SPRINGFIELD, NJ — For Dayton senior quarterback/linebacker Anthony Apicella, the chance to start for his hometown school in his last year of high school under a new head coach with a new direction was a dream come true.
Fast forward to Oct. 2 at Dunellen — the first game of a surreal season.
Apicella went 3-of-8 for 59 yards in the contest, throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to senior Mike Kanarek in the first quarter to give Dayton its first lead, and registered 13 carries for a game-high 143 yards and three TD runs en route to a 35-14 season-opening win.
It was the first “real” season-opening victory for the Bulldogs since a 34-6 win at Roselle Park in 2009.
After a loss to rival Brearley on Oct. 9 and a heartbreaking rivalry loss to New Providence, in which Apicella went 10-for-14 for 169 yards and one touchdown plus eight carries for 47 yards and a TD run, the current pandemic struck home as the season was put on hold and eventually, cancelled prematurely.
“It really is unfortunate what we have gone through this year. All of us have lost important memories and opportunities that we will never get back,” Apicella said. “That being said I learned that it is not good for one to dwell on it. It is important to find the best out of the situation and be thankful for what we have. Kids in other states have not even had the chance to step on a field or court yet.”
With that leadership, spirit and attitude, the 5’11, 185-pound Apicella, with just three games played, was named first team all-conference for the third straight season and in late January capped his high school tenure off with a commitment to continue his academic and athletic career at NCAA Division III Gettysburg College.
“Gettysburg checked all the boxes for me,” he said. “First of all, it is a great academic school, and that is what was most important in my search. Also, they are giving me the opportunity to continue to play the game I love. There were some other schools in the mix, but after meeting with the coaches and visiting the campus, I just knew Gettysburg was the right place for me.”
Anthony’s older brother, John, played quarterback at Montclair State (2015-18). In 13 games as a starter on the Mountain Avenue field, Apicella accounted for over 2,700 yards and 32 total touchdowns.
With just three and a half months left in his Dayton journey, Apicella hopes for hope.
“Over the next few months, I hope to see things return back to normal,” Apicella said. “While we are now in hybrid learning, I would love to see us go back in person to finish out the year. I know it is a stretch, but with the vaccines out I think there is a chance.
“The connections and experiences you have with other students are what make high school memorable, and I would be satisfied if my classmates and I could be together for the time we have left.”
All of Springfield hopes too.