EAST ORANGE, NJ – In East Orange, there’s no question that there is an abundance of football talent.
When Rae Oliver took over as head coach at East Orange Campus High School in April 2017, one of his goals was to stop the trend of those players leaving East Orange to attend parochial powerhouses. Over the years, EOCHS was losing several talented players, most notably defensive back Jabrill Peppers, who went to Don Bosco Prep and later Paramus Catholic before going to the University of Michigan and making it to the NFL with the Cleveland Browns.
But since Oliver has been at EOCHS, many players are staying home, which potentially makes the Jaguars a top-notch state championship contender.
Oliver has been told that these players want to play with their friends and join an environment where they can play with pride.
Oliver estimates that about 13 players have returned to EOCHS. This year, the Jaguars welcome several players to the program, such Ian Brown, a rising junior who was the starting safety for last year’s DePaul team that won the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 3 state title.
During an afternoon workout session at Paul Robeson Stadium on July 23, Brown took a break to talk about how it feels to come home to East Orange. He hopes that his championship experience will rub off on his new teammates.
Make no mistake, Brown’s goal is to “win another ring,” he said.
Rising junior offensive tackle/defensive tackle Keyshawn Mumford is another DePaul transfer who will be a key player for the Jaguars.
Another new player is rising senior defensive tackle Christopher Stultz, who transferred from St. Peter’s Prep of Jersey City, another football powerhouse.
Stultz feels good about coming back to East Orange. “Best decision I ever made,” he said. “I definitely want to win a state championship.”
At St. Peter’s Prep, Stultz said he learned that “on the field, it’s nothing but business. No joking around.” That is something that he expects to see happening here at EOCHS.
Oliver, an East Orange native, is thrilled to have Stultz on the team.
“Chris has been around high-level athletes so he kind of knows (what it takes to win),” said Oliver. “If I say something, Chris kind of echoes it. I am blessed to have Chris here.”
For some of these players, they were accustomed to being considered the top players who got the attention while playing for their squads. Now that they are playing at EOCHS, they have come to realize that it takes teamwork to succeed, said Oliver.
In Oliver’s first season at the helm last fall, the Jaguars welcomed back a few players. They included Nasir Montgomery and Quadir Scott, who both shared quarterback duties as sophomores last season in helping the Jaguars to a 6-4 playoff year.
To Montgomery, who transferred from Immaculate Conception, playing with his childhood friends feels “comfortable. It feels natural. It comes easier.”
Scott, who also played at DePaul after playing for the East Orange Rams and Orange Bengals on the Pop Warner levels, said it’s a good feeling to play for his hometown school.
Both quarterbacks want to win a state championship. They said teamwork and hard work will prove critical to achieving that goal.
Locksley Burke was a highly-regarded middle school player who could have went to any non-public school. But the running back/middle linebacker decided to attend EOCHS last year and became a starter as freshman.
Burke was glad that he chose EOCHS.
“It feels pretty good to put East Orange back on the map,” said Burke. “That’s the goal for a long time. My group, my (class) is here to do it.”
The Jaguars also were able to keep running back Al’shaheed Salaam, who had a promising freshman year for EOCHS last fall. Salaam also is a budding track star who was one of fastest freshmen in the nation last year.
The Jaguars will hold camp from August 6 to 11. Their first preseason scrimmage is against Pope John on August 14 at home. They also will host scrimmages on August 17 against North Bergen and Paterson Eastside, and August 24 against Newark Central.
EOCHS kicks off the season on August 31 against Watchung Hills at home.