The student news site of Peddie School

The Peddie News

The student news site of Peddie School

The Peddie News

The student news site of Peddie School

The Peddie News

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Varsity Football Blair Day Edition: Interview with the Captains and Head Coach

Peddie+Varsity+Football+Team+Captains+and+Head+Coach+interviewed+with+The+Peddie+News+after+a+recent+practice.+From+left%3A+Isaac+Saffold+%E2%80%9924+%28PG%29%2C+Joseph+Forbes+%E2%80%9924+%28PG%29%2C+James+%28Merritt%29+Fisher+%E2%80%9925%2C+Head+Coach+Anthony+Fontana+and+Eric+Cho+%E2%80%9925%0A
Peddie Varsity Football Team Captains and Head Coach interviewed with The Peddie News after a recent practice. From left: Isaac Saffold ’24 (PG), Joseph Forbes ’24 (PG), James (Merritt) Fisher ’25, Head Coach Anthony Fontana and Eric Cho ’25

Peddie’s rivalry with Blair is one of the oldest school rivalries in the country. As every Falcon and Buc knows, Peddie and Blair have faced off every fall since 1903, except in 1944 when a polio outbreak in Hightstown canceled the competition and in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Winning the Potter-Kelley Cup time and time again is one of Peddie’s greatest accomplishments and a source of pride for all. However, carrying the weight of these expectations on one’s shoulders is demanding. Our athletes brave through rain, mud and the cold. Injuries are an added challenge. If you ever visit the trainer (which I have multiple times), it’s a common sight to see someone icing their arm, having both feet dunked in water, or taping up their leg.

 

With Blair Day just around the corner, Peddie’s Varsity Football Team has been practicing industriously to show Blair Academy what they can do. The football players and coaches have busy schedules, so I am grateful to the captains and Coach Fontana for finding time to answer my questions after one of their practices. 

 

Football is more than just a game for these players; it is the thing they love most in the world. I was honored and honestly touched by some of the things I heard when I spoke to Coach Fontana, Merritt, Eric, Joseph and Isaac.

 

Coach, please tell me a little about yourself, your relationship with football, and what got you into coaching? 

 

Coach Fontana: My relationship with football … I’ve been playing since I was three years old. I got introduced to it by my father. I got into coaching because of the relationship that football brings with players, the brotherhood and the camaraderie. That’s kind of the piece of it, and I get to facilitate that now as a coach.

 

That’s great! Also, since I’m a new student who isn’t as familiar with Blair Day, how would you describe the atmosphere during the occasion?

 

Coach Fontana: Oh, Blair Day is a really good atmosphere! Thousands of people come out to support all of the fall sports. It’s a really cool atmosphere, and you know we hope to get a win this year.

 

I hope so, too! What do you enjoy most about coaching varsity football?

 

Coach Fontana: The camaraderie between them. [laughs] Right, that’s right. I enjoy that. I enjoy seeing them come together as a team and executing. I can’t find the right words, but you know, coming together as a group of individuals that don’t know each other and becoming something. They’re a well-oiled machine.

 

Can you think of any qualities that make Peddie’s varsity football team stand apart from other schools, including Blair? 

 

Coach Fontana: This team’s gritty. We’re undermanned, and we’re undersized, but we’re gritty.

 

One more question. How do you feel about all the fans coming? 

 

Coach Fontana: We encourage everyone who can be here to be here. I want to see more people in the stands [cheering in the background]. We usually only have probably 100 people. I want the whole school to be there, supporting us. And, we want to support other sports. I usually have some of our guys watch soccer because I want to support other programs.

 

Alright, thank you!

 

From my brief conversation with Coach Fontana and the way he interacts with his players, it’s clear as day that he and the other coaches have a lot of love and passion for what they do. I found it admirable how they find the time, even after a tiring practice or game, to go and cheer on other teams. They’re invested on and off the field and encourage their players in whatever practice they do in their own time. For example, it took me a moment to start the captains interview since I ended up watching a few minutes of passing with Coach Fontana between a few players. A lot more appreciation should be given to the football coaches and Peddie’s coaches in general. 

 

With the help of Jayden Williams ’26, who held my phone while I interviewed, I learned some important parts about football from our captains. It was a pretty humorous conversation!

 

Could you each tell me a little about yourself and the positions you play?

 

Eric: My name is Eric. Other way, bro. My name is Eric [laughs], I’m from Laredo, Texas. I’m a junior. I play defensive back, mainly strong safety. I also play a little bit of running back as well.

 

Merritt: I’m Merritt Fisher. I’m from Dallas, Texas, and I’m also a junior, Class of 2025. And I’m the quarterback.

 

Joseph: I’m Joseph Forbes. I’m a PG from Plainsboro, New Jersey. I play O-line and D-line.

 

Isaac: I’m Isaac Saffold. I’m from Chicago, Illinois, and I play D-line.

 

Do you guys have any team bonding activities or pre-game/after-game rituals or traditions?

 

Eric: I would say, like bonding-wise, we’re just like a close team in general. We’re all friends. We all hang outside of practice anyway. Pre-game, post-game, like, we just vibe in the locker room, listen to music. Post-game, if we win, we like to play skii, turn up, [clicks] we got it.

 

Can you guys each tell me the quality you believe makes a great football team and a great football player?

 

Isaac: Let me answer. A quality that makes a great football team is trust in each other. You gotta trust that the person next to you is going to do what they’re supposed to do. And what makes a good player is just a motor and resilience and drive to keep going all the time.

 

Joseph: I think discipline is what makes a great football team. If everyone does their job 100%, no matter what the coach says, then the team wins every time. I think obedience is a good trait in a football player. 

 

And do you guys want to answer?

 

Merritt: I’d say accountability, just making sure everyone on the team is doing their job, and if everyone’s going 100%, they’re going to be able to have a functioning team, and that’s gonna produce wins.

 

Eric: I think everything they said, but also a big thing is toughness. Having the ability to, after practice, do the extra reps, or if you mess up a rep, run that back with 110% effort. You know, if you’re a little hurt, just push through it and finish the rep. You don’t got nothing to lose out on the field.

 

Those are all really good answers. Could you briefly tell me how practices are set up? Specifically, what do you do for Blair Day leading up to the game?

 

Joseph: Alright, so we all start out with stretching, and then we’ll usually go into a tackling circuit so we get better at tackling. And after a tackling circuit, we do special teams to make sure we get our special teams down. Then we go into Indie, where we learn our position groups individually. Then, inside run, where we learn how to either stop the inside run or get the inside run. Then either the team O or D. 

 

Isaac: Yeah, I think what he meant to say is [laughs] practice is the same for every team every week [more laughs]. Every week, we go with the same mindset that we gotta win. It’s a little more fire, though, because it’s Blair. We practice the same for the most part.

 

Can you tell me what you think the team has improved on the most over the course of the season?

 

Merritt: I’d just say togetherness. Just buying in for each other and really playing for each other. That’s the biggest thing, I think. Last year from, I mean, I wasn’t here, but from what I’ve heard, the team wasn’t very connected. But this year, I think we got a good group of guys who are willing to buy into the program, and that’s really created a team that I wanna play for, and I think all my teammates want to play for.

 

Eric: Yeah, I’d say definitely, like, a lot of love for the game, and that’s just increased throughout the season. So that just drove us forward and practicing for the game. 

 

Great, so who has been on the team the longest here (everyone points at Eric)? Okay, Eric, what do you think Peddie’s football team has that other schools don’t? To rephrase it, the quality that shines through.

 

Eric: Quality that shines the best? [thinking] I mean, there are a lot of things that I love about this program that I don’t think a lot of other schools have. Something that I talked to PQ about last spring … I would definitely say perseverance. We haven’t had the greatest records, and we haven’t had the best luck when it comes to injuries and other situations outside of that. But you know, we’ve always just stuck together, and we always have that same intensity going into every game. And even when we’re pushed down, our next move is just, what’s next? You know what I mean? Like who’s up next week, and then when the season’s over, we look.

 

Last season, we looked at it. We had a bad record, but we took what we could learn from it, and we’re getting ready for this season already. Even now, when we lose a game, it’s like we reflect on our mistakes but we’re just ready to get back and keep going. Perseverance.

 

Thank you. For all of you, I mean for both of you, well actually all three of you are new (Isaac, Joseph, Merritt). But what does Blair Day mean to you?

 

Isaac: I like rivalries. I like heated interactions, so it’s just another heated interaction. I haven’t been able to put my feelings into it, but if my teammates’ feelings are into it, then I feed off them. So even if I haven’t been here, it’s still a big game for me.

 

Joseph: I feel like it’s the ability to leave your mark. In my old school, we had a rivalry with this one team, and I beat them one of my years, and every time they say, oh yeah, we beat you last year, well we beat you this year, I think, nah. I was on the 2019 team, and we rolled you guys, and I wanna have our name on that cup saying it’s Peddie, because Peddie beat Blair that year.

 

Someone: Yessir

 

Merrit, so you’re quarterback.  Could you tell me how it feels to be the backbone of the team, and knowing your passes and throws start each play? 

 

Merritt: I’d say not only is it a great opportunity to have, and is a position I’m grateful to be in, but it’s also something that could be a lot of pressure for a lot of people, but I feel I’ve been able to show that and really bring my guys together, and use that opportunity to make the best out of it.

 

Okay, next one’s for Eric.

 

Eric: Aw, yeah.

 

What do you think Blair Day means to the students and faculty? 

 

Eric: I mean, I think Blair Day is really cool, aside from rivalries in general. You know, I’m from Texas. Rivalries mean a lot, but I think what makes Blair Day special is the fact that every single team plays at the same time on the same day to compete for one goal, which is the Cup. I think it’s cool that at all levels of the sport, it counts for the same point, same value as a win. I would definitely say though, having supporters in the stands and having fans in the stands. Looking over and seeing our friends, faculty and other adults that support us … seeing that definitely creates a fire that you can’t really recreate with anything else, so definitely seeing those people out there. You should come out to the football game when you’re done.

 

I’ll quote that. For Joseph, were there any challenges you or a teammate faced? Injuries, team dynamics or finding time to juggle practice with school?

 

Joseph: Yeah, it’s kinda weird how this school [Merritt laughs] has limited time to both have practice. I’m used to being able to practice deep into the night, where this team we have to finish before dinner every single game. So I think that’s a real challenge [more laughing], but I think that kind of adversity brings the team together.

 

And for Isaac, what goes through your mind when you have the ball in a game [lots of laughing]. 

 

Someone: Wait what?

 

In the game, yeah [nervous].

 

Isaac: I play defense so [realization hits] I haven’t had the ball too many times but I picked it up a couple times [chuckles]. Every time I have the ball, I try to score [wheezing now]. I picked up a point before, but a couple fumbles, you know.

 

Eric: He was really close to taking it back to the house. 

 

Isaac: It’s an adrenaline rush, for sure.

 

Joseph: I’m pretty sure it’s him or Merritt.

 

Merritt: Meh

 

Eric: I think Saff has more yards

 

[confusion on my end]

 

Okay, for each of you personally, what do you think has been your biggest football accomplishment? It doesn’t have to be this year, just in general.

 

Joseph: For me, I achieved two of my goals when I was a freshman. I said I would have a few bucket list items, and I achieved two of them this year, and one was getting a long tackle on an interception. And, [clicks tongue] forgot what the other one was [laughs], but I accomplished both of those this year.

 

Isaac: I’d say my biggest goal is earning a Division 1 Scholarship offer.

 

[excited for them]

 

Merritt: I’d say my biggest goal, other than the one Isaac just said about the scholarship offer, one of my goals was to be a captain of a team. I mean, growing up, being that role of leadership was a goal of mine and I’m glad I got the opportunity to have that.

 

Eric: Yeah, I mean, I want to get offered too, and one of my biggest goals is to be a captain as well, but [laughs at Merritt], was to be a captain as well, but I mean, I think I just got a lot of love for this game, and it’s probably the thing I love most in my life, and I just want to keep playing it for as long as I can at the highest level I can. 

 

Thank you. And is there anything else you’d like to say or for the readers to know before the article goes out?

 

Merritt: Come out to the game, come out to the game. It’s really important.

 

Joseph: Yeah, you guys probably think the football team is not what it is now. It’s only going to get better. It’s going to get bigger, bigger, better and better with our role. Everyone, come to see football. 

 

Eric: Oh, um, yeah, come out and support us. Yeah I know, you know what [laughter].

 

Isaac: Beat Blair, out.

 

Jayden: On the rack.

 

Merritt: Thank you!

 

Thank you so much.

 

Here, I thought the interview was over, but Eric came running over and asked me to add this in.

 

Eric: UNDERDOG, never back down, never give up, strike first, 110% percent, all gas, no breaks, be a cobra [lots of laughing, there’s always laughing 🙂 ]

 

Joseph also asked me to look up their stats but not to include them if Merritt has the most/best ones. I’ll leave that to the readers since I need to figure out the rest of the rules so I don’t ask rude questions to the defense in the future about getting the ball.

 

With that said, I was really happy I chose to interview the varsity football team. I’d like to take the time to point out that even though they had no idea what the questions were beforehand and were put on the spot, all the guys had sincere answers that made me smile as I was going through the recordings. Specifically, Eric’s passion for football and how it was the thing he loved most in the world. His eagerness to answer some of the questions and clarify what he said at the end showed his strong passion and commitment to the sport. I thought about what Merritt said about his goals. He wanted to be a captain for a long time; his Instagram profile picture even has a picture of him holding a football. Isaac clearly has a fire for football and the rivalry between Peddie and Blair. There is raw excitement there. Joseph’s pride and active actions towards his goals are something we can all learn from. They’re all really great people. 

 

Sincere apologies to Isaac for not realizing the question I was asking was for an offensive player. However, the way he answered and the other three captains supported him was pretty heartwarming. All four captains are clearly well-versed in the sport and know what is expected of them. They serve as good role models to the other players, and it’s safe to say they will continue doing this for the rest of the season. Win or lose, the captains and Coach Fontana embody Peddie’s core values and what it means to be a Falcon. I hope this article shows their humble and gracious characters, as well as their humor. I laughed a lot writing this, and I can only imagine how much fun the team has on a regular basis.

 

Ala Viva!

 

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