Michael Gould and Erik Garv accounted for two touchdowns each through the ground and air respectively, guiding the Jefferson Township High School Falcons’ football team is a 28-7 victory over Montville in their 2020 season finale on Friday night.
The Falcons’ final win percentage (5-2, .714) in this shortened season is their best since their state championship in 2008. Jefferson had previously clinched consecutive winning seasons since 2012-13.
“Every sports program, every family in this country has had to deal with a ton of adversity. But we say that when backs are against the wall, true character is revealed,” head coach Jerry Venturino said. “What I love is that we just kept grinding, we kept it a process. The kids kept believing in us, the messages we were delivering. Obviously, it was received.
“The kids played great at home. The motto of the last two weeks has been ‘finish the job’. Finish what we started. Last day on the job was today. Make the customers happy. Tonight, I think we did that.”
Friday’s final stand on the JTHS campus came against a Montville Mustangs team that had clipped the Falcons to the tune of one-sided defeats in each of the past two seasons, those losses coming by a combined 60-point margin.
But after exchanging punts with the Mustangs, the Falcons used recovered fumbles on consecutive Montville drives to build a 14-0 lead through the air. Garv earned his third multi-touchdown game of the season, uniting first with Andrew Weber for a 23-yard score and later with fellow underclassman Jason Eisele for a 20-yard tally in the early stages of the second quarter.
Earning his final yards on the JTHS turf, Gould closed out his career in style. With the Falcons lingering at the shadow of their own goal line after a strong Montville punt toward the end of the half, Gould broke loose for an 88-yard run to glory in the penultimate minute that sent Oak Ridge into hysterics.
Gould, who doubled as a rusher and a linebacker this season, was injured in the fourth quarter as Jefferson sought to eat the rest of the clock with a 21-7 lead after Montville (4-4) made it to the end zone. While he recuperated on the sidelines, Falcon trickery set up the perfect ending, as a halfback toss from Eisele to Caleb Rippey gained 65 yards. Jefferson ran some more time off the clock before Gould closed the book on 2020, scoring with his eighth and final touchdown of the season.
“It felt amazing celebrating with my boys afterward,” Gould said of his score. “So many emotions are going through me. It’s a great feeling right now. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life. I just try to come out here and do my best every Friday night. Just help my talent, my team, everyone around me.”
The defense took care of everything else, earning seven sacks (2.5 from Anthony D’Amato) and four turnovers. A third quarter touchdown scored by Montville’s Joey Rehberg accounted for the only points scored by a varsity opponent on the JTHS campus this season.
The Mustangs appeared to have momentum fully on their side by driving into Jefferson territory after the touchdown, but Weber permanently swung things toward the Falcons’ corner with an interception at the cusp of his goal line (his sixth of the season).
Jefferson punted on the ensuing possession, but the Falcons got the ball right back when Eisele earned an interception through a tip by Kofi Mensah. Eisele, Rippey, and Gould then united to put the game away, a victory later sealed by consecutive sacks from Weber, Travis Osterhaut, and Rory Coyle that caused the deflated Mustangs to punt and allow Jefferson to commence the victorious tradition of kneeling.
An emotional celebration commenced, with Jefferson’s seniors sharing one last embrace. Many flocked to Venturino, who praised their growth and development in the years under his watch.
“(The seniors) deliver a message to the rest of the program, for younger guys to step up,” Venturino said of the message the seniors leave behind. “The players never lost hope, never gave up, and kept great spirits throughout the season. They overcame adversity time and time again. As a staff, we did our best to give these players, especially the seniors, the best experience possible. We talk about building memories with each other that will last a lifetime. And this season, like many others, did exactly that.
“I’m extremely proud and happy that these seniors were able to get a season this fall. Although it wasn’t exactly what we expected, we still got the chance and opportunity to play and coach the game we love, together, as Falcons. As we said in the past two weeks, (tonight was) about finishing the job and ending the season with a victory.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags