Rahway came close to winning a state championship last year.
This year the Indians presently have the look of a team that will accomplish that feat.
Standout senior middle linebacker Qualil Lumpkins likes where Rahway is at the moment, but also cautions: “stay hungry and take it one game at a time.”
Rahway defeated Cranford 46-14 in Friday night’s (Oct. 11) Mid-State Conference non-division game at Rahway River Park. Another standout senior, Brayden Pierre-Louis, helped lift the Indians by scoring four touchdowns, the first on a pass over the middle thrown by junior quarterback Nasir Arribas and the next three up the middle from inside the Cranford 20-yard line.
As a result, Rahway is 5-0 for the first time since 1984, which was the last year the Indians won a state championship. The Indians will attempt to go 6-0 for the first time since that same 1984 season when they clash with division rival Somerville this Friday night (Oct. 18) in Somerville.
Rahway will win the Mid-State’s Mountain Division crown undefeated at 6-0 and outright with wins at Somerville and then at Warren Hills the next two weekends. Rahway presently leads the division at 4-0.
Last year the Indians reached the North 2, Group 3 state championship game for the first time in 10 years and also produced the program’s first 10-2 record since that 2008 campaign. Rahway lost at Summit 36-14 in last year’s title game and then returned to Summit two weeks ago and defeated the Hilltoppers 41-23 in Mountain Division play.
Rahway has won three state championships in the playoff era, all in North 2, Group 3. Head coach Mike PUnko – in his first of two stints at the helm of the Indians – guided Rahway to its 1978 and 1979 titles. Ed Yergalonis, in his first year at the helm, led Rahway to its 1984 crown.
Here’s a look at the results of the 1984 squad, one year after Rahway went 3-6 in the final season of Punko’s first stint and one year before the Indians finished 2-7 in 1985:
1984 RAHWAY INDIANS (8-2-1)
NORTH 2, GROUP 3 STATE CHAMPIONS
Regular season: 6-2-1
North 2, Group 3 playoffs: 2-0
Rahway 17, Westfield 0
Rahway 22, Linden 0
Rahway 38, Kearny 0
Rahway 7, Scotch Plains 0
Rahway 15, Elizabeth 8
Rahway 22, Irvington 0
Union 35, Rahway 0
Plainfield 13, Rahway 12
Rahway 0, Cranford 0 (tie)
Rahway 22, Randolph 8 – N2,G3 semifinals
Rahway 8, Morris Hills 7 – N2,G3 final
Points for: 163
Points against: 81
Rahway went 6-2-1 in the regular season in 1984 and earned the – based on power points from its first eight games – second seed in North 2, Group 3. Rahway defeated Randolph 22-18 at home in the semifinals and then went to Rockaway and beat top-seeded Morris Hills 8-7 in the final.
Rahway also won the Watchung Conference’s National Division championship that season and in the Elizabeth Daily Journal’s final Union County rankings placed second to Union. The Farmers won North 2, Group 4 that year with an 11-0 record, the first of five undefeated, state championship Union squads coached by Lou Rettino.
Rahway’s captains that year were Tyrone McQueen, Horace Baker and Darrin Lewis.
* Much of the above information was obtained from the book titled: “What It Means To Wear The Red And Black, 100 years of Rahway High School Indian Football.” The book was written with a publication date of 2006 by former Rahway player Bobby Akbar (McClain) and edited by Mary Ryan.