Day one at Giants Stadium is in the books with two close games and one unexpected blowout. Two more come on Saturday.
Cedar Grove 13 Park Ridge 12
Cedar Grove made two consecutive big plays late in the fourth quarter. The first was a 35-yard pass to Patch McCarthy, followed by a 30-yard touchdown pass from Alfonso Lombardi to Nick Iannacone to tie the game at 12. Christopher Babcock kicked the extra point and the Panthers had a 13-12 lead with 2:20 left. That lead would hold and Cedar Grove became the North Jersey Group 1 champions.
Cedar Grove also scored on the game’s opening drive when Lombardi hit Mike Marinelli on a 7-yard pass on fourth-and-one on the 7-yard line. The touchdown was set up by a 48-yard pass to Nick Coletta down to the 16.
In between, one can say it was all Park Ridge.
The Owls answered with a six-minute drive, scoring on a 19-yard run by Matthew Manning out of the wildcat, as he ran through a mass of bodies and tied the score at 6-6. Park Ridge had two drives of nine minutes each, coming away empty: the first ended with an incomplete pass from the 8-yard line and the second with a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Manning added a 1-yard score on second effort with nine minutes left in the game.
In the end, Cedar Grove made the plays that were needed and their defense bent, but didn’t break. From a Park Ridge perspective, they didn’t take advantage of the opportunities, to borrow a phrase from ex-New York Islander announcer Ed Westfall.
West Morris 53 Cranford 14
If I had one sentence to describe the game, I could say it was a beating-and-a-half. Or I could say it was an old-fashioned ass-whipping. With respect to the Cranford program, I cannot be diplomatic.
It initially looked like it was going to be a back-and forth game, as each team scored on their first possession. After that, it was all West Morris. The Wolfpack’s first score was a 52-yard pass from Trevor Hillier to Stefano Montella with Montella outracing the defense and diving across the goal line. West Morris added three scores in the first half, with a touchdown pass to Ryan Brady, a run by Noah Turner, and a run by Montella. In the second half, Hillier scored a touchdown plus two more by Turner sandwiched around a 40-yard interception returned for a score by Vinnie Desiderio.
The West Morris line of left tackle Will Groeling, left guard Henry Frayne, center Bryce Cope, right guard Collin Leonhardt, right tackle Nick Muha, and tight end Bailey Dowson paved the way for an offensive explosion. Add in the running of Montella, who former Don Bosco coach Greg Toal would call “one heck of a back.” The defense harassed Cranford all night, limiting their high-octane offense.
As a team, West Morris punched Cranford in the mouth and would not allow them off the ground. Add it up and you have what we saw tonight.
Red Bank Catholic 13 DePaul 8
Red Bank Catholic scored on their first drive and got their second and deciding touchdown when Alex Brown scored on a 1-yard run late in the third quarter to beat DePaul 13-8 to win the Non-Public B championship.
Brown connected with Najih Rahman over the middle for a 33-yard touchdown on that first drive, as Rahman ran his way through the DePaul defense to the end zone. RBC was forced to punt on their following drive, but it was blocked by #45 (not on the roster) to make the score 7-2. The rest of the half was a defensive struggle.
DePaul went in front in the third quarter when Tyler Brown scored on an 11-yard run, reversing his field from right-to-left. The two-point conversion failed, making it 8-7. RBC’s ensuing drive featured a fake-punt pass from the up back, Sabino Portella, to Joe Diorio that went 16 yards to their 48 and a first down. That led to the go-ahead touchdown by Brown from a yard out, as he faked left, ran right, and crossed the goal line.
DePaul started their final drive on their 26. A 19-yard pass to Marshawn Ferguson, followed by a 16-yarder two plays later put the Spartans on the RBC 30. However the RBC defense held as a fourth down pass fell incomplete in the end zone with seven seconds left.
RBC meant business on the first drive that gave them a 7-0 lead. Their fake punt in the third quarter took guts and it led to their winning touchdown. Their defense made key plays and was led by linebacker Davin Brewton plus ends Alex Bauman and Ryan McPherson.
For DePaul, it was a heartbreaker and their defense played well enough to win. One player who stood out was sophomore running back Jadin Johnson, who was electric with the ball in his hands. In the end, the Spartans were held to eight points and it wasn’t enough.