PISCATAWAY, NJ -- National Signing Day is one of a kind. If you are a high school senior that signs on the dotted line to be a student-athlete in college, consider yourself lucky. Only a small percentage of athletes and students get a chance to do that.
While there are multiple signing periods throughout the school year, the first Wednesday in February is still considered the main one. And today inside the library of Piscataway High School, eight Chiefs signed their National Letter of Intent to play their respective sport in college.
The eight are: Brijon Artis (football), American International College; Demetrius Johnson Jr. (football), University of Chicago; Caitlyn Erdman (softball), Franklin and Marshall; Jessica Alicea (softball), Stevenson University; Jennifer Majorczak (softball), Kean University; Rahul Tanna (cross country and track and field), University of Chicago; Robert Opitz (track and field), Montclair State University; and Brook Moll (basketball), Kean University.
“Very happy to see such a good turnout and that just shows you how much support all of you guys have,” Piscataway Athletic Director Rob Harmer said. “Only three to five percent of all athletes in high school go on to college to play college athletics so you guys are in the elite category here in the United States.”
“This is always one of the best days that I can have as a principal, to see student-athletes doing great things and going off to colleges to do the work that you do in athletics but more importantly to go to school,” principal Jason Lester added. “You wouldn’t have this opportunity if you didn’t take care of business in the classroom first. You’re just getting started. You have a lot of life and things to accomplish. This is just a springboard and PHS allowed you to spring into action.”
Lester would tell the students to thank their parents, teachers, and coaches as well and appreciate them to the sacrifices they made.
Artis was a disruptive force coming off the edge as a defensive end or on the inside when he was at defensive tackle in 2017. The 6-foot-1, 265-pounder finished with 51 tackles on the year with 21 for loss and four sacks. On offense, Artis played along the offense line and helped the Chiefs’ accumulate 2,433 rushing yards en-route to an 8-3 year and birth in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 playoffs. The senior was forced to leave the first-round game against Bridgewater-Raritan early on, and his lack of presence on the field was felt as the Panthers moved the ball up and down the field with ease.
Johnson, Jr. was a standout defensive back as well as a receiver. Even though Johnson is 5-foot-7, and 165 pounds, he isn’t afraid to block. Both Artis and Johnson were part of the 2016 Central Jersey, Group 5 championship team.
“Congratulates to these athletes, to the families, and to ‘Pway’ football nation and to ‘Pway’ athletes everywhere,” Piscataway head football coach Dan Higgins said. “You guys (Artis and Johnson) obviously through all the hard work, commitment, and dedication to academics and athletics have opened the door to the next level. You’ve earned the right to go to the schools where you’re going. There’s nothing better than for me or for anyone who has worn the colors of black and gold to see what you do after you leave. We were all so blessed on Sunday to see one of our former Chiefs win a Super Bowl and represent (us) on the big screen. Whether you go that far or not, the mission is to get a diploma and be a good person the rest of your life and learn from all the lessons that you learn. This will forever be your hometown. You will forever be Chiefs and I’m really proud to be your coach and to have known all you athletes.”
In the spring of 2017, the Chiefs’ softball season didn’t go so well as they went 3-14, but Erdman batted a team-best .396 with 19 hits in 48 plate appearances with 15 runs scored, and 12 RBI. Alicea hit .327 with 16 hits and 13 runs scored, and managed seven walks. Majorczak batted .300 with 15 hits, 13 runs scored, eight RBI, four doubles, and five walks. From the pitching circle, Erdman tossed 74.1 innings and won three games. She struck out 29 batters.
“Congratulates to all of you. Having been a former college athlete myself, these next four years are going to be the best of your life,” said second-year softball coach Lauren Straube, who won four state championships at Immaculate Heart Academy in Bergen County, played in two NCAA Division III national championship games for Montclair State and then at The College of New Jersey. “Having been a student-athlete here at PHS, you are more than prepared. You feel that ‘Pway’ confidence when you walk in the door and practice on the first day. I can’t really take credit for these three since last year was my first year. If anything, I’ve learned more from them. I do know that their leadership on our team is phenomenal and I can’t wait for this season. I wish you all the best of luck.”
Moll plays a key role at guard and forward for the Lady Chiefs, who sport a 17-3 record this winter. While she just scores on average 3.1 points per game, her assists numbers up. She also has a 3.9 GPA.
“As far as Brooke goes, she’s a coach’s dream,” PHS head varsity girls basketball coach Chris Puder said. “You tell her where to go and she does it. It’s one instruction and she’s there. It’s hands up all the time and its always communication. I know Kean is getting a special player.”
Tanna made the Greater Middlesex Conference All-Red Division team this past fall and was an All-Conference At-Large selection track last winter. According to NJ MileSplit, Tanna’s personal records are, 1:00.40 in the 400-meter dash, 1000m (in) - 2:43.83, 1600m (in) - 4:28.60, 1600m - 4:28.16, 3200m (in) - 9:33.82, 3200m - 9:45.79, 5K (xc) - 16:16.32, and 5K - 16:10.46.
For Optiz, his records are, 1000m (in) - 2:53.73, 1600m (in) - 4:50.19, 1600m - 4:41.79, 2.5 Mile (xc) - 16:33.00, and 5K (xc) - 17:41.03.
“It’s a special honor to be a collegiate athlete,” Piscataway Track and Field and Cross-Country coach Pete Buccino said. “It takes great commitment but I think any kid coming out of this school is going to have an edge. They have an edge not only as an athlete but as a student. You will be well prepared and you all come from great families.
“I coach Bobby and I coach Rahul and they give us three seasons. That’s special. I wish you guys personally nothing but the best success.”
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