During the off-season, the Kingsway football team, led by head coach Mark Hendricks, laid out a plan to make some noise at the South Jersey level. They had some key weapons in place, led by offensive stars Elias Collins and Darrell Brown. They had big numbers in the program. Things looked promising.
Then Collins went down with a season-ending injury in the summer.
Subsequently, Kingsway started off the season 1-2 including lopsided losses to Shawnee and Williamstown. After seven games, the Dragons were 3-4 and had to score watch a bit to see whether they would make the playoff field.
A championship did not seem to be in the cards. However, someone forgot to tell the Dragons.
They knew they were battle-tested with a tough regular season schedule that would have them ready for the postseason. They were able to get a solid 14-0 win over Atlantic City to even up their record at 4-4.
They were able to get an invite into the playoffs. They were ready to go and ready to make a statement.
In a game that many expected to be close. Kingsway, the 4th seed in the tournament, got into a slug fest with Central Jersey power and 5th seeded Old Bridge, eventually holding on for a 51-49 win. They were led by 100+ receiving yards from Luke Can Brill and Darrell Brown. Kingsway then went on to take down 8th seeded Lenape 20-17.
This earned the Dragons a berth in the South Jersey final against Toms River North, the 3rd seed. This game was an instant classic. Kingsway and Toms River North were tied until the final seconds of the game when Van Brill caught a pass from Nate Maiers and rumbled 36 yards for the game-winning touchdown. The celebration then was on, as the Dragons won the game and the South Jersey Group 5 title.
“Winning a sectional title felt so incredible,” said Van Brill. “All season long, we worked to get better every day. To end the season with a championship is such an incredible feeling. I was so happy to do my part for my team.”
While the Dragons eventually lost to Hillsborough in the state regional game, 28-7, to end up 8-5 on the season, this did not override what was a magical postseason run. With many of their key contributors returning next year, the expectations will continue to rise with this program.
By Christian Lynch