Barton's Best Awards: ATHLETES OF THE YEAR

Thursday, June 29, 2017


Male Athlete of the Year:
David Estevez, River Dell

Estevez quickly established himself in his junior year as a leader who would do whatever it takes to help his teams to new heights. As a star on the football field, the basketball court, and the baseball diamond, he showed off his versatility throughout the 2016-2017 campaign. As sport-specialization has swept through North Jersey and high school athletics throughout the country, Estevez is  one of the rare three-sport throwback players who can do it all.

It started in the fall when Estevez was both the quarterback of the offense and a leader of a rock solid defense. In the third game of the season against eventual North 1, Group 2 section finalist Westwood, Estevez did a little bit of everything to lead his team to victory. He led all players in rushing yards, tackles, and even had an interception. It was his arm that won the game, though, as he threw a 20-yard TD pass in overtime for a 21-20 win.

It continued two weeks later with a league title at stake against Ridgefield Park. He rushed for two touchdowns, threw for another, and also had a punt return for a TD in a 42-7 win.

Estevez was determined to get his team back to MetLife Stadium. After losing emphatically to Ramapo in the section final in 2015 winning a section title was the driving force for the Golden Hawks all season. Estevez led the way and his teammates followed suit.

After rushing for game-highs of 193 yards and three touchdowns in a first-round win over Paramus, the Golden Hawks took advantage of the chance at revenge for both last year’s section final result and a regular-season loss this year against Ramapo. Estevez took over with 184 yards on the ground and three more TDs in a 35-21 win.

Against Northern Valley/Old Tappan in the North 1, Group 3 final, Estevez accounted for 364 yards of offense. That included 22 yards on two carries in overtime that led to the go-ahead TD. Up by six and facing a fourth-and-two, Estevez also broke through the Old Tappan offensive line to make the game-ending tackle as River Dell celebrated its first section title since 2007.

Estevez finished the season with 1,324 yards rushing and 15 TDs on 166 carries for an impressive average of eight yards per carry. Overall, he averaged 330 yards of total offense per game and was named second team all-state.

On the basketball court, Estevez was a complimentary player for a team that exceeded expectations. He averaged 9.6 points, five rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game for the Golden Hawks, who finished 19-8. Once again, he saved his best play for the state tournament. He netted a career-high 19 points in a first-round win over Dwight Morrow. Then he led all players with 10 rebounds and four assists in a two-point win over Northern Valley/Demarest. In the North 1, Group 3 section semifinals against Ramapo, Estevez hit a key lay-up in overtime then broke up an inbounds pass to at the buzzer to close out a 58-55 win.

The attention turned to baseball in the spring when Estevez, a shortstop, helped lead River Dell to the Bergen County Tournament semifinals. Facing a tough Pascack Valley squad with undefeated pitcher Jordan Issadackes on the mound, the Golden Hawks needed someone to step up and set the tone. Estevez did that by going 2-for-3 including an RBI single that capped a three-run first inning en route to a 4-2 upset over the No. 3 seed.  

Marcellus Earlington, Don Bosco Prep


Earlington had already cemented himself as a wrecking ball for opposing offenses by the end of his sophomore year. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound defensive end showed in his junior season that he can play both the run and the pass well despite often being double-teamed.

With improved hand technique and footwork Earlington anchored the Don Bosco Prep defense. He finished the season with 68 tackles, 19 of them for loss, along with ten sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and a defensive touchdown.

He came into his junior year as a football player that also played basketball. That changed however as the Ironmen had their best hoops season in school history with the play of Earlington highlights being the biggest reasons why.

Earlington was a dominant force in the paint and thrived in the big moments. In the Bergen County Jamboree final, his free-throw in the waning seconds put Don Bosco up one and he then forced a rushed shot on the final possession as the Ironmen held on for a 53-52 victory and the program’s first Jambo title since 2008.

Earlington scored in double-figures in 15 of his teams final 16 games of the season, including in every state tournament game. His best play came in the Tournament of Champions with back-to-back double-doubles in wins over Verona and Linden. The one against Linden was arguably his best game of the season with game-highs of 23 points and 14 rebounds.

For they year, he averaged over 16 points per game. Earlington has over 15 Division 1 scholarship offers for football, including Michigan State, Georgia, North Carolina, and Penn State. He also started to garner attention from mid-major Division 1 schools like New Hampshire and Iona for basketball. He also got his first dual offer to play both sports recently from Temple.

Honorable Mention:
Jack Scordato, Ramapo
Tom Reid, Rutherford
Carlos Pepin, Lodi
Jason Modak, Wayne Hills
KC Hunt, Ramapo

Female Athlete of the Year:
Devin Riker, Emerson


Riker often looked like the smallest player on the field or on the court regardless of the opponent. It was apparent by watching her play that you cannot measure the heart and the will of a player by her stature.

The do-everything senior midfielder never shied away in the big moments on the soccer pitch with her biggest goals coming in the Bergen County Tournament. She scored two first-half goals in a 3-1 first-round win over Cliffside Park. She followed that up by scoring the game-winning goal midway through the second half as the No. 25-seeded Cavos pulled off the upset over No. 9 seed Paramus Catholic. She also scored the lone goal in a hard-fought 2-1 loss to Indian Hills in the Round of 16.

Riker stepped up in tournament play during the state tournament. She scored early to help Emerson to a 4-0 first-round win over Cresskill, then notched the game-winning assist in a 2-0 upset of fourth-seeded New Milford. On the season, she finished with 17 goals and a team-high 11 assists on her way to being named third-team All Group 1.

The motto was ‘Our Time’ for the Emerson girls’ basketball season and one that Riker and her teammates took literally. She wanted a shot at winning her first championship in high school and the springboard to that success came with a career-high 28 points to help Emerson mount a huge fourth-quarter comeback and a 47-44 win over Cresskill that locked up the NJIC-Patriot league crown.

Then in the state tournament, the teams met again with a section final berth at stake. Coming off of a 20-point effort in a quarterfinal win over Midland Park, Riker had another solid effort with 14 points along with forcing a turnover late in overtime that helped Emerson win another close one over top-seeded Cresskill, 57-55. In the section final, Riker was a defensive wizard with a season-high six steals to go with 16 points and five assists as Emerson won its fourth North 1, Group 1 section title in school history and its first since 2011. Riker finished the season averaging 14 points, four steals, and three assists per game.

Riker just wanted to be a part of Emerson’s first varsity lacrosse team, hoping to merely have fun in the final high season of her varsity career. She did more than just that as Emerson surprisingly ripped through the American Central Division league schedule and even won a first-round Bergen County Tournament game on the way to a 12-6 record. Riker was named first team all-league, just as she was in soccer and basketball.

Emily Calabrese, Ramapo


Calabrese already had a Division 1 scholarship to St. Bonaventure for basketball locked up going into her senior year, but that did not stop her from making a big impact on all three high school seasons, leading both the volleyball team and lacrosse team to new heights.

The 5-foot-11 senior was a cog in the Ramapo rotation that made its living at the net. Her height and athleticism made her a key contributor as Ramapo won the Group 2 state volleyball title and finished with a 23-3 record.

On the hardwood is where Calabrese made her biggest impact in a Ramapo uniform. Even though she faced constant attention and double teams from opposing teams, she was the most consistent player in North Jersey this past season. Calabrese knew how to finish on the block as well as any player around and also showed she could step out and hit the mid-range jumper in leading the Green Raiders to a 19-9 record.

She showed off her skills against the best competition, even if those efforts did not always end in victory. Calabrese had 19 points and 15 rebounds against Bergen County champion Saddle River Day and 22 points and 10 rebounds in a season-ending state tournament loss to eventual Group 3 state champ Pascack Valley. On the season, Calabrese averaged 18.4 points and 11 rebounds per contest. That included a North Jersey-leading streak of 17 straight double-doubles to close out her career.

Honorable Mention:
Madison Noordeloos, Hawthorne
Hailey Ricciardi, Ridgewood
Michaela McMahon, Saddle River Day
Hannah Cermack, Ridgewood
Nicolette MacDonald, Pompton Lakes
Hannah Busch, Mahwah
Lauren Toolen, Waldwick