By ROBERT LINNEHAN
The 2010 Haddonfield Bulldogs joined the legacy of historic Haddonfield football teams two weeks ago with their first-ever football state championship. The second-seeded Bulldogs won their first South Jersey Group 2 Football championship with an upset over top-seeded West Deptford, hanging on for the win by a score of 16–8. The Bulldogs can now add a 2010 patch to their state championship banner hanging in the high school gymnasium. A patch for the historic 1964 team, which went undefeated, is also on the banner. The 1964 team technically did not win a state championship as the state championship format was initiated in 1970.
Coach Frank DeLano said it’s a historic win for the program and he urged his athletes to cherish the memory.
“There’s no guarantee that we’ll win another state championship or even be in another one. Before last year’s season the last time Haddonfield was in a state championship game was in 1986,” he said. “You don’t know when the next time you’re going to get there. The reality is it won’t happen each year.”
It was the second season in a row the Bulldogs defeated the West Deptford Eagles in the state championship tournament. Last year Haddonfield beat West Deptford in the semifinals of the tournament before losing to Delsea in the championship round.
Undoubtedly the play of the championship came in the fourth quarter as the Eagles, down by eight points, were facing a fourth and inches from the Bulldogs one-yard line. The Bulldogs defensive line sniffed out a quarterback sneak — as well as everyone else in the stadium, DeLano joked — and stuffed the Eagles quarterback to take over possession.
It was a character play by the defense, DeLano said. While people will remember that play for years to come, he said the next offensive series was of equal importance. The Bulldogs were on their own half-yard line and successfully gained several first downs to effectively eat up a good portion of the remaining game clock.
DeLano lauded senior quarterback Kevin Davis and his performance, running for 146 yards against a vaunted West Deptford defense. He’s a great football player, athlete, and an even better person, he said.
Even though Davis is graduating this year, DeLano said the squad is heavy on junior talent — it will feature 12 returning seniors next season — and like other years the younger athletes will step up.
“You lose players each year. But sometimes the whole is greater than the parts. Our kids bought into that and that’s the beautiful thing about athletics,” DeLano said. “You don’t know who’s going to step up and be the leader from night to night.”
In reference to who could be next year’s starting quarterback, DeLano mentioned junior Daniel Ciemniecki, but then said it could also be anyone on the roster who earns the position.
But for now DeLano said he’s enjoying the championship before getting ready to get back to work for the next season. Last Friday was the first day since the summer where there was no football game, he said, and he planned to satisfy his competitive juices by putting up Christmas lights with his two-and-a-half-year old son.
“I just hope that everyone who has ever played for us is proud of what they’ve seen and what we’ve done,” he said. “Regardless, this is for all of the kids that have ever played for us.”