It was a beautiful, sunny Friday in the middle of October. Classes were just starting to get into full swing and the seniors, myself included, were beginning to realize how great the year ahead would be. This particular Friday was different than all the rest, however. Our .500 boys varsity soccer team was taking on their arch rival: the Manalapan Braves.
Mustang fans were searching for something to cling to. The varsity football team was mired in an abysmal season, failing to record a win. Even the most loyal of fans, like my close friends and me, were beginning to get frustrated by our lack of competitiveness. Losing by three touchdowns became the norm on the gridiron, and scoring any points at all was considered a success. A victory in this rivalry game would do wonders for the students' plummeting school spirit. A victory over Manalapan, however, would be far from an easy task.
The Manalapan Braves came into the match undefeated and ranked amongst the top teams in the state. Their daunting goaltender hardly allowed a goal all season and struck fear into opposing strikers. The Braves' sights were set on winning the entire state tournament, not just some measly regular season game.
Little did they know, however, that they had something else coming. Our soccer team refused to back down without a fight. Day and night they practiced in preparation for this very game. This was their one chance to show the rival town, the town that they despised so much, what they were made of.
As Friday came closer, the hype around the school began to heighten astronomically. Whispers of anticipation echoed throughout the hallways. The walls around the schools became covered with posters urging students to come support the Mustangs in this game, and, surprisingly enough, the ads were working. Fans were excited to support their team and beat the rival school.
When three o'clock came and the bell rang to end the school day, dozens of Marlboro students flocked to the soccer field down the street to support the team. As a 100 person crowd, we chanted every single player's name on the field. When each person's name was called, their jubilant faces lit up with appreciation for the support. The atmosphere the fans created was like nothing seen before for a high school sporting event, but, then again, this wasn't like any regular sporting event. This was personal. This rivalry dates back for as long as these schools have existed, and we were at each others' throats all game. Screaming out chants on everything from mothers to religion, the student section's intensity was perhaps only surpassed by that of the players.
As the game wore on and the Mustang's lead continued to grow, the sea of yellow on the left set of bleachers grew louder and louder. It was like nothing I've ever been a part of in my entire life and, to this day, only the Penn State white out against Notre Dame competes as a potentially greater sports experience. Then again, this was different than cheering on some overpaid professionals or highly touted college sport phenomenons. Cheering at this game, with all of my friends surrounding me, the players on the field were people I have known my entire life. They were people I hung out with on weekends, people I had classes with, people I had known forever.
Our team wanted to win this game more than anything else, more than anything in the world. When the buzzer finally sounded and the scoreboard flashed 3-1, our fantasy became a reality. We had just beat our arch rival, one of the top teams in the state, and the entire student section rushed the field. It was a moment that none of us, players, fans, and administrators alike, had ever experienced before. It was a moment I'll never forget.