Local Athletes Play in Natn'l Title Game

Local Athletes Play in Natn'l Title Game Two players from South Jersey to play in national title game

College football is conducting its first true championship game on Monday, and it shouldn’t be surprising that two players from South Jersey are expected to have major roles. When Oregon meets Ohio State on Jan. 12 in the championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys, Oregon redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jake Pisarcik from Shawnee, and Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple will be front and center stage.

Pisarcik was part of an impressive offensive line that earned a 59-20 win over previously undefeated and defending national champion Ohio State in the semifinal.

Apple, a redshirt freshman cornerback, was a starter in the secondary in the Buckeyes 42-35 win over No. 1 Alabama.

Both players joined their new teams by different means. Apple, formerly known as Eli Woodard at Eastern, was considered one of the best defensive backs in the country while in high school.

The 6-foot-2, 295-pound Pisarcik was considered a late bloomer. The son of former NFL quarterback Joe Pisarcik, Jake was a solid high school player who came on strong as a senior. Unlike Apple, he wasn’t widely recruited, but Oregon liked the fact that he moved so well for a lineman.

While his size is big to most people, it isn’t for an offensive lineman, especially one playing in a national championship game.

Oregon is one of the few teams that doesn’t worry about recruiting big, burly offensive linemen. Under former coach Chip Kelly and now current coach Mark Helfrich, Oregon runs a fast-paced offense and is more concerned with how well the linemen move up and down the field.

The Ducks were impressed by Pisarcik and gave him a chance. And he was impressive in the win over Florida State, knocking down opposing linemen time and time again while seeing sufficient playing time.

Apple, for his part was at times matched up against college football’s best receiver, Amari Cooper. It was a great education. In fact, being part of that upset victory enabled Apple and his young Ohio State teammates to grow tremendously. In that semifinal game, Apple ended with five tackles and two pass breakups.

For the season. he has 46 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and 11 passes defensed.

Division I-A college football, known as Football Bowl Championship Subdivision, had never had a true playoff until this season. For the previous seven years, the Bowl Championship Series chose the two teams that would play in the title game. This was the first year of an actual playoff, one where there was more than just a championship game. A select committee picked the four teams that would compete for a national championship. And in looking back, Piscarik and Apple were part of the first teams to win semifinal football games on New Year’s Day.

South Jersey has always been well represented in college football and the NFL. Just look at what Audubon’s Joe Flacco is doing once again for the Baltimore Ravens.

What is interesting is that this year, Shawnee and Eastern competed in the same division, the West Jersey Football League American. That wasn’t the case when Piscarik and Apple were playing, but to have two players from South Jersey compete in the biggest college football game of the season, is another example of South Jersey’s tremendous football talent.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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