Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Motivation from Yesteryear

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Motivation from Yesteryear

Article excerpt

RUTHERFORD - They stood in front of Rutherford's current players, commanding their full attention.

Mike Schmeding, Tom Brundage and Joe Merli played for the Bulldogs' 1966 state championship team. Rutherford hasn't won a state football title since.

On Monday, they told the 2015 Bulldogs that 49 years is long enough.

"That's how long that record's been in the books," said Schmeding, a captain of the 1966 team. "It's time to come down."

If there was a team to end that drought, it's this one.

After going 3-7 and losing in a consolation game a year ago, Rutherford underwent a complete turnaround. The Bulldogs (10-0) enter Thursday's North 2, Group 2 title game against Madison (9-2) at MetLife Stadium boasting an explosive offense and a lockdown defense.

They have weapons on both sides of the ball, but coach Andy Howell said this hasn't been about just a handful of players.

Playing in Group 2, Rutherford rarely has ample depth. But this season, the Bulldogs didn't really need it anyway.

"Everybody here has the same vision," Howell said. "These guys out there, they're tough kids and they're selfless. There's no 'me' guys out there."

As the victories piled up, Howell and his coaching staff never let their players look too far ahead.

"We've always been focusing on the present," Howell said. "Win the drill. Win each practice. That's what got us here."

On the field, the results were evident.

Quarterback Nick Birchby was completely healthy for the first time. The senior tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during his sophomore year, then played last season with a torn quadriceps.

Still, he gained experience playing in Rutherford's system, and this season has thrown for 1,724 yards and 19 touchdowns.

"We knew he was going to be the real deal," Howell said. "He's surrounded by athletes all over the field on offense. He's got one of the best lines that you're going to find in Group 2 in front of him. …

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