by Mike Pavlichko
Fall sports are on in South River.
The local Board of Education Thursday night approved the playing of fall sports – including football – after parents, students and alumni grew concerned this week that the Rams might join the handful of other schools around New Jersey – including Piscataway and Carteret in Middlesex County – who have cancelled their fall sports season.
“It is the Board’s position, and it was unanimously agreed by all board members, to move forward and allow the fall sports season,” announced Board of Ed President Cynthia Urbanik during a virtual Zoom meeting.
But the good news for student-athletes didn’t come without a little sweating it out. The Board met in closed session for more than an hour before the announcement was made.
“As you know this board spent quite a bit of time in closed session, not only tonight, but since July,” Urbanik told the meeting, “not only discussing return to school, but among other things, fall athletics.
Urbanik said the Board has been doing extensive research on the return of athletics since July.
The only sport that will not be played this fall at South River will be volleyball, which will take place during later in the school year during what the NJSIAA is calling season three. Indoor sports such as volleyball are considered higher risk for athletes, coaches and fans to catch to coronavirus.
South River Booster Club President Tammy Torok, whose son Joseph Lepore plays on the football team, helped organize a “Rams Speak” rally Thursday morning outside the Board of Education offices on Montgomery Street.
South River football player Marcus Granadiero – a junior, left – and Austin Soares – a senior who also plays baseball – talk about why they want to play fall sports at a rally Thursday morning in support of their cause, in front of the Board of Education offices on Montgomery Street, on Thursday, August 27, 2020.
She told Central Jersey Sports Radio Wednesday there had been rumors after Monday night’s agenda meeting that the Board wanted to cancel fall sports, and she thought students should explain why they want to play.
Torok was one of many watching the virtual school board meeting Thursday night. Some couldn’t even get in, as the meeting was capped at 100 participants.
“My family was here. My nieces and my son were here,” said Torok shortly after the announcement. Her nieces also are involved in cheerleading.
“I think we had just a mixed bag of feelings, to be honest,” Torok said about the moment the board went into closed session. One resident – before the closed session – told the board during a public comment session that he felt the panel should have been more clear after Monday night’s meeting about what its intentions were.
Torok says she had a good conversation Thursday morning with South River Schools Superintendent Sylvia Zircher, telling her, “If you take football out of this town, you take everything away. It’s just not the same.” She encouraged Zircher and the board to listen to what residents have to say and take their opinions into account.
The Rams have one of the most storied football programs in the state, sending several players on to the NFL, including Joe Theisman, Drew Pearson, Kenny Jackson, and Alex Wojciechowicz. Head coach Rich Marchesi is heading into his 34th season at the helm of the program, and has won over 200 games in that time, making him the winningest coach in South River history.