NEWARK, NJ - Jasiah Purdie scored the game winning touchdown with 2:33 remaining in the game to give Hasbrouck Heights its third state title in three years, with a 13-7 win over Shabazz at Malcolm X. Shabazz Stadium in Newark. Zai’heer Jenkins interception with 1:44 remaining in the game choked off the Bulldogs last gasp rally and clinched the victory for the Aviators.
The win gives Hasbrouck Heights its third straight Group 1 sectional title, and first North 2 title. The previous two sectional titles were North 1 titles. The Aviators will play the winner of the Park Ridge - Butler game at MetLife Stadium next weekend in the first ever Bowl Games
It was a hard-fought defensive battle that saw each team turnover the ball on their opening possessions.
Shabazz’s Kevin Martin recovered a Michael Robertson fumble to give Shabazz the ball at the Hasbrouck Heights 45-yard line. But Aziz Wilson fumbled the ball right back to the Aviators, with Mateo Ochoa recovering, killing the Bulldogs momentum dead in its tracks. But the Bulldogs held the Aviators offense in check, forcing Heights to punt.
Purdie had a perfect punt, downed at the one yard line by the Aviators, backing Shabazz into a hole. But quarterback Anthony Travis Jr. was able to pass the Bulldogs out of danger, hitting Brandon Brown Shaw for 11 yards and a first down.
Wilson, who came into the game 1,440 yards rushing on the season, started getting going, ripping off runs of 9 and 11 to get the Bulldogs offense going. But the Aviators’ defense stiffened, turning Shabazz over on downs at the Heights 37 yard line with less than a minute in the first quarter,
Hasbrouck Heights took over, and their drive stalled, forcing another punt. But Purdie had other plans, taking off on a fourth-and-13 when he ran for 14 yards and a first down after sensing the Bulldogs might block the kick.
The play jump-started the Aviator offense, with Purdie, Robertson and quarterback Spencer Lee rushing the ball into scoring position. On fourth and goal at the seven, the Aviators trotted out kicker Matthew Gwiszcz for a field goal attempt. The Bulldogs jumped offsides trying to block the kick, moving the ball half the distance to the three and half yard line.
Hasbrouck Heights coach Nick Delcalzo put the offense back onto the field, with Purdie lined up behind Lee at tailback. Purdie took the hand-off took two steps forwards and lofted a pass to Shawn Calhoun who grabbed it for a 6-0 lead with 4:35 remaining in the first half. Gwiszcz extended the lead to 7-0 with the extra point.
The Bulldogs came out initially intending to answer the Aviators touchdown, with Raekwon Robinson ripping off a 25-yard run to get the Bulldogs out of their own end, but the drive stalled, and Travis could not pick up any further yardage following a Shabazz holding penalty. The Aviators took a knee twice to end the half.
Following a fumble recover mid-way through the third quarter, Travis hit Shakur Williams for a long catch-and-run that saw him dragged down at the one. Travis snuck in and it tied at 7-7 with 4:02 remaining in the third quarter.
The Aviators game-winning drive started with a little over six minutes remaining in the game, sparked by a 21-yard catch-and-run from Lee to Ian Rinke. Purdie then burst through for 28 and the Aviators were in Shabazz scoring territory with 5:37 remaining in the game. On fourth and two at the 17 with approximately four minutes remaining, Purdie powered through the pile to what appeared to be the 14-yard line.
But a questionable spot put the ball at the 15 required the chains to come out. Even with the questionable spot, the Aviators were marked for the first down by the nose of the football. Following a loss of a yard on a run outside the right tackle, Lee came back to Purdie on a slant route. Purdie caught the ball at the four and powered his way into the end zone and a 13-7 ead with 2:33 remaining.
Following an offside against Shabazz, the Aviators tried a trick play for two-point conversion, but a bad snap ruined the play before it started, and Shabazz had life, as a touchdown would tie the game, and a successful extra point could put the Bulldogs in front.
When Gwiszcz’ deep kickoff went out of bounds at the one, the Bulldogs started their comeback drive at the 35-yard line. After two runs by Travis sandwiched a completion to Alshaquan Floyd, giving the Bulldogs a first down, the Bulldogs looked down the field with time winding down.
But Jenkins jumped a route and intercepted the ball with 1:44 remaining. With no timeouts for the Bulldogs, the Aviators needed to pick up a first down to run the game completely out. On second and seven, Purdie ripped off a nine-yard run as the Bulldogs tried stripping him of the ball, gaining a first down, effectively ending the game. Two kneel downs later, the Aviators celebrated their third straight state title.
“I knew the pass coming that way, so I just jumped the route and the interception was there,” Jenkins said after the game. “We played great defense all day, everybody.”
After the game Delcalzo talked about his team, the three straight titles, and the road it takes to get there.
“Each one is good,” Delcalzo stated. “Especially when you have kids who have never won them before. The last four weeks we have had to beat unbeaten teams just to get here. We beat a very good football team here today. It was an outstanding effort.”
“Jasiah really stepped it up today,” Delcalzo said. “As did our quarterback. Coming into the game I said the key to the game was going to be the play of our offensive and defensive lines. We needed them to be well, and they did. They did a great job. Frank D’Amico does a great job with them.”
When asked if it was the toughest road to a title, Delcalzo provided some insight,
“What I think has happened, since the conference has gone to the conference championship, what it has done is make you tougher and better going down the road, and I thought we did a great job here today, it was just outstanding.”
Notes: Purdie was the bulk of the Aviators offense, coming through 147 yards rushing on 24 carries, adding 48 yards on seven receptions. Plus he was 1-for-1 passing for two yards and a touchdown. Lee was 8-for-15 for 99 yards and touchdown, plus added 30 yards on six carries. Michael Robertson carried 17 times for 40 yards, with one catch for 30 yards. Rinke had one reception for 21 yards, Calhoun one reception for two yards.
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