PARLIN, N.J. — As game time neared Friday evening, the lights at Sayreville War Memorial High football stadium stayed off and the field remained empty.
In what will be the norm at least for the rest of the fall, the central New Jersey community faced a Friday without Bombers football at the stadium in Parlin.
Meanwhile, authorities continue to investigate hazing allegations that prompted the schools' superintendent to cancel the rest of the games this season.
Officials haven't said what the allegation entails.
But Susan Westfall, a server at the Peterpank Diner on Route 9, says it's been the talk of the town near the Raritan Bay. "They (customers) didn't believe that it happened," Westfall, who's worked at the diner for 13 years, said Thursday night.
The team has been a regional power, winning three sectional titles in the last four years, perennially qualifying for postseason play.
Residents describe the Sayreville borough as a hard-working, diverse place — "football-geared" but not football crazy. The Middlesex County borough of about 43,000 people is a great place to raise kids, which adds to the shock over the allegations, they say.
Cary Melendez, who has been living in Sayreville a few years, said football is particularly held in high regard by families that have children already playing.
"Everything revolves around getting the kids ready to play Bomber football," Melendez said outside her house Friday.
Friday evening at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park across the street from the school, Matt Norcross said football is a large part of the town's identity.
"It's hard to get here on Friday nights" because the games generate so much traffic, the South Amboy man said as his 12-year-old stepson participated in football practice on a nearby field.
He said if authorities find wrongdoing, only those responsible should be held accountable — not the entire team.
"Every football player gets hazed, but (what's rumored) goes way over the line," Norcross said. "If it is true, the people who did it should be prosecuted."
An anti-bullying rally has been scheduled for Sunday night in Kennedy Park.
Holly Emory, whose son plays on the football team, said parents have asked those attending not to wear Bombers gear so they don't "pour salt in the wound."