Deion Miller wasted no time asserting himself as the latest in a long line of stars at Sayreville High School, where the two-time defending sectional champion Bombers, coming off their 17th consecutive NJSIAA playoff appearance, continue to succeed.
Miller turned the tide in Friday night’s 35-0 season-opening victory over Old Bridge, breaking a scoreless second-quarter deadlock with a 40-yard touchdown run just seconds after he intercepted a pass at midfield.
The junior running back/middle linebacker finished with 107 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries as Sayreville, ranked No. 2 in the Home News Tribune Top 10, wore down the fourth-ranked Knights before an overflow crowd of more than 4,000 at Lombardi Field.
The game, regardless of its outcome, brought together a school-community in healing that continues to mourn the deaths of Old Bridge High School alums Cristina LoBrutto, 18, and Bryan Breen, 24, who were the victims of an Aug. 31 murder-suicide at a township grocery store.
“It’s a great turnout,” Old Bridge mayor Owen Henry said at halftime, with the Knights trailing 14-0 after Miller bulled his way into the end zone, breaking three tackles on an 18-yard scoring jaunt.
“You could see a majority of the crowd is kids. That’s what this is all about. Two recent graduates of the school (were killed). It’s tragic. It’s great to see everybody here. The place is packed. I’m proud to be mayor tonight.”
Sayreville graduated six key two-way starters including 2010 Home News Tribune Offensive Player of the Year Delon Stephenson, a running back/defensive back who is now playing at Rutgers University.
Miller is among the candidates in Sayreville’s deep backfield to succeed Stephenson as the next major offensive threat.
“Deion is a special kind of player because he gives us a different facet,” Sayreville coach George Najjar said. “He’s a power runner with some speed. He’s also a middle linebacker, so he has that tenacity about him. He’s a great football player.”
Old Bridge, which played an even first half statistically, being outgained 120-118 in yards from scrimmage, couldn’t overcome five turnovers, two of which Sayreville cashed in for touchdowns.
“At first we had a rough start,” Miller said. “Then we just came out and locked and loaded. My adrenaline (after the interception) was running, so I just went out there and broke a couple tackles and scored.”
Zeke Perkinson scored on a 12-yard run and offensive lineman Brian McDonough recovered teammate Isaiah Cureton’s fumble in the end zone as the Bombers scored twice in the third quarter to build a 28-0 lead.
Reserve running back Joe Velez closed out the scoring on a 3-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter. Anthony Caso set up the touchdown with a fumble recovery.
Old Bridge, whose leading ground gainer, Aaron Ford, finished with 95 yards on seven carries, ran just 12 plays from scrimmage in the second half.
“I think our players got the early season jitters out of their system in the first half,” Najjar said. “I think our conditioning played a part in the game. I think we were starting to dominate the line of scrimmage and that was the difference.”