North Brunswick Township High School went 10-2 in the 2018 football season.
The Raiders beat seven opponents by double digits.
They also defeated a top parochial program, Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen, 9-7, on Aug. 30.
In the postseason, North Brunswick, the No. 2 seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 5 sectional playoffs, advanced to the sectional playoff championship, beating Trenton Central High School, 40-27, in the first round on Nov. 2 and Edison High School, 30-21, in the semifinals on Nov. 9.
Coach Mike Cipot’s team was one of the best teams in Central Jersey. It just had one understandable blemish on its resume: two losses to Sayreville War Memorial High School.
The first Sayreville defeat, a 34-14 regular season decision on Sept. 7, costed the Raiders the Greater Middlesex Conference’s White Division title. The second Sayreville loss, 6-0 on Nov. 17 at Sayreville, prevented North Brunswick from winning the Central Jersey, Group 5 playoff championship.
After the title game, the Bombers’ players celebrated with their fans. The Raiders’ players slumped to the turf.
It was a tough loss. But it didn’t ruin North Brunswick’s season.
“Nothing went wrong. We have to capitalize when we’re in the red zone. We have to make a stop on the goal line. It comes down to little things in a game like that,” Cipot said. “Their defense played a great game. They base their program and their culture on defense.”
As Cipot alluded to, North Brunswick struggled to move the ball against Sayreville, gaining just 155 total yards in the sectional playoff final.
But they still had some chances.
In the second half, North Brunswick took over in Sayreville territory after recovering a fumble. Unfortunately, Sayreville forced and recovered a fumble on the Raiders’ very next play.
Later in the half, North Brunswick had the ball inside the Sayreville 20. But on fourth down and 10, Sayreville’s Anthony Jackson blanketed North Brunswick’s receiver in the end zone, forcing an incompletion.
North Brunswick’s defense kept the Raiders in the game, holding an explosive Bombers’ offense to 233 yards and six points. The Raiders just could not break through with a big play or two.
“A game like that could have been anyone’s game. It could have gone to either team at any moment. There’s no fault or blame to anyone,” Cipot said. “We just have to get back next year and win it.”
Cipot said that last part because he knows the Raiders will bring back a lot of talent in 2019.
North Brunswick’s top two backs, Myles Bailey and Chris Arnold, were juniors this fall. The duo combined for 2,029 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. Arnold was also a defensive standout, recording five sacks, 48 tackles, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a safety.
The Raiders’ defense allowed just 12.9 points per game in 2018, including two shutouts. And some key defenders, in addition to Arnold, will be back. Juniors Leon Lowery and Samod Wingo combined for 22 sacks and 99.5 tackles this fall.
Cipot’s team should be able to build on what the coach called a “tremendous” 2018 season.
“We brought the town back. The school rallied around us. The administrators, the teachers. You couldn’t have asked for a better year,” Cipot said. “We just have to hope that it continues that way and that we bring home the championship next year.”