The 1991 state championship football team was honored Friday night at halftime of the homecoming football game against Robbinsville to commemorate the team’s title 25 years later.
“First of all, I almost missed the school because it’s changed so much,” ’91 head coach Dave Riley said.
“It’s always a great feeling to come back to where you’ve had success and watch young boys grow into men. To see them as men now, it’s heart touching.”
It was the first time some of the Pirates from that 1991 squad were back on campus, which means they got to see all of the renovations to the school and new gymnasium.
“It brought back so many good memories,” quarterback Jermaine Myers said. “I love those guys. We were such a talented team across the board. It was such a family atmosphere.”
Other members of the team had the chance to reminisce with teammates they hadn’t seen since that memorable ’91 season.
“Everybody felt like family,” Riley said. “The coaching staff got along very well. The kids were very cerebral and it didn’t take much to run that team. Our thing was to make sure we didn’t mess it up.”
As expected, the turnout to see this year’s now 5-0 squad and members of that undefeated 1991 team was impressive.
There were close to 40 players, coaches, cheerleaders and team managers from the 1991 squad in attendance, including head coach Dave Riley.
Riley led his Pirates onto the field at halftime for introductions and a short speech about that 1991 season.
“We felt week in and week out, with our preparation, that we couldn’t lose,” Myers said. “That never crossed our minds. The minute we stepped on the field we had the confidence and were mentally prepared.”
Prior to the homecoming game, the 2016 Pirates had their team dinner with the 1991 Pirates, a bonding experience that will stick with this year’s team for a lifetime.
The 1991 team enjoyed an 11-0 season, including the 26-16 win over Hammonton in the South, Group 2 title game.
“That all becomes a blur, it does,” assistant coach Richard Rossi said. “You’re so into the middle of it, I’ve tried to watch film and I don’t remember it. I don’t remember the stuff we did.”
“Before halftime, they (Hammonton) were up 7-0,” Riley said. “Kevin Walker went over two guys to catch the football. It wasn’t the coaching. He was just gifted. They could make plays. That kind of stood out the most because we went in 7-6 instead of 7-0.”
Myers also spoke about the catch Walker made.
“It had to be the catch from Kevin right before the half. We were down, on the 20 and had six seconds left,” Myers said.
“Coach Riley was yelling to audible from the sidelines. It was an out and up route for Kevin and I just threw it up and gave him a chance. He went up and made a hell of a play to score. That gave us a boost.”
There are plenty of similarities between the 1991 team and the 2016, including stout defensive play.
The 1991 Pirates pitched four shutouts en route to an undefeated season. With their 38-0 win Friday night, the 2016 Pirates have three shutouts through five games.
The defense on the 1991 team was so strong that the 16 points allowed against Hammonton in the state title game were the most the team allowed in a single game all season.
“The way this team (2016) is playing, they could be on their way,” Riley said. “I don’t know the rest of their schedule, but I wish them luck. They’ve got potential to go all the way. Just believe in yourself, believe in your coaching staff and have the heart of a champion.”
“You look at that team, what a team. They had great talent, very good coaching, and it’s great to have those guys back,” head coach Mario Patrizi said.
“Last year we had Andre Collins back. The one thing that is really nice is that the alumni like to come back. The buzz in the air right now is great. The last couple years have been good, but this year there’s something a little bit different.”
Images courtesy of Christine Turner.
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