EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ -- Although the East Brunswick football team lost, 15-13, to Sayreville in the final game of the season Thursday night, the Bears made measurable strides to head into the new decade with what seems like a solid foundation for the future.
The Bears led at halftime, 13-7, and could have led by nine, but a 25-yard field goal attempt was ruled wide to the right with 35 seconds left in the second quarter.
“We set the field goal up on the right hash," East Brunswick head coach Andy Steinfeld said. "From where I was standing it looked like it was good, but it was just went wide right over the goal post.”
The Bears rushed for 205 yards. Austin Percy ran the ball 22 times for 120 yards and one touchdown. Sophomore Nori Smith ran for 12 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown.
“Our offensive line did a great job, I thought we were able to move the ball on the ground," Steinfeld said. “Austin and Nori did a good job running the football in poor weather conditions “
East Brunswick's defense has kept the Bears in most of their games this season.
"The defense as it has done most of the year played well," Steinfeld said. "Sayreville is always well-coached and their offense is very good. I thought our defense did a very good job the whole game, led by Youseff Gamel and Carlos Tapia."
With a 4-5 record under Steinfeld in his first year as the head coach after decades as an assistant, East Brunswick posted its best record in nine years. The Bears hadn't won more than two games in a season since 2015.
"The overall progress of the program I feel is on the right track," Steinfeld said. "This first year with a new offense and a new defense I thought we did some good things. The players responded well and seem to get better and better as the year went on. The goal of this year I think was to try to get these players to never quit. In the past. when we were down they might have quit and said another loss, but this year they fought every game."
Although they are not part of the future, the 12th-graders were tone-setters for East Brunswick, according to Steinfeld.
"This senior class has set the foundation for this program," the coach said. "This senior class is very special to me. For my first year as head coach I really couldn’t ask for a better group. They set the foundation for the success for this program. Their work ethic, how they handled adversity. I’m sure they would have loved to have more than four wins, but they did more important things for the success of this program. I think the program is going in the right direction. With that being said, we still have a lot of work to do. We need to continue to get stronger as a football team. We are looking forward to next year. We will have a lot of our skilled players come back, but as in every year, we will have to fill key positions for next year."
A coach taking over a struggling program may risk being received with skepticism, but Steinfeld said that his initial experience was a positive one.
"My first year as head coach, I was pleased with how the players responded to all that we did," Steinfeld said. "Everything was different. Offense,defense, how we practiced. Our program’s connection with the community is very important to me. After all that’s where our players are coming from. We were able to develop a relationship with the St. Bart’s Youth Program.
"I am also very grateful for all of our assistant coaches. They are very hard-working and very dedicated to the success of the program."