RUTHERFORD, NJ – The Madison Dodgers went on to win their second straight state championship, defeating the Lenape Valley Patriots in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 2 State Championship on Friday evening. The Dodgers finish off their season going 12-0.
Moving into Lenape Valley territory on the first drive of the game, the Dodgers quarterback, Mike Kearney, threw an interception with 8:47 remaining in the first quarter. On the ensuing drive, the Dodgers defense got a big break when Lenape Valley dropped what looked to be a sure touchdown on fourth down, giving the ball back to the Dodgers offense. Starting backed up on their own eight-yard line, the Dodgers offense was forced to punt after going three and out. After both teams couldn’t get much going, the Patriots got on the board first from a 31-yard touchdown run.
After another Dodgers punt, Lenape Valley was on the move to put more points on the board, but Madison forced a fumble that was recovered by Dante Dilonno to swing the momentum. Kearney would drive down the field using his legs and cap off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game 7-7. Both defenses held their own for the rest of the second quarter and headed into halftime all tied up at 7.
“The defense was great all year,” Head coach Chris Kubik said. “They stepped up just like they’ve always had and I’m proud of them."
After forcing Lenape Valley to punt on its first drive of the half, the Dodgers offense had a chance to take its first lead of the game. Kearney helped Madison drive the length of the field but it resulted in an incomplete pass on fourth down to wide receiver Stephen Esposito.
The Dodger defense stepped up again just like it had all season with another forced fumbled that was recovered by Dilonno, his second of the game. Unfortunately, Madison couldn’t convert the turnover into points and failed on another fourth down attempt.
“It was crazy,” Dilonno said. “Just happy to be at the right place at the right time."
The Lenape Valley offense stalled in the fourth quarter after being able to rush the ball effectively in the first half. A Patriot punt with three and a half minutes remaining leaving the Dodgers one last drive to try and win the game. And that’s exactly what they did. Kearney hit Matt Mulcahy on a crossing route and would end with him diving across the end zone with just 15 seconds left.
“He made an outstanding play,” Kearney said. “It was to either P.J or Matt who was going to get the ball and P.J. was covered."
The game ended with an Esposito interception and the final score 13-7.
After being asked what it’s like to win a Championship, Kearney answered, “It’s the best feeling in the world."