After Sitting Out 2020 Due to COVID, Carteret Returns for Football this Fall
CARTERET, NJ—Historically speaking, Carteret has one of the most proudest and tradition rich football programs in Middlesex County. It has one of the oldest rivalries in the state with Perth Amboy known as Battle of the Bayway. The Ramblers have won numerous division and sectional championships. It has a number of former standouts they have played or are currently playing in the NFL such as Jason Worilds (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Sam Kamara (Chicago Bears).
However, it recent years, Carteret had struggled with a 10-21 record overall in the three years prior to the 2020 season. Then, of course, there was the pandemic that forced the school district to cancel both football and basketball in 2020-21. Despite all of the adversity, the Ramblers have persisted, worked hard in the weight room during the offseason, and have started work on developing a new culture. Carteret began its 2021 campaign in the spring when it hired former standout, Kevin Freeman to become the new head coach.
Freeman, who went on to play college football at West Virginia, had been on the Ramblers coaching staff two seasons ago under previous head coach Matt Yascko. He is now taking on his first head coaching job after serving as an assistant in Elizabeth and Lakewood. Freeman and the Ramblers come back to the gridiron in a whole new world of Central Jersey High School Football. The Greater Middlesex Conference is gone as far as football goes, and its football playing schools are now part of the Big Central Conference.
So instead of playing the likes of larger schools such as Colonia, Kennedy, St. Joseph’s, and Woodbridge, the Ramblers are now in a division with similar sized schools from Somerset and Union counties. The only school in its division this year that it last played two years ago in the old GMC Blue is South Plainfield. The Ramblers did play another Big Central Division 3 member in neighborhood rival Rahway in 2019 as part of the GMC-Mid-State 38 crossover schedule, and it will be nice to see them and the Indians play regularly for New Jersey Turnpike Exit 12 bragging rights.
Carteret will have its work cut out for them since the Big Central Conference’s Division 3 is loaded with some of the state’s top football programs like Somerville, Rahway, and Summit. The Somerville Pioneers have re-established themselves as one of the top Group 3 programs in New Jersey within the past five or six years winning Central Jersey Group 3 in 2017 and reaching sectional finals in 2018 and 2019. Rahway was a North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 finalist in 2018 and have had five straight winning seasons under former Woodbridge head coach, Brian Russo.
In 2020, the Indians finished 5-1. They beat the likes of Summit and Watchung Hills last season with the latter coming on the road after Watchung had knocked off perennial powerhouse Phillipsburg the week before. Summit, which was 2-3 in a COVID shortened season that ended after a 20-17 loss at Edison on October 30th, is also a traditional powerhouse that has seemingly always contended for, if not won North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 championships (2009, 2012, 2013, and 2018).
Besides its tough division schedule, the Ramblers will have crossover games against the likes of J.P. Stevens, Perth Amboy, North Plainfield and Hillside. Carteret will have to play Amboy, Somerville, Summit, and North Plainfield on the road while games versus Stevens, Warren Hills, Rahway, South Plainfield, and Hillside are at The Pit. Earlier this week, Carteret began its pre-season with a scrimmage up in Essex County versus Barringer on Tuesday, and on Friday morning hosted Matawan in another exhibition. Big Central Gridiron stopped by to take a look at how the program is coming along.
And BCG was quite impressed with how well the Ramblers played. Carteret had a solid scrimmage in almost all phases of the game. Particularly noteworthy was the play of its offensive and defensive lines, which controlled the line of scrimmage quite well against Matawan. The Ramblers running game got solid performances from four different backs including three (Kanye Groover, Asi Powell, and Marc Gonzalez), who had long runs from scrimmage for scores.
Another aspect of Carteret’s play that benefited from its control of the line of scrimmage was with its goal line offense and defense. With a defense that got out of the blocks quickly, penetrated the opponent’s backfield, and swarmed to the football, the Ramblers didn’t allow Matawan to get into the end zone while its offense was able to score three times with Groover. The defense, led the by the likes of Jehu Andrews, who played for St. Joseph’s last year, also performed well in plays run from scrimmage by getting to the quarterback on several occasions, and also stopping the Huskies running game for losses multiple times.
Carteret’s special teams looked good on kickoffs, punts, and extra points as well. On the PAT’s, CHS got a good surge into the line, and was able to pressure the kick. The Ramblers begin their comeback season next Friday, August 27th when it hosts J.P. Stevens at The Pit. The following week, Carteret will travel to arch rival Perth Amboy to resume its long standing rivalry on Friday, September 2nd. Then, the Ramblers will take on much of its division schedule with games against Somerville, Warren Hills, Rahway, and Summit over a span of four straight weeks starting September 10th versus the Pioneers at Brooks Field.