SADDLE BROOK, NJ - Rallying from a 14-0 halftime deficit, Hasbrouck Heights defeated Saddle Brook by a 42-14 score Saturday afternoon at Saddle Brook High School
Maybe it was the three-week, COVID-related gap between games; maybe it was the fact that Hasbrouck Heights never seems to play well on grass fields, or on Saturday afternoons. The fact remained that Saddle Brook, coming into the game 2-4 and having head coach Leo Ciappiana not at the game due to COVID contact tracing concerns, dominated the Aviators in the first half.
Saddle Brook showed right from the opening kickoff they were ready to play, and had a few tricks up their sleeve. While a trick play off the opening kickoff looked more like a sandlot play that did not work, quarterback Derek Muoio hit John Hacker with a 34-yard pass just three plays later to kick the Falcons' offense in gear.
Hacker would catch a two-yard pass from Joe Nudo on fourth and goal to give the Falcons a lead with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter. Nudo ran for the two-point conversion to give the Falcons an 8-0 lead.
Meanwhile, the Aviators could not get in rhythm offensively, with the Falcons intercepting Aviator quarterback Steven Faussette to thwart the Aviators first drive.
Following an exchange of punts, the Falcons went on a 12-play drive that took up much of the second quarter. Nudo scored on a one-yard plunge with 2:17 left in the second quarter to give Saddle Brook a 14-0 lead. Jake Diaz blocked the extra point, but whatever boost of energy the Aviators received was short-lived - as Saddle Brook recovered the ensuing squib kick, giving the Falcons the ball.
The Hasbrouck Heights defense was able to shut Saddle Brook down, in part due to an injury suffered by Muoio, which took him out of the game. Keying on the run game only, the Aviators were able to shut down the Falcons, and got the ball back with 1:30 remaining in the half.
The first half of horrors continued, as Faussette hooked up with Rocco Minichiello on a 66-yard pass and run, only to have it called back due to a holding penalty.
Halftime ran long, as Saddle Brook celebrated Homecoming and Senior Day. The extra time seemed to be what Hasbrouck Heights needed, because the second half was a polar opposite to the first.
Just 21 seconds into the second half, Diaz took a shovel pass from Faussette, and wove through Saddle Brook, at one point running over a Falcon defender, en route to a 58-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 14-6. George Kouletas’ extra point was good making the score 14-7.
A quick three-and-out put the ball back in the Hasbrouck Heights' offense hands, and it took just four plays, keyed by a 45-yard and 20-yard run from Faussette to put the end Aviators in the end zone. Minichiello’s two-yard run, followed by Kouletas' kick made the score 14-14. In a little under five minutes, the Aviators had undone a lackluster first half.
Mohammed Assaf stripped the ball away from the Saddle Brook returner, with the Aviators recovering at the Saddle Brook 31. A 25-yard pass from Faussette to Diaz put the ball inside the 10, and Faussette’s toss to Hunter Freschi resulted in a six-yard score and with 6:35 remaining in the Aviators led for the first time, following Kouletas' extra point, 21-14.
Saddle Brook’s next drive resulted in negative yardage, with Hasbrouck Heights taking over on downs at the 17-yard line. It took one play, a Faussette to Diaz 17 yard scoring pass to extend the lead to 28-14 following Kouletas' extra point.
Robert Boscarino’s interception ended the next Saddle Brook drive. It took just five plays for Minichiello to score, from three yards out, on the second play of the fourth quarter, for a 35-14 lead.
Minchiello would end the onslaught with a 50-yard touchdown run to extend the score to 42-14 following Kouletas' extra point. The freshman kicker was a perfect 6-for-6 on the day.
Hasbrouck Heights will finish its season on Tuesday evening at Depken Field with a matchup against Cresskill. The Aviators played the Cresskill to start the season, defeating the Cougars 28-14.