SUMMIT, NJ - Championships are special and the memory of winning one can last a lifetime. Many who coach and play the games, however, know that enjoying sustained success over a prolonged period of time is the ultimate barometer of excellence, a performance peak that the Summit High School Varsity Football Team has -- in the 2010s -- scaled.
The recently-concluded decade saw the Maroon and White post the highest winning percentage of any football program in Union County, groups 1-5.
In achieving a .817 winning percentage, the Hilltoppers went 89-20 and chalked up some important milestones over the ten-year period, including:
- 10 playoff seasons - the only Union County School to achieve that feat.
- 13 sectional playoff wins.
- Three State Championships - 2012, 2013 and 2018
- Four State Championship appearances (defeated in 2011).
- Won playoff games in six seasons - 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018
In addition, Summit has made the playoffs in 12 straight seasons and is on a current streak of 11 straight seasons with a winning record. Cranford (77-28 .733) and Westfield (76-33 / .697) had the second- and third-best records, respectively, during the decade.
Current Summit Head Coach Kevin Kostibos took over the top spot from his mentor, John Liberato, in 2013. While each has their own leadership style, there is no doubt that the continuity of program philosophy -- built on a motto of 'Pride, Discipline and Tradition' -- has played a major role in the elevated and ongoing level of success.
For his part, Kostibos points to the relationship between the High School and Youth Football program as being pivotal. "I think the major ingredient for the success has been the consistency and communication between the high school staff and the youth organization. It takes more than just a coach for a team to find continued success. The support from the youth has spring boarded the program to continued heights."
Adds Liberato, "We are all on the same page. Rick Carbone was the person who bridged the gap when we started in 2007."
As for a turning point that perhaps launched the program's winning run, Kostibos looks back on a 2008 playoff win over Hanover Park. "We had just lost to HP two weeks before at home and had to go to HP in the first round of the playoffs. They were the one or two seed. We stressed all week a belief in ourselves and to remember the tradition. We beat them. That was the turning point "
A crucial element is the support, financial and otherwise, that the program has received from parents, boosters and friends of the program.
In fact, Liberato says "the community support from Day One" is the most memorable aspect of the success story while Kostibos notes that "support comes in many ways. The most successful teams have the most supportive parents. Our parents provide the program with whatever it needs to succeed. As a coach, knowing you have that support, is invaluable."
The most endearing memory for Kostibos remains the young men who have competed in Maroon and White. "These past ten years have given us so many memories, highs and lows. From state championship wins to heart breaking losses, the best memories are of the kids through the years at practice, in meetings, and on game days. I have had the pleasure to Coach wonderful young men and am truly blessed to be in the position I’m in.
Both Liberato and Kostibos say that the next ten years of Summit Football will follow the same recipe as this preceding decade, building on the foundation of Pride, Discipline, and Tradition.
"The ultimate goal has never been winning nor will it ever be winning," says Kostibos. "We use that motto to make sure that we give our very best on every play, honoring those that have come before us and setting a great example for those coming after us. The scoreboard will always take care of itself."
"We always want to embrace the past to enrich the future," adds Liberato.
As far as the past decade goes, there has -- and continues to be -- plenty of success to embrace.