COLIN DAVIS, Staff Writer
Despite this crazy time in the world, at least there’s some normalcy in North Brunswick with football being back in full swing with some adjustments. The differences this year include fans being reduced by about 95% with only family being allowed in the stadiums. All patrons must wear a mask and social distance as well. Last year, the Raiders had serious expectations put on them by the press, the state, and themselves but ultimately ended up in heartbreak as they were eliminated by Cherokee in the GMC semifinals. Then came the reloading of the team with 32 players departing for college leaving question marks for the future. Even I raised doubts back in November on the future of the program but at the end of it said, “So while the Raiders might not be top-10 in the USA Today polls routinely, be ready for the Raiders to turn some heads.” With a new infusion of talent and great coaching, the Raiders have quashed all doubt with a 4-0 start and an impressive one at that.
The Raiders started the COVID campaign off with a statement beating a team that’s always been a pain in their side: Sayreville. Frankie Garbolino (10) made his first start as a Varsity Raider and did his part throwing a 6-yard touchdown to Jayden Myers (11), but the man of the hour ended up being De’Jhon Thomas (12) who finally got his chance in the spotlight after Myles Bailey departed for Central Michigan. Thomas ran for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. North Brunswick for the second year in a row took out Sayreville 18-9.
The passing attack was something that was all but written off last year with the aforementioned Myles Bailey in the backfield and a very mobile QB in Michael Baradhi, but this year is different. With the addition of sophomore Frankie Garbolino, the Raiders went from a scrambler to a gunslinger at QB. The Raiders took full advantage of that and put on an air show with Garbolino going 17-29 for 245 yards and 4 touchdowns, 3 of those going to his new favorite target in Marquis Perry (11). Garbolino ended up taking Player of the Week honors for this performance as the Raiders cruised to a 28-7 victory over New Brunswick.
Did you know that Passaic Tech was a state-ranked team going into their affair with the Raiders on October 17th? The way they played wouldn’t suggest such things as Garbolino once again went absolutely bonkers and threw for 288 yards with 2 touchdowns in the air and adding a rushing touchdown as well. Two Raiders receivers in George Battle and Jayden Myers accumulated 100-yard games on their way to a statement win against Passaic confirming that North Brunswick isn’t going anywhere.
Now the game against Edison had quite a bit of drama, and it all happened on the final play where Edison QB Matt Yascko threw a Hail Mary towards the end of the game intended for WR Malcolm Stansbury when Jeloni Devonish-Winter (12) leaped and made an incredible interception in the endzone to rob Edison of a victory. Now the angles of the play are very different and it’s a toss-up but the final is final largely in part to another solid performance by Garbolino throwing a touchdown to the aforementioned Devonish-Winter winning the game 21-20.
To say this team is legit is quite the understatement but this year’s team has a leg up on last year’s, the core is remaining for a full season next year. Garbolino has two more years here, Myers and Perry have one. If there’s any year to strike, it’s next year where the playoffs will actually happen, unlike this year due to COVID-19. The future is very bright for this program, and it’s going to be a lot of fun watching them in the coming years.