ORLANDO, FL- The Watchung Hills Pop Warner Junior Varsity team improved to 12-1 on the season with a win over the Mid-Atlantic Region Champs, the Portsmouth Panthers from Virginia on Saturday, 22-13. The win also improved the four-year record to 48-5 and the Wolverines advance to the semi-finals on Tuesday, December 5 where they will face the Westchase Colts from Florida. Game Captains versus the Panthers were Kaden Everly, Sherrod Hudson, James Palaia, and Mac McAteer.
Leading up to the game, Coach Andy Marion posted honoring legendary New Providence Pioneers coach Frank Bottone who died recently.
The Wolverines will face the Westchase Colts from Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, December 5 at 1:15 p.m. Westchase won their quarterfinal game 31-0 over a team from Colorado.
The Watchung Hills game is scheduled to be shown live on ESPN
On Saturday, the defenses from both teams were tough to start as a scoreless first quarter saw Portsmouth block a Watchung punt attempt and then the Wolverines get a big stop on 4thdown as the Panthers were threatening to score.
Watchung Hills took over on their own 6 yard-line and trekked 94 yards for the game’s first points. That drive began in the first quarter and ended with a Palaia touchdown run early in period two. Watchung was helped during the drive by an unsportsmanlike penalty against Portsmouth. The late hit tacked on additional yardage well into Panther territory. Will Grabko nailed the 2-point conversion kick as Watchung took an 8-0 lead.
The Virginia squad recovered the on-sides kick and started their next drive with good field position. The Wolverine defense was rock-solid again and the Panthers had to punt pretty quickly. Watchung looked to be in great shape as the punt return advanced the ball to nearly mid-field. But, that Watchung drive would stall, however, allowing Portsmouth an opportunity before the half. A 30-yard pass and, run after the catch, had the Panthers right back in the game with a touchdown of their own. With about a minute to go before the break, Portsmouth missed their conversion kick and Watchung Hills took an 8-6 lead into halftime.
Seizing momentum to start the 3rd quarter, Watchung’s Chris Hopf positioned an on-sides kick nicely which the Wolverines were able to recover. A subsequent Wolverine first down inside the Panthers 25-yardline set up the next score. Quarterback Ty Marion fired a smooth 25 yard pass to split-end, Jamarques Lawrence for a touchdown. Grabko nailed another 2-point kick and the Wolverines were ahead by 10 points at 16-6.
Portsmouth took possession with just over six minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter as they would attempt to get back in the game. They did manage a first down before the Watchung defense rose to the occasion yet again. Everly was pressuring the Panther quarterback after a bad snap sent to ball backwards toward the 50 yard-line. The Panthers would recover the ball but the play cost them possession as they turned it over on downs to Watchung.
The Wolverines faced a 3rd and long but a great burst by Watchung’s Palaia earned a Wolverine first down in Panther territory as the third period came to a close. A few plays later, the Wolverines would strike again. Marion tossed a perfect 20 yard pass to tight-end McAteer who made an over-the-shoulder grab as he crossed the goal-line. This time, the extra point kick was blocked but Watchung Hills was out in front 22-6 with 6:30 remaining in the game.
Everly had a QB sack and corner-back, Tyshaun Anderson played tight pass coverage as Portsmouth failed to pick up a first down. Once again it was Watchung’s Palaia with a first down run and it was starting to look pretty bleak for the Panthers. Needing only one more first down to run out the clock, the Wolverines came up a little short and turned it over on downs back to the Panthers with just over two minutes left.
The complete Division II Junior Varsity quarterfinal results from December 2 were:
Ohio Village Wildcats (OH) 36 West Haven Seahawks (CT) 19
Far West Red Raiders (AZ) 32Almaden Mustangs (CA) 0
Watchung Hills Wolverines (NJ) 22 Westchase Colts (FL) 31
Portsmouth Panthers (VA) 13Castle Rock Knights (CO) 0
Tue Dec 5 Junior Varsity Semi-finals:
Watchung Hills Wolverines (NJ)
vs Westchase Colts (FL)
Ohio Village Wildcats (OH)
vs West Haven Seahawks (CT)
Other action à
Pee Wee quarterfinal result:
Eastern Region Champs: Ogden Bears (NY) 0
Point Loma Pointers (CA) 23
Junior Pee Wee quarterfinal result:
Eastern Region Champs: Ward 5 (DC) 0
Creeks Outlaws (FLA) 24
Division I Junior Varsity quarterfinal result:
Eastern Region Champs: North Philly Aztecs (PA) 34
Pine Hills Trojans (FLA) 14