If Don Bosco and Bergen Catholic's showdown is the main event of Friday’s slate at MetLife Stadium, Old Tappan and Wayne Hills comprise the biggest matchup for the following day.
In what was easily the most thrilling finish of any of last year's state final games and possibly the history of high school football in New Jersey, Wayne Hills pulled off the "Miracle at the New Meadowlands” at the expense of all-everything quarterback Devin Fuller and his previously undefeated Golden Knights, 24-21.
Wayne Hills was 10-1 entering that game, but this year each squad had more of a rollercoaster path to this North 1 Group 3 state final rematch.
Meanwhile, Old Tappan was in danger of not even making the state tournament after starting 1-3 with a hobbled Fuller.
After struggling out of the gate, battling a hamstring injury, Fuller has turned Old Tappan’s season around with the brilliance that captivated fans last season.
While his rushing totals are down from last year, Fuller has actually thrown for more yards, 2,092, and two more touchdowns, 20 total, then at this time last season. Number 7 has become a truly polished passer this season under coach Brian Dunn and it’s a big part of what makes the Golden Knights so scary on offense.
Two weapons on the outside in Andrew Dobitsch and John Trainor, as well as a great runner in fullback Keith Rodman, make Old Tappan tough to match up against. Dobitsch is definitely Fuller’s favorite target, having snagged 58 balls for 946 yards and nine scores this season, but don’t discount the big play ability of Trainor, who averages an astounding 27 yards-per-catch and has found pay dirt six times in 2011.
With all of that said, Wayne Hills has the best defense the Golden Knights will have faced all season. Wayne Hills has posted six shutouts this season, most in North 1 Group 3, and has surrendered only 107 points through 11 games.
All things considered you have to really commend the play of Kevin Olsen through what can only be described as a crazy season for the quarterback and son of the head coach. Through the ups and downs -- and they have mostly been ups on the field -- Kevin has been a steadying force for Wayne Hills playing really great football.
It has been something of a carousel at the skill positions and on the line for the Patriots, as injuries have ravaged some of their key players.
Last year's hero Troy Zaffino was lost in Week 1 against Hackensack with a knee injury and has tried to fight his way back, but hasn’t quite been the same. Junior Robby Schiller gave Wayne Hills a spark at tailback only to suffer his own leg injury a few weeks later and all totaled 27 different players have touched the ball on offense for Wayne Hills.
Yet, through it all, Olsen has performed beautifully, completing near 60 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns to only five interceptions.
After being something of an afterthought last season, one can’t overlook the emergence of Dom Santoro for Olsen’s squad either. In his senior season Santoro has left his mark on the Wayne Hills football program, rushing for over eight yards a clip, good for 835 total and 10 TDs. He has also been a rock up the middle on the defensive side of the ball, registering 32 solo tackles and three sacks.
So what does is all mean?
Both of these football teams are made up of great student-athletes that have had great seasons for different reasons, and hopefully this Saturday we get a fittingly great ending.
Contact John Quirk at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @QuirkMedia