By Joe Esquivel-Murphy -- Shore Sports Network Contributor

As the Monmouth County team is practicing its offensive strategy for Thursday’s U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic, two of the top players on Middletown South take the field for one of the last times in a high school jersey. Matt Mosquera and Joe Rutkowski were part of a historic team for Middletown South this season, as the Eagles finished the season with a 12-0 record, won a state championship and were ranked as the top team in the state of New Jersey.

The state title was the first for Middletown South since 2006, the year after current NFL running back Knowshon Moreno graduated. The championship win was great for the Eagles as they had made the title game in 2014, but lost to Jackson Memorial. Offensive lineman Rutkowski said the loss to Jackson helped motivate the team win the title this year.

Matt Mosquera tacks on the extra point (photo by Eric Braun)

“Just leaving that sour taste in our mouth, losing the way we did to Jackson last year,” Rutkowski said. “It was really more motivation for us to win and there was no other way it could have ended.”

Mosquera was the quarterback of the team and said his goal coming into his senior season was to win a state championship.

“Coming into the year, that’s what I wanted after we lost to Jackson,” Mosquera said. “It means a lot to be the first team from South to bring it back and win since ’06.”

The 39th U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic takes place at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Central Regional’s Joseph J. Boyd Memorial Field.

Mosquera and Rutkowski were both first-team All-Shore selections by Shore Sports Network last season after helping Middletown South finish No. 1 in both the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and The Star-Ledger Top 20. The Eagles went 12-0 for the first time since 2005 and ended a nine-year title drought when they best Phillipsburg, 35-7, in the NJSIAA North 2, Group IV championship game for the program’s 10th sectional title.

Mosquera did so much for the Eagles, and that included being a weapon in the battle for field position as a great directional punter. Middletown South rarely punted, but when the Eagles had to they were able to turn to one of the best all-around kickers in New Jersey. Mosquera also made three out of four field goals with a long of 47 and converted 59 of 61 extra points.

As Middletown South’s quarterback, Mosquera threw for 1,509 yards and 19 touchdowns. For his career, Mosquera passed for 2,749 yards with 24 touchdowns, averaged 37.2 yards per punt, made 22 of 24 field goals and 142 of 144 extra points. He was also an All-Class A North selection by the coaches.

Joe Rutkowski. (Photo by Eric Braun).

Rutkowski was a standout lineman and helped power an offense that featured 1,500-yard running back Cole Rogers and Mosquera throwing for over 1,500 yards, and had the second-best scoring offense in the Shore at 41 points per game. Middletown South ran for 2,806 yards on an average of  8.1 yards per carry and 233.8 yards per game, and scored 40 or more points in eight of 12 games while winning every game by at least three touchdowns

Both Mosquera and Rutkowski will continue their football careers at Monmouth University, something both players are looking forward to since they are good friends. Rutkowski says Mosquera is not the reason why he went to Monmouth, but Mosquera going there made it easier for him to commit.

“I always liked Monmouth, academically and for athletics,” Rutkowski said. “I’m a little biased. Matt going to Monmouth definitely influenced my decision a little bit, but in the end I think it was just a good fit for me.”

Mosquera was a record-setting kicker for Middletown South throughout his career and was recruited as a kicker by Monmouth. His time at quarterback might be running out, but the Gridiron Classic on Thursday will give Mosquera the opportunity to play one last game as signal caller.