The Mainland Regional High School football team will start anew this fall.
The Mustangs also will remember their past.
Mainland won an Under Armour school spirit contest last January that will give the school $180,000 in athletic apparel over the next two years. The football team will wear new green and black uniforms this season. The helmets are black with a green stripe down the middle and a green "M" on the side.
"I love the new look," senior quarterback and defensive back Tom Bradway said Sunday. "I think it sends a message of how we're going to play this year. Coach (Bob) Coffey and I are both believers in the phrase 'if you look good, you play good.' If we're going by that, we should have a pretty good year."
The uniforms signal a new beginning for Mainland. Few teams in the country probably needed that more than the Mustangs.
One year ago today, four Mainland players - Casey Brenner, 17, of Northfield; Edgar Bozzi, 17, of Somers Point; Dean Khoury, 15, of Linwood; and Nicholas Conner, 16, of Northfield - died when the SUV they were in overturned on the Garden State Parkway. Four other players in the car were injured but all were released from the hospital within a day or two of the accident.
"It's amazing that (today) is a year," Bradway said.
The Mustangs planned to mark the anniversary with a low-key breakfast at school today.
The tragedy is still a part of the Mustangs. Coffey noted that Khoury and Conner would have been seniors on this year's team. Casey Brenner's brother Ryan is expected to be one of the Mustangs' top players this season.
"It's still very, very much a part of us," Coffey said last week. "We have become so close over the past year."
Mainland will have a memorial rock near its home field with the four deceased players' names on it. From now on, each Mustang will touch the rock as he takes the field for home games.
"Kids 10 years from now will go by that rock and know who (the crash victims) are," Mainland athletic director Mike Gatley said last week. "For years to come, future Mustangs are going to have a remembrance that those kids were taken way, way, way too soon."
The Mustangs won the Under Armour "Finding Undeniable" contest. UnderArmour is a Baltimore-based company that produces a wide range of sports clothing and accessories. The school earned its victory by getting votes on Facebook and by completing several challenges, from the school mascot doing push-ups to having the school band perform its best number.
An endorsement from Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor on Twitter also garnered them some points. The entire Mainland community rallied around the cause.
"It's not that we got new uniforms," Bradway said. "It's what we did to get them. Every time you put them on you think about how we got the entire community to vote every singe day. It's a pride feeling."
The contest started a few weeks after the accident. A neighbor of Gatley's in Linwood tipped him off about it. The drive to win the contest united the grieving community.
"I think we needed Under Armour more than Under Armour needed us," Gatley said.
Coffey said Gatley deserves the credit for the uniform's design, which gives the Mustangs a modern look. The pants are black and the Mustangs will wear black cleats.
"We kind of look like the Oregon Ducks a little bit," Coffey said. "The kids are so jacked up."
Mainland finished 5-5 last season. The Mustangs, who open this season Sept. 7 at Pleasantville, should contend in the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference this season.
One look at the jerseys shows just how united Mainland is today. The word "Mainland" is on the front of the jerseys. Most teams put the players' names on the back of the jerseys. But the backs of the Mainland jerseys simply say "Mustangs."
Coffey said that was the players' idea. He went to all the seniors and asked them what they wanted on the back of the jerseys. They said the school's nickname.
"It shows we're one," Bradway said. "We've grown together so much in the past year."
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