At the end of a tough, physical contest, all players from both Columbia High School and Seton Hall University stood arm-in-arm. It became a circle of blue and white jerseys, equally stained in dirt and sweat.
After a few moments, the players reached over and raised hands together along with Columbia head coach Anthony Nunez and shouted “community” following a count of three.
In the end, that was the point behind the challenge that joined South Orange’s resident high school and university together in an athletic exhibition.
Columbia came out victorious over Seton Hall, 15-8, in an Ultimate match at the New Waterlands Park on Saturday night. The event was set up and organized by both representatives at Seton Hall and those within the village, including Ian Miller.
“I’m the chair of a group that tries to get students into town and make South Orange more of a college town,” Miller said. “I’m hoping it (the match) will generate excitement and be the next step (between Seton Hall and South Orange).”
Miller added that he proposed the idea of an Ultimate match since Columbia High School was the birthplace of the sport in 1968.
“It’s the logical destination for (Ultimate),” Miller said.
Columbia’s team has been quite successful at the state level, winning 11 out of 13 times since the state tournament began. Seton Hall, meanwhile, has turned a budding interest in Ultimate on the campus into a team, one that may compete more in the future against local schools in a club-team style.
But regardless of the different experience levels, both squads were nearly going score-for-score in the first half of the game.
Columbia jumped ahead early when it deflected a Seton Hall pass and converted it for a score in the end zone corner. Seton Hall didn’t take long to respond though and kept the pressure on throughout.
After Columbia tied the match at four, the Pirates moved down the field quickly and went straight across the end zone with a connecting pass to take a 5-4 advantage.
But Columbia showed its talent by only needing a few passes and well-timed sprints to build an 8-6 lead at the halftime break.
“Playing a college team is a battle for high school kids,” Nunez said after the match. “They are more athletically developed, bigger, stronger and sometimes faster.”
Out of the midgame break, Columbia appeared to outwork Seton Hall. A pair of wide-open players found connecting passes in the end zone as Seton Hall fell behind by as many as five at one juncture.
Nunez said after the game that the Pirates played very well for a team that was put together just a week or two ago.
“They brought a competitive game,” Nunez said. “Playing a community game, too, makes it like a family competition.”
In the style of a friendly exhibition, both teams shook hands and remained on the field for pictures after Columbia’s three unanswered goals led to the 15-8 victory.
“(Seton Hall) was as aggressive and competitive as any we’ve played,” Nunez said. “We’d like to do this every year–maybe call it the ‘community cup.’”
Miller presented the winning team with an Ultimate disc signed by the creator of the game, former Columbia student and current Hollywood film producer Joel Silver.
“It’s a great event to draw excitement on the campus (of Seton Hall) and at Columbia,” Miller said. “It shows the students that the town cares, that people are involved and not just thinking ‘Seton Hall is over there.’”
The friendly exhibition served as perhaps a fitting ending to Seton Hall’s University Day which, in recent years, has kept a focus on South Orange and its relationship with the university.
“We’re excited to have a team like (Seton Hall) in our community,” Nunez said.