Nine Irvington HS athletes honored during school’s annual National Signing Day Ceremony

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IRVINGTON, NJ – The Irvington High School athletic department held its annual National Signing Day ceremony, Wednesday, Feb. 6, at the IHS auditorium on National Signing Day.

In front of a packed crowd that included friends, family members and dignitaries, nine IHS senior student-athletes signed with their respective colleges. They included Desmond Marfo and Andrea Jackson, who both will attend East Stroudsburg University of Pa. for track and field; Stoichkov Joseph, a boys soccer standout who will attend New Jersey City University in Jersey City; and six football players: kicker Clervency Prince (Rowan University), cornerback Darren Fields (University of Albany), offensive lineman Savion Herring (University of Cincinnati), defensive end Elton Jean-Baptiste (Howard University), linebacker Nashawn Brooks (Wagner College), and wide receiver Mohamed Toure (Northern Illinois University).

Ralph Steele, a longtime supporter of IHS athletics, served as the emcee of the one-hour-long ceremony, which included performances by the IHS marching band, marching band dance members, step team, and Mr. Ashanti’s Dance Performance Group.

Brooks, a standout wrestler who was named the Essex County Tournament Most Outstanding Wrestler when he won the 220-pound title last month, was presented with a large framed photo of his ECT wrestling championship.

Head coaches Marvin Hawkins (track and field), Abdelkader Laib (boys soccer) and Ashley “Smoke” Pierre (football) introduced their athletes. Hawkins mentioned that Marfo, a male distance runner, and Jackson, a female hurdler, are ranked in their section and have won several individual championships.

Laib, who guided the boys team to the No. 1 seed in the state sectional tournament and the Super Essex Conference title last fall, noted that Joseph scored a whopping 50 goals along with 11 assists in 35 games over the past two years. Joseph is a two-time All-Essex County first team and All-State third team honoree.

Pierre also talked about each of his six players, who helped the Blue Knights reach the North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 state championship game where they lost at Phillipsburg to finish 8-4 this past fall. It marked just their second state sectional championship appearance ever. Their first sectional final came in 2006. The playoff run included a 20-17 semifinal win over Randolph in which Prince kicked the game-winning 33-yard field goal in double overtime.

After each of the athletes signed their letters of intent simultaneously, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Neely Hackett addressed the athletes and gave them her best wishes, while also thanking the coaches and the athletes’ families.

Following the ceremony, families and friends posed for pictures with the athletes.

Fields played at Paramus Catholic where he was a starter as a sophomore and helped the team win a state championship before transferring to IHS in his junior season. This past season, he suffered an ankle injury during the game scrimmage against St. Peter’s Prep and was sidelined until returning for the state playoffs. During his recruiting process while he was injured, Fields said Albany coaches still kept faith in him. In an interview with the Irvington Herald, Fields said that upon his return to the playing field, “it felt like I never left.” Fields cherished his time playing for Irvington. “I came back to Irvington because me and coach Ash have a great relationship. I felt it was time for me to come home.” Fields wants to start as a true freshman at Albany.

Toure announced his decision to pick Northern Illinois during the ceremony. The wide receiver reflected on his team’s great run this season. “We had a real good season. We came up short in the state championship, but it was a good season,” said Toure in an interview with the Irvington Herald.

In making his collegiate choice, Jean-Baptiste said he loved “everything” about Howard University, located in Washington, D.C., including the facilities, the education and the football program. Jean-Baptiste gushed about coach Pierre. “He’s a great coach,” Jean-Baptiste said. “He pushes all of us to be great. Without him, I don’t think we would have made it to (the state finals).” Jean-Baptiste said he plans on majoring in sports medicine.

Photos courtesy of Felicia Laguerre OwensAn