With two days left until the Colts take the field against New Milford in the state championship game on Saturday, Kinnelon High School has already booked two bus loads of fans to cheer on the players.
Saturday's game will be extraordinary, win or lose, for the Colts, as Kinnelon High School Principal Dr. Wayne Merckling said it is the first time in the program's history the school's football team has made it this far. Merckling described the team's success and placement in the state championship game as "a work in progress" since 1963, the first year the school had participated in interscholastic varsity football.
"We had a conference title in the early 80s and now, 30 years later, our hope is these young men will finally add a state championship to the football banner in the gym," he said.
One thing the team is not lacking is support as the Colts prepare to face the Knights at Kean University at 1 p.m. in the North II Group II State Championship game. Kinnelon Public Schools Interim Superintendent Diane DiGiuseppe said the high school has sold a large number of pre-sale tickets and bus passes and community members have expressed their encouragement as well.
"Everyone is excited," she said. "The high school is buzzing with the accomplishment and prospect of winning on Saturday. There is something about high school football that creates excitement like no other sport."
Merckling said he is expecting the largest crowd to ever have watched a Kinnelon football team to attend Saturday's game and pack the stands at Kean. The school community really began to get excited after the last regular game of the season, when Kinnelon defeated North Warren with a 35-33 win, the proudest moment of the team's this season according to head coach Kevin White.
"Friday’s win against North Warren had everyone’s heart pounding," Merckling said.
But for those Kinnelonians who are not football fans and have not followed the Colts this season, Merckling said the meaning behind the accomplishments of the team are greater than a state title for the high school. This week has been about community and rallying to support a group of students who will be representing Kinnelon.
"This is a big event for our school, district and town. The Colts have the opportunity to accomplish something they will remember the rest of their lives and they can share with their children and grandchildren," he said. "No group of hard- working, determined, talented, yet humble group of young men ever deserved it more. At least none that I have worked with for the past 40 years."
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