The horns blew on an overcast December day at Kean University after the Madison High School football team had rolled over the Mountain Lakes herd in the group 2 State Championship game. The Dodgers rushed the field and knew they could celebrate and enjoy the moment. But even after the accomplishment, several questions remained in the back of everyone’s mind. What would come of the Dodger’s next season after an extremely talented senior class graduated? Would the nearly 40-game win streak that produced three state championships continue? Perhaps the one question everyone had for head coach Chris Kubik was: who would he and the Madison coaching staff install to fill the shoes of state renowned Rutgers bound running back Justin Goodwin?
Then sophomore fullback David Luttinger had waited long enough on the sidelines for his chance to answer that question.
The 5-11, 210 pound now junior tends to catch eyes on opposing scouting reports. Luttinger brings something different to the table in his style compared to the speedy Goodwin. Senior wide receiver Christian Scarpello commented on the fullback’s ability saying “I call Dave ‘The Hammer’ because he drops the hammer on people. He runs straight – there’s no other direction for him. He comes right at you.” His bruising mentality and tough style of play gained him the starting spot as fullback for a team full of talented players for the position. With four touchdowns in the last 3 contests, the junior has slowly gained a reputation as Madison’s number one threat running the ball. But why is Luttinger only now making headlines?
“It took a decision made on the field at Kean (University) at the end of the championship game last year,” says Luttinger. “I decided that I was going to do everything in my power to help bring this team back to States.”
It was no easy road to gaining the role though. “It was personal work throughout the offseason in the weight room and on the field.” The pressure of filling the shoes of his predecessors weighed heavy on the shoulders of Luttinger, ”As a sophomore on a team with two well established and talented seniors in my spots on either offense or defense I bid my time for the chance to gain the starting roll as a junior.”
“David has worked extremely hard in the offseason. He constantly brings intensity to practice,” says Head coach Chris Kubik. “The kid moves at an 100 mile per hour pace and just never slows down.”
Luttinger is one of just a few juniors on the team who the high school football community hadn’t even heard of before this season. Alongside him, junior quarterback A.J. Schmitz and kicker Austin Sterkel have also stepped up. Schmitz, whose first sport is lacrosse, didn’t even play football last year before deciding to help out this year’s squad. In the Dodger season opener against Dover, Schmitz threw for a 47-yard winning touchdown pass that senior wide receiver Christian Scarpello caught and ran in with just a minute and a half left on the clock.
Regardless of the recent loss that ended the historic school record-setting win streak, the Dodgers seem unfazed. When the clock ran out this past Saturday with the score of 27 – 7 Hanover Park, heads were up. The handshake line up perhaps a reflex to players. The Hornets were ecstatic, rushing the field and screaming in joy. No current Madison players including seniors on the team had ever lost a varsity football game in their lives. They’d only ever been the ones celebrating after games, never the envious spectators. To Kubik, the face of a football program that has been nothing short of perfect since 2009, it was only a testament to their success.
“We knew the streak would have to end sooner or later, but for us, it was never about that. We’re honored to just have been that team for so long. It was a big deal to the HP (Hanover Park) kids and we don’t blame them. We just had a bad day of football. Now the focus is on how we bounce back from this. It’s a one game at a time mentality. We’re just worried about playing a great game against Hackettstown.”
“We are attacking every practice with only one goal, to better ourselves,” Luttinger commented on bouncing back from the loss. Despite the unfortunate outcome against Hanover Park, a “State Title” is the expectation says the junior confidently. “We are now looking at a nine game season, which we intend to win out. We all have something to prove, being the team that ‘shouldn’t be’.”
The Dodgers play Hackettstown under the lights next Friday October 11th at 7pm.