Steinert’s #37 Jake Swindasz and #2 Jordan Morrison make the tackle against Northern Burlington. Photo by Amanda Ruch Photography.
By Rich Fisher
Sep. 9: Steinert’s football team took Labor Day much too literally, as the Spartans labored their way through a horrible practice on Monday.
Perhaps it was a letdown from last Thursday’s heart-breaking, one-point loss at Middle Township.
“As a team, I’m not gonna lie, it took probably a day or two,” Jordan Morrison said.
And that’s where Jake Swindasz came into play.
“We had the worst practice I’ve ever had since I’ve been coaching here,” coach Dan Caruso said. “We challenged the kids and said we needed to get better and Jake put the team on his shoulders this week. I gotta say this, and I’m not scared to say it, he’s the best captain I’ve ever had. He leads by example, he’s a great kid and a great football player. I know his aspiration is to be a teacher and a coach some day and he’s gonna be fantastic at it.”
Whatever Swindasz did worked wonders, as Steinert stormed to a 34-0 win over visiting Northern Burlington Saturday in a West Jersey Football League Patriot Division game.
The linebacker made numerous big plays on defense and also got an interception to keep pace in a sibling rivalry. But it was his prep work leading into the game that had Caruso impressed.
“On Monday we weren’t energetic,” Swindasz said. “We had a down practice, so as one of the captains I wanted to get the energy going for the rest of the week. So we were saying ‘Who’s got the juice? Who’s got the energy?’ After that, from Tuesday on, we had amazing practices full of energy and it just pumped us up for this game.”
“That’s exactly why he’s the captain,” Morrison said. “He leads everyone and he’s great. He’s a great person, he’s gonna be a great coach.”
Today he was part of a great defensive effort, as Bill James’ unit held Northern to 96 yards of total offense and four first downs. Amir Stevenson, who rushed for 187 yards against West Windsor-Plainsboro South last week, was limited to 42 yards after gaining 20 on his first three carries. Steinert forced five turnovers, four by interception.
“We thought coming into the year we could have a special defense, we could have a defense that really gets after it,” Caruso said. “We’re undersized, but we hustle, we get to the football, we rally to the football and these kids just keep their energy going the entire game. That’s the type of defense we’re gonna see this year.”
The coach felt his D set the tone, particularly after stopping NBC on a fourth-and-3 at the Steinert 28 on the Greyhounds first possession.
Two plays later, Morrison embarked on another highlight-reel day by finding Miles Smith with a 76-yard touchdown pass. The Connecticut-bound senior finished with 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns while also picking off two passes.
“He can do a lot of things,” Caruso said. “We can put him in so many different situations and he comes through every time. He’s just a heckuva player.
“I’m sure if we played him at defensive end he’d lead the team in sacks. That’s just the type of kid he is. We have him doing some different things this year than we had him doing last year and he’s responded well to it.”
He was aided by Xavier Thompson, who rushed for 88 yards and two TDs. Quarterback Colin Smith was an efficient 5-for-9 for 51 yards while Miles Smith had three catches for 112 yards. Xavier Roman and Nick Pasqua were just some of the defensive standouts, while Swindasz was all over the place.
His brother Joe wasn’t bad either, as his interception set up Steinert’s third touchdown, which provided a 20-0 halftime lead. Later in the half, Jake got his own pick.
“That was his first varsity interception,” Jake said. “I had to match it so I got it.”
Late in the game, a long kickoff return to Steinert’s 11 jeopardized the shutout, but the Spartans allowed just six yards to preserve the goose egg.
“When we lined up we’re like ‘That zero looks real nice, we’re gonna keep it,’” Morrison said. “We just did our assignments; did what we needed to do and got a stop.”
Swindasz felt it was a key early-season win, as Steinert did not want last week’s heart-breaking defeat start to snowball in a negative direction.
“It was important because we came off a tough loss,” Swindasz said. “Driving two hours down to Middle Township, we miss a field goal, it was a tough loss but that fueled us to play a good Northern Burlington team and it was an exciting win. We were ready to go right from the start.”
“We approached it as saying last week was our game scrimmage and we’re gonna forget about that one and treat this like it’s our opening day,” Caruso said. “We did just that. I know it doesn’t go that way in the record books but that’s the approach we’re taking and moving forward with it.”