EAST BRUNSWICK – Playing football during the coronavirus pandemic has had its challenges for the East Brunswick High School football team, but the Bears have been able to plow through and give themselves every opportunity to play a full season.
“They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, which is great,” East Brunswick Coach Andy Steinfeld said of his players. “They’re wearing masks. I didn’t think we would be here in week five. Just proves that they can do what they’re asked to do.”
East Brunswick is 2-3 through its first five games this season as it heads into its regular season finale against Sayreville War Memorial High School on Nov. 6.
The Bears have relied on its strong rushing attack, led by senior quarterback Zach Zebro, to succeed this fall on offense.
Zebro has rushed for a team-high 288 yards and has barreled his way into the end zone four times on the ground this season. The senior quarterback has also been electric through the air, throwing for 531 yards and seven touchdowns.
Zebro’s battering mate in the backfield, senior running back Austin Percy, has accounted for 259 yards on the ground with a touchdown.
Junior running back Franco Deguida has rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including a five-yard scamper to the end zone during the second quarter of the team’s contest against Montclair High School on Oct. 30.
East Brunswick is averaging 159.8 yards on the ground through its first five games of the season.
“Offensively, we have been able to run the ball,” Steinfeld said. “A big question in the beginning of the season was our offensive line and I have been pleased with what they’ve done. They do a good job.”
The Bears experienced the chaos of games being cancelled due to COVID-19 when they were supposed to play Monroe Township High School on Oct. 30. The Monroe Falcons had to drop out due to a positive COVID-19 test in the program.
Instead of taking a bye week, Steinfeld and East Brunswick scrambled to find an opponent to play and were able to set up a matchup with Montclair.
Despite the quick turnaround and not having a lot of time to prepare for the game, Steinfeld said his players handled the situation well and “just wanted to play.”
“These kids give great effort,” Steinfeld stated. “They practice hard.”
A 21-0 deficit in the first half was too much for East Brunswick to overcome as Montclair was able to earn a 31-17 victory.
East Brunswick played very well in the second half, which they entered trailing 31-7.
Zebro connected with junior wide receiver Mike Zades for a 54-yard touchdown to begin the fourth quarter. Zades had two catches for 60 yards on the touchdown drive.
East Brunswick made it a two-score game with 7:56 left to play when junior placekicker Jeff Podolsky knocked in a 25-yard field goal attempt.
From seeing his defense shut out Montclair in the second half, to his squad finding some rhythm offensively against a good Essex County team, Steinfeld believes that type of play from his squad for an entire game will help them win some more games.
“They came out and played a lot better in the second half,” Steinfeld said. “We (next) play Sayreville, another good Middlesex County team that is well coached. It’s going to be a battle. If we can put two good halves together, I think we can win that game.”