MILLBURN, NJ — Under crystal clear October night skies, with a limited audience in attendance, the Millburn Millers dropped the first game of their modified fall season to the Belleville Buccaneers, losing in 12-7 defensive squeaker that came down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Neither team gained much purchase all night, with most drives ending in a punt, interception, or a turnover on downs.In fact, all 12 of Belleville's points came in the first quarter, as Terrence Folkes broke contain and scored two touchdowns. Each time, Millburn held the buccaneers off on the two-point try.
Evan Gershoff would pull in a touchdown reception for Millburn in the second quarter for their lone score.
Throughout the night, reminders persisted that this was not a normal game, and certainly not a normal year. PA announcements to remember social distancing and mask wearing were heard all night, hand sanitizer stations were available on the field for the players, and a smaller crowd, consisting of only a couple of hundred parents and students watched the action on both sides of the field.
As the game ticked down, Millburn would continue to threaten to come all the way back, including in a final drive that gained major yardage and ended withing the final minute of the game following a turnover on downs. Millburn Head Coach Chris Dreschel spoke after the game about the result.
"The effort was there," Dreschel said. "That was my message to the boys. I watched them compete for 48 minutes. I watched the defense make a lot of plays. And offensively, I think we had opportunities.
"I think we were down in the red zone there maybe four or five times throughout the course of the game, and we came away with no points. That's a recipe to lose a football game, and that's what you saw there. We've gotta clean it up a little bit in practice, work on our execution and learn how to finish drives."
He also spoke about the feeling of being back out on Neigel Field in a night many thought might not happen at all earlier this year.
"It's just nice to be out here," Dreschel said. "And I think the boys have a new-found appreciation for the opportunity of what is high school football, really just high school athletics in general. Some of these guys are spring athletes, and when you have something taken away from you, that's when you finally realize 'oh man, this is actually a pretty special thing that I enjoy doing.'
"It's certainly nice to be out here competing, and bringing in the senior class [...] most of them have been with me for four years, so I'm glad that they have the opportunity to go out and compete this season."
Millburn's next opportunity to get back on the field will come on Friday, Oct. 9, when the Millers are in action on the road against Columbia. Kickoff is 7:00 p.m.