BRIDGETON - Only one person in attendance Friday night could have even come close to understanding why Bridgeton's Jae DeShields couldn't hold back the tears after his team stunned perennial power St. Joseph 14-6.
Only one person could have had even the slightest idea what it felt like for DeShields and his teammates to make big play after big play, turning the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference race on its head just a few hours into the season.
Funny thing is, DeShields lives with that one person.
He calls him Dad.
Warren DeShields, who is an assistant coach with the team, was a standout sophomore running back in 1989, before Jae or any of his teammates had even been born.
That was the last, and only other, time Bridgeton High School beat St. Joseph in football before Friday.
"It feels good to have my son be able to go through it," Warren said. "I told him, 'Listen, you can beat them. We did it in '89 and it hasn't been done since. You guys have to
believe that you can do it.' And I think that's what they showed tonight, that they believed what we were telling them."
Jae, who is the team's punter, turned what seemed destined for a bad play into one of the biggest plays of the game.
On fourth-and-6 from his own 44 with less than three minutes left in the game, DeShields received the snap but didn't like what he saw as he started to step into his kick.
So with a slew of defenders in his face, Jae took off running.
He was nearly tripped up short of the first-down marker but was able to keep his feet and pick up the first.
On the next play, Bridgeton running back Mike Cisrow ran almost untouched off the left side for a 48-yard touchdown.
Jae's 62-yard punt in the fourth changed the field position game.
And with St. Joseph making one last-ditch effort for a comeback, it was Jae who made another crucial play, intercepting St. Joseph quarterback Darryl Smith's pass at midfield to seal the win.
So was Warren DeShields a father or a coach as he watched his son make a number of big plays down the stretch?
"I was dad with goosebumps, sticking my chest out proud just happy that he did the right thing, that he did his job," DeShields said.
Current Bridgeton head coach Dave Ellen was a first-year assistant with the team in 1989. Joe Teklits, currently an assistant with the team, was the head coach.
Warren still remembers St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco, now in his 29th season as coach, screaming at his players to tackle the elder DeShields.
And Sacco still remembers Warren DeShields.
"He was a killer out there," Sacco recalled. "He was a specimen."
He pointed out that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, either.
Sacco refused to make excuses for his team after the game.
"You've got to give credit where credit is due," Sacco said. "They outplayed us. I have nothing but good to say about their staff and what they did tonight. …Their kids came to play. They were the better football team tonight."
Friday's win was something the DeShields had talked about for a long time.
"We talk on the ride home everyday about what it could be like to beat St. Joe," Warren said.
Jae must have been taking notes.
"Last night he was saying that he was the only DeShields to beat St. Joe," Jae said of his father. "He said, 'Live up to it.' I took that to the heart. That was my motivation right there, especially with him being the coach."
And Jae knows exactly what he'll say if his dad makes the mistake of saying he's the only DeShields to beat the Wildcats again.
"There's two of them now," Jae said with a grin.
Kaheem Reynolds led St. Joseph with 55 yards on five carries and one catch for 25 yards. Defensive lineman Mark Tomaszewski had a tackle for a loss, a sack and a deflected pass all in one series early in the third quarter. Philip Paulhill had an interception.
Cisrow finished with 117 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries for the Bulldogs. Kevin Bunton ran for 81 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Bridgeton faces another tall task next Friday when it plays at St. Augustine Prep at 7 p.m. St. Joseph will try to rebound on Sept. 19 when it hosts Middle Township at noon.
E-mail John O'Kane:
St. Joseph 0 0 6 0 -6
Bridgeton 0 7 0 7-14
B-Bunton 17 run (DeShields kick)
SJ-Hill 9 run (kick failed)
B-Cisrow 48 run (DeShields kick)
TEAM STATS SJ B
Rushing 109 239
Passing 45 48
Penalties 3-33 3-15
First Downs 7 1 4
Turnovers 1 1
Rushing-Reynolds 5-55, Bianchini 6-33, Smith 4-15, Hill 5-6 SJ; Cisrow 28-117, Bunton 10-81, Jackson 4-24, DeShields 1-12, Simpson 2-5 B.
Passing-Smith 2-13-45-1 SJ; Jackson 3-12-48-1 B.
Receiving-Reynolds 1-25, Hill 1-20 SJ; Simpson 2-45, DeShields 1-3 B.
Records-St. Joseph 0-1; Bridgeton 1-0.