CHS FOOTBALL: Playing Through Rain in Old Tappan...A Night to Remember
If Gene Kelly were alive today, he would have enjoyed singing, tap-dancing and splashing through puddles at the high school football game between Clifton and Old Tappan on Sept.17, in Old Tappan.
“Come on with the rain…I've a smile on my face,” he’d sing.
It began to rain heavily late in the third quarter with Clifton holding a slim 21-16 lead. The players, Mustang Marching Band, CHS cheerleaders and spectators took it in stride. After all, this was football, and they weren’t about to let a cloudburst spoil the party.
Tyler Williams, Clifton’s soft-spoken, 6’4’, 290-pound, offensive left tackle, said it was business as usual for his team. “We prepare for anything,” said Williams. “We like to run the football more efficiently in the rain, but we also like our receivers to catch the ball.”
Williams said that Clifton was in a dogfight against Old Tappan, but at the end of day it came down to executing their game plan and having confidence in the team. “There’s always positivity in the huddle,” he said.
The Mustangs, still unbeaten through their first five games, would score twice in the fourth quarter for a 34-22 victory.
“Come rain or shine the band is ready,” said Angelina Pacosa, Drum Major of the Mustang Marching Band, now in her senior year. It was a special night for the band and twirlers as they premiered their new halftime show: 2021 Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Inductees.
Senior Patrick Biernat remembers the air feeling somewhat different that night. “It was dry and hard to breath,” he said. Biernat plays the quads, a mounted set of 4-6 drums.
According to Biernat, everyone embraced the rain. “People were working together to win the game,” he said. “We played better and the team played better.” Pacosa agreed. “Everyone’s eyes were on the game.”
Friday night football would not be the same without the CHS Cheerleaders, who entertain the crowd with their precision stunts, cheers and chants. On this particular evening they let a smile be their umbrella, despite having to perform in rain-soaked outfits and slick-backed hair.
Nicole Leitner and Camila Vasquez fondly recall cheering from the sidelines. “It was fun because the energy was so different,” said Leitner. “We felt like little kids again, playing in the rain.” For Vasquez, also in her junior year, it was all about living in the moment. “It felt real coming back from Covid,” said Vasquez.
Clifton football enjoys the support of a loyal fan base. One of those supporters is Eddie Maldonado, Jr., whose son Jacob is the starting running back for the Mustangs. “Those of us in the stands were so happy we didn’t care about the rain,” said Maldonado. “It never distracted us from cheering the team on.”
Their generosity extends not only to the team but to each other as well, and that was put to the test in Old Tappan. “We shared our umbrella with the sister of one of the players,” said Maldonado. “Other folks shared too.”
What’s not known today is how Clifton will fare during the remainder of the 2021 season. However, one thing is for certain, everyone braving the outdoors will answer Mother Nature with a song and a smile.