GAMERS: Playing football helped keep Par Hills' Weiss out of trouble

GAMERS: Playing football helped keep Par Hills' Weiss out of trouble

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GAMERS: Playing football helped keep Par Hills' Weiss out of trouble

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There was a time in Michael Weiss’ life where playing in a high school football state championship game would have been the furthest thing from his mind.

You see, the Parsippany Hills senior outside linebacker was a bit of an instigator in grade school and found himself in a heap of trouble all the time.

“I was fooling around a lot and kept getting into fights,” said Weiss, who figured he was suspended a total of 20 times during seventh grade.

But things dramatically changed for Weiss when he joined the football team in eighth grade.

“Once I started playing football, there were no more suspensions,” Weiss said. “I never got in trouble then. Without football, I don’t know where I’d be. I’d probably be roaming the streets or something.”

Weiss knows exactly where he will be Friday night. He will line up at outside linebacker for the Vikings, as they face Summit for the NJSIAA North 2, Group III state championship game at Kean University.

Weiss will try to help bring the 9-2 Vikings the first state championship in the school’s history by knocking off the 11-0 Hilltoppers, who have won their last 23 games, including a win over the Vikings in last year’s state sectional semifinals.

There was a point earlier this season where Weiss thought he might not get the chance to play high school football again.

Weiss suffered a severe high ankle sprain in a 22-21 loss to West Morris Oct. 26, an injury that might have kept Weiss on the sidelines for the duration of the season.

“It was their first or second offensive play,” Weiss said. “They ran a sweep and my foot got caught in the turf. I twisted it and went down. I tried to walk it off and stayed on the field for one more play. But after that play, I walked right to the sidelines.”

Incredibly, Weiss received a solid taping from the Parsippany Hills training staff, but after the game, the ankle was severely swollen.

“It did cross my mind that it could have been over,” Weiss said. “I remember thinking, ‘What if that was the last play of my career?’ I was worried it was over. It really was hard to sit and watch my teammates play. I felt like my teammates needed me.”

Weiss was determined to make it back. He worked diligently with the trainers to get healthy enough to play.

“I didn’t feel like I could sit out for three weeks,” Weiss said. “I just had to do everything they told me to do.”

Weiss missed three games, then returned to face South Plainfield in the opening round of the state playoffs.

But Weiss’ biggest contribution came in the closing minutes of the Vikings’ huge 20-17 upset win over previously undefeated West Essex in the sectional semifinals Nov. 22.

“He had the biggest play of the season,” Parsippany Hills head coach Dave Albano said.

With the Knights marching toward what appeared to be the game-winning score in the 1:16, Weiss registered sacks on consecutive plays.

“It was first-and-goal from the six,” Albano said. “Weiss literally got a sack with one finger. He reached out with one arm and got the quarterback (Matt Thies) with one finger and was able to fling him down. I don’t know how he did it. On second down, he got another sack, breaking through a double team.”

It pushed the Knights back far enough that the potential 33-yard game-tying field goal sailed wide right with 27 seconds left, enabling the Vikings to make their second appearance in the North 2, Group III title game in the last three years.

When the 2013 season began, Weiss was a defensive tackle, where he played last season. But in shuffling the defense around, Albano moved Weiss to outside linebacker.

“I just thought that Michael would be more comfortable being on his feet,” Albano said. “So we moved Weiss to outside linebacker and (Michael) Dogbe to defensive tackle. I just knew he would have a better feel at linebacker.”

It was a move that Weiss wholeheartedly applauded.

“I really wasn’t that great of a defensive lineman anyway,” Weiss said. “I’m pretty small (Weiss stands 6-foot-1, but weighs only 180 pounds). “I was very happy getting moved to outside linebacker. It was a better fit. I said to myself that this is where I was going to step up and make plays. I felt comfortable and safe there, as long as Michael and Stephen (Hill) were up front. I trust them.”

Weiss has made 41 tackles this season, but 13 of those tackles have been sacks.

Albano likes the way Weiss has matured during the season.

“His leadership ability has been tremendous,” Albano said. “I wasn’t sure if he was going to handle it being that type of leader. But in mini-camp in June, he stepped up and really earned being a captain.”

Weiss is another member of the Vikings who also excels in wrestling, having won the District 9 championship at 170 pounds last winter.

“I feel that wrestling and football go hand-in-hand with each other,” Weiss said. “It’s the same mentality. If you don’t have dedication, you won’t do well. I think football has so much more emotion that you can’t display in wrestling.”

Albano is ecstatic the way Weiss has evolved.

“To have good things happen for Michael is very gratifying for me,” Albano said. “He’s the kind of kid that you want to have success. I’m very happy for him. He lives for this. He lives for this team. It’s all about being part of a team for him. He’s a true success story.”

Weiss is another weight room fanatic.

“All the others feed off Michael’s dedication in the weight room,” Albano said. “We have to throw them (Weiss, Hill and Dogbe) out of the weight room. They’re in there for hours and we want to go home. But the others see that kind of hard work and it rubs off.”

Weiss can’t wait for Friday night.

“I remember two years ago and thinking that it would be the most amazing thing if we won,” Weiss said. “Now, it’s here and how cool would it be if we were the captains on the team that finally won one for the school?”

Honestly, it would be beyond cool — especially for the former troublemaker, who has his head in the right place these days.

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