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Guiliano displays grit on the gridiron, diamond for Wall

June 21, 2012

WALL TOWNSHIP — Wall senior Jim Guiliano does not care much if you remember that he rushed for over 1,000 yards for the football team this fall — or, that he hit .400 for the Crimson Knights baseball team in the spring.

As The Coast Star Male Athlete of the Year Runner-Up, Guiliano only hopes people remember him as an athlete who played sports with heart — one that approached each snap of the football or pitch of the baseball as if it was his last.

“I am not about stats,” said Guiliano, standing on the Crimson Knights practice football field recently. “I want people to remember that I had fun and that I always tried to be a team player. I hope to be remember as someone who worked hard.”

And Guiliano certainly did work hard.

Coming into the 2011 football season, Guiliano, who was also a starter in the secondary, was asked by head football coach Chris Barnes to become the Crimson Knights’ every-down running back, a changeup in approach of the 2010 squad that featured a three-man running trio.

Having put in a grueling offseason of hard work with his teammates, Guiliano felt up to the challenge presented by Barnes.

“I was ready,” he said, looking back. “I hit the weight room pretty good in the offseason and had the offensive lineman help me out. They are my friends and they were great in getting me ready.”

Along with help from teammates, Guiliano also credited Barnes and his staff for putting a belief in him that he could be the go-to ball carrier for one of the top offenses in the Shore Conference.

“The coaches really believed in me,” he said.

Guiliano would answer the toll of the bell for Wall in a big way this past fall, rushing for 1,073 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns to become one of the Shore’s elite running backs.

The 6-foot, 187-pound senior agreed it was his week-one performance against a strong Lacey defense that spurred him on to a big year for the Crimson Knights.

“I think so,” said Guiliano, who rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns during a 21-14 win over the Lions. “They are a great defense and we were able to run power on them. It was good to get my feet wet and get comfortable as the running back.”

With the team cruising, undefeated at 7-0, Wall — which had state championship aspirations — experienced back-to-back losses late in the season. The second loss, a 19-7 defeat at the hands of Steinert in the the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Central Group III playoffs, ended the team’s dream of a state title.

After losing to Steinert, the Crimson Knights had to quickly gear their focus on rival Manasquan, which would be coming to town on Thanksgiving Day to play for the C Central Division championship.

“It was tough to lose those two games, but we just had to move past it and get focused at practice on Manasquan,” said Guiliano, who, as one of the seniors, had the responsibility of keeping the team on track.

Wall would go on to turn its focus into a 16-6 victory over the rival Warriors on Turkey Day, giving the Crimson Knights a 8-2 record to end the year, but, more importantly, the championship the class of 2012 had longed for.

It was a storybook ending to his football career, according to Guiliano.

“It was great to beat Squan and end our careers with a championship under our belts,” he said. “It was a perfect ending — it was definitely my last football game and I had my whole family there. Nothing compared to that.”

Following the football season, Guiliano had the winter to rest up and recoup from the big hits he suffered during the fall and prepare for his final season on the diamond for the Wall baseball team.

Guiliano could not wait to throw on his red stirrups and gray cap and get back on the baseball field, as Wall brought back a talented and experienced class for manager Todd Schmitt.

“I was so excited for baseball — everyone returning on the team were great friends of mine,” Guiliano said.

As impressive as he was for Barnes on the gridiron, Guiliano, a third baseman, was equally as good for Schmitt.

Guiliano hit .400 and drove in 24 RBIs for the Crimson Knights during the spring, and also played stellar defense at the hot corner as Wall earned a record of 19-6 and won the C Central Division for the second straight year.

The Crimson Knights were unable to capture the state title they coveted, but Guiliano said coming up short of a second championship did nothing to ruin time spent with his friends out on the baseball field this season.

“We won 19 games and we won a championship,” he said, referring to the C Central title. “We didn’t win a state title like we would have wanted, but the season was so fun. Since sixth grade we have all been playing together. It was great to play another year of baseball with those guys.”

For his efforts during the baseball season, Guiliano was named to the Shore Baseball Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game, with the Monmouth squad he was participating on taking the game over Ocean County, 10-2, last Thursday.

After what he called “four great years” in crimson, Guiliano takes with him fond memories from Wall High School to West Virginia University [WVU] in Morgantown, W.V.

“It was a great experience,” said Guiliano, who is undecided on whether or not he will try out for the baseball team as a walk-on player at WVU. “I wanted to come in here with a good work ethic and make the best of it. I also wanted a good education.”

With all the thanks he had for teammates, teachers and coaches, Guiliano also acknowledged the strong support system he has at home — his parents, Ralph and Jane, and his two older sisters, Amy and Korinne.

“They have been great,” Guiliano said. “I love them all. What they have done for me no one could explain.”

follow me on twitter: @samcostantino

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