I n the 28 years that Marcus Borden has coached the East Brunswick High School football team, he has never experienced a season like this.
The Bears are 0-8 and will travel to West Windsor-Plainsboro North (1-8) in a state consolation game after being eliminated from the CJ Group IV playoffs in a season he would like to forget. The year concludes on Thanksgiving Day when rival Old Bridge pays a visit.
“I am never one to make excuses,” said Borden, the morning after his team lost to undefeated and CJ Group IV top seed South Brunswick, 45-20, “but we had five starters go down with season-ending injuries — 17 who have been out of the lineup with assorted injuries — and we’re now down to our third quarterback.” Most revealing about EBHS’s plight is that Borden has utilized 24 players with two or fewer years of varsity experience and has had six freshmen practice with the team, something the coach has never done before.
“When you compete in the GMC Red Division,” observes Borden, “you have to be ready each week because there are so many quality teams. We entered the season, like we do every year, with high expectations but things haven’t panned out.”
Borden did not offer a comment on how his team would have fared if the starting quarterback and captain, Mike Cia, and his successor, junior Anthony Fischer, hadn’t suffered season-ending injuries. The last three games have seen previously untested sophomore Jon Gerhratz take over the signal calling duties. “I can’t answer that because it didn’t happen,” he said. Gerhratz, to his credit, has improved each game he’s been in the lineup.
Against South Brunswick, Gerhratz ran for touchdowns of 18 and 20 yards and completed 10 passes for 75 yards, including a 54-yard strike to tight-end Haydn Warren in the first quarter to give the Bears a shortlived 7-0 lead.
“When Cia was at quarterback, we threw more because of his good passing arm,” said Borden. “But after Mike went down, we’ve reverted … to what we normally do out of the triple option, and that’s run more.”
While the Bears have yet to win a game, the bright side is that a number of players will return next season with valuable experience. Whether that translates into more wins remains to be seen, since the Bears continue to play in the rough-and-tumble Red Division where no less than four teams (South Brunswick, Piscataway, Sayreville and Woodbridge) can challenge for sectional titles.
Borden cited the play of sophomore Michael Quintin, who has excelled on both sides of the line, and the play of junior running back Jason Parker, who moved from free safety to outside linebacker on defense, while senior Chris Ramos — all 5 feet 3, 125 pounds of him — has been a sturdy running back.
“Every opposing coach has commented to me after the games how tough Chris is,” Borden said.
Other area teams will play in state playoff consolation games beginning on Friday night when South River (2-7) travels to meet Bound Brook (2-6), and Monroe (1-7) visits Freehold Township (1-7). On Saturday, Spotswood (3-6) visits Lawrence (2-7).