SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Everyone knows the old adage “It doesn’t matter how you start, it matters how you finish”. Even though it’s a bit of a cliche, there’s a lot of truth to it. On Friday night, in front of a home crowd, the South Plainfield High School football team’s offense proved how true that saying is.
It was a Senior Night for the Tigers and they were matched up against 4-2 GMC rival Woodbridge. Despite an offensively unproductive first half, South Plainfield eventually caught fire and put on a show for their families, winning the game 12-3, and helping their chances of getting a home playoff game.
The first half was a drag for both teams offensively. Tracy Fudge, the quarterback of the Barrons, put together nine completions in the first half, but wasn’t able to put his team in serious scoring position, thanks to the stifling defense of the Tigers. South Plainfield senior standout, Jason Lee was held to 27 yards rushing. It looked like a missed field goal by the Barrons with no time remaining would send the teams into the locker room 0-0. A penalty on that attempt by the Tigers gave Woodbridge another chance though, and Woodbridge’s kicker Harry Rutkowski took advantage of it, and put the ball through the uprights to give his team the 3-0 lead.
The coach of the Tigers, Gary Cassio, spoke to his team intently during half time.
“I said they have two quarters playing at home, and if they want another home game they have to wake up in the second half.” said Cassio. “I told them a field goal wasn’t going to win this game.”
Lee came out and picked up 19 yards rushing in the first drive of the half. It took until the last quarter for him and his team to strike paydirt. With nine minutes left in the game, Lee caught a bomb of a pass from Tiger quarterback Patrick Waldrop and ran for an 84-yard touchdown, putting his team up 6-3.
“Coach was telling me the whole time to put the team on my back.” said Lee. “It was my senior night, our senior night, and this was for a home playoff game and I wanted that so badly.”
The Tigers forced Woodbridge’s to punt on the following drive. On the Tigers’ next drive, Lee caught another big pass from Waldrop, this time a 30 yarder on a 3rd and 13. On the next play, Lee broke through the Barrons’ defense and ran in a 36 yard touchdown. An interception by Raeon Cohen on Woodbridge’s next drive essentially clinched the game for the Tigers. Lee said the presence of his family and his teammates and their families gave them an emotional boost.
“My whole family is here, everybody’s family is here.” said Lee. “Just seeing everybody’s family out there, it brought us to tears coming out, knowing that this could possibly be our last time out on this field.”
Cassio attributed the win to Lee, and the team’s defense; both the players and the schemes created by defensive coordinator Mike Jakubik.
“Mike had a great scheme.” said Cassio. “We’re more of a power team, and we were a little worried about their speed, and Mike put together a great game plan. And every one of those kids executed and did their job. There’s not one player on defense who stood out, the whole unit stood out. The star of the game today is our defense.”
With the regular season winding down, the goal of the Tigers is to get a home playoff game. Right now though, their coach wants them to focus on their upcoming opponent, Perth Amboy.
“This is a great run we’re on. I think this (win) is going to help us. This is a tough game, and we needed one of those. We have to get back to work tomorrow, though. We've got a tough Perth Amboy team. Maybe their record doesn’t show it, but they are.”