It took 50 years, but the Colts got there.
As a lineup of guys, some dressed in Kinnelon Colts jackets, stood before Mayor Robert Collins at Thursday's Kinnelon Council meeting to be honored for their achievement in winning a state championship game against New Milford, the mayor explained just what an accomplishment the win was, not just for the players but for the borough.
This year's team was the first in Kinnelon High School's history to bring the program to the state level, let alone win the game.
"You guys did something for the town as well as for yourselves," Collins said. "You have us proud in a very unique way."
The varsity football players, who have been playing as a team for years, were confident going into the game at Kean University and have been celebrating the 26-14 win ever since.
Collins said he had the opportunity to watch the game and found it to be exciting.
"You guys made it a real interesting game," he said.
Borough officials have noted the Colts' success several times over and the high school principal, district superintendent and other administrators have emphasized how proud they are. But Thursday, the team got to hear it one more time from the leaders of the borough.
"You'll never forget what you did on that field," Councilman Gary Moleta said before congratulating the teammates.
Councilman Jim Freda promised Moleta's words to be true and said he too was part of a state championship-winning football team that won the title on December 5, 1983. Freda said he still has his ring and tells his family stories about the game often. Freda said he attended Kean University, playing on the school's team as well.
"It was pretty neat this year to see my favorite football team play at my college," he said.
Freda spoke about the greater effect of the team's win and said that each player has become someone younger kids in Kinnelon look up to. He shared an anecdote about the youth players coming together for an impromptu football game the day after the state game and said that while warming up, the kids typically note their favorite players, like Hakeem Nicks and Eli Manning.
"That Sunday, it was Robbins to Walsh," Freda said, naming the Colts players. "The fourth grade team was impacted by you guys."
Councilman Stephen Cobell also described the players as role models.
"The future classes will have a target to aim at. Hopefully they will do as well as you have," he said.
Freda said he knew most of the players personally, many of them from stopping by the Kinnelon deli he owns, Taste of Reality. He said the young men are not only good players, but good people, always being courteous to his staff and respectful of others.
"I'm glad those kids consider you role models," he said. "Go Colts!"
Head coach Kevin White, who stood with the players at the council meeting, thanked the council members for their kind words.
"There's no doubt, success doesn't happen just in and of itself. It takes a lot of people to make that happen," he said.