By Jerry Del Priore
The Caldwell High School varsity football team only had 32 players on its roster, but that did not keep it from going undefeated all season long and capturing the NJSIAA North, Group 2 Championship.
The title marked the first time the Chiefs took home all the marbles since 2008.
“We were 32 strong,” head coach Tom Lamont said. “We did not have much depth, but It was quality over quantity this (past) year.”
One of those strong Chiefs was junior Harry Boland, who had a monster game on both sides of the pigskin in their 42-21 victory over Jefferson at MetLife Stadium. Boland rushed for 102 yards and hit paydirt twice on nine carries, caught three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown, and also registered two interceptions and 14 tackles.
Two of Boland’s TDs came when Caldwell needed them the most, as Jefferson was within striking distance at the time.
He rushed for a 43-yard scoring bolt on 4th and 1 in the third quarter and on an 11-yard running score in the fourth. He also had a 17-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Luke Kurzum in the first quarter.
Pat Capozzoli was the other part of the two-headed running beast for the Chiefs, as the senior running back amassed 106 yards on 14 touches with two touchdowns.
But Caldwell featured a balanced overall attack, with Peter Murray, a senior wide receiver/defensive back, making good on a 43-yard pick-six in the second quarter and he also hauled in three passes from Kurzum for 21 yards.
When Lamont first looked at the Chiefs’ 2021 schedule, he thought to himself that the team could win every game. But on the same token, lose them as well due to the quality of competition.
However, Caldwell proved up to the task and did not drop a single game, going 12-0 en route to title glory. That was after posting a 6-3 record in the truncated 2020 campaign, played without a postseason. Lamont wishes that there was postseason play, just to see how the Chiefs would have fared.
“Winning a championship is special,” he said. “But having an undefeated season is more special. I would have liked to have gone to the playoffs last year, but we did not have the playoffs due to COVID-19. We were good, and it would have been interesting to see how far we could have gone.”
Lamont cites 2019 as a turning point after winning just one game that season. He said his players took full accountability for their lackluster record and set out to rectify their collective woes.
“Two years ago, we won one game,” Lamont said. “We were caught in a lull. We knew we had to change things. The younger guys bought into it (the program’s philosophy), and took it from there.”
What transpired was a productive 2020 season and a flawless record in 2021. But the juniors have promised their coach that next year will be even better, as an extra postseason tilt has been added.
So, a 13-0 record is Caldwell’s goal, according to Lamont, who said don’t count out his gritty boys.