Former Hilltoppers Share Football Memories on Eve of Championship Game

We caught up with some former Hilltoppers' who took some time to reflect on their own experiences as well as offer some advice for the team as they prepare for their North 2 Group 2 championship showdown against Madison.

We got a chance to catch up with some key players from past Summit championship teams.  The former players vividly recalled details some of the most memorable moments of their Hilltopper careers' and offered some words of advice for this year's team as they preapre for the title game.


Carl DeMuth '95 (two-time state champion: '93 and '94)

 I was fortunate enough to play in three state championships and won two; my junior and senior years in 1993 and 1994. We played Mendham both years. The 1993 game was one of the best games in Summit High School history. We were down 21-19 and scored with 20 seconds left to win 26-21. It was the most thrilling game and when the final seconds ticked off, the most thrilling moment of my life. The 1994 game was much less dramatic. We beat Mendham again, 26-8, with Mendham scoring a late TD (less than 2 min left). We finished 11-0 in 1993 and 10-1 in 1994.

The one thing I can remember so vividly is how normal I felt during the game. And I think that's the key to big games. Don't make them bigger than any other game in your mind. Football is football.

You need to make the reads, execute the trap block, run the right route, etc. no matter who you play and what you're playing for. Our coach, Jim Benedict, used a phrase: "perfect practice makes perfect." At this point of the season, you've practiced enough, you have an identity and you know what the guy next to you is going to do. Time to execute the gameplan and look at the scoreboard when the clock hits 00:00.

And most importantly, have fun. It will likely be the most memorable moment in your entire athletic career.


Flavio Acitelli '89 (co-captain of '88 state championship team)

What means the most to me (about winning the championship in '88) is getting together with your teammates from time to time and realizing that you accomplished something special together.

I also lost a state championship game to Randolph my sophomore year and I although I didn’t play as a sophomore that game still bothers me to this day. 

The way we won in ’88 against Doverwas special because it was in overtime.We scored on our first possession but missed the PAT. Dover had to score a TD and kick the PAT and they would have been the champs. Dover got down to the 3-yard line. On 4th and 3 they tossed it to their all state back who weighed 225lbs, our cornerback Mark Smith (140lbs) came up and grabbed the runner by the shirt and pulled him down an inch or so from the goal line. We had to wait to see what the referee called. He motioned no touchdown and pandemonium broke from the Summit sidelines.

By the way... the game was broadcast on Suburban Cable TV-3 and video replay confirmed that the refs made the correct call. 


Phil Ryan '90 (quarterback for the '88 state championship team)

In 1988 we played away at Dover in a hostile environment in an underdog role. Winning in overtime over Dover and in dramatic fashion is an experience that I will never forget. A lifetime bond and great sense of camaraderie developed between my teammates on that December afternoon. Winning that state title made you feel that you had joined an elite club and it was something that I had always aspired to do after watching the 1980 team win a championship at Giants Stadium when I was a kid.  

I wish this group of Hilltoppers great success against Madison. Two very talented and evenly matched teams. Keep doing what you have been doing, contain Goodwin, avoid turnovers and you will accomplish your goal of a state championship. Best of luck!


Darrell Fusco '89 (co-captain of the 88' state championship team, current coach of Mountain Lakes)

In 1980, I was 9 years old and remember my father taking me to Giants Stadium to see Summit play Rahway in the State Finals.  It's hard to remember things from a week or two ago, but I can remember so many details from that game and my first state championship moment.  I can remember how cold it was, the excitement that filled the air and the sound of the crowd when a big play happened.  Summit was considered an underdog to a state perennial powerhouse team in Rahway that year.  I still can see the their coach, I think his name was Punko, pacing the sideline in shorts on a freezing December night!  I don't remember exactly how it happened, but I know that Badgeley scored the TD and Rod Bredhal kicked what seemed like a 50-yard game winning field goal. Watching those players and coaches celebrate on the field after the game left a life long image.  I can still see the look on Coach Howie Anderson's face as he hugged each of those guys.  They were on that field for what seemed like forever after the game.  

Eight years later, I would be captain of the Summit football team that would defeat Dover in 1988, 12 to 6 in overtime. The feeling of being on the field when the clock was at :00 and knowing you had reached the top, state champions, was beautiful.  It seemed like a frozen moment in time.  Celebrating with teammates, coaches and family, there are few moments in your high school life like it.  You never forget it. Teams that get to experience that moment this weekend will remember it for the rest of their lives.     


Pat Natale '88 (played on state runner-up team in '86, current head of the Hilltopper Alumni Group)

I had the privilege of speaking to the team last week before our annual alumni Turkey Bowl.  I told them that they needed to set the tone from the opening kickoff…show Madison what Summit football is all about…pride and discipline.  I quoted the legendary John Wooden, saying "make today your masterpiece" and told them to WIN THE DAY, meaning to focus on the task that is in front of them and not get distracted by other things.


Duff Badgley '81 (co-MVP of 1980 state championship team)  

In December '80 we defeated Rahway 10-7 for the state title. I remember it as if it happened yesterday.  The 25 degree weather had turned the old Meadowlands Astroturf to concrete. The swirling winds kept all loose paper adrift, aloft and airborne. We knew the margin of victory would be narrow; that one single block or assisting tackler in pursuit could be the difference. And that we would probably need each of the 48 minutes to get the job done. Ultimately, we were able to secure a three point lead in part for breaking the code of their play calling on the line of scrimmage.  They knew this, I recall. But thought they could beat us anyway.

Ours was a complete team victory. We all made sacrifices. Mine: cartilage which I tore in my left knee during the game, and a concussion.   That championship game has lasted 30 years...and is likely to last a lifetime. Let your teammates and opponents know who you are today.  Let your play today define you!



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