NJ offensive player of the year as a junior- probably the no. 1 prospect in NJ next year. Played for the state champs this year.
Offense player of year: The ultimate teammate
BY JOSH ROSENFELD
For the Star-Ledger
The only thing harder than tackling Knowshon Moreno is getting the Middletown South junior to talk about his accomplishments on the football field.
He'll usually begin by thanking his offensive line, quickly inserting a nod to the defense for giving the offense the ball in the first place. He'll praise his coaching staff for their preparation and will always compliment the opposing team for their efforts, however fruitless they may have been.
Then, if you're lucky, he might get around to the 17 touchdowns and four million rushing yards he picked up that afternoon.
"It's a nice accomplishment," Moreno said when told he was named The Star-Ledger Offensive Player of the Year after leading the state in scoring with 244 points, 10 shy of the 28-year-old record set by New Providence's Ted Blackwell. "It's nice to have, but without my teammates and without my coaches, I wouldn't have any of these accomplishments."
While sports writers may hope for a little more self-aggrandizement from the 6-0, 195-pound tailback, his teammates and coaches love him the way he is.
"He gets all the press but he's real humble about it," teammate Nick Macaluso, the Monmouth County Defensive Player of the Year, said. "We usually don't talk about it. He's a great teammate and a great kid to be around."
Moreno ran 218 times for 2,030 yards (9.3 per carry) and 37 touchdowns this year, adding three more touchdowns on returns of a kickoff, a punt and a fumble. His best outing came this season when he carried 24 times for 420 yards and seven touchdowns in a 63-7 victory over Neptune.
"He's one of the best I've ever seen," Wall coach Chris Barnes said. "He might be the best."
Moreno's goals at the start of the season were not geared toward his individual statistics.
"We started the season wanting to go back to the show and we got back there and won it," Moreno said, referring to last week's Central Jersey, Group 3 title victory over Wall. "It's a great feeling."
Moreno is on the verge of obliterating the state career records for touchdowns (101) and scoring (656), each held by Kevin Harvey, who concluded his All-State career at Paulsboro in 1995. Moreno finished his junior season with 96 touchdowns and 584 points.
He also has a shot at what is believed to be the state record for rushing yards, 6,720, which were gained by Keyport's Kenny Cattouse before he was graduated last spring. Moreno currently has 4,529 yards.
"He's not aware of the records and what he's doing," Middletown South coach Steve Antonucci said. "It's not about records for him; it's about wins and losses."
At Middletown South, it's been solely about wins for Moreno. His team, which earned The Star-Ledger Top 20 Trophy this season, has won 24 straight games, gone unbeaten in back-to-back seasons and won the last two state playoff titles. And Moreno is the first to realize what it will take for Middletown South to maintain such a lofty level of success.
"It's going to be hard, it's going to take a lot of effort and determination to do that," Moreno said. "These last two years took a lot of hard work, and we have a lot more hard work to do."
Antonucci is confident that Moreno will take on even more of a leadership role as he prepares for his final scholastic season.
"He comes to practice every day and he works hard. He does all of the little things we ask him to do," Antonucci said. "He's a competitor. He doesn't know when to turn it off, and that's what separates him from the other kids."
Middletown South probably could sell tickets to those rare practice days when Antonucci lets his first team on offense square off against the first team on defense. Moreno vs. Macaluso may be the area's best head-to-head confrontation.
"It gets pretty competitive and we go at it pretty hard," Macaluso said. "We have a little rivalry between us."
Moreno has the speed to run around would-be tacklers, the elusive moves to make them miss and the power to run over them. One of the things that makes him special is his innate ability to determine which course of action to take on each particular play.
"There's been a play or two when I've come up and made a nice hit on him, but on the next play he'll shake me and break me," Macaluso said. "It's great practice for us because he's probably the best runner we're going to see."
Macaluso offered a few hints on how to tackle his teammate.
"You just have to hit him, pursue him, keep him in your sights and try not to fall for the moves he puts on you and go low," Macaluso said. "He's a hard runner so you have to hit him pretty hard."
If that sounds difficult, just try getting him to talk about himself.
Football stand-out looks to continue winning ways
Athletics adds different kind of pressure in selecting a college
BY DAN NEWMAN
Big-name colleges are already expressing interest in the talents of Knowshon Moreno, a junior at Middletown High School South.
Mention Knowshon Moreno’s name anywhere in Middletown, or anywhere in New Jersey, and it conjures up images of the junior running back tearing through opposing defenses on his way to another big gain.
That’s how it’s been for three seasons, since Knowshon came on the Middletown High School South scene as a freshman. But making plays on the field is not all Knowshon has been known to do to his opponents. He can also make it happen in the blink of an eye on the board as well.
“Sometimes, before practice, we’ll play chess,” Knowshon said. “It’s just something we like to do to keep things relaxed.”
Knowshon labels himself as a “pretty good player” if asked. Poll anybody else and “pretty good” would be pretty much an understatement.
The shifty tailback is well on his way toward rewriting the state record books. Following Friday’s 7-0 state playoff semifinal win over Long Branch, Knowshon had 4,273 career rushing yards, 2,260 yards short of the record set last year by Keyport’s Kenny Cattouse. If Knowshon can continue this kind of performance next season, that record will be well within his reach. He also came out of Friday’s game with 560 career points, just 96 points behind the state mark.
For the season, Knowshon has 220 points, 34 points behind the state mark set in 1976, and his 92 touchdowns this season is approaching the state mark of 101 set in 1996.
With the win over Long Branch Friday, and the promise of another two games (on Thanksgiving against Middletown North and the Central Jersey Group III championship game next week), the single-season records for points could be in danger.
As for school records, not something to be taken lightly at a school with such a rich football tradition, Knowshon already owns the records for most rushing yards (420) and touchdowns (seven) in a game. He actually shares the single-game touchdown record with legendary Eagle Stephen Michael Pitts, who accomplished the feat in 1989. It is Pitts’ career rushing record that Knowshon is chasing and should surpass it next year. Following Friday night’s game, Moreno was just 611 yards shy of Pitts’ total.
“Since I have been here, he’s been the best player we’ve had,” seventh-year head coach Steve Antonucci said. “He’s a top-level competitor on the field, and I’m sure he’ll be that way once he gets to college.”
Although only a junior, Moreno is already starting to get plenty of correspondence from college coaches who would love to have his services at the next level.
“I’d say about 20 schools are in the mix right now, and that number will probably go even higher as time goes by,” Antonucci said. “Many of the schools involved are top-level Division 1 programs like Florida State, Virginia and Maryland.”
While the college programs want him for his athletic ability, Knowshon knows his academics will be a priority as well.
“What I’m learning here at Middletown will prepare me for what happens in college. I think the teachers at this school are good, and they’ve been able to help me a lot along the way,” Knowshon said.
A day in the life of a big-time high school athlete does not commence with afternoon football practice. It starts well before the first snap of the ball or the first instructions yelled out by Antonucci.
“I get up each day around 6:20 and go right to school. After that, we have practice until about 5:30,” Knowshon explained. “Then I do my homework (math is his favorite subject) and relax a bit. I normally go to bed around 10.”
“Once he gets to college, Knowshon has two goals, to get a college education and to be able to play football,” Antonucci said. “I really want him to have the full college experience.”
Knowshon has taken the PSAT and is preparing to take the SAT later this year, while handling his regular course load. What separates him from the rest of his classmates is that everybody is watching him — opponents, college coaches and even Knowshon himself.
“I realize that everybody expects this team to go undefeated again this year, and it’s a big goal for us,” Knowshon explained. “I’ve been working hard at everything I do this year, school and football. It’s not tough for me because I’ve been used to that for a while now.”
It also helps that Knowshon’s personality is jovial and easygoing, something that is not lost on those around him.
“In the hallways, people always are around him,” Antonucci said. “People outside of our school may know him for football, but inside, he’s just a well-liked person because he’s so friendly.”
“I need to continue to work hard, and hopefully things work out for us. Right now football is the big thing for me, and I want to help our team win,” Knowshon said. “At the end of the season, I want to be able to say that we’re state champions.”