NOTE: On Dec. 4, J.J. Sinclair and Jamie Tyson were named USA Today Network All-New Jersey first team on defense, joining teammate Stephen Ordille, who was named first-team on offense.
AC JosepH Media
PISCATAWAY — For J.J. Sinclair and Jamie Tyson, winning the state football championship at Mainland Regional High School with their teammates at Rutgers University SHI Stadium will be something they will remember for the rest of their lives.
On Sunday (Nov. 26) Mainland, which covers the communities of Linwood, Northfield and Somers Point in Atlantic County, won the NJSIAA Group 4 state football title with a convincing 56-0 victory against the Ramapo High School Raiders. The Mustangs finished 14-0 on the season, a school record.
Sinclair and Tyson were part of a talented group of Mainland senior starters who cemented their legacy into the Mustangs and South Jersey record books — including Cohen Cook, Stephen Ordille, Hunter Watson, Antonio Tartaglia, Jack Haines and Zack Hodges.
The seniors, many of them who played as freshmen and sophomores during Mainland’s losing seasons, performed their best on the biggest stage in New Jersey high school football.
Sinclair, who started as a freshman when the team went 2-4 and 4-6 his first two seasons, led Mainland in tackles on Sunday and completed his football career as the Mustangs’ all-time leader in tackles.
Tyson set a school record and led the state with 12 interceptions, including one on Sunday. He also caught a touchdown pass on offense as a wide receiver. Tyson scored two touchdowns on offense and returned an interception for a touchdown in Mainland’s 41-7 Group 4 state semifinals win over Winslow Township.
But the game everyone talked about was the week before, when Mainland defeated two-time state champion Millville 35-13 on their home field to capture the South Jersey title. Millville defeated Mainland 18-14 on a final-minute touchdown in the Group 4 state semifinals last year and then 62-0 the year before.
That fueled Sinclair, Tyson and the Mustangs all season long, leading to the state championship romp over Ramapo.
“I mean the whole team made a statement today,” Tyson said after the game hugging his family and not letting the rain-soaked conditions dampen his enthusiasm at all. “It’s just great when you can leave a mark like this and shut out a team in the state finals, which is pretty crazy.
“We lost that heartbreaker to Millville last year but that helped us to come back here and do our thing this year.”
Sinclair started as a freshman when the Mustangs went 2-4 in a COVID-19-shortened season and 4-6 the year before and no one gave Mainland much of a chance to win a division in the West Jersey Football League, much less a state title.
“We just worked so hard for this and this was our goal even when I was a freshman,” Sinclair said. “It was hard because we had down years. We lost to Ocean City in my sophomore year and my junior year. This just means everything to be out here right now.
“With all of these guys, we knew the talent that we have on this team,” Sinclair said. “We knew how hard we’d been working and just knew that we could get it done.”
This year, Mainland beat their rival Ocean City 35-0 for the first time in four years on their way to the state crown.
Now, Sinclair and Tyson will be part of Mainland football lore as the first team to win a true New Jersey Group 4 state title, set a school record for shutouts and wins, along with all of the personal accomplishments.
“I still can’t put it into words,” Sinclair said.
Tyson said getting to play in a Big Ten venue like SHI Stadium just made the atmosphere even more special.
“It’s just an amazing feeling and playing in a great venue like Rutgers,” said Tyson, who had a touchdown reception and an interception in the Mustangs’ historic victory. “It feels great to see my mom and dad here with my little brother and sister. It was amazing to feel all the love and support here today.”
Mainland coach credited all of his players with sticking with the program in the lean years and being able to prove all of their doubters wrong.
“It took a lot of hard work and dedication and getting the kids to believe in themselves,” Smith said. “That’s hard to do in this time and age when most kids want it fast and easy. All of these kids really put their noses to the grindstone and worked hard in the weight room at 5:30 a.m. after coming off a 2-win season and 4-win season. We kept them believing in what we saw the future was.
“These kids have been winners their whole lives. They knew that possibility was there and stuck with it.”
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