NORTH ARLINGTON, NJ -- The Blue Devils run to a Meadowland Football League Junior Division Super Bowl title came up a point short, as Wood-Ridge lost to Rutherford 19-18 in the rain in North Arlington Saturday night. The Northern Division playoff champions end the season 8-3.
Early, it looked like it would be Wood-Ridge’s night, as Sal Catanzaro scored on a 43-yard run less than a minute into the game to give Wood-Ridge a 6-0 lead. The Bulldogs were able to stop Wood-Ridge on the conversion, something which would prove important by the end of the game.
Rutherford’s David Rojas scored with 3:25 remaining in the first quarter to tie the game at 6-6. Most of the drive, however, was the handiwork of Cole Gumas, who at one point carried eight straight times on the drive.
The game remained tied at 6-6 deep into the second quarter, setting up a wild final 4:32 of the first half.
Gumas continued to hammer Wood-Ridge again carrying the ball on seven straight carries. But a counter to Matt Sceibe caught the Blue Devils off-balance, and the Bulldogs took their first lead of the night 12-6.
It looked like Rutherford was going to get a chance to run away with the game, when Wood-Ridge fumbled the ball back to the Bulldogs with less than two minutes to play. But the Wood-Ridge defense came up big, and Antonio Loyola intercepted a ball with less than a minute left, stopping the Bulldogs threat. Loyola’s return to the Rutherford 27 gave the ball to the Blue Devils with 25.3 seconds left.
Catanzaro shook free around end on the first play, gaining 23 yard, setting up the Blue Devils with a first and goal from the four. The next play, he once again was able to get around and rush around the Bulldogs defense, tying the game at 12-12. Once again, the Bulldogs were able to stop the extra point, and the game went into halftime tied.
Rutherford came out of halftime unsettled taking two false starts within the first three plays of the third quarter. But Gumas once again bailed out the Bulldogs, rushing for 48 yards to get the Bulldogs inside the five. With Gumas once again the focus of the Wood-Ridge defense, Sceibe was able once again get into the end zone, and when Gumas scored on the conversion, Rutherford had a 19-12 lead.
Wood-Ridge got the ball back and moved the ball quickly down the field as Josh Rodriguez and Loyola, moved the ball into Rutherford territory. But the Bulldog defense stiffened inside the 20, and on fourth and seven, stopped the Wood-Ridge offense for an 11-yard loss, taking over on downs deep in their own territory.
But following an initial first down, the Bulldogs fumbled, and Wood-Ridge was back on offense with 27.3 seconds left in the third quarter. Two plays later, Catanzaro scored his third touchdown of the night, from 34 yards, cutting the lead to 19-18. But Rutherford defense stiffened, and Wood-Ridge’s third point after conversion of the evening failed.
The next Rutherford possession was one of some controversy, as it appeared the Bulldogs were the victim of referee error. Following a rushing on first down that was nullified by a penalty, the Bulldogs were backed up 10 yards, but somehow lost the down as well as the yardage.
On what should been third down and 18 (which was on the scoreboard), the referees indicated it was fourth down, and after a brief protest Rutherford punted the ball to the Wood-Ridge 40.
A run by Rodriguez, followed by a facemasking call against Rutherford, moved the ball into Bulldog territory. Three more runs by Rodriquez, moved the ball inside the Rutherford 10 Once again, Rutherford’s defense was able to stop the Blue Devils, and following an incomplete pass on fourth down, the Bulldogs has the ball with 3:51 on their own 15.
The Bulldogs offensive line then was able to help Rutherford run out the clock. With the Blue Devils keying on Gumas, Sceibe came through with successive runs of 45 yards and 12, The Bulldogs were able to punch the ball inside the 10 with a minute left, but with no timeouts left for Wood-Ridge, Rutherford was able to go into victory formation.