POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. —
In the midst of celebrating a 28-point win on Oct. 27 that continued the program's best start in history, the members of the Point Pleasant Beach (N.J.)
football team noticed the team bus had veered from its usual route home.
The bus crested the bridge over the Manasquan River and down toward the town line of Point Pleasant Beach, approaching a surprising sight. Idling at the base of the bridge were trucks from Point Pleasant Beach Fire Company No. 2, lights flashing and sirens blaring in celebration of the first 8-0 start for a school that has been playing football for nearly 100 years. With the fire trucks serving as an escort, the Garnet Gulls took the long way home as fans and residents lined the main thoroughfare of Route 35 south, waving and clapping in appreciation of the team from the tiny school of 315 students.
It spoke to the struggles of the program over its history: Even though the Garnet Gulls hadn't yet won a championship of any kind, their performance still merited a town-wide celebration.
"We had no idea they were going to do that,'' said junior offensive lineman
. "I actually almost started tearing up.''
"In a town where this team used to stink for so long, to get to the point where you're getting escorted back into town by fire trucks, that was just crazy,'' said senior two-way lineman Timmy Morris
However, the euphoria of that Saturday afternoon was tempered by a gnawing sense of unease. All of the players had watched the news and seen the weather reports.
A freakishly strong hurricane was racing up the East Coast, promising to bring record flooding and unprecedented destruction less than 48 hours after Point Beach's 42-14 win over Keyport High School.
Hurricane Sandy was on its way, and the spot many meteorologists were circling on their television graphics was the little slice of the Jersey Shore that the members of the Garnet Gulls call home.
"Reality set in,'' said senior offensive guard/linebacker Quinn Kusma
. "We had been through hurricanes before, but this time it was different. The news reports were getting worse and worse.''
Less than two days later, those same blaring sirens and horns that had signaled their success became the harrowing sounds of an area being ripped apart by Sandy's wrath. They were the soundtrack to a new chapter in a season filled with a dizzying mix of unprecedented highs and unfathomable lows that the players, coaches and fans will never forget.
Video by Scott Stump/Edited by Ryan Escobar