HASBROUCK HEIGHTS/WOOD-RIDGE, NJ - Two local high school football are Week 2  finalists for the USA Football’s Heart of Giant Award, awarded by Hospital for Special Surgery and the New York Giants. 

According to the website, the “award program seeks to find and highlight Tri-State high school players who demonstrate that extra something special. The ones that have a relentless work ethic and unmatched love for the game.

Values like commitment, character, teamwork, dedication and will are crucial every season. But in times like this, they matter even more. When your players can't be side by side, when they don't take the fields on Friday nights, who helps keep the team together?”

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Hasbrouck Heights' junior linebacker Blake Freschi and Wood-Ridge's Michael Sarlo have both made it to be Week 2 Finalists.

Overcoming adversity was the attribute that made Freschi a nominee, who had a stroke during childbirth and lives with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, has been playing football since flag football at age 5.  He is also a member of the Hasbrouck Height wrestling and golf teams. 

“ I love everything about football. I can’t wait for the first practice every year. I love putting my pads on, I love racing the other kids in sprints, I love the noise the pads make when you make a tackle, that nasty smell of your gloves when you take them off after a hot August practice, getting together as a team to watch films, and I can’t wait to be a part of the senior dinners every Thursday night before a game. I love everything there is about football. I love the way my coaches and teammates have made me feel “normal” over the years. They have never given up on me and I will fight to the end for them. I love that feeling the most.”

Sarlo, a junior fullback and three-sport athlete, stated that commitment is the criteria that qualified him for the award. 

“For me, commitment is one of the most important personal attributes I can maintain. In order to be a three sport varsity athlete, I’ve learned that the only way that I will be able to succeed in the classroom and on the field is through hard work and commitment. My commitment to myself is not nearly as important to the commitment to my team. My freshman year of football, I made a commitment that I always be the first one in the weight room, on the field, and to perform every rep with intensity and the will to be the best I can. That commitment caught the attention of my teammates.

In my sophomore year I was named captain by my peers and was tasked to be responsible to lead them on and off the field.

Football has taught me that in order to overcome adversity is to persevere and be dedicated to my teammates. I’ve also learned that being named captain at such a young age required me to be committed to my teammates and friends 365 days a year.”

Freschi and Sarlo are two of the 16 candidates up the for award for Week 2, and can be voted on at https://www.usafootball.com/hoagvote/.  Voters can vote once a day, per device from now until October 4 at midnight.


Editor's Note: Quotes are taken from the online profiles as part of the voting for Heart of Giant Award


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