No, it is not the Summit High School Varsity, who finished their regular season 9-0 and begin the playoffs, and their quest for a second consecutive state title, Nov. 16 at home. It is not the Summit High School freshmen, who finished their season 8-0-1, the lone tie coming versus Rahway.
It is the Summit Youth Football Seventh-Grade Team, and its players have never, yes never, lost a game since they have been together as a team starting in the fifth grade. The team competes in the New Jersey Suburban Youth Football League (NJSYFL) under the guidance of head coach Matt Johnson.
"This is a great group of athletes who genuinely like each other and play together as a team," said Johnson. Of equal importance is the dedication and the consistent composition of the coaching staff, all of whom have been with the team since its formation.
Indeed, in addition to their dedication and consistency, the coaching staff is laden with football DNA and knowledge. Johnson played at Penn State from 1983-87, and was a member of the Nittany Lions 1986 National Championship team. Assistant coaches Kevin Fagan (Harvard), David Hadley (SHS), John Kelly (Catholic University), Michael Jarmolowich (Maryland), Peter Nicoletti (Farleigh Dickinson), and Chris Tyler (SHS), all have played the game at a high level.
On the field, the team runs a scaled-down, but identical, version of the Spread Wing-T offense that Summit High School operates. "We have the same offense as the High School, we operate from their playbook," said Johnson.
Like the SHS Varsity, it is a "pick your poison" challenge for Summit's opposition, as 17 players have touched the ball this season on offense, making it nearly impossible for defenses to key on -- and attempt to shut down -- Summit when they have the ball. "Our ground game is our bread and butter, but we have significantly improved our passing game," Johnson said.
Regular-season team statistical leaders this season include:
Tyrone Hines: who has gained 670 yard on 30 carries, for a staggering 22.3 yards-per-carry, and scored 11 touchdowns.
Jackson Tyler: triple threat with 550 yards rushing, five passing completions (three for TD's), and two receptions.
Jack Kelly, Mike Jarmolowich, Peter Nicoletti, Conor Fagan, Deacon Donaldson, and Eddie Kaes have all solidly contributed to the running game.
Skyler Schluter: has thrown for nearly 300 yards and four TD's
Sean Dougherty, Marshall Wiesner, Jack Bunting, Jason Floegel, and Nick Loeloff have all caught multiple passes.
Defensively, it is "Bring 11 hats to the ball," Johnson said. He noted that the team operates a disciplined, but attacking scheme designed to limit big plays, forcing the opponent to drive the ball the length of the field.
The players' dedication to the team and sport is evident during their four-month season, with the squad of 34 practicing three days per week, six hours total, come rain, shine, or snow. "The boys love the game, and it is a rarity that anyone ever misses a practice." said Johnson.
The number-one seeded Summit 7th Grade team began their quest for another NJSYFL "Super Bowl" title yesterday with a 44-7 demolition of Bloomfield, and next play Sparta November 17.