Champs for all time

Freehold High School in Freehold Borough has a long, proud tradition of athletic achievement, but until Dec. 6 the Colonials had never won a state football championship on the field of play.

Before the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association instituted high school football playoffs in the 1970s, several Freehold High School football teams of the past had been recognized as state champions based on their regular season achievements.

With all due respect to Freehold’s athletes of yesteryear, this year’s Colonials did something that no other Freehold football team had ever done — they won a gridiron title on the field.

In a stirring 21-14 victory over Middletown South High School at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, Freehold claimed the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III crown and concluded an 11-1 season.

The Dec. 6 championship game against Middletown South, a fellow member of the Shore Conference, turned out a lot better than the Colonials’ previous appearance in a state sectional final.

In 1985 Freehold reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship game, but the Colonials lost at home to Somerville.

It turned out to be another 23 years before the Colonials were able to earn their way back to an NJSIAA championship football game, and when they got there, they made the most of it.

Coach Mark Ciccotelli’s team played as a unit all year. With their focus on a goal of being the best they could be, this group of Colonials won 10 straight games before losing to Colts Neck High School on Thanksgiving. They rebounded a week later to defeat Middletown South and claim their state championship.

The Newark Star-Ledger, which covers high school football on a statewide basis, ranked the Colonials as the No. 7 team in New Jersey at the conclusion of the season. That recognition is a tribute to Freehold’s players, coaches and the legion of fans who supported the team all year.

Our hats are off to a team that made the commitment to revive a program that had struggled for several years. This squad added a shining moment and a memorable chapter to Freehold High School’s impressive athletic legacy.