Ramapo, NJ football team faces championship game after death of head coach
FRANKLIN LAKES — The Ramapo High School football team will play their sectional championship game a week later than initially scheduled, following the sudden death of the team's head coach.
The district said in an email that Drew Gibbs, 59, died Tuesday due to "complications from an aortic dissection and complications from surgery.”
He collapsed on the sidelines during football practice Monday, multiple sources told NorthJersey.com.
"We are mourning the loss of Coach Drew Gibbs who was taken from our community and his family way too soon. Coach Gibbs was an exemplary member of the RIH and FLOW family and knew how to bring about the best from his students and athletes," superintendent Rui Dionisio wrote in a letter on the district website. "We all know the lasting impact a caring and principled educator or coach can make during our high school years. Coach Gibbs was a gift to our community far beyond his success on the football field.
An online petition has collected nearly 6,000 signatures asking the athletic field at Ramapo High School to be named after Gibbs.
"Coach made an impact on so many lives on and off the field, whether it be in school with his co-workers or on the field with his players, coach always strived to make a change for the better," reads the petition.
The game must go on
The Green Raiders football team, 10-1 on the season, was scheduled to play what many considered one of the biggest games of the high school football season: the North 1, Group 4 sectional championship game against Northern Highlands.
The game will still be played after both the NJSIAA and Northern Highlands agreed to postpone the game by a week.
"Neither team is burdened by this decision, which was made in the interest of fair competition and safety with the understanding that Ramapo’s players need to spend time practicing with a new coach. In addition, the two schools remaining on the opposite side of the playoff bracket, Irvington High School and Middletown South High School, have also consented to the rescheduling, which, in any case, won’t impact the regional finals," NJSIAA spokeswoman Mike Cherenson said in a statement.
Cherenson said NJSIAA bylaws allow the association’s executive director to adjust, change, or cancel dates, times, and locations for all NJSIAA state tournament game, with the exception of a team that voluntarily withdraws from a game related to COVID-19.
Visitation and a memorial service for Gibbs takes place on Saturday at the Cornerstone Christian Church in Wyckoff.