PISCATAWAY, NJ — Last month, the annual Middlesex-Union all-star football game was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The gridiron charity contest is one of many to be shut down for the summer already across the state including the Phil Simms North-South Game.
The 27th installment of the Middlesex-Union game, which previously has been known as the Autoland Classic and the Snapple Bowl, was slated to kick off on July 16 at North Brunswick High School. Four Piscataway High School seniors were set to play including Marcel Walker, Khristian Hernandez, Kristopher Hernandez, and Angel Laporte.
All four of them were pumped to play in the game, and their feelings changed in an instant once they received the bad news, starting with Walker.
“It was a good feeling talking to Mr. (Marcus) Borden about being selected to play. I had the option to play in the North vs. South game as well, but I wanted one last ride with my teammates and friends that I played against and with during my high school career,” Walker said. “Once it got canceled, it honestly was very upsetting because once the season is over you have a lot of seniors that look forward to playing one last game before we go off to the next chapter in our life. It stinks that we aren’t going to have a game this year, but I try to look at the positive in everything so this is just making us stronger individuals.”
Walker, who was going to play defensive end in the game while trying to “sweet talk” his way to playing some offense, had 5.5 sacks during the 2019 season. He also finished with 13 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown, an interception, and 78 total tackles (38 solo).
“I couldn’t wait,” he continued. “Coming up as a sophomore or junior seeing all the upperclassmen go to these games and enjoying their last game of their high school year makes you anxious waiting for your turn to play.”
Khristian Hernandez ran for 633 yards and eight touchdowns this past season for the Chiefs. He caught 12 passes for 147 yards and another touchdown while returning an interception for a score, too. Hernandez had four total picks on the year and 29 tackles.
He was going to spend time at running back in the tilt.
“It felt good being selected to play in the game because of the fact I was recognized for my efforts on the field, so it was an opportunity I was thankful for,” Hernandez said. “I was upset because for my last game I wanted to go out on top especially with my family being there in support, but at this time it’s about putting others in a better situation of safety so I can’t really be too upset. I understand as to why. I was looking forward to it a lot just to be on the field again and just compete against other great players.”
Laporte was going to help anchor the defensive line for Middlesex. He registered 39 total tackles and three sacks in 2019.
“When I got selected to play in the game, I felt great knowing that I could represent my town and my family. It was an honor to be selected,” Laporte said. “I was honestly angry when I first heard that the game was cancelled. I’m still angry to this day. This was my last chance to represent in a high school football game for the last time and now I won’t be able to do it and it honestly breaks my heart.”
Kristopher Hernandez, who threw for 731 yards and seven touchdowns while also running for 46 more yards and four scores, was going to play offense in the game at either quarterback or receiver.
He not only wanted to enjoy the game, but get to experience everything that comes along in the package including visiting the Edison-based Lakeview School, a program of the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities.
“When I found out from my coach I was selected to play in the game, I was excited I had one more high school game I can play. It was for a good cause and I can end my high school career on a great note. I was definitely hoping it wouldn’t get cancelled, but when I found out it was, I was disappointed I can’t get the chance to play with my friends and my teammates that were also playing,” he said. “Lots of family and friends were going to go to the game and I was excited to play in front of them.”
The Hernandez twins, Laporte, and Walker all shared that they miss their friends and teachers and that the virtual learning isn’t the same as being together in school.
“The last couple of months have been different,” Kristopher Hernandez said. “I definitely miss all my friends and classmates. It's just not the same doing school work at home on the computer. I really miss school and really disappointed my senior year had to end like this. I just hope everybody is safe.”
“It’s been the same as if I’m waking up for school, but I’m working out then getting school work done,” his brother, Khristian, who will prep at Jireh Prep Academy, added. “It’s definitely hitting hard not being able to see friends and teachers especially.”
Laporte, who is going to New Haven said, “It’s been a long rollercoaster. It was nice at first being at home, but now I realized I miss school, I miss my friends, and most importantly I miss going to the gym and working out. This whole situation going on has been a hassle.”
In the end, Walker believes the adversity will make everyone better in the long run.
“If I had to be completely honest it’s been rough, but it’s something everyone in the world is going through,” said Walker, who will be going to Southern Connecticut State University. “We’re going to get through this and it’s going to make us all stronger than ever.”
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.
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