By CHRIS CHRISTOPHER
Kenny Pickett has a lot to live up to.
The former Ocean Township High School football standout has become a national name at the University of Pittsburgh where he is a rising senior quarterback.
He’s an All-America candidate. He’s on the Maxwell Award Watch List. The honor, presented by the Maxwell Football Club, goes to college football’s best all-around player.
He’s up for the Davey O’Brien Award, which goes to the nation’s best college quarterback. He’s a candidate for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented to the nation’s top senior/fourth-year junior quarterback.
He’s up for the Manning Award, which will go to college football’s outstanding quarterback. It honors former college and National Football League stars Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.
Pickett is seventh on the Panthers’ career passing yardage list with 5,576 yards. He’s eighth on Pitt’s career total offense list with 5,999 yards.
The year 2019 was Pickett’s second full season as the Panthers’ starting quarterback and he put up big time numbers.
He started 12 games. He completed 289 of 469 passes (62 percent) for 3,098 yards and 13 touchdowns. He set Pitt season records for completions and attempts. His passing yardage was the highest at Pitt since 2012 and ranked fourth on its single-season list. He paced the Atlantic Coast Conference and ranked fourth nationally in completions per game (24.08).
He was second in the ACC and 24th nationally in passing yards per game (258.2). The former Spartan threw nine interceptions. He rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 95 carries.
Pickett was named the Most Valuable Player of the Quick Lane Bowl, completing 27 of 39 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-30 win over Eastern Michigan.
He’s a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder.
In boys basketball:
Destination chosen: Neptune’s Sam Fagan has chosen his college.
The Scarlet Fliers’ rising senior point guard has verbally committed to play for the Monmouth University Hawks, according to his father, Neptune coach Joe Fagan.
The 5-foot-11 Fagan helped the Scarlet Fliers to a 16-13 record last season.
In facilities news:
Improvements made: Big things are happening at the Ranney School.
It partnered with the Princeton Soccer Academy to install Elite Turf, powered by Act Global, on the Panthers soccer, field hockey and lacrosse field. With the $578,000 installment made possible by the PSA, Ranney features the lone turf field in the nation with the new system. In the fall of 2020, Ranne and the PSA will partner on a $1 million project to create a second turf field on the school’s grounds with Elite Turf, powered by Act Global.
Other teams feature ACT Global Turf such as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice facility, the University of Kentucky, US Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings), the Chicago Bears’ practice facility and the Arizona Cardinals’ practice facility. The Ranney School is the first in the nation to have the comprehensive state of the art Elite Turf Power System installed. The system features both groundbreaking woven turf and non-rubber crumb infill using ocean plastic.
“We are excited to partner with the Princeton Soccer Academy to give our students across all ages the opportunity to train and play on this state of the art technology that will increase the safety for our student-athletes,” Ranney School athletics director Natalie Gorman said. “The ability to feature the same playing surface as the professionals use is an incredible benefit for our students. This system will increase the playing hours, be better on the environment and will be the new home to our soccer, field hockey and lacrosse programs.”
Act Global has installed more than 2,000 sports fields in more than 90 countries around the world, striving to positively impact society and maximize land use through the use of synthetic turf. Elite Turf is a distribution and installation partner of Act Global, the preferred supplier for FIFA Quality License, World Rugby, the International Hockey Federation and the United Soccer League.
Elite Turf’s POWER System is an all-in-one turf system encompassing a woven turf which is stronger and more durable than traditional tufted turf. Additional benefits of woven turf are that it is 100 percent recyclable at the end of its life and its fibers are Omni-directional, enhancing playability and creating the ideal sports surface for multi-purpose fields.
The POWER System also provides a safer, healthier, non-rubber infield crumb infill that’s not only better for athletes, but also for the environment. The patent pending infill aids in removing 40,000 pounds of ocean plastic per field while avoiding the controversial ground up tire infill found in the majority of fields.
The last key component of the POWER System is the Elite Power Drainage System, which drains more than two times faster than other fields, resulting in more playable hours.
“The PSA is very excited to be partnering with the prestigious Ranney School,” PSA executive director Ollie Hilliker said. “As the leading age three through grade 12 private school in Monmouth and Ocean counties (the school is located in Tinton Falls), Ranney shares a drive for values based learning in an environment that fosters individual excellence and character. This incredible groundbreaking project is going to have an astounding impact on the quality of surface and long term health of thousands of student-athletes through the Ranney School and the Princeton Soccer Academy Wildcats.”
In addition to the new field, the spring and summer have been busy with capital projects on Ranney’s campus, including the resurfacing of five tennis courts, as well as the swimming pool and baseball and softball fields. The aesthetics of the Gerhard Pavilion for Athletics has been upgraded and a Welcome Center and Panther Den school store were added.
Additional projects such as enhancements to the community garden, including a new outdoor classroom and alumni patio with a pizza oven, are in the final stages. Future capital improvements are in the planning stages.
NOTE: Ranney School spokeswoman Sara Zavorek contributed to this report.