Sometimes a senior class will peak at the right moment and display the kind of effort, maturity and experience befitting players who have been in the program now for four years.
Add that formula to the philosophy of the head coach – now in his fourth season at the helm – and the results tend to be on the positive side.
Boy are they ever for the 2016 Roselle Rams so far.
Five games into the season and Roselle is not only 5-0 for the first time in a very long time, but the Rams are averaging a whopping 49.8 points with 249 in five games.
Roselle, which has reached the end zone 37 times already, has scored 61 points twice, at least 54 three times and also has a shutout win over arch rival Hillside.
The average margin of victory so far is 49-22.
One of the standouts of the senior class, running back Isiah Byrd, has already rushed for 1,153 yards on 114 carries, with 16 of them going for touchdowns.
That’s a season to most running backs.
With Roselle’s goal of playing 12 games, if the Rams do that’s not even half a season so far.
“I knew coming out of pre-season that we would be okay,” head coach James Williams said.
Running the offense for the first year is former East Orange Campus head coach Marion Bell, who had Williams as an assistant at the Essex County school.
Bell and Williams helped lead East Orange Campus to the school’s only state championship in the playoff era when EOC captured North 1, Group 4 in 2007. The Jaguars returned to the final in 2009.
“I’ve been with Coach Bell for over 20 years,” said Williams, who in 2014 guided Roselle to its first playoff victory since 1998, which was the last time before this year that Roselle was 3-0.
Another standout senior and also a three-year varsity starter is southpaw senior quarterback Gerald Hairston III, who has Roselle’s multiple offense running on all cylinders. Hairston has already completed 65 of 87 passes for 1,274 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Including a 7-4 record in 2014 and a 4-6 mark in 2015, Hairston’s record at QB since taking over the position as a sophomore two years ago is now 16-10.
Roselle reached the Central Jersey, Group 2 semifinals two years ago and the quarterfinals last year.
The goal this year is quite evident. The Rams are out to reach their first state championship game since 1990 when they made it to the North 2, Group 2 final for the second straight season.
Roselle’s lone state championship in the playoff era came the year before in 1989.
Roselle’s only other appearance in a state championship game was 35 years ago when the Rams reached the 1981 North 2, Group 1 final.
This week, the only three undefeated teams remaining in Central Jersey, Group 2 are Roselle (5-0), Point Pleasant Boro (5-0) and Spotswood (5-0). According to www.gridironnewjersey.com, Roselle and Point Pleasant Boro are tied for the top seed at the moment, each with 62 points. Spotswood is seventh with 41.
A Union County team has not won a playoff championship in any of the Central Jersey sections yet.
“Our main goal is to stay focused and, of course, healthy,” Williams said. “Our kids are hungry. They got their hearts broken two years ago.”
Junior outside linebacker Craig McRae is back in the lineup – his first game was against Hillside – after he suffered a dislocated elbow.
Roselle’s final three playoff qualifying games are at Belleville (3-3) this Friday night, home against Dayton (1-4) Oct. 22 and then after its bye week home against Bound Brook (5-0) Nov. 5, the playoff cutoff weekend. Needless to say the Rams will be heavy favorites vs. all three opponents.
It appears that after playing at Belleville this weekend, the plan is for Roselle to play its next four games at home at Arminio Field, which would include the Dayton and Bound Brook contests and, hopefully, CJ, G2 quarterfinal and semifinal contests should the Rams gain a high enough seed and advance.
“That would be fine with me,” Williams said.
Byrd, a two-year starter, is part of a senior class that has had a taste of playoff success as sophomores.
“They played in a semifinal game at home two years ago and last year we had Lincoln on the ropes (in the quarterfinals),” Williams said. “Byrd, a track guy, dedicated himself to the weight room, put on 15 pounds and he’s turned into a true running back.”
In contrast, Hairston shed pounds to increase his stamina on the field.
“Gerald dropped 25 pounds and is now back to playing like the way he did for us in 2014,” Williams said. “He’s doing a good job.”
Seniors leading the way on defense include tackle Xavier Young, end Shaquil Jones and cornerback Drew Stephens, who already has six interceptions, including two in Saturday’s 61-9 win at New Providence.
“These seniors have been with me since I took the job,” Williams said. “They are my first class. They’ve been through the fires and the battles.”
Roselle is hoping that there are still battles ahead this season, including a final one that will take place the first week of December.
NOTES: Roselle is the Mid-State 38 Conference’s first division champion this year. Having already played all five of their division games, the Rams captured the Valley Division championship outright with a 5-0 league mark.
For Roselle it was its second division title in three years. The Rams won the Mid-State’s Mountain Division crown outright in 2014 with an undefeated 5-0 division record.
2016 ROSELLE RAMS (5-0)
(A) Roselle 61, Bernards 54
(H) Roselle 45, Delaware Valley 6
(H) Roselle 56, Johnson 41
(A) Roselle 26, Hillside 0
(A) Roselle 61, New Providence 9
Oct. 14 at Belleville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 Dayton, 2 p.m.
Nov. 5 Bound Brook, 2 p.m.
Nov. 24 at Roselle Park, 10:30 a.m.
Head coach: James Williams,
fourth season: 20-16 (.555)
Section: Central Jersey, Group 2
Conference: Mid-State 38
Division: Valley 5-0, outright champs
Points for: 249
Points against: 110