The past and present of the Shore Conference’s flagship football program — Brick Township High School — collided on Saturday morning in the Green Dragons’ locker room at Brick Township High School.
The outcome of the collision was one those who have followed the Brick program for any length of time are so used to seeing — a championship.
Brick won its seventh NJSIAA sectional championship and first since 1994 with a come-from-behind 26-15 win over Colts Neck in the Central Group IV championship game before a predominantly pro-Brick crowd of around 3,000 at The College of New Jersey.
Before the game, Warren Wolf — the Green Dragons’ legendary first head coach from 1958-2008 — spoke to Brick’s current players and coaches. There was not a dry eye in the house.
“All the coaches were crying,” said Brick coach Rob Dahl, who is in his third season as the head coach at his scholastic alma mater and was a player on Brick’s 1989 South Group IV championship team. “Some of the players who had never even met Coach Wolf before were crying. It was awesome. I think it set the tone for the whole day.
“Our boys were focused, but when Coach Wolf came in to talk to them, everybody became even more focused and more hungry to win. Then, every player went up and shook his hand. It was awesome.”
The appearance of the 86-years-young Wolf, who had 361 of his 364 career wins at Brick, was something that was organized by Dahl, former Brick player and assistant coach Donovan Brown and Brick athletic director Rick Handchen.
“It meant the world to us,” Dahl said. “He’s the guy that put our coaches here, made them great fathers and great men. He’s responsible for our success.”
During his coaching career, when Wolf spoke to his team, the words were always simple and powerful. It was always like somebody from above was speaking.
“He didn’t say much, but the couple of things he said really touched our hearts,” said Brick junior running back Ray Fattaruso, whose 2-yard touchdown run with 2:59 left put Brick ahead to stay at 19-15. “It gave us little bit of momentum coming into the game. Seeing Coach Wolf was a great sight. He built the history at Brick.”
Fattaruso said Wolf’s message was about heart and how Brick has always played with heart.
“He said you have to have heart to win and having heart will make you victorious,” Fattaruso said.
Wolf’s message even touched those in the Brick locker room who grew up around two of Brick’s biggest rivals — Toms River South and Toms River North.
“It was an honor to meet him. I’ve never met him,” said Brick junior quarterback Carmen Sclafani, who transferred to Brick from Toms River North over the summer and whose father kicked the game-winning field goal for Toms River South in the 1983 South Group IV championship game.
“It was breathtaking. He told me good luck and I was honored.”
And this Brick team is one Wolf would be proud of. It is physical on both sides of the ball and plays relentlessly with Green and White in its heart.
Sclafani is a typical Brick quarterback from the past in the mold of Dan Dudd, Paul Durkin and Todd Durkin in that he knows how to win. He rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 26 mostly bruising carries on Saturday. He made key play after key play.
Fattaruso is a bruising runner who plays at one speed on both sides of the ball.
Brick’s game-winning drive was a classic drive from any glorious Brick year you could think of The Green Dragons went 76 yards in 14 plays in 8:13. Sclafani scrambled for 11 yards on a third-and-7. Fattaruso plowed for 3 yards on a fourth-and-1 from the Colts Neck 11 with 4:44 left.
Brick would not be denied and listening at home on the radio Wolf was probably smiling.
“They are a Brick football team 100 percent,” said Brick principal and former offensive lineman and assistant coach Dennis Fillippone, who was wearing his Brick 1972 varsity jacket. “They are tough. They never quit. They have brought us back to where we’re supposed to be.”