Belleville’s Rivera, Nutley native Guglielmello grace North roster in annual All-Star Classic

UNION – When Eric Rivera was informed by Belleville High School head football coach Jermain Johnson that he was selected to an All-Star game, Rivera immediately thought it was the Robeson Classic that was held at East Orange High School earlier this month.

But Rivera never dreamed it could be the pinnacle of all New Jersey high school All-Star football games, namely the Phil Simms New Jersey Scholastic Football Coaches Association’s North-South All-Star Classic, held annually at Kean University.

“As soon as he told me that it was the North-South game, I jumped for joy,” Rivera said. “I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘This is the best news I could get.’ I was so excited to play and get the chance to show my talents.”

Rivera joined 100 of the best high school football players in the state over the weekend for the preparation for the 34th annual game, with several practices Saturday and Sunday leading up to the game on Monday night.

Rivera was the first Belleville player in recent memory to get selected to the North squad.

“I was excited to be with so many great athletes,” said Rivera, who graduated from Belleville High Friday night and was then on the practice field early Saturday morning for the first of the three practice sessions the players had to endure that day.

“As soon as I got here, it felt different,” Rivera said before the first practice of the day Saturday. “I knew that I was on my own here and I couldn’t be late for anything. I think being here shows my true character. If I was late, it wouldn’t be a good thing, so I came here early to be ready.”

Rivera was selected to play wide receiver for the North squad and was spotted at practice running a lot of patterns with Barringer quarterback Zamar Wise, who is headed to Rutgers in the fall.

“When people hear Belleville, they don’t automatically think of football,” Rivera said. “This is a good way to prove myself.”
Rivera said that he participated in track and field during the spring to get ready for football. He has yet to decide upon a college, but he was scheduled to visit Hudson Valley Community College this week.

“It has been a little bit frustrating,” Rivera said of his college choice. “I had to be patient and wait out the process. Hopefully, I’ll make the right decision. I know definitely that I can play in college.”

So perhaps the North-South game will be the break that Rivera needs.

“I’m getting the chance to show my talents now with the best athletes in New Jersey,” Rivera said. “I think the competition helps me a great deal. I’m always confident in myself. I know I can run with anyone who tries to cover me. It’s definitely a great honor to be here.”

While Rivera is still searching for a collegiate home, Nutley native Angelo Guglielmello is already signed, sealed and delivered to Stony Brook University, where Guglielmello will continue his brilliant placekicking career that began at St. Joseph of Montvale.

Guglielmello was the lone kicker for the North squad, which meant he also had to handle punting duties.

“I normally don’t punt,” said Guglielmello, one of the best placekickers in the state with range of over 50 yards with field goal attempts. “I never worked on punting, so that’s a bit of a challenge. But I’ll be fine. I don’t worry about it. I’ll just kick it where no one is standing.”

Like Rivera, Guglielmello was thrilled to be with the best football players in the Garden State.

“It’s definitely an honor to be with other kids who love playing football,” Guglielmello said. “I grew up with watching this game. I came every year. I knew a bunch of kids who were selected in the past. So this is a great opportunity for me.”
Guglielmello liked the idea of spending the weekend in the dormitories at Kean.

“We woke up as a team, ate as a team, practiced as a team,” Guglielmello said. “It’s kind of like going to college. It’s a good head start. It really was a good experience for me.”
Guglielmello played for the St. Joseph team that won the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 4 state championship last December, defeating rival Bergen Catholic in the title game at MetLife Stadium. Now, he gets a chance to play his final high school game in the North-South game.

“It’s about as good as it gets,” Guglielmello said. “I can’t think of anything else I would have rather done. Everyone here is having a good time. It really is a great experience.”

And it was great that two local grid stars got a chance to represent the area well.

The honorary coach for the North All-Stars was former Giants’ offensive lineman David Diehl, who was out on the field Saturday working with the team. The game’s namesake Phil Simms, another Giants Super Bowl hero, was scheduled to be in attendance for the afternoon sessions with the teams.




Belleville High School graduate Eric Rivera was selected to play for the North All-Stars in the 34th annual Phil Simms New Jersey Scholastic Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Classic at Kean University. Photo by Jim Hague


Nutley native Angelo Guglielmello of St. Joseph of Montvale was the North’s kicker and punter for the North-South All-Star Classic at Kean. Photo by Jim Hague




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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”