For high school student-athletes, senior year is the year that they’ve all been waiting for. The capitalization of their long journey from youth sports to the biggest stage. For some, they will head on to play in college, however, for the vast majority, this will be their last ride.
Delran High School’s R.J. Moten is one of the few players who will head to college to continue to play. The senior has recently committed to play football and baseball at the University of Michigan. While the looming pressure of college has been lifted, Moten has set his sights on restoring greatness to Delran on this last ride with his brothers.
“Everything is just a blessing,” said Moten. “I thought Michigan felt right. When I stepped on the campus for the first time, it felt like home. Even the second time when I committed, I just walked off campus with a big smile on my face, but committing to Michigan doesn’t really give me any type of different focus for this year.
“It’s not going to make me play any differently or be a different type of teammate,” continued Moten. “We’re trying to put Delran back on the map and we’re here to push each other to that. We have some real ballers on the team, and a lot of us are going to end up playing somewhere.”
The Delran Bears will open up their season against the crosstown rival Cinnaminson Pirates on Friday, Sept, 6. What typically is the annual Thanksgiving game, this is the first year the two rivals will start off the season against each other. For Delran, they’ll be looking to amend the past and make a statement after losing the last eight matchups.
“The entire coaching staff has been really pushing us,” said Moten. “Each day, they want us to have perfect effort so each day we give 110 percent. If we win that day, that’s a checkmark to winning the first game of the year. We’ve just been coming out each day of practice and keeping that focus and pushing ourselves.
“Cinnaminson has beaten us for the last eight years,” said Moten. “They said, ‘what’s the point of even playing the game anymore,’ so that kind of hit us to the heart. Our motto this year is ‘Burn the Ships’ and since they’re the pirates, we’re going to have to do just that.”
According to Delran Head Coach Garrett Lucas, “Burn the Ships” is a concept he came up with after studying Hernan Cortes. As a history teacher, Lucas came across Cortes as he was learning about what Cortes did every time he conquered a new land.
“It not only refers to who we’re playing, but it also refers to not dwelling in the past,” said Lucas. “If you know the story of Hernan Cortes, whenever he would conquer an island somewhere, he would burn all of his ships to send the message to his people that we’re not looking in the past and that we’re only focusing on the future. That’s what we’re doing at Delran. We’re not focusing on anything in the past.”
Cinnaminson Head Coach Mario Patrizi feels the same way about looking in the past.
“Delran has good team this year,” said Patrizi. “They’re always solid and they’re well-coached. Yeah, we have been on the winning end for the last eight years, but that doesn’t mean anything. Every year is different and all that tells me is that in those eight years, we’ve been better eight times. This is a whole different season. We’re just doing our thing and trying to get better each day.”
When asked about how the Pirates have been preparing for Moten, Patrizi simply stated: “We’re preparing for Delran, not R.J. Moten. Moten is a good football player, but Delran has other players that we have to worry about.”