CALDWELL, NJ – The West Essex football team defeated local rival James Caldwell High School, 24-14, in front of a packed home crowd on Friday night.
Trailing 7-3 at halftime, the Knights came out in the second half fired up and took control of the game.
“They were dominating us in the first half and we were lucky to still be in the game,” West Essex head coach Chris Benacquista said. “But our kids are very prideful and they don’t like getting pushed around.”
The Chiefs jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on their opening drive, capped by a Raymond Lodice touchdown run from 38-yards out.
The Knights answered right back by putting together a drive of their own, but the Caldwell defense stepped up and forced West Essex to settle for a field goal. The rest of the first half highlighted both teams tough defensive play.
West Essex took their first lead in the third quarter when senior Matt Thies connected with Peter Norton over the middle for a 15-yard score, giving the Knights a 10-7 advantage.
With just over five minutes left in the third quarter, Chiefs’ quarterback Joe Salter hit senior wide receiver Dylan Soriente for a 64-yard touchdown.
The Knights’ three running back rotation proved to be too much for the Chiefs as Norton and seniors Jason Russo and Joe Scaglia dominated the run-game. After two first downs from Russo set up an 18-yard touchdown run by Scaglia, West Essex found themselves ahead 17-14 in the final quarter.
Following a Chiefs punt, the Knights tacked on some insurance points when Norton scored from one-yard out. On the ensuing Caldwell drive, Scaglia intercepted Salter, which sealed the West Essex victory
“They beat us at their game,” Cheifs head coach Ken Trimmer said. “They were very physical offensively and defensively. They were better than us tonight.”
Benacquista said the game’s atmosphere was the best part of the night.
“It’s great for the kids in the community and the student body,” he said. “We just try to treat it like another game and it was hard at times, but it was a fulfilling game to win.”
The Knights will play Orange next Friday at 7 p.m., while Caldwell hosts Belleville on Oct. 5 at 2 p.m.