Graduates soak up their final scholastic game at the 2019 Gridiron Classic

Red Bank Catholic High School's cornerback Jaden Key (center #3) stopping a Ocean drive in Long Branch on July 12.
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Red Bank Catholic High School's cornerback Jaden Key (center #3) stopping a Ocean drive in Long Branch on July 12.

For the last time in high school, under the Friday night lights, graduated football players enjoyed one final competition when they competed in the annual All-Shore Gridiron Classic.

On the football field of Bresett Stadium at Long Branch High School, some of the top 95 players who recently graduated assembled on July 12 to participate in the 42nd all-star game for the Shore Conference. The all-star teams were split into Monmouth County and Ocean County.

The game was originally scheduled for July 11, but it was postponed one day due to thunder storms in the state.

Monmouth County extended its winning streak in the series to three straight when it scored a 21-6 victory over Ocean County. Monmouth now holds a 23-18-1 lead in the All-Shore Gridiron Classic.

“We get five days to put a bunch of literally strangers together and the boys and coaches did a great job. Monmouth players are a little bit of a different breed,” said Monmouth County’s head coach, Jerry Schulte, who is also head coach for Rumson-Fair Haven High School.

Players from Red Bank Catholic High School, Rumson-Fair Haven High School and Monmouth Regional High School were selected to play for Monmouth County in the all-star game.

Wide receiver/cornerback Jaden Key of Red Bank Catholic started the game for Monmouth.

“It is an honor to be selected in the fraternity of all others who have played in this game. This great being able to represent my school and family for one more time,” he said. “This game has given me time to think about how thankful I am. Not many people get to extend their football careers past high school. Tonight just makes me feel nostalgic about the time I am going to miss.”

Key was part of a Red Bank Catholic football team that made it to the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 3 playoff final in 2018. The Caseys of RBC defeated Mater Dei Prep, 14-10, for the state playoff title at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

“Seeing so many of my family in the stands tonight this game means a lot. I know a lot of them won’t be able to make my games in college,” Key said.

Key will be attending the University of Pennsylvania, where he will also continue playing football.

He was joined by safety Anthony Romano and linebackers John Columbia and Steve Cmielewski to represent RBC in the all-star game.

During the game, Key was also selected as the game’s Sam Mills award winner for Monmouth County.

The award is named after the Long Branch graduate and former NFL All-Pro linebacker, the late Sam Mills. The award is presented to the player who shows the most perseverance, character and determination.

Rumson-Fair Haven was another state champion program with representatives at the all-star game.

“It is a privilege to be here tonight. I have been having the best time,” said defensive back Ryan Dupree of Rumson-Fair Haven. “The experience of winning a state title is something I will never forget not only the sectional championship but to get to MetLife that was awesome. I will never forget achieving that milestone with brothers.”

Rumson Fair Haven won the NJSIAA South Group 3 title by defeating Woodrow Wilson High School of Camden, 26-18, at MetLife Stadium.

“Tonight has been fun, and not just tonight but the whole week of practice too. To put on the pads one last time just has been great and honor,” Dupree said. “I would take nothing back from my career at Rumson. I am just embracing this last night under the high school lights.”

He said he will be attending Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, where he too will continue to play football.

Dupree played in the all-star game with fellow Rumson-Fair Haven teammates. linebacker Christian Lanzalotto, defensive lineman Ethan Ardolino, and defensive lineman Kenny Rainey.

Monmouth Regional’s Dayshawn Porter was also selected to participate for Monmouth in the all-star game.