By W.L. Bill Allen, Jr. / Director, NJ Sport/Action
Photo by Bill Allen-NJ Sport/ActionMembers of the football contingent from Rutherford High School revel in the rhapsody of reaping the NJIC/Colonial League-Division A championship by going 4-0 in that brand new league loop, en route to the a perfect 8-0 record season record.
RUTHERFORD (Nov. 12, 2010) — While the NFL finally introduced instant replay not all that long ago, tonight''s first round state playoffs game between unbeaten Rutherford High and West Essex Regional will be more of a "Distant replay" for the two programs involved and for one RHS coach in particular, as well.
Sporting a sparkling 8-0 record, the NJIC/Colonial League-Division A champion Rutherford Bulldogs are seeded third in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 2 state playoffs bracket and will play host to the sixth-slotted SEC/Liberty Division runnerup WE Knights, who will bring a 6-3 mark into the game, which is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff today, Friday, Nov. 12, at Tryon Field.
The last time the Bulldogs and the Knights tangled on the gridiron was in 2003, which also happens to be the last year that RHS won a league title. With the weekend's slate of state playoffs finals snowed out of the Giants Stadium that year, the North 2, Group 2 final between the 'Dogs and the Knights was postponed to the following Monday and moved to Riggin Field in East Rutherford, where Wessex stunned the heavily favored and previously unbeaten Bulldogs, 30-21, ending Rutherford''s dream of finishing undefeated and reaching 12-0 for the first time in the program''s history.
Adding to the total of strange coincidences between '03 and tonight are the facts that WE was a conference runnerup in that year, as well, and former RHS standout athlete Sean Ryan will be a key member of the Bulldogs battalion.
The squad's senior signal-caller in '03, Ryan is now the team's offensive coordinator.
RHS kicked-off its current campaign by whitewashing Waldwick, 40-0, on Sept. 10, prior to gouging Garfield, 35-6, on Sept. 16, embering Elmwood Park, 49-7, on Sept. 25, getting by Glen Rock, 24-23, Oct. 2, Lashing Lodi, 44-14, on Oct. 8, whitewashing Weehaken, 41-0, on Oct. 15, stunting Secaucus, 20-14, on Oct. 23 and passing Pascack Hills, 14-0, on Oct. 29. The wins over Garfield, EP, GR and Lodi brought the locals the North Jersey Interscholastic League/Colonial League-Division A championship in that grouping''s first year of existence.
Just as in the 2003 title tilt, tonight's tussle will bring together teams with diametrically opposed offensive philosophies, with RHS employing a high-octane passing oriented "Spread" offense and Wessex making its points almost exclusively via ground gains.
"We're extremely happy with what we've been able to accomplish so far this season and thrilled to have won a league championship," enthused first year RHS head coach Andy Howell.
A member of the Blue Mountain High (PA) Class of 2001, Howell was graduated from William Paterson University in 2005 and served as the team's defensive coordinator for three years under former head coach Frank Morano, prior to taking the club's controls this season.
Playing quarterback at WPU during part of Howell's time at the Wayne school was Ryan, who is now the Bulldogs'' offensive coordinator.
While Wessex did end up ruining the 2003 team's dreams of a perfect season, Ryan noted that, "This game isn't about me and, obviously, I'm not looking for revenge seven years later," adding, "This game is all about the current players and, if we win, it will be a great win for the program and give us a chance to advance to the state semifinals."