Sports

NJIC Playoff Preview: Hasbrouck Heights at Wallington

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WHAT:  Hasbrouck Heights travels to Wallington in the first round of the NJIC Playoffs.  Game time is 7 pm.

RECORDS:  Both Hasbrouck Heights and Wallington are 6-0.  Wallington was this year's surprise team, going undefeated in the Patriot after being 3-6 in 2016.  Hasbrouck Heights snuck up on no one, as the reigning North 1, Group 1 champions were mentioned as a potential top seed in the state playoffs once again. 

WHO TO WATCH - HASBROUCK HEIGHTS: 

Offense - The two players to watch on offense for the Aviators are quarterback James Klenk and flanker Jasiah Purdie.  Klenk led the team in passing and rushing in 2017, while Purdie led in receptions and finished third in rushing.  Plus he scored a touchdown as a punt returner and as a kick returner. If he gets his hands on the ball, he is a threat to score.

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Defense - The Aviator defense is underlooked due to the explosive nature of the offense.  But ask Cresskill and Hawthorne how could they can be.  Watch the game from the field, and you can hear the hitting from the likes of James Varga and Travis Culkin inside on defense, and Jordan Wexler has a knack for making sacks, recovering fumbles, and just causing mayhem.  Purdie and Klenk are ballhawks on defense when it is in the air. 

Intangibles -  The leg of Matthew Gwziszc is a weapon for Heights.  In his first year of football, the junior has eight touchbacks, five in the past two weeks, and is 18-of-20 on extra points.

WHO TO WATCH - WALLINGTON:

Offense -  The star attraction is fullback Elijah Mitchell.  At 5-10, 228, he is too big to arm tackle.  The Panthers rode him to 862 yards this season, as he averaged 29.5 carries a game for 4.9 yards a pop and scored eight touchdowns.  Junior quarterback David Backo throws well enough that the passing game cannot be an afterthought, completing 58 percent of his passes for 110 yards per game.  

Defense - The Panthers leading tacklers are defensive backs Will Delgado and Charles Fischetto.  Outside linebacker Patrick Kaczor had six sacks, two fumbles forced and recovered, and an interception. 

Intangibles - Wallington is playing with house money, as no one expected them to be here.  Sometimes teams that come out of nowhere are the most dangerous.  One thing to keep in mind, the Panthers struggled with winless Bogota in Week 6, being tied going into the fourth quarter before pulling out a 37-28 victory.

The biggest intangible might be that the game is in Wallington, which has a cozy home field, and will be packed.  

WHAT'S NEXT - The winner gets the winner of the Rutherford at New Milford game.  The loser, gets the loser.   Since New Milford is first, Wallington second and Hasbrouck Heights third in power points in the North 1, Group 1 rankings, every game will count.  Week 8 will not be just a consolation round game.

 

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