HILLSBOROUGH: Raiders honor senior football players

By Justin Feil, Packet Media Group
The Hillsborough High School football team had plenty of great leaders and numerous reasons that it enjoyed a terrific season that didn’t end until the Central Jersey Group V state tournament semifinals.
Three of those reasons were honored last month with the Jeff Kelly Memorial Scholarship. Kyle Bergen, John Mcdonald and Matt Pellicane were named recipients of the scholarships named for Kelly, who was an All-State defensive end and offensive lineman on HHS’ 2000 state title team. He went on to play at The College of New Jersey before he tragically died in a 2002 auto accident. The fund that was established by Kelly’s family has awarded $30,000 to date to Hillsborough football players who share his qualities.
“Jeff Kelly, his team was really good because he was so tough and such a good leader,” said current Raiders head coach Kevin Carty Jr. “We try to pick guys that emulate it the best. When you have those guys, you’re going to have a better team. I don’t think you could find three guys more deserving. They’re all as hard a workers as you can have.”
All three selections this year were All-Skyland Conference and All-Area picks. Bergen, who is headed to Stevenson University, was also an All-State selection. The Raiders played him at offensive and defensive tackle.
“Kyle wasn’t a real vocal leader,” Carty said. “He was definitely a guy that led by example. He won every sprint we had as far as the lineman go. He started more than anyone in that class. He started as a sophomore and started both ways. He didn’t miss a game, he didn’t miss a play. He’d go work out at 5 in the morning even while he played other sports so he stayed strong. He’s a guy that everyone looks at because he works so hard. He sets such a great example.”
Mcdonald joined Bergen on the offensive line, and he also played linebacker on defense for the Raiders and helped to cement that side of the ball. Mcdonald will play at Monmouth University next season.
“He was a guy that was extremely hard working,” Carty said. “He stayed hours and hours in the weight room. He was the vocal leader of the defense. He got everyone lined up on time. He was always positive. He was a tough guy. Nobody felt they could just get by with how he played. He was always going hard. He was a positive vocal force.”
Pellicane will attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He emerged this year into a force as a lineman that the Raiders relied on.
“He’s another guy like Kyle,” Carty said. “He’s a little less vocal. He’s a guy that stepped up for us this year. He’s one of the strongest guys. He led by example and performance. He was a dominant performer.
“By every measure we’ve taken at school, he’s the strongest guy we’ve had. He was so physically impressive, he was a dominant performer. He was also an unselfish guy that gave us some leadership. He was as good a player on the field as anybody on our team and the other team.”
Andrew Patrizio, who played tight end and defensive end, was selected to receive the Fred Kiper Memorial Scholarship, which is given to a well-rounded athlete who exhibits the spirit and toughness of the former teacher and coach. Patrizio is headed to Sacred Heart after helping the Raiders enjoy their best season in a decade. The seniors had been a part of a steady building process.
“That’s what I was hoping it would be like and it was,” Carty said. “It was really because of these guys. Patrizio got another award, and him and those guys were so strong and physical. They were the core of it and others stepped up alongside of them. I thought this was coming because of the way these guys had been working and performing. These guys really spearheaded it.”
Without the sorts of leaders left after their graduation, it could be difficult to sustain it, but Carty is hopeful that their example carries over to the future stars.
“I do think that is present in our program,” Carty said. “There are some guys that are ready to follow their example and learn from it. I don’t know if we have as many guys that live and do it all the time. The younger classes coming up will follow this example.”
Carty will be looking for the next crop of leaders that exhibit the same qualities that made Kelly’s and this year’s teams so good.
“We have some guys like that in the program,” Carty said. “We have some good leaders. We had so many this year.
“I think we’ll be more athletic this year,” he added. “The improvement and strength is coming in our younger grades. We’re trying to fill in the gaps on the line.”
At the next level, the trio of Kelly Scholarship award winners will be pushing to help their college teams enjoy the same success.
“I think every one of them is set up for a lot of success in the future,” Carty said. “Because of their work ethic, they know how to work and they’re tough. They can withstand being beat up a little. They’re also all good students, so that’s not an obstacle.
“Each place that got them, they’re pretty happy they got them. The biggest thing is being able to handle the toughness without the reward of playing yet and that can be tough. But these guys are capable of handling it and I think they’ll be playing before too long.”
Hillsborough will be looking for the players to fill their shoes Aug. 9, the first practice of the year following their breakout season. 