nine years. I started in elementary school. This will be a nice, less intense way to end my career.
“I am looking forward to playing again with the Princeton guys and I know a lot of the other players as well. I live in Cranbury, so I grew up playing for the Hightstown Rams and West Windsor Wildcats. So I know a lot of guys from Hightstown, North and South.”
In addition to Toplin, the West roster includes Princeton High grads Beamer and Helstrom. The roster for the West also includes West Windsor-Plainsboro North’s Malik Thompson, Jahvon Jackson, C.J. Markisz, and Roland Anderson, WW-P South’s Jack Holleran, Jordan DeGroote, Nick Hancock, and Joe Garrison, and the Hun School’s Luke Apuzzi.
WW-P North head coach Jeff Reilly is the defensive coordinator, while the staff includes Knights’ assistant Brian Snell.
For many of the players, the Sunshine game is a chance to get themselves back into football mode before heading off to college. But for players like Toplin, it provides one last opportunity to get on the field and play.
“I wasn’t really considering playing in college,” Toplin said. “If I happened to go to a smaller school, maybe I would have tried. I am happy to get a chance to play. I went last year to watch the guys and it was a lot of fun and they said they had a good time. It should be a fun game and I know it is also for a great cause.”
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor