HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - It was not to be.
Quarterback Vincent Pinto hit James Brazosky with an 11 yard touchdown pass with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to give Park Ridge a 21-14 victory over Hasbrouck Heights in the North 2, Group 1 Sectional Championship at Depken Field Friday night. The Owls will face Boonton, who defeated Cedar Grove, 13-6, in MetLife Stadium next week for the North Group 1 Championship. The Aviators finished the season 9-2.
It looked like it was going to be all Park Ridge early, as the Owls took the opening kickoff and marched down the field on the opening drive, with Pinto scoring on a five-yard run with 5:20 in the first. The Park Ridge defense shut down the Hasbrouck Heights offense on the first drive, forcing a punt.
But whatever worked on the first drive stopped working the rest of the half, as the Aviator defense shut down the Park Ridge offense, forcing them to punt without a first down.
The Aviators turned the momentum on the first play of their second drive when Spencer Lee rushed for 22 yards following a short punt by Park Ridge. Lee was hit late out of bounds and the referees flagged the Owls, moving the ball to the Park Ridge 23.
Two plays into the second quarter, Lee hit Zai’here Jenkins with an 8-yard pass in the corner of the end zone to tie the score at 7-7.
Park Ridge turned more reliant on Pinto, and after two incompletions and a three-yard run by the senior quarterback, Park Ridge punted back to Hasbrouck Heights.
The Aviators chewed up most of the first half on offense, with Jenkins scoring his second touchdown of the game from inside the one to give the Aviators a 13-7 lead. Connor Friedel’s second extra point of the game made the score 14-7 Heights with a 1:06 left.
There was some controversy prior to the score as it appeared that Lee had scored on second down, but the officials placed the ball two inches short of the goal. After Lee lost a half a yard on the next play, Jenkins plowed in to give Hasbrouck Heights the lead.
The Aviators almost were able to increase the lead, as they forced the Owls to punt with 14 seconds remaining in the half. But the Aviators were not able to complete a long pass down the field on the final play and took a 14-7 lead into the half.
The Aviators, who had won the coin toss and deferred, received the kickoff, and with the help of a pair of Park Ridge pass interference calls, were driving when Lee fumbled, giving Park Ridge the ball, as the Aviators squandered an opportunity to go up two scores.
Park Ridge drove the ball on the Aviators for the first time since the opening drive, but the Aviators held, taking over at their own 25 yard line. A quick three and out was compounded when Lee’s punt was returned to Aviators 35 yard line.
It took Park Ridge just four plays to move the ball down the field, with Justin Wagner busting a 17-yard run up the middle to put the Owls at the Hasbrouck Heights three yard line. Pinto broke into the end zone for the game tying score on the next play, evening the score at 14.
It looked like Hasbrouck Heights was going to drive back down the field, with the Aviators taking advantage of a Lee run for 14 yards on a play where it seemed nearly everyone let up when the referees flag was thrown at the snap, figuring the play was coming back. The flag was on Hasbrouck Heights for a sideline warning, which allowed Lee’s run to count, and the Aviators looked like they had a drive going.
But Lee fumbled while scrambling, with Park Ridge recovering with 2:18 remaining in the third quarter.
Park Ridge took the led for good with 10:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, when Pinto, who was scrambling in the backfield, found Brazofsky in the end zone for the go-ahead score.
The Aviators offense responded, as after Lee ran for three, the Aviators drew their third pass interference call of the game against Park Ridge on a long pass down the middle. Following runs from Lee and Jenkins for a first down, Lee hit Jenkins for a 40-yard gain down to the Park Ridge 16.
But the Owl defense held, following two runs by Lee setting up a third and three. Jenkins gained two, to make fourth and one and the 7. Hasbrouck Heights called for a Jenkins jump pass, but the receiver was not able to get to the pass, and the Owls took over on downs at their own seven.
Park Ridge was able to pick up to two first downs before Hasbrouck Heights forced a Park Ridge punt with 2:07 remaining the game.
Steven Faussette returned the kick to the Hasbrouck Heights 43 with 2:07 remaining, and quickly hooked up with Lee to get down to the Park Ridge 28 yard line. After a six yard run by Minichiello, the Aviators took two shots down the middle of the field. Both passes had a lot of contact between the receiver and defender, but the officials declined to throw a flag.
Down to fourth and six, the Aviators called for Lee to roll out try to hit Jenkins for a first down, but he was sacked before he could the pass off and Park Ridge took over on downs with 1:22 remaining.
Park Ridge went into victory formation and kneeled three times, ending the game.
Afterwards, Nick Delcalzo spoke about his team.
"I told the kids that I was proud of them,“ Delcalzo said. “They had a good year. It is hard to lose at this time of the year. It hurts. We lost to a very good football team in Park Ridge.”
Park Ridge: Pinto 5 yard run (Anzilotti kick)
Hasbrouck Heights: Jenkins 8 yard pass from Lee (Friedel kick)
Hasbrouck Heights: Jenkins 1 yard run (Friedel kick)
Park Ridge: Pinto 3 run (Anzilotti kick)
Park Ridge: Brazofsky 11 pass from Pinto (Anzilotti kick)