After valiantly trying to keep its season alive, the undermanned Cardinal McCarrick High School football team, down once again to just 13 healthy players, no longer is eligible for varsity competition this fall.
The Eagles, who forfeited their Sept. 27 game to Keyport, rebounded to play Metuchen last weekend, enduring a 49-0 loss to the Bulldogs in their 13th consecutive Greater Middlesex Conference Blue Division defeat.
Cardinal McCarrick endured some attrition over the past several days, however, and consequently forfeited this weekend’s game to Spotswood, according to Gil Pritchard, the school’s athletics director.
Under NJSIAA rules, schools that forfeit two games in a year are ineligible to compete at the varsity level for the remainder of that season.
Pritchard said the Eagles are exploring the possibility of playing some junior varsity games over the remainder of the year as the school tries to keep some momentum for next fall.
“It’s amazing to me that they got through to this point,” Spotswood Athletics Director Bill Visokay said. “To me, the amount of heart and dedication that these kids and coaches from Cardinal McCarrick have is phenomenal.”
The Eagles also had games remaining against Dunellen, South River, Highland Park and Middlesex. Each of those teams and Spotswood will earn a forfeit victory that will count toward their win-loss total.
“I know that (Cardinal McCarrick’s) administration and coaches are doing everything possible to not have this happen,” GMC President Carl Buffalino said. “If Cardinal McCarrick feels they cannot safely (compete), then it’s the right thing. You’ve got to keep kids safe. You can’t be playing 48 minutes with (13) players. They need rest.”
The Eagles have petitioned the GMC for a football-only release from the conference, a request the league is trying to accommodate and one that would allow Cardinal McCarrick to play an independent schedule as it tries to increase participation numbers.
First-year head coach Mario Alejandro, the school’s fourth in as many seasons, and team captain Armand Arnaldy, in separate but ominously foreboding pregame speeches last Friday night, told the Eagles before they took the field with just 16 players against Metuchen to compete as though the game would be their last.
Cardinal McCarrick has been outscored 629-86, or by an average of 41.8 points per game, during its current division losing streak.
Instability in the coaching ranks and the school’s already-low enrollment numbers — Cardinal McCarrick has the eighth-smallest student population of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s 347 football-playing schools — contributed to the program’s demise.
The Eagles have dropped 21 of their past 23 games, with the lone victories both coming over Mater Dei.
A Shore Conference school’s program was in peril not long ago with a roster of less than 20, but Mater Dei has rebounded with increased sub-varsity numbers and an infusion of transfers. The Seraphs are off to their best start (3-1) since 1986, including a 38-16 victory over Cardinal McCarrick.
Spotswood, coached by Visokay in 1991, competed that season with just 19 players. The ability of the Chargers and Mater Dei, where Visokay also once served as a head coach, to rebound should encourage Cardinal McCarrick.
“I think it gives them a great deal of hope and it can possibly even give them a blueprint,” Visokay said. “It (rebuilding) is a tough thing to do, but it can be done. It’s going to take some time.”
Formerly known as St. Mary, Cardinal McCarrick previously shut down its gridiron program in 1932 and reinstated it 66 years later.