The next two weekends are going to be very special for Josh Paez.
The Wood-Ridge senior running back, one of the top ground gainers in North Jersey this season, probably will not play football in college. Paez plans to devote himself completely to his studies as he prepares for a career as an athletic trainer or physical therapist.
But Paez has been a big reason the Blue Devils are having one of their best seasons in recent memory, and he wants the final chapter to be something to talk about.
“This might be the last two times putting on the pads, so I’m just going to give it my all,” Paez said. “This season has been something I’ll always remember.
“It’s not just the wins. It’s not all the yards and touchdowns. It’s the team – a team that’s going to be remembered here.”
The Blue Devils (5-3) missed out on a North 1, Group 1 playoff berth, but have won five straight games. A win over Harrison on Saturday will give them their first winning season since 2007, putting an exclamation point on one of the best turnaround seasons in North Jersey.
“At the start of the year, you always have the expectation of going undefeated,” Paez said. “So we lost the first three games. We just went out and fixed what we had to fix.
“Yeah, we didn’t make the playoffs. But 7-3 [potentially after next week’s consolation game] won’t be bad.”
The 5-foot-8, 190-pound Paez has done everything he could to make the Blue Devils’ dreams come true. He’s carried 207 times for a single-season school record 1,518 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.
As a linebacker on defense, he’s made 77 tackles and scored a touchdown on an interception return. He’s thrown five two-point conversion passes and run for three more.