Versatile Darrar a leader on South River football team


 South River High School’s Sean Darrar, right, and teammates Travis Thomas, left, and Brandon Pacheco get ready to take the field for the Rams’ game on Oct. 4 at Keansburg High School. South River won, 22-16, to even its record at 2-2.  MATT DENTON South River High School’s Sean Darrar, right, and teammates Travis Thomas, left, and Brandon Pacheco get ready to take the field for the Rams’ game on Oct. 4 at Keansburg High School. South River won, 22-16, to even its record at 2-2. MATT DENTON When South River High School’s football team dropped a 9-0 decision to Metuchen High School in its opener on Sept. 12, Sean Darrar played his customary role as middle linebacker.

That was not the captain’s only position. When the Rams were on offense, Darrar switched back and forth from tight end to running back, something he never envisioned before the season began.

Darrar, who is 5 feet 9 inches tall and 190 pounds, was forced into a more prominent role after All-State running back Doug Ryan went down with a season ending leg injury during a scrimmage at New Brunswick High School the last week of August.

“The morning after we learned Doug was lost [for the season], we had a meeting with the captains and agreed this [season] was not over and we couldn’t just give up. We just had to play harder,” the normally quiet leader said.

The storied history of South River football has been built on a reputation for hardhitting and inspired play. From Darrar’s perspective, he knew he had to dial it up a notch and play with even more intensity, if for nothing else than being an example to his teammates.

Understandably, the cohesiveness Ryan brought to the running game was noticeably absent when South River failed to register points against Metuchen. Head coach Rich Marchesi struggled to find the players to complement the running game and introduced wrinkles that he now acknowledges were a mistake.

To their credit, Darrar and a revolving door of replacements played their hearts out. The disappointing defeat could have produced a hangover that lasted all season, but Darrar and his teammates were determined to “get over the loss.”

The result was what transpired during South River’s home-opener against Keyport High School on Sept. 20. The game was like night and day compared to the Rams’ performance against Metuchen, as South River posted four touchdowns in the first half to register a 26-0 lead. The final was 26-13, as fatigue took its toll on multiple players who never left the field.

“[Against Keyport], we executed on the line, on defense and in every other aspect of the game,” Darrar said. “If we continue to play like this and exhibit the same passion, we expect to get even better as the season moves along.”

The Rams’ opponent on Sept. 27, Middlesex High School, proved the season is likely to continue with more twists and turns. The Blue Division opponent posted a 41-20 decision to drop South River to 1-2. The Rams then evened their record on Oct. 4 with a 22-16 victory against Shore Conference opponent Keansburg High School. The borough native learned to play with passion when he first played football for the local Pop Warner entry, the Knights, a team he claims was “my first love.” Darrar said his coaches at that level had a major impact on his development into one of the top linebackers in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC).

“Even before Doug was injured, I learned multiple positions on offense, taking snaps at quarterback, fullback and tight end,” Darrar said.

“Naturally, we were committed to winning every game for him. But even though we lost [to Metuchen], I honestly believe our team attitude was better than it was before he was injured.”

When the football season is over, Darrar will transition to the hardwood, where he is a starter for the basketball team. Last season, Darrar averaged 17.8 points a game, qualifying him as the leading returning scorer.

His focus, however, remains helping his team repeat as GMC Blue Division champions. Success in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I playoffs would be a bonus.

“When you get to know Sean, you discover he’s a very amiable kid who smiles easily and is always willing to help out,” Marchesi said. “However, once the game starts, he turns into a terror and is one of the best middle linebackers in the conference.”

Darrar’s other passion off the field and basketball court, fishing, could influence where he goes to college, which Marchesi believes is possible.

“There are a number of schools that compete in fishing,” Darrar said. “It’s a sport I have enjoyed since my parents and grandparents took me to the [Farrington Lake] growing up.”

Darrar understands playing football and being a member of a fishing team in college also means making the grade in the classroom.

“When I first arrived in high school, it was very hard keeping my grades up because of the demands playing football and basketball,” he said. “When my junior year arrived, I made a point of concentrating on my grades. I have worked extremely hard and now have a 3.2 grade-point average. I’m striving to improve my grades even more.”

Darrar will also strive to help South River win football games, whether it’s playing linebacker, tight end, running back or carrying out water bottles during a time out.