Byline: Lindsey Kelleher
As players look back at the 2021 Cedar Grove Football season, they will remember a state championship win at MetLife Stadium and a time where they grew together as teammates and made long-lasting friendships.
The Cedar Grove Panthers finished the season 12-1, with their only loss against the Caldwell Chiefs. They defeated the Park Ridge Owls 13-12 for the state title in the North 1 Regional Championship this past November in a nailbiter performance.
The team celebrated the end of its 2021 season with a banquet on Jan. 12 at il Tulipano. The Cedar Grove Panthers Cheerleading Program was also honored that night. Football players, cheerleaders, and their families attended the dinner.
“To me, every football dinner we have is special because it honors our CGHS football program and most importantly the dedication and commitment the players give to the football program over the course of their careers here, especially the seniors every season,” said Cedar Grove Football Coach Rob Gogerty.
“To celebrate a state championship season is just extra special and doesn’t happen every year,” Gogerty said.
The Panthers went 12-1 this season and were the SFC Independence White Division Champions, the NJSIAA North 2, Group 1 State Champions, and the NJSIAA Group 1 North Regional State Champions.
Other team recognitions included being ranked fifth in Essex County by The Star-Ledger and nj.com for Group 1: 2, No. 36 statewide by Max Preps and first by N2G1, fifth in Essex County by Sideline Chatter and was the 2021 runner up for Team of the Year, and fifth in Essex County by the USA Today Network.
These team awards plus individual player awards were presented at the dinner.
“The banquet was awesome this year,” said Cedar Grove Panthers Linebacker Patch McCarthy. “It was cool to celebrate our accomplishments with the parents and cheerleaders.”
McCarthy was named 1st Team Defense All Conference in the SFC National White Division, 1st Team Defense by the Coaches All Essex County for Groups 1, 2 and 3, 1st Team Defense Group 1 All State by The Star-Ledger/nj.com, and 1st Team Defense All Essex County by the USA Today Network, northjersey.com.
Defensive back Nick Coletta was also named 1st Team Defense Coaches All Essex County for Groups 1, 2 and 3. Denham Ingalls and Mike Willis were also named 1st Team Defense in the SFC National White Division – All Conference.
Coletta, Nick Christiano, Alfonso Lombardi, and Mike Marinelli were named 1st Team Offense in the SFC National White Division – All Conference. Ingalls, Lombardi and Marinelli were named 1st Team Offense by the Coaches All Essex County for Groups 1, 2 and 3. The Star-Ledger/nj.com named Christiano and Marinelli 1st Team Offense Group 1 All State and the USA Today Network/northjersey.com named Christiano, Marinelli and Lombardi 1st Team Offense All Essex County.
“The banquet was special because we got to commemorate our season,” said Panther Chris Nicolette. “Coach Gogerty took a lot of time to talk about our individual accomplishments and what we meant to him.
The season had quite a few big moments including the state title game against Park Ridge. During that game Lombardi threw a towndown pass to Nick Iannacone to tie the game at 12-12 with a couple of minutes left to play. Christopher Babcock then kicked for the extra point to put the Panthers up 13-12 for the win.
Earlier in the season, the Panthers made another big play late in the game against the Boonton Bombers. Wide receiver Marinelli scored on a pass from Lombardi.
“The touchdown was a great play to staple our dominance and other teams our strength,” Marinelli said.