It’s hard to achieve in any endeavor. And it’s particularly difficult when you’re talking about a group of teenage football players trying to go three months without experiencing the agony of defeat.
No one from the Shore Conference team had done it since Lacey in 2010 before Middletown South and Shore did it in 2015.
For Middletown South, it was the eighth time the program’s had an unblemished record since 1990, more than any other are school. But that’s the exception.
Since the NJSIAA playoffs were instituted in 1974, it’s only happened 40 times for Shore area teams over 42 seasons.
Everything has to go right, every weekend.
Legendary coach Warren Wolf, who won a state record 361 games, guided Brick to seven undefeated seasons between 1960 and 1981, including two in the playoff era. The late Vic Kubu, Wolf’s defensive coordinator for a decade, did it seven times, beginning in 1984 at Middletown North before leading Manasquan to six perfect seasons.‘
“But once the game gets started, you’re just out there playing to win. And if you’re lucky enough to reach the point where you’re playing for a championship, it’s something extra special.’’’It’s hard because I think the pressure starts to build up with the boys,’’ Wolf said this week. “Not so much with the coaches, because we’re just going out and doing what we do. But one mistake or a dropped pass or a blocked punt, and you say, `I don’t want to be the cause of us losing.’ The pressure’s really on them.
In terms of pressure, excitement and intensity, it’s hard to imagine anything matching Brick’s 1974 season, when the Green Dragons became the first team in state history to post a 10-0 record.
In the inaugural NJSIAA playoffs that season, Brick defeated Camden, 21-20, in the South Jersey Group IV final in Atlantic City’s Convention Hall, stopping a two-point conversion with 2:58 to play.
“It starting with the first practice for that game,’’ Wolf recalled. “The fans were excited, and the phone calls and the buildup was more awesome. Of course, that’s a good problem to have. You’re invited here and there. It was something, really.’’
Bob Generelli, who played for Kubu at Middletown North, has coached three undefeated teams.
He jumpstarted the Middletown South program with his teams going 10-0-1 in 1990 and 11-0 in 1992. He also guided Raritan to its only unbeaten season in 2004.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into it, but there’s some luck involved,’’ Generelli said. “ First and foremost, the team has to be talented. But it’s critically important that you stay healthy.
“When a team is experiencing a lot of success and winning, the emotional momentum that builds creates a belief system where the players feel that they can overcome whatever adversity they encounter. I think you start to notice it on the practice field and they how go about their business, the attention to detail and the investment day-to-day.’’
The season, which really begins during the summer with the first workouts, is a long grind. And maintaining that focus and intensity is never easy.
“It’s a high level of commitment and level of energy over a long period of time,’’ Generelli said.
“But the opportunity to play in December, that’s something that brings communities and families and students together. That’s why it’s so great.’’
Current Middletown South coach Steve Antonucci has accomplished the feat for the sixth time, as the Eagles look for their first state title since 2006, having lost in five finals since then.
Jackson Memorial and Lacey, with three perfect seasons, are the only other programs with more than two.
Staff writer Stephen Edelson is an Asbury Park Press columnist: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are the Shore Conference teams that have gone unbeaten and untied since 1974, when the NJSIAA playoffs were instituted:
Middletown South (1989, 92, 95, 2001, 03, 04, 05, 15)
Manasquan (1990, 91, 98, 99, 2002, 06)
Jackson Memorial (2000, 01, 05)
Lacey (1989, 2006, 10)
Brick (1974, 81)
Matawan (1975, 88)
Neptune (1995, 97)
Shore (1981, 15)
Wall (1982, 83)
Asbury Park (1984)
Long Branch (1986)
Middletown North (1984)
Point Boro (2005)
Red Bank (1975)
Toms River North (2007)
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