MADISON – Petar Haboj didn’t have to look very far to find his motivation to become a football player at Madison High School.
Haboj had his older brother, Nick, who was an All Daily Record selection as a defensive end in 2012, as the Dodgers were ending their three-year run on NJSIAA North 2 Group II championships, winning a school-record 39 straight games.
“He always picked on me when I was little and back then, I thought he was a jerk,” Haboj said of his older brother. “But he really helped me a lot. I could see his attitude on the field. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to have his style of play. I could see people, opponents were intimidated by him. I have a great relationship with my brother.”
So when Petar arrived on the scene with the Dodgers, it was only natural that the comparisons would begin.
“All the coaches would tell me to be like my brother, to play like my brother,” Petar Haboj said. “Everyone wanted me to be like him.”
“They are very similar,” Madison head coach Chris Kubik said. “They have the same motor. They’re intense kids. They play at one speed and that speed is fast. They’re built the same way and weigh right around the same. And they work hard.”
The younger Haboj has followed the Madison tradition of feeling his way around a few positions.
“It’s usually what everyone goes through,” Kubik said. “We figure out where the players might end up, but it sometimes takes time. With Petar, we were just looking for the right place for him to fit in.”
“My sophomore year, I was a guard, then my junior year, I was moved to tight end in a double tight end set,” Petar Haboj said. “And I started at nose guard.”
This year, Haboj finally settled in being a starter on both the offensive and defensive line. On offense, he’s a tight end, but in the Madison scheme, he’s predominately a blocker.
“People seem to think our tight end is like a third tackle,” Kubik said.
On defense, Haboj is a starter at defensive tackle.
“It keeps my intensity up,” Haboj said. “I like getting everyone else pumped up and ready to play. It keeps me in the zone.”
Haboj said that he always heard it from his brother that he has three state championship rings.
“He always pushes it in my face,” Haboj said. “He wears all three and says, ‘How many rings do you have?’ It really motivated me to get one.”
After the Dodgers lost consecutive games in September to Lenape Valley and Butler, it didn’t look like Petar would get the shot at a state title that his older brother got.
“I really didn’t know what was going to happen,” Haboj said. “We were 1-2, but I knew we had a very talented team. I knew that we had the talent, but we also had the heart.”
The Dodgers made some personnel moves in the lineup and the moves worked, because they haven’t lost since and now Petar gets the chance to get a state title like Nick, as the Dodgers prepare to face Rutherford for the North 2 Group II title Thursday at MetLife Stadium at 5 p.m.
“After we beat Lenape (Valley in the sectional semifinals two weeks ago), I couldn’t believe it,” Haboj said. “We were going to the state championship game. We worked so hard to get there. It was like a dream come true. It’s another way I had to always look up to my brother, because he won a state championship and I always wanted something that he has. Now, I get a chance to get my own. And especially since it’s at MetLife Stadium. There’s something he never did.”
Madison and Nick Haboj won all three of their state championship games at Kean University. Petar (yes, that’s the correct spelling) will have one up on his brother if the Dodgers win this time at MetLife.
“Whenever I tell people my name, they ask, ‘Did they spell it wrong?’” said Haboj, whose father was born in Serbia. “I don’t care. People can call me whatever they want, as long as we’re winning.”