South Hunterdon head football coach Toby Jefferis knew it was going to be a good night against Highland Park in the opener for both teams Sept. 6.
His feelings were prefaced due to the fact that his team had won three of its last five games to close out the 2018 season.
Those expectations quickly became reality when the Eagles unleashed their 347-yard ground game that dominated Highland Park in a 47-0 shutout victory.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles limited Highland Park to 38 yards of total offense.
South Hunterdon had a 14-0 lead after one quarter, and the Eagles ballooned it to 41-0 at the half.
“We pretty much handled them from the start,” said Jefferis. “They really couldn’t do much against us. We were pretty much able to run the ball at will.
“We really did show a lot and everything was working. It was a lot of our basic stuff that the kids were really familiar with.”
Senior Cooper McCaffrey and junior Logan Connor certainly made the most of their opportunities as the duo combined for 214 yards rushing on just 13 carries.
McCaffrey ran for three touchdowns, two of them from 42 and 10 yards. Connor added a pair of touchdowns. Overall, the Eagles’ runners averaged nearly 13 yards a carry.
“After a couple of drives, we knew we had things under control,” said McCaffrey. “We were moving the ball pretty well from the beginning and we could tell we would be in control. Our offensive line did a great job in creating some big holes for us.
“We felt pretty good at the end of last year, and we thought we could keep building from that.”
McCaffrey and his fellow seniors remember the plights of a 0-10 team they were part of as freshmen.
They won two games the following year and doubled it to four last season.
“We all remembered two tough seasons in which we really had to battle through both of them,” noted McCaffrey. “We were just trying to win as many games as possible, and we started to put things together last year. It was a big relief for us last year.”
McCaffrey is optimistic his team can be in the hunt for a playoff spot this season. The Eagles have eight returning seniors, and a core of juniors who saw plenty of playing time last year.
South Hunterdon will host Roselle Park Friday night, who defeated Highland Park, 20-6, two weeks ago and had a bye last week.
“This win was a big confidence booster for us,” added McCaffrey. “We’re hoping to get into the playoffs, but we know we need to take it week by week.”
“These guys have been playing together for a while, and they have been through a lot,” noted Jefferis. “We have a chance to get off to a good start and then our schedule will be challenging.
“But we’re pretty confident about our season.”