By Jim Hague
Matt Schnoll and Michael Carrino have played football together since they were little boys growing up in Lyndhurst.
So have James Podolski and Anthony Lisanti.
The group added placekicker Marlindo Mera to the list, giving the South All-Stars a strong contingency from Lyndhurst.
“We all came together for one team,” said Schnoll, who is headed to Montclair State to play with Carrino. “I grew up with James. It was good to go out with them. I played all sports with them my entire life. I wanted to show everyone what being from Lyndhurst is all about. I made some new buds. I was getting the chance to make friends with everyone. They were all a joy to be around.”
Except for one group from one particular school.
“I never thought I could be friendly with anyone from Rutherford,” the affable Schnoll said.
But for one Friday night in hot, sweaty June, when all of the kids came together for the same charity.
Seven local grid stars from Bergen County schools got together to play one final All-Star game, as a member of the Bergen County All-Star South team. Unfortunately, the South lost, 24-7.
“That’s the only thing that stunk,” Schnoll said. “Other than that, I can’t complain.”
Schnoll and Carrino lined up like they always did, with Carrino at tackle and Schnoll at guard.
“I’ve been playing sports my whole life,” Carrino said. “I played on a lot of teams together with Matt.”
Other locals selected to play in the game included Marlindo Mera and Lisanti, along with Ryan Watson of St. Mary’s (Rutherford) and Vinnie Crawford of North Arlington.
Watson is a resident of Kearny.
Schnoll was impressed with being an All-Star.
“It was amazing,” Schnoll said. “I got a chance to play with the best of the best. I made friends with everyone.”
Schnoll said that he wasn’t too disappointed about his team’s loss.
“We all came together for one team,” Schnoll said. “We had fun out there. I wanted to show everyone what we were all about. It really made me feel proud to be a part of it. In the second half, I made it like we were playing without a scoreboard. So we couldn’t give up.”
Carrino just loved the chance, a regular Golden Bear reunion.
“It was great to be a part of it,” Carrino said. “I got a chance to play one more game and the game was played on my home field. I’ve played there my whole life, given that the place has artificial turf.”
Of course, having the turf in their own backyard gave the South a fighting chance. But it wasn’t meant to be.
“It was pretty tough, not having played football for a while,” Carrino said.
Lyndhurst played Manchester Regional to a 10-10 tie in the consolation game.
“I felt good running,” Carrino said. “It felt good. Even with the lack of running, it felt good.”
Carrino will play college football for the Red Hawks of Montclair State.
“It’s great to be playing with Schnoll, but it’s a little sad that this was my last game with the others,” Carrino said. “I was pretty close with James, too. By being selected and playing in the game, it’s a great feeling. I had one of the most awesome times with the All-Stars.”
Just like in life, there’s a time to move on. For the Lyndhurst kids, the rest of their lives has now fully begun.