Choosing NJVarsity.com's Athlete of the Week is never an easy task. In fact, it was so difficult this week that we decided to give out the award to two of North Jersey's most electrifying players - St. Joseph's Jason McCourty and Tenafly's Jabulani Lovelace.
Big players rise to the occasion in big games, and that's what McCourty did. Playing at #7 Hackensack, McCourty left his mark on every facet of the game as the Green Knights cruised to a 31-7 victory over the Comets.
McCourty rushed for 156 yards on just 18 carries (8.7 ypc) and scored two touchdowns against a very good Hackensack defense. He capped off the Green Knights' first possession of the game with a 7-yard run and increased the team's lead to 21-7 right before halftime on a 3-yard run. He set up the second touchdown with a long kickoff return following the Comet's only score of the game. The kickoff return and follow-up touchdown quickly ended any momentum picked up by Hackensack. On the defensive side of the ball, McCourty was matched up against wide receiver Danny Oquendo, a D1A recruit who he held in check for most of the game.
Although Jabulani Lovelace is too modest to admit it, he has been the driving force behind Tenafly's quick start in 2004. The team, which finished the 2003 season at 2-8, is off to a 3-0 start, outscoring its opponents 101-19. Last week's 35-6 victory over Rutherford showed just how far the team had come, as Tenafly was on the losing end of a 42-0 blowout the last time around.
Lovelace passed for 173 yards and two touchdowns against Rutherford and ran for an additional 204 yards and 3 touchdowns. The performance earned him the Bergen Record's Athlete of the Week award.
McCourty and Lovelace are at two different stages of their recruitment. Despite playing for a losing program, Lovelace proved his worthiness to college recruiters in 2003, picking up scholarship offers from Rutgers, Syracuse, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt. Despite making his mark on a state championship team last year, McCourty only drew mild interest in the early part of the recruiting period. However, if his performance last week was any indicator, that may be about to change.