Spotswood football captures first Blue Division title in 14 years


One of football’s most enduring traditions is celebrated at the end of the game when a ball is usually awarded to the player who has made the greatest impact.

Because of two significant calls by Spotswood High School head coach Andy Cammarano, a case could certainly be made that he deserved the pigskin for his role in the Chargers’ 10-6 victory over Metuchen High School on Nov. 8. The win enabled Spotswood to clinch its first Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division championship since 2000 and earn enough power points to assure the Chargers (fourth seed) a home game on Nov. 15 against Delaware Valley Regional High School (fifth seed) in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II playoffs.

Spotswood scored its only touchdown with 27 seconds left in the first quarter, when a wide-open Ryan Long gathered in a 27-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Smolin and sped untouched to the end zone.

“We saw that Metuchen was in man-toman coverage and was focused on [running back] Chase Fee,” Cammarano said. “So we came back to the other side of their coverage, and our quarterback [Smolin] found [Long] open.”

The second call by the Spotswood coach that turned out to be a game-changer came in the second quarter, when Metuchen’s quarterback, who had been hounded all game long, avoided a sack by the Chargers defense at the Bulldogs’ 41-yard line and completed a pass to an open receiver, who raced to the 10-yard line before being tackled. However, Cammarano saw that the official near his sideline didn’t call a penalty on a Metuchen lineman for being illegally downfield and began shouting to him to throw a flag.

The referee waited a few seconds for the side judge on the opposite side of the field to make a call before reaching into to his back pocket and tossing the yellow cloth. The penalty brought the ball back to the Metuchen 36-yard line, and the drive ended a few plays later.

After the gun sounded ending the game, Cammarano was doused with a Gatorade shower courtesy of his players — another timeless tradition. After that, he yanked his woolen knit hat down to his eyebrows in an attempt to keep warm and addressed questions about his team’s performance.

“I come back to the fact we graduated 12 guys from last year, and nobody wanted to give us a chance [to win the division],” he said. “But that’s OK. We didn’t do the chalkboard thing. We rallied around each other and talked about ‘It’s never going to happen easy.’ So when we faced adversity near the end of the game, we never got down but stayed the course.”

The main course all afternoon was a steady diet of defensive pressure that severely limited Metuchen’s offense, except for a 53-yard touchdown pass completion with 3:27 left in the game. That made the score 10-6 — the extra point was missed — and turned what looked like a Spotswood victory into a nail-bitter at the end.

Metuchen gained possession inside its 10-yard line with less than two minutes remaining, but it was without timeouts and quickly marched up the field with two pass completions. However, with 58 seconds remaining, senior Mason White intercepted a pass near the sideline at the Metuchen 40 to end the Bulldogs’ final threat.

Another important juncture occurred with 38 seconds left in the first half when Jake Bacchetti intercepted a pass near the goal line to snuff out another Metuchen threat. In all, the Chargers intercepted Metuchen four times and limited the Bulldogs to 40 yards rushing.

Spotswood’s other points came with 7:01 left in the second quarter when Connor McCloskey nailed a 27-yard field goal to extend its lead to 10-0.

“Our defense … played their hearts out today, especially [juniors] Lou Vacca and Joe Hayford,” Cammarano said. “We knew Metuchen would rely heavily on the pass, so we worked on protecting against it this week in practice.”

The Chargers’ playoff game against Delaware Valley will be the first time the teams have clashed since 2003, when they met in the same situation and the Chargers won, 49-48, in an epic contest.

Two teams that will compete in the Central Jersey Group V sectional are Monroe Township High School (seventh seed) and East Brunswick High School (eighth seed), who squared off on Nov. 7 in a GMC Red Division contest.

The 34-3 victory by the Falcons had little bearing on the playoff seeds since both were assured of berths in the playoffs.

Monroe visits Hillsborough High School (second seed) and East Brunswick meets top-seed South Brunswick High School on Nov. 14 with 7 p.m. kickoffs. In a contest between the Bears and Vikings on Oct. 10, East Brunswick absorbed a 40-9 loss.

South River High School ended the regular season by defeating Highland Park High School, 20-7, and will play a consolation game at Burlington City High School at 1 p.m. Nov. 15.