Talented student/athlete played football and wrestled for the Eagles
By Jim Hintelmann
MIDDLETOWN – Although Middletown South’s football team finished with an uncharacteristic 5-5 record last year, that didn’t mean it was because of a lack of effort on the part of the players.
The Eagles still had some talented players that had a fine season. One of those players was senior tight end-defensive tackle Taylor Hendrickson, who closed out a solid year.
“We were optimistic going into the season,” said Hendrickson, who will be playing football at the University of Pennsylvania this fall. “We had a young team but thought that we would pull together more than we did. A 5-5 season wasn’t planned for.”
South, however, did finish the season on a high note when it routed rival Middletown North, 45-7, continuing a 13-game win streak against the Lions.
“Everyone thought that this was the year that North was going to break the losing streak,” Hendrickson said. “It was all in the papers that North would win.”
South, though, rediscovered its winning ways and rolled to a convincing victory before a standing room crowd at the South field.
“We just put everything together for this game,” Hendrickson said. “We didn’t want to be the team that North broke its losing streak against. It was a fun game and we took it to heart. We also didn’t want to be the first South team to have a losing season.’
Despite the record, South did have some good games, including a 28-0 opening game win over Brick.
“That was probably my best game,” Hendrickson said. “I had a lot of tackles in that game and scored a touchdown.”
Hendrickson also did well in wrestling during his senior year, compiling a 19-8 record and reaching the NJSIAA District 22 finals before losing a tough decision to Raritan’s Pat Toal.
South played better in Hendrickson’s junior year, going 8-4 after a 5-1 start.
“We were excited going into the season, but we lost to some good teams,” he said.
One of those losses was a 38-34 setback to eventual A Division North champion Manalapan.
“That loss was heartbreaking,” Hendrickson said. “Late in the game, we drove down the field and got into the Red Zone, but we botched a snap and fumbled the ball away.”
A 34-7 loss to Red Bank Catholic (RBC) during the first-ever meeting between the two clubs was just a case of losing to a better team.
“RBC is a very disciplined team with a great offensive line, but we thought that we could beat them. We scored first, but then the roof fell in,” he said.
South lost to Colts Neck the following week and then recovered, winning three in a row, including a 21-13 victory over Middletown North.
The big win, though, was a 45-35 decision over Colts Neck in the semifinals of the Central Jersey Group III Playoffs.
“We beat them on their home field and it was a fun game,” Hendrickson said. “We wanted revenge and we played very well. Our running back, Eli Smith, had a great game and we gave him the ball most of the time.”
The Eagles dropped the Central Jersey finals, 35-28, to a talented team from Sayreville War Memorial High School.
“It was a close, back and forth game,” Hendrickson said. “They had a strong offensive line and a good quarterback.
“My best game that season was our opener against Brick Township,” he said. “We held them to just 30 yards total offense and I had a lot of tackles.”
Hendrickson had bad luck during his junior year wrestling season and missed much of the season due to ailments.
“I wrestled only five matches that year,” he said. “I injured a finger early in the season and developed a skin disease later.”
Hendrickson moved into the starting varsity lineup in football as a sophomore, a season during which South finished at 7-3.
“We lost our first two games to Ocean Township and Manalapan,” Hendrickson recalled. “We didn’t want to be the first Middletown South football team to lose its first three games of the year because we knew we had the ability to win and we won our next six games.”
The highlight for Hendrickson during his sophomore year was a 35-7 rout of Lacey Township.
“My uncle was an assistant coach at Lacey,” he said. “That was cool and my whole family came up to see the game.”
Hendrickson has done very well in the classroom with math being his best subject.
He was also active in Peer Leadership, a member of the 700 Club for the SATs and a member of Challenger Youth.
“Challenger is for special need kids and we help them participate in sports,” he said.
Hendrickson will leave for Penn in a couple of weeks.
“I’m not sure how much football I will play this year,” he said. “They have a good program and won the Ivy League championship two years ago.
“It is in a good location and the coaches are great and do all the right things. They tell you exactly what they are going to do.”
“I’ll probably major in business at Penn,” he said. “I’m not sure what I’ll do after I leave college, but I might come back and coach some football.”
Like many graduating seniors, Hendrickson has many happy memories as he looks back on his high school days.
“Those were the best four years of my life. It went very fast, but it was great being with all my friends, playing sports and just hanging out.”