GLOUCESTER CITY (N.J.) - The Gloucester High School football program entered its 2022 campaign with a new schedule lathered with unfamiliar opponents.
The Lions also had a huge hole to fill.
Current Kutztown running back Steve Burkhardt graduated in June after rushing for 2.034 yards and 33 touchdowns a season ago.
So far, Gloucester hasn't missed a beat at the position. Jake Zearfoss has taken over the running back duties. The junior scored a pair of touchdowns as the Lions glided past Overbrook, 35-0, in a West Jersey Football League Colonial Division matchup on Friday night.
Gloucester lines up on offense in the first quarter. Chris Baker D2SN
The Lions improved their record 3-0 after dominating wins over Schalick and Buena to inaugurate the season.
In the first quarter, John Daily took the opening kickoff 89 yards to pay dirt to put the Lions up 7-0.
On the following possession, Overbrook quarterback DeAngello Conquest was intercepted by Ibyn Obey. Gloucester capitalized as Jake Seibert found Trevin Burkardt for a pop pass down the seam as another Burkhardt, not named Steve, raced to the end zone for the Lions.
After a fumble on the goal line during the next possession for Gloucester, Mason Widman redeemed himself with a rushing touchdown to give the Holy City a 21-0 lead over the Rams with just under four minutes left in the first half.
The second half belonged to Gloucester's Zearfoss. The junior punched his ticket to the end zone twice on runs of nine yards and 52 yards, and established a presence on defense making sure he was involved in every tackle.
Zearfoss is also a state placer in wrestling. The 144-pounder became Gloucester’s first ever state finisher with a sixth place finish in 2022.
“I definitely think wrestling prepares me mentally," Zearfoss said. "And I know that I can trust my teammates out on the field because they can trust me as well. It really helps bring together the team chemistry when everyone on the field has faith in one another.”
Zearfoss' every-down ability has served as a security blanket for head coach Rob Bryan so far this season. Since Bryan’s arrival in 2018, the reliable go-to for the Lions has been the running back position. Gloucester has started only three different tailbacks over the last four years: Adrien Radlinger, Steven Burkhardt, and Zearfoss.
Bryan credits the recent success to goal setting and planning.
“My first few years it was tough," Bryan said. "It’s always going to be tough with a new face, new system, almost literally everything about the program was new. It took a lot of goal setting and planning to reach those goals to try and reach success. We stayed the course, we know what works. I’ve been around high school football for a long time so I’ve seen bad football teams and I’ve seen great football teams. We know what works and we have to keep setting the bar high."
Gloucester will travel to Audubon to compete in another key WJFL Colonial Division matchup on Saturday, September 17.