Defense won Sayreville War Memorial High School a football championship on Nov. 17.
Sayreville beat North Brunswick Township High School, 6-0, at home in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 5 sectional playoff championship game.
Less than a week later, on Nov. 23 at MetLife Stadium, defense also won the Bombers an important game.
Sayreville defeated previously undefeated Williamstown High School, 14-7, in the NJSIAA South/Central Group 5 Bowl matchup.
The victories capped a banner season for the Bombers.
The program finished 11-1, won its fifth state sectional championship in nine years and captured a bowl victory in the first year of the new tradition. Sayreville was undeniably one of the best high school football teams in New Jersey.
“At the end of the day, it came down to us winning our assignments,” said Sayreville wide receiver/cornerback/punt returner Anthony Jackson. “The best team won.”
“We practice like we play in the games,” said Sayreville defensive end Glenn Wright.
Sayreville was the best team because its units complemented each other. Coach Chris Beagan’s spread offense was the story in the regular season and in the first two games of the sectional playoffs.
Sayreville averaged 30.1 points per game in its first nine victories, including a 42-7 knockout of Hillsborough High School in the first round of Central Jersey, Group 5 and a 24-14 decision over Manalapan High School in the playoff semifinals.
But in the sectional championship and the bowl game, Sayreville ran into big, fast defenses that could stay with its offense. So Beagan’s defense, which had been no slouch in those first nine victories, stepped up, reached a new level of play and put the team on its collective back.
In the sectional playoff final, Sayreville limited North Brunswick to 155 total yards. But two huge plays sealed the victory in the second half.
Late in the third quarter, the Raiders recovered a fumble in Bombers territory. On the next play, Sayreville linebacker Conner Anthony raced around the left edge, slammed the quarterback and punched the ball out. Wright, rushing from the other side, fell on the ball with no one else around.
With the home crowd roaring, Wright sprang to his feet and pointed toward the North Brunswick end zone.
“All I’m thinking is, ‘Do I run? Do I fall?'” Wright said. “I just fell on it and started celebrating.”
“It’s the state championship game,” Anthony said. “I wanted that ring.”
Early in the fourth, North Brunswick faced fourth down and 10 in the Sayreville red zone. The Raiders sent their running back on a wheel route down the right side to the end zone. Jackson picked him up and blanketed him.
The pass flew over their heads and hit the turf in the corner of the end zone.
“I saw them come in motion. My safety, Antwan Golson, was like, ‘Watch him. Watch him,'” Jackson said. “As soon as he broke, I knew he was going for the touchdown.”
On Nov. 23 in the bowl game at the Meadowlands, Sayreville’s defense did work, holding the South Jersey, Group 5 champion to seven points. But it was the Bombers’ special teams unit that made the decisive play.
Sayreville trailed by one with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Williamstown lined up to punt from its end zone. The punter fumbled the snap and Connor Holmes recovered for a touchdown, putting the Bombers ahead for good.
In the end, it was not just defense that won Sayreville a championship. It was special teams, too.
“We’re an aggressive team,” Anthony said. “It was a great experience. It’s a dream come true my senior year, to get a ring. There’s nothing better than that.”