Chris Chukwuneke, a rising junior and one of the Greater Middlesex Conference’s top running backs, has transferred from J.P. Stevens High School to St. John Vianney in Holmdel, where he is expected to make an immediate impact.
Chukwuneke amassed 1,069 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground last season, accounting for 58 percent of the Hawks’ rushing yardage while earning second-team All-Area honors from the Home News Tribune.
He is the younger brother of 2014 graduate Chewy Chukwuneke, who hold J.P. Stevens’ career record for all-purpose yards (5,188), ranks second all-time at the North Edison school for total rushing yards (3,419) and is the Hawks’ single-season record holder with 1,656 rushing yards.
Chukwuneke (5-foot-11, 185 pounds, 4.45 40-yard dash time according to his HUDL profile) has established a bonafide address change, meaning he will not have to sit 30 days under NJSIAA transfer rules.
He led the Hawks with 21 receptions for 192 yards last season and accounted for 12 of the team’s 25 touchdowns. Chukwuneke had a breakout game against Marlboro in early November 2014, rushing for 291 yards and four touchdowns in a performance that earned him Player of the Week honors from the Home News Tribune and Rookie of the Week honors from MSG Varsity.
“I’m stunned because Chris was one of the top running backs coming back this year,” said MyCentralJersey.com football analyst Marcus Borden, a NJFCA and NJSIAA Hall of Fame mentor.
“He was quite impressive as a sophomore, obviously, following in the footsteps of his brother. I think it’s a great loss for the J.P. Stevens program and for Middlesex County football because I think he’s a great player who has a bright future. Playing tough competition from a Group V program in the (GMC) Red Division, I think Chris will make an immediate impact (at St. John Vianney).”
Bolstered by the transfer of six players from four Shore Conference schools, St. John Vianney finished 10-1 last fall, setting a single-season school record for victories while winning the Shore Conference Class A Central championship, the Lancers’ first division title since 1982. St. John Vianney also recorded its first playoff win since 1981 last year.
Chukwuneke will complement rising senior Anthony Brown, a dual-threat quarterback who committed to Boston College after passing for 2,144 yards and rushing for 708 more last season, and will benefit from the blocking of rising junior offensive lineman Micah Clark, who holds offers from Ohio State and Alabama, among others. Khalil Haskins, a rising senior cornerback and slot back for the Lancers who amassed 663 yards of total offense, holds an offer from Utah.
Chukwuneke said a family move to Morganville in Monmouth County, not football, led to his decision to transfer to St. John Vianney.
“I will cherish it and never take it for granted,” Chukwuneke said of his time at J.P. Stevens. “I loved playing football there and following in my brother’s footsteps.”
St. John Vianney named Derek Sininsky its new head coach on July 27, two days after the school emailed parents of players, informing them Mark Ciccotelli was not going to return as the Lancers’ mentor. In a subsequent press release, St. John Vianney announced that Ciccotelli, who coached the Lancers only for the 2014 campaign, had resigned. Sininsky previously served as the head football coach at Raritan, Monmouth Regional and Marlboro.
J.P. Stevens, which finished 2-8 a year ago and has not posted a winning record since 2003, hired Joe Riggi in April as its fourth head coach in as many years.
The Hawks, who employed just three head coaches over their first 43 seasons, have had five head coaches within the last decade. J.P. Stevens last qualified for the playoffs 14 years ago.