HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Down three starters, including their top two tailbacks, Hasbrouck Heights’ depth came through as the Aviators defeated previously unbeaten Butler, 25-20, Friday night in a pivotal NJIC Meadowlands football game.
“Missing so many guys, we had to do things with formations,” said Head Coach Nick Delcalzo. “And they (the players) came through. We got big games from (Spencer) Lee, and (Zai’here) Jenkins, and the freshman (Anthony DiLascio) had a few good runs late.”
It may have been on defense that the injured players were missed the most, as Michael Robertson and Rocco Minichiello (in addition to their starting spots on offense) were both starting at outside linebacker. Then again, the defense made the plays when it counted.
Those plays started in the first quarter, when Butler took the opening kickoff, and behind a couple of big runs by Bulldog quarterback Evan Smith, were driving down the field on the Aviators. But the defense stopped Butler on a fourth and sixth from the 26, stopping Butler’s momentum, and getting the Aviators offense a chance to make their own impact.
WIth DiLascio starting at tailback, the Aviators got rid of the nerves early, as DiLascio carried for two yards on their first play. After an incomplete pass, Lee found Jenkins for a first down, and a gain of 12 yards. After Lee gained four yards, sophomore Jake Diaz carried for one on jet sweep. Facing third and four, Lee drew Butler offsides, for a first down.
Lee then went 54 yards on a quarterback keeper, to give the Aviators a 6-0 lead, and some momentum. The conversion snap was mishandled, and the run failed, so the lead stayed at 6-0.
Both teams settled in on defense after that, with the Aviators forcing a punt, and the Bulldogs turning the Aviators on downs, when a fourth down pass to DiLascio gained only four of the needed 15 yards for a first down.
Butler’s drive for their first score game to abrupt halt eight plays later, as senior linebacker Matteo Ochoa intercepted a Smith pass and returned the ball to the Butler 34. Lee hit Diaz for 16 yards and a first down to the 16 yard line. Lee then ran for six before Jenkins scored on a sweep around left end to put the Aviators up 12-0 with 7:32 remaining in the half. The two point conversion failed.
Butler bounced right back, as Smith marched the Bulldogs down the field, hitting Jason Polons on a 24-yard scoring play to cut the lead to 12-7 with 4:27 in the second period.
The Aviators bounced right back, with Lee hitting Steven Faussette for two passing plays to get Hasbrouck Heights into scoring position. Jenkins scored his second touchdown of the game, going in nearly untouched from 16 yards, for an 18-6 lead with 59 second remaining in the half.
It appeared the Aviators put the game on ice early in the second half. Following a Butler kickoff that went out of bounds, Lee hit Faussette for a 65-yard touchdown to give the Aviators a 25-7 lead 10 seconds into the second half.
Butler was not about to give up, and Smith quickly moved the Bulldogs down the field, cutting the lead to 25-14 with 8:04 remaining in the third quarter, scoring on a one-yard run.
Following a punt by the Aviators, the Bulldogs continued their comeback, methodically moving the ball down the field, with Smith hitting Polons from 19 yards away for a score with 11:22 remaining in the game, cutting the lead to 25-20. Butler went for two, but was turned away by the Aviators.
The Hasbrouck Heights offense, dormant since the Faussette reception, came back to life, controlling the ball for approximately seven minutes before turning the ball back to Butler. DiLascio carried the ball for a pair of first downs earlier in the drive.
Uncharacteristically, the Aviators offense committed unforced errors after driving down deep into Butler territory. An illegal substitution and a false start put the Aviators in a fourth and 19 situation, which the Aviators were not able to pick up, and Butler had a chance, with the ball, to take the lead.
But following a four yard quarterback keeper, Smith, the Bulldogs most effective offensive player, was shaken up with a leg injury and had to be replaced. Following two runs by running back Joseph Conti set up a fourth and a little of a yard. Backup quarterback Justice Struble hit his receiver coming out of the backfield, but Jenkins wrapped him up, giving the ball back to the Aviators with 3:01 remaining.
After Jenkins picked up two first downs, both on tough runs where he fought through contact, the Aviators took a knee and walked off with the victory.
“Being Senior Night,” said Ochoa after the game. “We wanted to make sure our last home game was a victory.”
NOTES: Lee carried 17 times for 112 yards, and a touchdown, while going 9-11 for 159 yards and a touchdown throwing. Faussette caught four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Jenkins caught two for 24. Diaz had two catches for 42 yards, while DiLascio caught one pass for one yard. Diaz also carried twice for two yards, Jenkins six times for 56 yards and two touchdowns, Faussette twice for 19 yards while DiLascio had 37 yards on seven carries.
HH - Lee 54 yard run (snap mishandled)
HH - Jenkins 10 yard run (conversion failed)
Butler - Smith to Polons pass 24 Yards (Smith Kick)
HH - Jenkins 16 yard run (kick failed)
HH - Lee to Faussette 65 yard run (Friedel kick)
Butler - Smith 1 run (Smith Kick)
Butler - Smith to Polons pass 19 yards (Smith kick
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