METUCHEN, NJ-  After a sloppy first half which featured a lost fumble on the opening possession and zero points for almost the entire first 24 minutes, the Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders varsity football team continued to hang tough with the Metuchen High School Bulldogs, but still found themselves in a 7-0 deficit with 3:20 left in the second quarter.

Johnson responded quickly, with sophomore quarterback Joe Greenbush heaving a 19-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Max Carmino and Johnson trailed 7-6 at halftime, but were in danger of falling to 0-3 on the season. As they went into halftime to talk things over, the Crusaders were focused on the task ahead.

“We had to trust ourselves, our teammates and play together,” Johnson senior Sebastian Iakouchevitch said. “We had to stop freaking out, we had to start playing football and play within ourselves.”  

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The next 24 minutes that followed proved to be a different story for the Crusaders.

Sophomore quarterback Joe Greenbush went 3-for-5 with 122 passing yards and three touchdown passes (two of them in the second half), capping off a second half comeback as the Crusaders defeated the Bulldogs 27-7 in a Union County vs. Middlesex County crossover game Saturday afternoon in Metuchen. Greenbush also ran for 64 yards on ten carries in the win for his team.

The Johnson defense got a quick three-and-out on defense, which got the ball back for their offense.

After being backed up and facing third down and 23 yards to go following a penalty, Greenbush went through the air on the next play, finding Carmino for a 43-yard touchdown pass (second of game), giving Johnson a 12-7 lead. The Johnson sideline erupted in cheers once Carmino made the catch and got into the end zone to give his team the lead.

While there was a lot of game left on the afternoon, the offensive surge appeared to give Johnson the spark needed to get back on track and continue fighting out on the field.

“We had to come out firing,” Carmino said of his team’s message at halftime. “We knew we needed to get this win to get back on track and hopefully we can get more wins from here.”

The Crusaders attempted a two-point conversion following the go-ahead score and Iakouchveitch cashed in with a rush, making it eight points on the play and giving Johnson a 14-7 lead. The defense continuously shut down Metuchen, not allowing much ball movement and forcing the Bulldogs to punt for a second consecutive series.

Johnson got the ball on their own 39-yard line and with the lead, looking to advance on their momentum from the end of the second quarter and by one play at a time, ate time off the clock and punched the football into the end zone.

Iakouchevitch scored from two yards out on a drive that featured six plays on 61 yards, with senior Nick Serpe’s extra point good, making it 21-7 Johnson with 1:22 left in the third quarter. That would be the score of the game once the fourth quarter came around.

“The [guys] came off firing and ready to go in the second half,” Johnson assistant coach Andrew Zub said. “We just had to slow down, look at the front, talk about what we did last week and go back to our roots.”

Greenbush threw his third touchdown pass of the afternoon to senior Vito Galluzzo, a side pass turned into a speedy rush down the Metuchen sideline and into the end zone, a 58-yard touchdown pass that made the game 27-7 Johnson with 10:43 left in the fourth quarter, the final score on the afternoon.

Despite his masterful performance as signal caller in the win, Greenbush says it never could have been possible without another important element to the game of football.

“It’s all [a credit] to our offensive line,” Greenbush said. “If we didn’t get a push, then none of that [in the second half] would have happened.”

There was a running clock with 7:39 left, where Johnson and Metuchen both took out their starters for the younger players.

Iakouchevitch finished the afternoon with 78 yards on 13 carries to go with his two-yard rushing touchdown. Galluzzo also ran for 90 yards on five carries for Johnson.

“We had to come off the ball, take care of the down-line, work our way to the linebackers, stay on them and let that big boy Iak [Sebastian Iakouchevitch] run. That’s a big boy back there,” Zub added.

The Johnson Crusaders (1-2) will head out on the road to play against Roselle-Abraham Clark HS at Rahway River Park on Friday, September 21 at 7:00 p.m.

“We came out firing,” Galluzzo said. “We’re not taking no for an answer anymore. I think the ball is going to start rolling now and we’re going to get on track again.”

The Metuchen Bulldogs (0-2) will remain home and play Dunellen HS next Saturday afternoon at 2:00 p.m.