Johnson Crusaders Varsity Football Defeats Hillside Comets, Wins 2015 UNICO Bowl Game

The Johnson football team pictured after the game with the UNICO Bowl trophy. They defeated the Hillside High School Comets 34-15. Credits: Ralph Bernardo
Members of Clark and Hillside UNICO teamed up to show off the trophy before the big game today in Hillside.  ALJ came away victorious in the annual UNICO Bowl.  Credits: Ralph Bernardo

HILLSIDE, NJ-  The Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders varsity football team continued to turn it around this season with a road game against the Hillside Comets, and behind some big plays, scores, and defensive stops, won the 2015 UNICO Bowl Game Saturday afternoon in Hillside. The final score was 34-15.

"The two schools have been playing this friendly game for over 20 years," Clark UNICO President Ralph Bernardo said.  "The winner gets to take the trophy to their school and gets the bragging rights, too."

The Crusaders received the ball first, after the Comets won the coin toss and deferred to receive the ball to start the second half. Sophomore Jon Duffy ran ten yards to keep it alive, thanks to a key fake punt on 4th and 3 from the Crusaders' own 49-yard line. 

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The drive took 13 plays and 70 yards, concluding with Eddie Bergin running it for a touchdown with a one-yard rush. After sophomore Mike Casalino’s extra point, Johnson led 7-0.

The Comets would respond with their first possession, as junior quarterback Kevin Miller threw the football to senior wide receiver Oso Omokaro for a 54-yard touchdown pass, and after the extra point, the game was tied at seven.

In the Crusaders’ second possession of the game, they began that drive at their own 33-yard line, and were aided by a facemask penalty against the Comets.

Junior Nick Fischetti received the ball on the next play, and sped his way to the end zone for a 39-yard rush for the touchdown. Combined with a successful two-point conversion, Johnson led by a score of 15-7.

The Comets continued the back-and-forth matchup, when Miller connected on a 1-yard run, and after a successful two-point conversion, the game was tied again, this time, at 15.

With 5:44 remaining in the first half, the Crusaders began at their own 49-yard line, and drove down the field slowly. The drive was capped off with senior quarterback and co-captain Anthony Rizzuto running it in from one yard, and after the extra point, had his team up 22-15 on the Comets at halftime.

When the third quarter began, the Comets drove into Crusaders territory, but after a few plays around the Johnson 22-yard line, they weren’t able to connect and turned it over on downs.

The Crusaders would then start at their own 18-yard line with Rizzuto and senior Eddie Bergin contributing big running plays to keep them going.

Johnson sophomore Joe Turek had an explosive run during the Crusaders’ next drive, running 60 yards deep into Hillside territory. Rizzuto capped off the drive with an eight-yard rush for the touchdown, giving his team a 28-15 lead.

The Crusaders defense was tested when the Comets got near the Johnson 5-yard line. Following a penalty and huge plays, the defense won the battle, keeping Hillside out of the end zone and making them turn the ball over on downs for the second time.

When the fourth quarter began, the Crusaders lost a fumble within their own territory, giving the Comets another opportunity to try get back into the game, but Johnson senior Andrew Sanchez came up with a huge interception to cancel out the drive.

Starting at their own 4-yard line, the Crusaders’ next drive took 8:05, with 14 plays and 96 yards, which was aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and a fourth-down conversion. Johnson capped this drive off with Turek scoring the touchdown with a ten-yard rush, sealing the deal, as the Crusaders went up 34-15.

In total, Rizzuto finished the afternoon with 19 rushes and 93 rushing yards, with two rushing touchdowns, while Bergin had six rushes for 16 yards and a rushing touchdown in the win.

Sanchez finished the afternoon with three rushes for ten yards, along with his fourth quarter interception. Junior Nick Fischetti rushed the ball five times and collected 67 rushing yards, along with his 39-yard rushing touchdown.

Turek finished the day with nine rushes for 95 yards, along with his ten-yard touchdown run, while sophomore Jon Duffy finished the afternoon with six rushes for 37 yards.

The Johnson Crusaders (3-3) take on Belvidere High School Friday night at 7 p.m. at home. It will be Crusaders' Senior Night.

The Hillside Comets (3-4) face off against Delaware Valley High School next Saturday afternoon at home at 1 p.m.

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