NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — The West Essex football team is on a roll after a 55-14 thrashing of Caldwell on Friday gives the squad its sixth consecutive victory.
“I’m happy we came in here and took care of business,” said Head Coach Chris Benacquista. “We did what we had to do. We played sloppy at times, but we have tough kids; and when they make mistakes, they take it personally and they want to get better.”
West Essex stormed out to an early lead with touchdowns on three of the team’s first four possessions. The Knights saw first-quarter touchdowns from Giancarlo Farro and Nicholas Ciaglia.
Ciaglia also threw for a touchdown pass to Aaron Gonzalez in the quarter that led to a 20-0 lead.
“You have got to thank the offensive line for making holes, giving me protection, the receivers getting open, and the backs for making great cuts and getting touchdowns,” said Ciaglia.
Using his legs and arm, Ciaglia sliced up the Chiefs’ defense throughout the contest. The senior quarterback finished with an unofficial 12 rushing yards and 41 passing yards along with three total touchdowns.
“We knew their weakness was press and our receivers could get that separation,” said Ciaglia. “Once we did, I threw the ball.”
Once the Knights had the firm lead they relied on the strength of their squad in the defense. The unit would force five turnovers on the afternoon with three fumbles and two interceptions.
“Our kids love playing defense,” said Benacquista. “We draw a real aggressive game plan up every week, let our kids play, let our kids fly around. They love to play, love to hit and practice turning teams over [with] a lot of strip drills, pick-six drills, and tonight we got lucky. Turnovers win the game as much as anything else.”
For the remainder of the game, the Knights elected to go to their patented ground game led by Chris Bell. Bell collected more than 100 yards on the ground, including two second-quarter touchdowns that helped West Essex out to a 41-7 halftime lead.
“We always talk about coming out quick,” said Benacquista. “These guys are laser focused; they want to start out quick and make them chase us.”
Bell rebounded from an opening-drive fumble, which Benacquista cited as one of the motivating factors for the squad.
Having now won six games in a row, the Knights have turned a corner and have the state playoffs in sight.
“We’ve been constantly improving since week one and I’m proud with the effort of these guys,” said Benacquista. “They have to keep working hard…I keep on telling them to enjoy this; and they will for a little bit, but tomorrow morning they are going to come in early and ready to work.”
West Essex is now 6-1 on the season and looks to continue to play championship-caliber football. The Knights’ next game will come against Parsippany Hills on Saturday, Oct. 26.