As Kinnelon football players gear up to play in their first state championship game ever, the team is trying to maintain normalcy through the final week of practice before the event.
The sixth-seeded Colts, led by quarterback Sean Robbins, will face New Milford at Kean University at 1 p.m. in the North II Group II State Championship game. Kinnelon High School Athletic Director Scott Rosenberg said excitement has filled the hallways of the high school. He said it has reminded him of his own high school experience.
"There's nothing like winning and there's nothing like when your football team is winning at school," he said.
Head coach Kevin White said the proudest and most memorable moment this season was the game that got the Colts to this point. During the Nov. 30 game, Kinnelon avenged a 22-21 defeat by North Warren from earlier in the season with a 35-33 win.
While the Colts have already begun celebrating the season's success so far, Rosenberg said fans will not be dressing in crazy costumes or doing anything out of the ordinary in preparation of Saturday's game.
"Coach White wants to keep everything as normal as possible," he said. "They've done well by keeping everything a routine."
As part of that routine, the players have been practicing every night to prepare for the game. But not on Kinnelon fields.
Rosenberg said Boonton High School has been generous to lend the team their artificial turf field to practice on. The team was filled with energy and enthusiasm Wednesday night. Senior Sean Walsh, a wide receiver and cornerback, said the team's unity has been inspirational.
"This season's just been amazing, the whole team coming together," he said.
Walsh said he has been proud to see his team grow throughout the year and in years prior.
"It's a great feeling to get to the state championship. I'm confident we'll win," he said.
Senior Joe Presti, also a wide receiver and cornerback, said he is blown away by how successful the team has been since they first ran out on the Kinnelon High School field.
"To start off freshman year 1-9 and end up in this position is just awesome," he said.
White echoed Presti's comments and said he is happy to see the high school's team has made it to the state championship level for the first time.
"The success is something that we haven't been accustomed to," he said.
The team has many unique players, including kicker Evan Argirou, who never played football before high school, but played soccer. Football is not the only sport many of the team members play.
"A lot of our boys are two-season athletes," Rosenberg said.
Robbins is one of them, playing basketball and lacrosse in addition to football.
Not only has the team come together, but the players said they have felt inspired by the support they have received from their peers and community members. Walsh said he feels "the whole town's giving us more respect."
More than 50 pre-sale tickets were sold at the high school cafeteria to students on Wednesday and tickets and bus passes will continue to be sold until Friday afternoon at the school. Rosenberg said the Colts are expecting a large crowd.
Rosenberg said the high school's team had never won as much as a state playoff game in the program's history. While he is expecting the team to walk away victorious, win or lose, he said the game should create a lifelong impression on the players.
"It will be an experience for the guys that they'll never forget for the rest of their lives," he said.
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