Growing up in Secaucus, Charlie Voorhees would always look out into the horizon and see the majestic edifice in the Meadowlands, the place that the New York Giants called home. People in Secaucus could almost reach out and touch Giants Stadium, but in some respects, it was always light years away.
“Ever since I was a little boy, I always dreamed of going there as a player or later as a coach,” said Voorhees, the head football coach at Secaucus High School. “For 35 years, it’s been a dream.”
As it probably has been for perhaps a thousand other young men who put on a Secaucus High School football uniform, like Voorhees did when he was a player, over the last three decades. Other teams got the chance to go to Giants Stadium to play, but not the school located probably the closest to the place.
Sure, Becton Regional in East Rutherford is actually in the same town, but geographically, Secaucus High School is just a hop, skip and a jump across the swamps of the Meadowlands and a leap frog over the Hackensack River to get there. But for some reason, it never happened.
Very soon, the old girl will come down. Giants Stadium will be torn down sometime in February to give more room to the still unnamed place called for now, the new Meadowlands Stadium.
Before the 2009 high school football season began, there was talk of how fitting it would be for Secaucus to make that long-awaited journey to Giants Stadium in the final season of the joint.
Now, it’s going to happen.
By virtue of their win over the aforementioned Becton Regional, 16-6, last Friday night, the Patriots of Secaucus are finally getting their chance to head to New Jersey’s football Mecca. They’re actually going to Giants Stadium to play for a state championship.
The undefeated Patriots will face Cedar Grove in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I title game Friday night Dec. 4 at 5 p.m.
The Patriots are not the only Hudson County team headed to Giants Stadium. The mighty Marauders of St. Peter’s Prep will also play there next weekend, facing the daunting task of taking on the state’s No. 1-ranked team and nation’s No. 2 team, Don Bosco Prep, in the Non-Public Group 4 final. The Prep-DBP game will be played Saturday, Dec. 5 at 1:30 p.m.
However, it’s not a novelty for the Marauders, who will make their ninth appearance at Giants Stadium. Two of the three state titles that the Prep captured were won at the Meadowlands (1994 and 2005).
This is the very first time for the Patriots and there’s definitely a buzz of excitement going on in Secaucus.
“When the game ended with Becton, there was this sense of relief, that we’re finally getting a chance to go,” said Voorhees, who played at Secaucus, then was an assistant coach before becoming the head coach 11 years ago. “It’s the perfect time. Everything just fell into place. We’ve lost a lot of times in the state playoffs, so we’re excited to have the chance to make it happen. We lost three times in the playoffs with undefeated teams, very good teams, but we were on the road. We just kept creeping up and creeping up and now, we’re finally getting our chance.
Added Voorhees, “This is for everyone who has ever played here. This is for everyone who was ever involved in Secaucus football, all the mayors, all the administrators, all the principals. They’re all pieces to the puzzle. It’s been a long time coming.”
It’s almost too story book to be real.
“I think it’s a fitting way to say goodbye to Giants Stadium,” Voorhees said. “We didn’t want to talk about it too much, because we didn’t want to jinx it. But now, it’s happening. It’s definitely exciting.”
St. Peter’s Prep head coach Rich Hansen agreed that there is going to be a sense of sentimentality playing in Giants Stadium one final time.
“Sure, there is going to be some nostalgia attached,” Hansen said. “It’s definitely significant. We’ve played state championship games there and regular season games there. It’s always a big deal when you play at Giants Stadium. But it’s fun for us to go back. We’ll always have some great memories of the place.”
But Hansen knows that the setting is the least important part of this game. The Marauders have the tough task of trying to beat the Ironmen, a team that they lost to, 42-9, just three weeks ago.
“We could play this game on Mars and it would still be a big game,” Hansen said. “It’s for all the marbles. We wanted to be playing in December and now we have a chance to play against a great team in December.”
There’s also a sense of unity between the Prep coaching staff and the Secaucus coaching staff. Voorhees once was an assistant under Hansen. Current Secaucus assistant Bruce Naszimento was the offensive coordinator in 1989, the year that Prep won its first state title. There are a lot of correlations between the two.
“My Dad [Charlie, Sr.] went to Prep and was on the 1956 state championship team,” Voorhees said. “Richie is a good friend and I wish them luck. We’re always a Hudson County school first.”
“I know Charlie and Naz work hard and they got it going there,” Hansen said. “I just hope they get a chance to enjoy it.”
Prep has enjoyed Giants Stadium glory. Secaucus has never been there. Secaucus has never won a state title, the closest being 1996, when they lost to Glen Rock in the title game. Hudson County’s grid warriors are heading to Mecca. Here’s to hoping that these local warriors can emerge victorious.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.