HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Next stop, Newark.
Behind two second touchdowns from Jasiah Purdie, Hasbrouck Heights advanced to the North 2, Group 1 championships with a 26-6 victory over Weequahic Friday night at Depken Field in the rain. It is the third straight year that has the Aviators have advanced to a Group 1 Final, having won the last two North 1, Group 1 championships.
The Aviators got on the board first as Weequahic won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, kicking off to the Aviators. In a steady rain that started the game, the Aviators marched down the field, holding the ball for over six minutes.
With Weequahic wary of Purdie, Michael Robertson powered the Aviators down the field, carrying the ball seven times, for 31 yards, finishing the drive with a nine yard touchdown run. A key play fourth and 11 at the 25 keyed the drive, as Purdie rolled right and stopped and hit quarterback Spencer Lee on the left side of the field for a 14 yard gain and a first down at the 11. Robertson, took two carries to finish the drive and give the Aviators a 6-0 lead. Matt Gwiszcz’ extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The Aviators then squandered a chance to go up even more on the Indians, who put themselves in a hole right off the bat, mishandling a deep kickoff at the Weequahic 10. One official looked like he was going to throw a flag for the kickoff out of bounds, but another referee overruled him, pinning Weequahic deep in their own end.
Three carries from Weequahic running back Charles Bruton netted nine yards, forcing an Indian punt, which was short, giving the Aviators the ball at their own 20. A Lee-to-Purdie pass gave Heights first and goal at the seven. Two more Purdie runs moved the ball to the three, and an incomplete pass set up fourth and goal at the three. But indecision on whether to go fourth-and goal, led to the Aviators unable to get the play off in time, drawing a delay of game penalty.
Pushed back to the eight, the Aviators ran out Gwiszcz for a 25-yard field goal. But the snap was high, and the Indians took over the Aviators 20, having dodged a bullet and having gained some momentum.
"We should have gotten something there," said Hasbrouck Heights head coach Nick Delcalzo.
Bruton, with a little room went for six yards, and had picked up a first down when he fumbled, with the ball being recovered by Dylan Grisafe, at the 37 yard line on the next to last play of the first quarter.
The Aviators did not waste this opportunity, as the Aviators had an eventful trip into the end zone. After Robertson ran for six, and Lee for four, the Aviators were called for holding on a long Robertson run, pushing them back to first and 18. Then Lee hit Robertson for a nineteen yard gain, but another flag came out, this time for offensive face masking on Robertson while being tackled.
Despite the unusual call, the Aviators were granted a first down on the play. Robertson to pick up another first down. After a two-yard gain by Robertson, and an incomplete pass, Lee hit Ian Rinke for a 21 yard touchdown pass and, following Gwiszcz’ kick, a 14-0 lead with 8:38 in the first half.
Weequahic tried to strike downfield to get back into the game, but on third and 12, Rinke intercepted a pass at the Aviator 20 and returned it 30 yards to midfield. But the Aviators could not move the ball, giving Weequahic the ball back.
The Indians moved the ball down the field, aided by a questionable pass interference call and a personal foul moving the ball deep into Aviator territory. Quarterback Nazir Peters ripped off a 15 yard run to give the Indians a first and goal. Bruton powered his way his from one yard out on fourth and goal with 48 seconds, cutting the lead to 14-6. The Indians went for two but were stopped as Peters could not find an open receiver.
With Weequahic scoring a late touchdown, and getting the ball back to start the second half, momentum had shifted.
The second half kickoff was mishandled by Donavan Wadley, and by the time he corralled the ball, Rinke brought him down with an open field tackle af the 15.
Bruton ripped off a 22-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, and the Indians offense looked to be getting in rhythm. But a pair of runs by Bruton were shut down, and following a pair of delay penalties, the Indians were forced to punt.
But Hasbrouck Heights first offensive drive of the second half was interrupted when Lee tried to force a pass to Purdie that was intercepted by Tyler Phillips, giving Weequahic the ball back. But the Indians once again could not get going, and were forced to punt.
Following two Robertson runs that left the Aviators a third and three, Lee hit with Gwiszcz for an acrobatic 10- yard catch and a first down. Robertson then went back to the ground for a 14 yard gain. Purdie picked up three, and the Indians, starting to become frustrated, picked up a personal foul at the end of the run. Lee then hit Purdie with an 11-yard catch and run for a touchdown and a 20-6 lead with 2:12 remaining in the third quarter. The Gwiszcz kick was blocked.
Down two scores, the Indians tried to press the matter on offense, as Peters began running the ball, and trying to move the ball downfield. But the offense stalled, and were forced to punt.
But the Aviators could do little with the ball, and Purdie got off a booming punt, which was mishandled by the Weequahic returner, who appeared to touch the ball. The official disagreed, and gave the Indians the ball at the eight yard line.
With the Indians driving, Peters hit Wadley for a 20 yard gain, into Aviator territory where he was tackled, with the ball popping loose. Zai’heer Jenkins recovered the ball for the Aviators.
Six plays later, Purdie put a nail in the coffin, scoring on a nine yard run to give Heights a 26-6 lead with 5:48 remaining in the game
Weequahic tried to mount a comeback, but their final two drives were thwarted by Jenkins two interceptions.
NOTES: The Aviators will play Shabazz, in Newark, next Friday at 7 pm. Shabazz advanced to the finals with a 49-6 win over Cedar Grove, avenging their earlier loss to the Panthers during the regular season. Shabazz, now 9-1, was the number 1 seed according to the new playoff ranking system.
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