The banner has been ordered and the rings are being chosen. Kinnelon High School's team of varsity football players are officially state champions.
The Colts returned to Kinnelon Saturday afternoon, escorted by Kinnelon Volunteer Fire Co. trucks, from Kean University If winning breeds winning, as Kinnelon High School Athletic Director Scott Rosenberg believes, then the Kinnelon athletic department and community had better start preparing for more success.
While the players were pushing themselves on the field, it was not just their parents watching. Kinnelon Councilman Jim Freda, liaison to the borough's recreation department, said Kinnelon kids who are actively involved in or considering participating in the borough's youth football program had their eyes on the team as well.
"I think the best situation is when high school kids are the role models and heroes for our kids in town," Rosenberg said.
Freda said the whole Kinnelon community was cheering on the Colts Saturday and that many of the high school players started their football careers in the recreation program when they were young.
"These kids have been playing in the park together for forever, since fourth grade," Freda said. "That's our rec. program."
Freda said the high schoolers who won the state championship game this week also won the youth program's super bowl five years ago. Having the players work and develop skills with each other through the years to this level is a primary goal of the recreation program.
"Let's get these kids going and let's keep it together," he said.
Freda watched the game, himself, and was impressed by what he saw.
"It was a fantastic game," he said.
The players, a group of mostly seniors, set an example for not only the younger guys on the team, but the kids in the town, Freda said. Kinnelon High School Principal Dr. Wayne Merckling said he is hopeful that the team has inspired more young boys to try out for the team.
"Most young men who are interested in sports want to be associated with a winner. They dedicate a lot of time to practice so now maybe the athletes will make the connection between that type of commitment, dedication and success," he said.
But Merckling noted that success does not come easy. The team worked hard and played hard on the field. Merckling said they could not have made it to the state championship level without their leader.
"They were a group of young men who matured together under the direction of a patient and understanding coach," he said. "Coach Kevin White never gave up on our senior players. He and his staff molded them into a successful team by honing their individual talents and building an offense and a defense that complemented their abilities."
And White has already begun working with Kinnelon's youth football players as well. Freda said the borough has tried to introduce the young players to White and his techniques.
"We're working closely with him to make sure we're running the same kind of offnese and teaching the kids what they need to know," Freda said.
Rosenberg said it is unclear whether Saturday's achievement will be the catalyst for continued victories in the sport, but he said it certainly is the school's goal to continue the success. For now, many of the players will barely have enough time to celebrate. Three of them stepped on to the basketball court for the first time this week and will be starting this season in their second sport.