East Orange Campus HS football team boasts talent in quest to contend


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

EAST ORANGE, NJ –  The East Orange Campus Jaguars boast talented, dynamic, and experienced players to contend for conference and state sectional titles this season.

But the key is to “finish games,” which the Jaguars failed to do in a few games that second-year head coach Al-Majid Hutchins said cost them the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the state North Jersey Section 2, Group 5 playoffs last year.  Among those tough losses were to Oak Crest, 22-17, on a last-second touchdown pass, West Essex, 24-7, West Orange, 31-27, and Montclair, 38-30.

The Jaguars, as the eighth and final seed, lost at top-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan, 41-14, in the quarterfinals of the playoffs, before beating Barringer, 12-6, in double overtime on Thanksgiving to finish with a 4-6 record.

This year’s team features depth and versatility, along with explosiveness.

“We are as talented as any team in the state of New Jersey,” said Hutchins, a 2007 East Orange Campus graduate who was a standout defensive back. “We got some talented kids back. But the strength is definitely the athleticism. We have guys that are interchangeable; that can play any position on the field. We definitely added some beef and some depth on the offensive and defensive lines. We could get multiple people in there at a time, instead of four people to play all game. We got a good two-deep this year. We could go in there and we should have some success.”

Junior quarterback Q’uran Dixon, who started in the Barringer win, has improved greatly in the offseason, much to Hutchin’s delight.

“He has matured a lot,” Hutchins said of the 5-foot-11 Dixon. “He definitely has taken on that leadership role. He has a very strong arm and very competitive. He is the true leader of our offense.”

Competing in the Liberty Blue Division of the North Jersey Super Football Conference, the Jaguars have dangerous playmakers in CJ Wilson, Fayson Carney, and Nasir Neal, all junior running backs who could also serve as capable receivers.

Wilson, a 5-11, 185-pounder,  has been a major contributor since his freshman year.

“He has tremendous speed,” Hutchins said. “We’re trying to get him the ball in that space, with his elusiveness and athleticism.”

Carney (5-11, 175) has rejoined the team after playing as a freshman and missing out last year. He also is solid as a safety, Hutchins said.

“He has tremendous athletic ability,” the coach said. “He is a ball-hawk and a big-time hitter. He’s a very talented kid.”

Neal (6-0, 185) also is an excellent strong safety, leading the team in interceptions with three last season.

“He’s very physical and very explosive,” Hutchins said. “He’s a ball-hawk.”

Senior Khalil Holcolmb (6-0, 260) will anchor the defensive line as a tackle. Hutchins has been impressed by Holcolmb’s progress.

“He’s had a tremendous offseason,” Hutchins said. “He’s big, strong and physical. He is a dominant defensive tackle.”

Hutchins particularly has raved about Rady Rojas. The 6-1, 215-pound junior is a jack-of-all trades as he can serve as a receiver, quarterback, kick returner and kicker, along with his main positions at running back and linebacker. In the team’s intra-squad scrimmage, Rojas posted 12 tackles and returned an interception for 70 yards, Hutchins said.

Make no mistake, the Jaguars expect to make a run this year with hard work and determination. But it all comes down to “finishing” games, the coach said.

“We want to win the (North Jersey Super Football) conference,” Hutchins said. “We can definitely be competitive in this conference. It’s just a matter of going out there and finishing football games; starting fast and finishing football games. These guys had a tremendous offseason. They’ve worked their butts off. They love the new coaching staff; a bunch of new coaches; so I believe we got the core people that we need to be successful. I am excited about Sept. 9, putting it all on the line against Memorial High School. I am jacked up.”

NOTE – Hutchins, 27, signed with Rutgers University in his senior year at EOCHS after being rated the No. 1 cornerback in New Jersey by Rivals.com. After playing three seasons at Rutgers, he transferred to Stony Brook where he finished his career.

Jaguars schedule

Sept. 9, at Memorial of West New York, 7 p.m.

Sept. 17, Columbia, 1 p.m.

Sept. 23, Livingston, 7 p.m.

Oct. 1, at Kennedy, time TBA

Oct. 8, at Montclair, 1 p.m.

Oct. 22, Bloomfield, 1 p.m.

Oct. 28, Morristown, 7 p.m.

Nov. 5, at West Orange, 7 p.m.

Nov. 24, at Barringer, 11 a.m.