CLARK, NJ- The Johnson Crusaders varsity football team battled through the cold air, rain and wind against the Governor Livingston Highlanders as they sought their first win of the 2015 season, grinding through to top the visitors, 12-0, in a Pink-Out game Friday night in Clark
The game’s first score came in the second quarter, when Johnson QB senior co-captain Anthony Rizzuto capped off a 14-play, 56-yard drive, by connecting for a 10-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Ryan Koppel. This put the Crusaders ahead 6-0 with 6:58 left in that quarter. A two-point attempt following the touchdown fell short.
“It was all about staying together, not letting a bad play because of the rain affect us and bring us down,” Rizzuto said. “It was about sticking together and getting the win. We know how to win now. We know what it takes to play a full game, and we just have to do that and play better.”
The teams battled through a scoreless third quarter that ended with the Crusaders stopping the Highlanders on fourth down at the ALJ 25-yard line. Getting on the offense with 2:02 left, the Crusaders retained control through most of the fourth quarter, preventing a Highlander possession.
The Crusaders embarked on a 20-play, 75-yard drive, burning 9:04 of the final quarter; the drive kept alive by a Highlanders encroachment penalty on 4th and 2 in GL territory.
Sophomore Joe Turek would complete the drive with a 4-yard run for the touchdown, to put the Crusaders ahead 12-0 with 2:56 left in the fourth quarter and give his team a 2-touchdown lead.
Turek finished the night with nine rushes and 32 yards, to add to his 4-yard rushing touchdown.
“It feels amazing, the offensive line played great the whole game,” Turek said. “They were just fighting the entire game, and made me great holes, and I just fought and scored a touchdown.”
On the next Highlanders drive, GL’s sophomore QB Quinn Haddad was intercepted by ALJ sophomore Jon Duffy with 2:35 left to seal the deal for the Crusaders.
Rizzuto finished 1-1 with the ten-yard touchdown pass to Koppel, and ran the ball 17 times for 58 rushing yards.
Crusaders head coach Anthony DelConte said that the offensive line was a critical reason for the victory.
“Our offensive line,” DelConte said. “They struggled a little bit at times, but when we needed to run behind them to seal the deal, they were able to get the job done and they paved the way at the end.”
For the Crusaders, senior Andrew Sanchez ran the ball four times for 28 yards, while senior Eddie Bergin finished the night with 12 rushes for 28 yards.
“There wasn’t a doubt in our minds that we were just going to continue pounding the rock, because they [the offensive line] were feeling it, they were in great shape, they were conditioned. They had it in the eye, I could see it in the huddle when I had the kids in. There was no doubt that we were going to continue running behind those guys, because they wanted to seal the deal for us,” DelConte said.
For the Highlanders, Haddad finished 1-4 with 15 passing yards and the interception. Senior Evan Lerch ran the ball 18 times for 75 yards, while senior Steve Sottosanti finished with 5 rushes for 29 yards. Junior Jack Blasch finished for Governor Livingston with two rushes for 12 yards, and junior Will Nicholson ran the ball once for five yards.
“I thought both teams played hard. You got to give it to Coach DelConte and the Crusaders, I thought they played hard,” Highlanders head coach Dan Guyton said. “I think both teams handled the elements very well, with ball control and everything else. They [the Crusaders] were able to convert first downs, and put the ball in the end zone. They were the better team tonight.”
The game was temporarily stopped with 1:59 left in the first quarter at 7:18pm, and a moment of silence was held for Evan Murray, the 17-year old Warren Hills QB who died from a lacerated spleen and internal bleeding last week after taking a hit in their game against Summit High School.
The Johnson Crusaders (1-3) head into their bye week, and take on the Roselle Abraham-Clark Rams on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015 at 7 p.m.
The Governor Livingston Highlanders (1-3) face off against Somerville High School next Friday night at home, Oct. 9, 2015, at 7 p.m.