Jada Byers gets a familiar feeling when he crosses the goal line.
“Crossing the goal line feels amazing,” he said. “It feels like I made it home, actually.”
The St. Joseph High School senior running back/wide receiver stands on the verge of history.
Byers is three points away from breaking Kevin Sinclair’s record for most career points scored by a Cape-Atlantic League football player.
Sinclair, a 1997 Ocean City graduate, finished with 532 points. Byers has 530 points heading to the Wildcats’ (4-1) matchup 2 p.m. Saturday at Vineland (2-3).
“It’s been a long time,” Sinclair, 42, said of his records. “(Jada) is electrifying. He’s a special player.”
Other scoring records are also within reach for Byers.
Sinclair holds the CAL career record with 87 touchdowns. Byers has 83. Kevin Harvey, a 1996 Paulsboro graduate, holds the South Jersey career records with 101 TDs and 656 career points.
Records keep the past alive. While Harvey is the ultimate goal for Byers and the Wildcats, the CAL marks should be celebrated.
Technically, CAL football doesn’t exist anymore. The league’s schools joined the West Jersey Football League in 2016
But the CAL’s football tradition and legacy need to be kept alive.
Sinclair is one of the best players in South Jersey history. After Ocean City, he played at Rutgers and Rowan universities.
He led the 1996 Red Raiders — widely considered to be one of, if not, the best team in CAL history — to an 11-0 record and the South Jersey Group IV title.
Sinclair rushed for 1,652 yards in 1996. He finished his career with 5,380 rushing yards. He ran a 10.6-second 100-meter dash as an Ocean City senior. He had the speed to run away from defenders and the power to run over them.
He ran for 284 yards and four touchdowns as the Red Raiders beat Shawnee 27-7 in the Group IV title game.
“I wish we could have played some North Jersey teams to see how good we really were,” Sinclair said. “I never played for records. But to be considered one of the best teams around is more important to me.”
Byers’ career has been just as memorable.
The Bridgeton resident has led the Wildcats to a 33-7 record and state Non-Public II titles in 2017 and 2018.
He currently has 4,089 career rushing yards. He’s run for 62 touchdowns, caught 11 touchdown passes and returned four interceptions, four punts, one kickoff and one fumble for touchdowns.
Sinclair, who currently works as a resource officer at Ocean City and is a Millville assistant coach, has gotten several first-hand views of Byers.
St. Joe beat Millville 43-6 last month as Byers ran for 121 yards and four touchdowns. Sinclair was an Ocean City assistant in 2017 when Byers ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Red Raiders. Byers wows fans with his ability to change direction and make defenders miss.
“His acceleration in and out of cuts is tremendous,” Sinclair said of Byers. “You’re like, ‘Did you see that cut he just made?’”
The best thing about Byers breaking scoring records is that it makes CAL football fans remember Sinclair and that 1996 Ocean City team.
Twenty years from now, Byers hopes to be in the same position as Sinclair today when it comes to records.
“When I get in the record books, I hope it motivates other kids,” Byers said. “I want them to try to beat my record.”
Michael McGarry’s Must Win column appears Fridays in The Press.