EAST ORANGE, NJ - Samari Robinson is still looking for a college to play football at when he graduates from Morristown High School later this month.
Knowing that Monday's Paul Robeson Classic could be his last chance to impress college coaches, the undersized defensive lineman made quite a final impression.
Robinson made nine tackles to earn Defensive MVP honors for the West team in Monday's all-star game, a 16-12 victory by the East team before a crowd of roughly 4,000 at Paul Robeson Stadium.
"I hope I definitely opened (some eyes) for recruiting," Robinson said. "It's really late in the process, but I hope this game gave them a reason to really open something up.
"(Randolph) Coach (Tarig) Holman said he reached out to a few of his buddies and the first one he said was East Stroudsberg. Hopefully, they give me a call and if the door's open, I'll step right in there."
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, Robinson might not have the size most schools typically look for in a defensive lineman. But as he had during his career with the Colonials, Robinson's quickness allowed him to wreak havoc in the East backfield.
"Since I'm the shorter player, I got to make sure I have a fast get-off, a quicker first step than my opponent and then make sure my hands are in (the right place) so I can get past them," Robinson said. "It's a huge chip. I just try to use it to my advantage. There's always pros and cons to being tall and there's always pros and cons to being short. I just try to use the pros."
"He's very good. He was one of our best players and one of our captains," said Sami Cazimoski. "He's very quick off the edge. He's a very valuable player."
The East started strong by taking the opening drive 55 yards for a touchdown. But after that, the West defense made its presence felt, keeping the East out of the end zone until the game's final minutes.
Brian Fajardo, who will be continuing his academic and playing career at Fairleigh Dickinson, had a key sack for a loss of 6 to help stall an East drive at the West 12 right before the end of the first half.
"That's one thing everyone tells me and that gives me a huge chip on my shoulder," said the 5-foot-11, 245-pound Fajardo. "I may not have the size, but I do have the heart and the talent I believe to compete at the next level and I will do so."
Cazimoski, who will be playing at Division 2 Kutztown, started at middle linebacker despite missing all but two practices while helping lead the Morristown baseball team to the Group 4 final.
"It was kind of difficult, I won't lie. I only went to two practice all week. It's just different because I'm still in baseball mode," Cazimoski said. "But football is like a second nature for me so it wasn't that bad."
Wallkill Valley quarterback Marko Bakovic was named the West's Offensive MVP, put this team on the scoreboard when he threw a six-yard TD pass to Hopatcong's Jake Dorman early in the second quarter.
East Orange Campus' Keneek Tomlinson had three sacks and a blocked extra point to earn Defensive MVP honors for the East squad, which has a 19-4 series lead. Paterson Kennedy quarterback Cornellius Kinchen was the Offensive MVP, completing 7-of-13 passes for 105 yards.
The West team is comprised of players from Morris, Sussex, Warren and western Passaic counties. The East team is made up of players from Essex and eastern Passaic counties.
"It's very memorable, I definitely won't forget it," Cazimoski said. "Even though we didn't get the result we wanted, I still had fun with my boys and that's all that matters."
"Getting this game really means a lot," said Fajardo. "I got to play with my teammates one last time. It just means a lot that I got to play with them again."
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