PATERSON, NJ- “This is a new year, we’re trying to win a championship,” Charles “Cowboy” Mills told his attentive gridiron students in a rented indoor facility at their first practice of the year. “You need to set goals. This year we are going to be a quicker team. We plan on having a lot of short passes and runs and will wear down the opposing team’s defense.”
On Saturday evening, the words seemed almost prophetic as the Silk City Sharks, unbeaten in their conference on the season, prepared to take on their latest opponent.
Indeed, months of sweat equity had paid off.
Behind four touchdown passes by quarterback Quatrell Huffin, the city semi-professional football team remained undefeated in posting their second win this season over the visiting Long Island Mercenaries. The 34-12 success provided the Sharks with home field advantage in the upcoming 5-Star Football League playoffs.
With picture perfect autumn weather, the Sharks kicked off to their adversaries. Following an incomplete pass and two run-stops, including one for no gain by Sharks’defensive tackle Cleo Mitchell, a punt was forced.
Paterson’s running back, Rufus Carroll took the first handoff for substantial yardage and appeared to be knocked out of bounds. However, the 5-6, 170 pound speedster literally boomeranged off the right sideline for more real estate. Following a false start against the Sharks, Huffin looked to pass but bolted up the middle for seven yards. Facing a third from their own 46, Huffin lofted a beautiful spiral down the left sideline. On the dead run, Sharks’ wide receiver Prince Block looked over his shoulder and caught the pass. The subsequent foot race with a single Long Island defender was never in doubt. The TD play was followed by a perfect extra-point from Silk City kicker Rajoun Tyrell.
Behind a huge offensive line, the Mercenaries turned to a ball control offense with runs up the middle and short pass attempts. Despite several tackles by Paterson linebacker Joshua DuBose, Long Island marched to the Sharks’ 23-yard line. Several runs, complimented by a no-huddle offense, produced a touchdown.
Silk City’s ensuing offensive series featured a nice catch and run by wide receiver Jamier Jackson. However, a 15-yard loss due to a quarter back sack squelched the promising drive.
The Mercenaries then went to the air but a long bomb down the left sideline was stymied via blanket coverage by the Knights’ Reinaldo Algarin. However, on the next play a Houdini-like effort by the Long Island quarterback turned an almost sure Paterson sack into a 20-yard run. An aerial scoring strike from the Sharks’ 47-yard line spelled touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, resulting in a 12-7 Long Island lead.
The temporary deficit seemed only to motivate the fierce fish. The ensuing offensive set was highlighted by a brilliant 15-yard reception by Block who zig-zagged through a myriad of defenders for 10 more. Paterson then turned to Carroll who scrapped and scraped for more yardage. A Huffin-Carroll fake handoff fooled the Long Island defense as Huffin fired a bullet to Paterson tight end Deon Davis in the left corner of the end zone for a score. Tyrell’s extra point attempt again split the uprights.
The Sharks’ defense, led by end Jaqueise Enzor, then stepped up to the plate. On an attempted Mercenaries’ pass to the right flat, the crack of pads literally echoed via a hard hit by Carroll.
Another big-play pass from Huffin to DuBose set up a spectacular display. Huffin scrambled and literally ran through, around, and by would be tacklers for a huge gain. Sharks’ wide receiver Jaquan McCants followed with a race to the right corner of the end zone and spectacular catch which provided the third home team touchdown.
The second half opening kickoff brought fans from both sides to their feet. The Sharks’ deep man, Block, gathered in the ball near midfield and behind a wall of blockers the speed demon jetted 60 yards for a touchdown.
Soon thereafter, Paterson again threatened to score but a field goal attempt was blocked. However, the following Long Island possession was foiled by a 20-yard sack by DuBose.
On the first play of the subsequent Sharks’ensuing possession,
Huffin scooted right and found ample running room. The fleet signal caller cruised for a 76-yard scoring jaunt.
The final Long Island tackle attempt was stymied by a textbook Huffin stiff arm near the Mercenaries’ 10-yard line.
A tackle by Dijon Outerbridge of the opposing quarterback and a forced fumble by Bilal Clark set up the final Sharks’ score. Entering Mercenaries’ territory, Carroll curled around right end for a first down. Hoping to score, yet also attempting to run down the clock, Paterson turned to the punishing running of former John F. Kennedy High School star, Marquese Marrero. Huffin then scrambled, pulled up, and fired into the end zone. Wide receiver Jamier Jackson was there to gather in the pigskin despite falling down backwards.
Taking over quarterback duties in the fourth quarter for the Sharks, Rockee Santiago turned in a fine performance. Leading the tackle parade for Paterson was linebacker Jason Jackson who recorded seven stops.
In a remarkable display of sportsmanship after the game, Long Island wide receiver Korey Duff stopped to congratulate his on-field nemesis, Davis of Paterson.
“I love competition,” Duff stated, as both he and Davis shook hands and also held up their jerseys for a photo. “Through war on the field we have become friends.”
Jackson described his touchdown excursion.
“I was split out and cut across the field at an angle,” Jackson commented after the game. “It was a drag route. I found a spot, an opening in the defense. I stop and waited for the ball. Huffin hit me with a perfect pass.”
The Sharks travel to play a non-conference contest against the Hudson Valley Buccaneers,in Kingston, on October 6.