BARNEGAT – A Barnegat High School varsity team finished up their season as reigning state champs on game-ready turf set up at the Rutgers University Esports Arena.
While most local athletes face their opponents on grassy fields or designated courts, the Barnegat High School Rocket League Bengals plays e-sports matches from gaming computers. The Rutgers Esports Center offers 60 MSI gaming computers, 12 of which are equipped for participation in national competitions according to their website.
“The playoffs at Rutgers consisted of two matches, starting with the semi-final round,” shared Traci Sellers, stand-in coach for the finals. “Barnegat faced the Oakcrest Falcons and swept the match with a 3-0 score.”
Barnegat’s first victory came after just 22 minutes as onlookers watched live on Twitch. The screen does not show the actual competitors, but rather focuses on the video screenplay.
A broadcaster first explains that Rocket League gamers face tough competition as they drive cars to hit balls into goals. Bengals Captain Jake Giordano, a senior who goes by the gamer tag Lonoco brought on accolades early into the game.
“Lonoco made the first score of the game for the Bengals,” shouted the announcer. “Showcasing why the Bengals are undefeated up until this point.”
The Bengals went into the playoffs with a regular undefeated season record of 9-0. Their post-season record left them with a total of 12-0 undefeated matches.
As the Bengals continued to the final state round, the team faced the Princeton Tigers. They won the first two rounds, lost the third in overtime, then took the fourth match to finish the win 3-1.
“This win gave them the state championship,” Sellers said. “Each of the four starters received a medal for their win and our organization will receive a belt (wrestling style) as our trophy.”
Barnegat High School became the first New Jersey high school team to award varsity letters for e-sports. Many of the players entered matches from their home computers as the district continues to set up a special lab for competitions.
Other schools throughout the state compete as part of the Garden State Esports league. Several colleges throughout the country offer scholarships for students interested in collegiate level competitions.
The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) stands up for the premise that e-sport athletes should be treated with the same level of respect as other more typical athletes. Over 175 post-secondary schools are participants in NACE, with many offering scholarships.
A website named Lineups provides insight into the names of the top 25 schools and scholarships offering e-sport programs. Arcadia University in Pennsylvania tops the list, providing students the chance to earn $25,000 a year in scholarships.
Joe Saar, a math teacher at Barnegat High School coached this year’s Rocket Team. Deegan Melchiondo, a former student and team captain also helped coach this year’s team.
The complete roster of the Barnegat Bengals Rocket Team included the following members together with their gamer tags: Jake Giordano (Captain) – Senior – Lonoco, Owen Godbout – Junior – Fallxn, Sebastian Sares – Freshman – aquastears, Jeff Giordano – Sophomore – AtlasOnStix, CJ Dringus (substitute) – Freshman – XxCreed922xX.