Matt Goetz and Jake Schultes were in the stands, a couple of youth-league players watching Gateway football and dreaming about the days when things would be different for the Gators.
It took some imagination. From 2009 to 2013 – when Goetz and Schultes were playing for the Westville Gators and advancing from third grade to seventh – Gateway had a combined record of 5-45, with two winless seasons.
"Back when we played for Westville, we came to Gateway's games, and they would get beat so bad, and they would be 0-10," Goetz said. "To be where we are now, it's surreal."
Goetz and Schultes on Saturday led Gateway to one of the biggest regular-season victories in the history of the program.
Goetz, a senior quarterback, threw three touchdown passes as Gateway stunned Paulsboro, 27-20, in a West Jersey Football League Memorial Division clash of Top 25 teams and Group 1 playoff contenders.
Schultes, a senior tight end, caught a pair of touchdown passes and also forced and recovered a fumble.
"He's a great athlete," Goetz said of Schultes. "He can't run, and he can't jump, but he can go get the ball. I trust him always to go get it."
The game marked Gateway's first victory over Paulsboro on the field since 1985. The Gators had been awarded a forfeit win over the Red Raiders in 2014 because of the use of an ineligible player.
Gateway coach Josh Mason, whose team will be the No. 3 seed when the South Jersey Group 1 tournament opens this weekend, told his players after the game that they had just won the "biggest game in Gateway history."
Gateway assistant coach Pete Goetz, Matt's father and the former head coach at Triton, told the players who gathered under the goalposts on Paulsboro's wet field that, "I've never been prouder of a football team in my life."
Gateway (7-0), the No. 16 team in the Inquirer Top 25, got big games from junior running back Derrick Parker, senior defensive back Enrique Marquez and senior defensive end Pat Hayden, among others, in controlling play on a raw, rainy afternoon at Paulsboro.
But the way for the Gators was led by Goetz and Schultes, best friends who probably each played the game of his life in the program's most significant victory in decades.
"It's hard to describe," Goetz said.
The two athletes grew up in Wenonah. They've been friends since kindergarten and all-but-inseparable since second grade.
"We hang out every weekend, after school, all the time," Schultes said. "We've been best friends forever."
They both played youth football for the Westville Gators on Herb Neilio Sr. Field on Almonesson Road in the small Gloucester County town.
"Since second grade, we're always been throwing the ball around," Schultes said.
They never made more important connections than on Saturday.
After Paulsboro took a 12-7 lead early in the third quarter on Tuten's 25-yard scoring run, Gateway answered back with a pair of Goetz-to-Schultes touchdown passes, covering 6 and 22 yards.
For the game, Goetz was 9-for-15 passing for 169 yards, while Schultes made five catches for 92 yards. All five of Schultes' receptions resulted in a first down or touchdown.
"It wasn't that bad," Goetz said of the cold, wet and windy conditions. "When you had the wind behind you, it actually helped."
The whole day had a storybook feel for Gateway. As Pete Goetz noted, the quarterback for Gateway in its last win over Paulsboro, that 6-0 victory in 1985, was his brother, Chris Goetz, a future standout at Towson State.
The dreary day was something of a dream come true for Matt Goetz and Schultes, two athletes who used to sit in the stands as youth-league players and watch Gateway struggle to play competitive football.
"We came so far," Goetz said. "We've got a good group of guys who just worked hard in the weight room and on the field, since freshman year, since before freshman year. It's just awesome."