When Sparta High School and Pope John High School play football against each other, it’s not just your regular season rivalry. Because they are located just a few miles apart from each other in the same town, they compete to for the same players to play for their team and try like hell to be the one who has the bragging rights for the next year, the fire that fuels this rivalry goes very deep. Don’t get me wrong, there are hugs and handshakes after the game. But leading up to and during this annual contest, both teams are out for blood.
This year’s Sparta Bowl did not disappoint as both teams left every bit of energy and sweat on the field as they battled to the last snap. In the end, the Spartans were the victor as the score read 34-28 in their favor when time ran out (see article Sparta Sensational in 34-28 Win Against Cross-town Foe Pope John) .
During this battle, there were a ton of fabulous performances on both sides of the ball but none was more scintillating as Sparta’s senior quarterback Anthony Argula’s. Argula was a man possessed and obsessed with winning as he went threw for 24 completions on 32 attempts for 348-yards and four touchdowns and ran for 89-yards and another touchdown on the ground.
His performance was especially critical as his fellow senior captains Lucas Faria and Teddy Fischer were sidelined with injuries. “When Lucas and then Teddy went down, I felt like I really needed to step it up. We all were just so focused on winning.” Argula said of his performance.
Argula’s heroics will go down in Sparta-Pope John rivalry infamy and was also more than enough to earn him Morris Sussex Football’s Week 4 Player of the Week. MSF caught up with Argula to talk about this big win, the make-up of this team and some of his pre-game routines.
Morris Sussex Football: What was it like for your team the week before heading into the game against Pope John?
Anthony Argula: Our team was very excited for the game. We were trying to look at it as any other week but we new it was more than just another game.
MSF: Did you have a particular game plan to try to slow down Sonny Abramson and his potent receivers or Nick Esposito’s running attack?
AA: We knew that they had a great offensive attack so we brought in a new defense to help shut down the passing game more.
MSF: Were you worried when it was apparent that Faria was injured and wasn’t going to be on the field in the second half?
AA: Your heart kind of drops for a second but when someone goes down someone else has to step up and we did just that against Pope John.
MSF: How much does it mean to you players that you have such a loyal fan base and supportive student body?
AA: It means a lot to us. When you hear kids shouting your name it really gets us pumped especially when you see that wave of green in the crowd and it gives you the chills when running out there.
MSF: What’s more important to your fans, beating Pope John or winning states?
AA: Winning states is obviously a much bigger deal but in the town of Sparta, no game is bigger than us against pope john.
MSF: What was the mood of your team after the Week 1 loss to Roxbury?
AA: We were obviously upset but we had to forget about it and it has given us motivation every to week and reminds of how we never want to feel again.
MSF: How is it that Sparta seems to breed talented football players year after year?
AA: Ever since a little kid you look up to the high school kids and you want to be just like them one day which makes us work hard at a young age.
MSF: Who on your team fires you guys up the most and what does he do?
AA: Dillon Bray probably gets us the most psyched just based on his performance on the field and his determination to want to win every game.
MSF: Who on your team is the strongest and what was the most impressive thing he did with his strength?
AA: Aaron Keck is probably the strongest kid on the team. He can squat and bench a ton.
MSF: Who turns into an absolute beast when he puts a helmet on?
AA: Dillon Bray goes into game mode once his helmet goes on. He’s always a freak on the field.
MSF: Who is the funniest and what was the funniest thing he did or said?
AA: Thomas Bais has some pretty funny reactions after someone drops a pass or if he makes a big tackle.
MSF: What is your pregame meal?
AA: My pregame meal is what everyone on the team eats which is augies in the morning and food from Sheridans for night games.
MSF: What music do you listen to to get focused on the game?
AA: I listen to all types of music. No specific genre. Certain songs get me pumped and ready.
MSF: Who is your biggest role model in life?
AA: My dad has always been a big role model in my life. He has motivated and believed in me everyday and gives me the strength to succeed.
MSF: What’s next for the Spartans?
AA: We take it one week at a time so up next is Vernon.
MSF: Congrats again Anthony and best of the the rest of the way!