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Skylanders Football Keeps the Momentum Going

11/10/2023 12:00:00 PM

By KELLY BARTA, SCCC Sports Broadcasting Student

The Sussex County Community College football team stacked on another win and improved its season record to 7-2 thanks to a pivotal second half when it traveled to play Nassau Community College (5-5) Saturday, Nov. 11 at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Garden City, N.Y. resulting in a 39-16 victory over the Lions.

Sussex was led by sophomore quarterback James Laubstein (Bethany, Conn.), who went 19-for-29 for 292 yards passing. Freshman quarterback Jaiden Mead-Cooper (Gaithersburg, Md.) assisted with 3-for-7 passing for 33 yards.

Leading Sussex in receiving was Jael Cabrera (Holyoke, Ma.), with eight catches for 103 yards, followed by Aubrey Green (Williamstown, N.J.) with four catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. Also contributing was Jamir Brown (Morristown, N.J.) with two receptions for 80 yards, including an incredible 51-yard touchdown catch late in the second half.

Once again, the running attack was paced by Thaylor Sibblies (Newton, N.J.) with 13 carries for 55 yards and a rushing touchdown. Jaiden Murphy (Cherry Hill, N.J.) contributed 11 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown.

Bryan Vargas (Bergenfield, N.J.) was the star of Sussex's defense. He returned a blocked field goal attempt for an amazing 109-yard return for a touchdown, helping seal the win for the Skylanders.

"Bryan has an incredible football IQ and asked prior to the play to go back for a potential return. Reluctantly, I said, “Yes,” and the rest is history," said first-year head coach Jim Robertson. "Sometimes players see things that coaches don't and Bryan is someone I have complete trust in. He is a leader on this team, and he did what leaders do; make a big play when it needed to happen. The most impressive thing about it was all the blocks that his teammates provided him on his 109-yard return. We always talk about being a good teammate.  To see 10 other guys on defense selling out so Bryan could score goes to show how far we have come as a program and the culture that we are building."

Other key defensive players were Benjie Guar (Edison, N.J.) with a total of five tackles, two for a loss and a sack, Terrell Perez (Edison, N.J.) with six tackles, and Emmett Prather (Willingboro, N.J.) with five tackles, one for a loss and a sack.

The Skylanders' win comes after a 55-6 victory against Erie Community College at Don Smolyn Field at Lenape Valley Regional High School Saturday, Nov. 4.

"It just goes to show that the program has made tremendous strides in the right direction from last year to now," said Robertson. "The coaching staff has done an incredible job with this group of players and I couldn't be happier with the success we have had up to this point. At the beginning of the season, there was some doubt outside the program and around campus on how much of a turnaround we would actually be able to pull off. The players, the coaches, and the training staff have truly gone above and beyond this season and it's showing on the scoreboards on Saturdays."

The Skylanders trailed Nassau 7-6 in the first half after a Laubstein 24-yard passing touchdown to Green. In the third quarter, Sussex picked up steam with a Sibblies 3-yard run and Murphy 4-yard run, taking an 18-16 lead. Capping the final score (36-16) with an explosive fourth quarter was Vargas' 109-yard blocked field goal return, a Laubstein 51-yard passing touchdown to Brown, and a 1-yard run by Laubstein.

The Skylanders will play their last regular season game against Monroe College (6-4) at Hopatcong High School Saturday, Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. Sussex had its first victory of the season over Monroe in 2022, and additionally, its historic first win over another Division 1 junior college.

"Our players know that this is their last opportunity to showcase their talents versus another Division-1 caliber junior college," said Robertson. "With a win, we may get the chance to play in a bowl, with a loss, our season is over. There is a playoff atmosphere surrounding practice, guys are locked in and focused on finishing this season with a win and potentially getting an 11th game."