Every week Morris Sussex Sports, along with co-sponsors Football University and Athletic Republic of Randolph, identify one player out of the 37 teams we cover as our Player of the Week. We look beyond just stats. Our goal is to honor the best individual performance and how that effort was able to lift his team beyond its perceived boundaries. If you play varsity football in Morris Sussex next week just could quite possibly be your turn to be the FBU Player of the Week Powered by Athletic Republic of Randolph.
What an amazing weekend of playoff football this was! Not only did six teams stay alive in the hunt for MetLife, but there were a ton of amazing individual performances. Randolph’s Jeremie Simmons caught 4 pivotal passes for 94-yards in a 13-12 win over Irvington. Lenape Valley’s Stevie Leyden grinded out 208-yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries in the Patriots 46-34 win over Rutherford. And Hanover Park QB Donato Casolaro threw for 246-yards and 4 TDs and receiver Jimmy Fortier caught 6 passes for 227-yards and three TDs in a nail biter against Madison.
As amazing as those performances were, no player had a bigger impact to the outcome of his game as Madison’s Mike Kearney. The senior first year starter did it all. He went 12 for 17 passing for 159-yards and two touchdowns through the air, he rushed 28 times for 137-yards and two touchdowns on the ground and even caught a pass for 18-yards for an important 1st down in the Dodgers 34-33 win over Hanover Park.
This display not only clinched the Dodgers bid to play at MetLife Stadium for the championship game, but it also earned Kearney the FBU Player of the Week Powered by Athletic Republic of Randolph for the semi-finals. We caught up with Kearney to discuss the success the Dodger’s have been having this season, what his “welcome to varsity football” moment was and who his role model is.
Morris Sussex Sports: Did you anticipate having such a monster game this past week?
Mike Kearney: No, I did not. I just knew I had to do whatever it took to get to Metlife.
MSS: What do you attribute to your Dodgers having such a great season?
MK: Our line is definitely the key to our success with guys like Dante DiIonno, Griff Meister, Max Downing, Yiakos and Paul Links. Also, our team chemistry is incredible.
MSS: Why do you think Coach Kubik has had so much success since he’s been the head guy at Madison?
MK: I think his commitment to this program has granted him the success he has had. He spends countless hours scouting and going over schemes to better our program and give us the best chance to win. His work ethic really shows.
MSS: What was your “welcome to varsity football” moment?
MK: During Week 1 against Lenape Valley in the 100 degree heat. I was not used to the intensity of this level of play. After scoring on our first 3 drives, I had to take off for the fourth drive and let Ryan Schmitz take over because my body was exhausted.
MSS: Who is the best player on an opposing team that you played against?
MK: Eric Magnifico from Hanover Park was one of the best players defensively I played against this year.
MSS: What away stadium is your favorite to play at and why?
MK: Verona was my favorite because of the brand new turf.
MSS: Who on your team would beat everyone in an arm wrestling contest?
MK: Tommy Dambola, the dude’s jacked!
MSS: Who is the flat out best athlete on your team?
MK: Steven Espo or PJ Mulcahy because of their hand eye coordination.
MSS: Who is the biggest student of the game on your team?
MK: Dante DiIonno because he has been a starter for three years now and he helps the rest of the line with their calls.
MSS: Who on your team is the best to follow on Twitter and why?
MK: Kyle Monaco because of his dank memes.
MSS: Who is the unsung hero of your team?
MK: Brian Kraska.
MSS: What is your favorite Dodger football tradition?
MK: The Dodger walk down to the field for home games. It shows the community coming together.
MSS: What was the funniest thing that happened in the huddle this season?
MK: After Brian Kraska caught a screen pass for a touchdown against Dover, it got called back because of a penalty. He was across the line of scrimmage, so they called Griffin Meister for lineman downfield. We all made fun of Brian because it was the most athletic play he had all year, but it got called back because he was downfield.
MSS: What would surprise people to know about this Dodger team?
MK: More than half of our seniors have played together since flag football.
MSS: Do you think it’s fitting that of all teams that a very good Lenape Valley team is sitting in your way of a state championship?
MK: Yes, i do think it is fitting. We played them Week 1, but the conditions will be very different compared to what they were then. We gained players from injuries as well as lost some. I think this is what most of my teammates and I wanted because of the rivalry we have with them.
MSS: What current or past NFL player do you think you resemble most on the field (and why)?
MK: I think it is tough to compare myself to any NFL QB because of the amount of carries I get. If I had to choose I believe I would choose Tim Tebow at Florida.
MSS: Who was your role model growing up?
MK: My dad.