EDISON – There was no doubt in the mind of Edison High School football coach Matt Fulham that his 2022 squad had what it took to be champions.
He knew it even before his 2022-23 senior class entered high school when he saw them play over four years ago at the youth level for the Edison Jets Pop Warner team.
The amount of talent that Fulham saw from that group and the other classes to follow in the coming years had him feeling excited about what could be in-store for the program heading into the 2022 season.
“I was really excited about the experience we had coming into (the 2022 season),” Fulham said. “We had a good team the last three years. I felt we had a quality team that was getting better and better.”
Fulham’s visions of success in 2022 were spot on. Led by senior quarterback Matt Yascko, senior wide receiver Malcolm Stansbury and senior defensive lineman Adekunle Shittu, the Eagles made this fall one to remember by winning the program’s first sectional championship in over 30 years.
“It’s an awesome feeling being sectional champs,” said Fulham. “Our kids deserve it. Our coaches deserve it. The (Edison) community deserves it. It really was a memorable season.”
Edison captured the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship on Nov. 11 with a 28-14 victory over Lenape High School to bring home the program’s first sectional title since 1991.
It was no easy road to a sectional championship for the Eagles. Edison faced adversity early on in the season with back to back losses to North Brunswick and Sayreville that dropped them to 2-2 to begin the season.
The Eagles fought back to win their next four contests, before coming up short against St. Thomas Aquinas in their regular season finale.
At 6-3 to end the regular season, the Eagles earned the No. 6 seed heading into the sectional tournament, with a tough first round matchup right off the bat facing defending state champion Hillsborough.
Before the playoffs began, Fulham told his team that they were right there. They just needed to “finish” against the good teams they were going to face in the playoffs.
The Eagles did finish as Fulham adequately said during the sectional tournament, starting with a 10-7 victory over Hillsborough in the first round of the tournament.
North Brunswick stood next for the Eagles in the semifinals, where late-game magic propelled Edison to the sectional finals.
Down 31-17 with under four minutes to play, Edison stunned North Brunswick by recovering two onside kicks and scoring 16 unanswered points in the final three minutes of regulation to win 33-31.
Yascko engineered the Edison comeback by recording two touchdowns, one through the air and one on the ground, to cut the North Brunswick lead to 31-30 with 39 seconds remaining.
Edison went for the two-point conversion following Yascko’s second touchdown to try to take the lead. It failed, forcing the Eagles to have to go for an onside kick to get the ball back to have a chance to score and win the game.
Recovering two onside kicks seemed improbable, but not for the Eagles. They got the ball back with 37 seconds left at the 44-yard line of North Brunswick with a recovery by junior Ah’mer Gibbs.
Yascko then drove the Eagles down to the North Brunswick 13-yard line to set up senior Selbin Sabio for a game-winning 30-yard field attempt, which the senior connected on to send the Edison to the sectional final.
The momentum the Eagles had from their comeback victory over North Brunswick spilled over into the sectional final against Lenape, where Edison upset the top-seeded Indians to become sectional champions.
“It was a crazy ride while it was going on,” Yascko said. “We won three really tough games against three really good teams. It was a lot of fun.”
Yascko had a “stellar” sectional tournament under center for the Eagles, accounting for 795 yards and seven touchdowns in the three games.
The senior signal caller finished the 2022 season with 1,900 yards passing, 583 yards rushing, and recorded 27 total touchdowns.
“I had a pretty good senior season,” Yascko said. “It was everything that I hoped for. I’m glad with what we accomplished. I’m happy with how I played this year.”
Sophomore running back Nyekir Eato led the team in rushing with 1,266 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Stansbury and senior Michael Strachan were Yascko’s top two targets in the passing game at wide receiver.
Stansbury hauled in 51 receptions for 652 yards and four touchdowns. Strachan caught a team-high six touchdown passes this season and finished with 29 catches for 388 yards.
On defense, Sabio led the Eagles in total tackles with 148. Both Sabio and Shittu recorded a team-high five sacks on the season.
Edison’s Cinderella postseason run came to an end in the NJSIAA Group V semifinals against undefeated Toms River North on Nov. 19 at Cherokee High School in Marlton.
Edison was unable to stop Toms River North junior quarterback Micah Ford, who rushed for 285 yards and had six total touchdowns to lead the Mariners to a 42-14 victory.
Yascko accounted for both Edison touchdowns in the loss to Toms River North. The senior hooked up with Strachan for the team’s first touchdown in the third quarter on a 32-yard touchdown pass.
TOUCHDOWN EDISON! Eagles get on the board with 2:49 to go in the 3rd Q. Matt Yascko to Michael Strachan for a 32-yard TD. Great sell by Strachan on the wheel route up the sideline. 35-7, TRN. CC: @ehsgridiron @central_jersey @EHSSouthside #NJFootball 🏈 pic.twitter.com/vHLaSdQfBx
— Steven Bassin (@SBassin_Sports) November 20, 2022
His second touchdown came in the fourth on a quarterback sneak for a one-yard touchdown run.
— Steven Bassin (@SBassin_Sports) November 20, 2022
The 2022 campaign ended in a loss but the Eagles in no way left the field during the semifinal feeling disappointed about what they accomplished this season.
“We had a great season,” Yascko said. “It was a great experience (winning a sectional championship) with my friends and my teammates who I grew up playing with. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”