Rebuilding the Dynasty

Sam Altland, Sports Editor

As the South boys football team departed Rutgers Stadium on Saturday night after falling to Sayreville 35-28, it was impossible not to feel for the young men who had played their hearts out in pursuit of the Central Jersey Group IV Championship.  South, which had to overcome a 28-7 second quarter deficit, fought back to within seven late in the game, following a 99 yard 10 play drive which was capped by a 45 yard touchdown pass from Brey to Citarella.  Quarterback Kyle Brey went 13-31 for 233 yards and two touchdowns, and senior Anthony Citarella, had a sensational day, intercepting two passes, returning one for a score, and scoring on a pass from Brey with 2:25 left in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Eagles were unable to recover an onside kick in the waning minutes of the game, and as time expired on the clock, the boys were left with nothing to do but contemplate what could have been.

Although the season did not end with a South title, which would have been its first since 2006, the program saw a remarkable return to form this year after faltering in the first round of last years playoffs. Behind longstanding coach Antonucci, and a core of remarkable players including seniors Keith Wiley, Dylan McCabe, Mike Roibal, Rob Martini, Conner Ryan, Eli Smith, and Jake Ripnick, the Eagles were able to finish the regular season with a 6-3 record, falling only to Manalapan, Colts Neck and RBC, all teams ranked in the conference top ten.  As the seventh seed in the CJGIV tournament, the Eagles dismantled the number two seeded West Windsor South 40-8, and then went on to avenge their regular season loss to Colts Neck by defeating the Cougars 45-35. The boys also continued their Thanksgiving Day dominance, defeating Middletown North 21-13.

For the seniors, the last practice of their high school careers was particularly special. In keeping with their long standing tradition, the senior players walked the length of the field one by one for the final time, flanked on either side by the underclass. Senior lineman Mike Roibal was the last one to make the long trek across the field. Roibal, who broke his ankle right before the championship game, was unable to play in that game and his presence was sorely missed. “If Mike didn’t get hurt it would have been a different game.” said Citarella.

Several of the Eagles were rewarded for their efforts this year as seniors Keith Wiley, Eli Smith, and Junior Tayler Hendrickson  all earned First Team All Shore Honors, and seniors Mike Roibal and Jake Ripnick both earned Third Team All shore Honors.

“The team as a whole never gave up this year” said Citarella, “We fought against adversity and grew together as a family. The last game was hard, but I will never regret the blood sweat and tears I shed with my teammates. I wish next year’s players the best of luck, and even more success.”