NEW BRUNSWICK — It had been 1,079 long days since the New Brunswick High School football team last won a game. But on Friday night at Memorial Field, the Zebras got that monkey off their backs, defeating Perth Amboy 26-13, giving Castor Losada his first victory as head coach.
Shamal Ayton rushed for 81 yards and scored two second-half touchdowns and the Zebras defense held Perth Amboy to just 235 yards of offense.
Losada, drenched in Gatorade, tried to put the victory into perspective, after delivering a heart-felt speech to his players in front of the scoreboard.
“It feels great, especially for these seniors, on the night that they were honored, those kids have been through three years of misery and I can’t even imagine what that feels like for them,” Losada said. “We have a talented team. Yes, we’re young, but getting that first win was will just make the things I’m trying to put in place that much easier to understand. Getting that win and understanding that what we’re doing is going to work, feels great.”
The Zebras got out to a fast start, scoring the game’s first two touchdowns in very different ways.
On their second possession of the ballgame, senior quarterback Tereak Butler broke loose down the right sideline and ran in 75 yards for the score, putting New Brunswick up 6-0. After Perth Amboy turned the ball over on downs and the Zebras punted, the hosts added to their lead when James Sullen picked off Panthers’ quarterback Dennis Sutton and returned the ball 45 yards, going untouched up the middle of the field.
But Perth Amboy wouldn’t go quietly, refusing to let New Brunswick run away with the game.
Four plays after Sullen’s touchdown, Sutton got a bit of revenge, scampering 25 yards for a Panthers’ touchdown, cutting the lead to 12-7. Four minutes later, after New Brunswick had fumbled on the first play of a drive deep in their own territory, Darius Pearson went in from one yard out, giving Perth Amboy the lead at 13-12.
The Zebras got the final score of the first half after taking over at Perth Amboy’s 49 with just over four minutes left. A Luis Contreras 35-yard bomb to Yameer Shamary set up New Brunswick at the 15 and three plays later, Ayton plunged in from two yards out, regaining the lead for good.
“I told these guys that I’m so proud of them, because earlier in the season, we probably would have went in the tank and given up [when Perth Amboy took the lead] and to be able to deal with the highs and lows and the roller coaster of the game is what makes a good team win,” Losada said.
The last victory for New Brunswick had come on Nov. 6, 2009, when the Zebras beat Sayreville 28-13. After the game Losada stressed to his players that they needed to act like they’d won football games before. For some on the New Brunswick roster, that wasn’t the case, but now they can say they have.
“I told the players that this is a great time and a great experience, but we have to do it like we’ve been here before,” Losada said. “We’ve got three games left and I think we have a chance to win them all.”