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Saint Joseph H.S. players happy to be back on the gridiron after COVID-19 shutdown

Saint Joseph High School running back Jordan Kinsler breaks a tackle and runs up the field during the team's game against Union on Oct. 24 in Metuchen. Saint Joseph lost to Union 25-0.

METUCHEN – It was the situation no high school fall sports team wanted to have happen to them this season.

A shutdown due to the coronavirus.

That is what unfortunately happened to the Saint Joseph High School football team in Metuchen after two students in the school tested positive for COVID-19.

The Falcons were forced to shut down for two weeks and several members of their team had to be quarantined because of being in close contact with the individuals who contracted the virus.

Being shut down resulted in the team having to move its contest against Ridge on Oct. 16 to Oct. 30.

It was a hard break for the Falcons, who started off the season with two victories over Elizabeth and Westfield.

“It was tough,” Saint Joseph Coach Rich Hilliard said. “You couldn’t work or be with the kids. Those who weren’t in quarantine tried to work out together on their own. It was tough all over.”

Hilliard said he was very proud of how his team handled the situation and kept themselves ready for their next chance to play.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Hilliard said of his players. “They did their job during a tough time. They worked out with as many kids as they possibly could and followed everything we sent them.”

After over a week of being shut down, the Falcons were able to get the go-ahead to host Union at Brenner Family Field on Oct. 24.

Despite only having time for one practice with the quick turnaround to prepare for the contest, Hilliard said his senior players and the team wanted to play Union because of the unknown of how many games they would have a chance to play this season.

The Falcons got their wish, suiting up to play Union. The result, however, was not what Saint Joseph players would have hoped for, with Union handing the Falcons their first loss of the season with a 25-0 victory.

Junior quarterback Matt Stanton threw for 31 yards and totaled 18 yards on the ground in the loss for Saint Joseph, while teammate Jordan Kinsler rushed for 26 yards out of the backfield.

The Falcons forced three turnovers in the contest, including an interception by Calson Goodwill in the third quarter that stopped Union from adding to its lead.

Senior Rocco Bellamy forced a fumble on defense for the Falcons and junior John Furino racked up a sack from his defensive end position in the loss.

Hilliard was happy to see his team back on the field, but said there is a lot of work that needs to be done for his squad to get its season back on track after being delayed.

“Anytime you miss two weeks of practice and the other team is practicing, you’re at a terrible disadvantage,” Hilliard said. “This is the first good loss we have had here in a long time. You learn from it. You grow from it and you get ready for the next game.”

Righting the ship for the Falcons begins with great preparation for their contest against Ridge and continuing that process going into the rest of their games this season. Hilliard told his players after the loss to Union that their true character will be shown by how they respond to the loss.

Adding to the fact that the team has already had to overcome a COVID-19 shutdown, Hilliard believes his players will be ready to go in each game the rest of the season.

“Football is a very big part of their lives and anytime they step onto the field they feel vibrant and excited,” Hilliard said. “I’m very proud of my kids and how they handled themselves through a tough time.”

Saint Joseph High School quarterback Matt Stanton scrambles to his left and runs for a first down during the team's game against Union on Oct. 24 in Metuchen. Saint Joseph is 2-1 on the season.
Saint Joseph High School wide receiver Osiris Acevedo returns the kickoff during the team's game against Union on Oct. 24 in Metuchen.
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