NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ -- Every football team goes out trying their best in all of their games, but some games just mean a little bit more. That was certainly the case in North Plainfield earlier today, as the North Plainfield High School football team matched up against South Plainfield High School in their 44th annual Thanksgiving Day game.
A win would’ve been a great way for either team to close out their season, but a victory for North Plainfield would go a long way in proving just how talented the team really is. The Canucks (2-8) had a difficult season against tough competition in the Mid-State 38 conference and today’s rivalry game gave them a chance to show what they could do against a Greater Middlesex Conference opponent. North Plainfield showcased a speedy rushing attack and a stingy defense, and used that to take home the Mayor’s Trophy with a 20-7 victory over the Tigers (4-6).
More than anything else, first-year North Plainfield head coach James DiPaolo stressed that he was happy his players were able to end their season with on a positive note.
“We worked hard even though we hit adversity during this year,” DiPaolo said. “I’m just really proud that they stuck with it and continued to work during practice. I’m just proud of them, and the fact that they were able to experience this moment, especially the seniors.”
Even with their tough season, the Canucks consistently showed they had weapons on offense. Today was no different. On the very first snap of the game, Canuck quarterback Brandon Smith found a hole and sprinted his way to a 61-yard rushing touchdown.
The quickness of Smith and running back Al-Nasir Robinson defined most of the game, especially in the first half, as a 7-yard rushing score from Robinson gave the Canucks a 14-0 lead at halftime.
Behind the rushing efforts of quarterback Sammy Nieves and running back Zach DelVecchio, the Tigers threatened a comeback early in the second half. North Plainfield’s defense cracked down on South Plainfield though, and a 34-yard rushing touchdown by Ray Fowler on a jet sweep play ended any chance of the Tigers coming back.
Although his card wasn’t called often early in the season, Fowler had a strong performance today, finishing with 83 yards on four carries, including a huge 49 yard gain in the second half.
“In the Rahway game (two games ago) (Fowler) returned a kickoff for a touchdown so we gave him a few more carries,” said DiPaolo. “That jet-sweep was the clincher. It was a huge run for us.”
Robinson finished with 154 rushing yards on 17 carries while Smith picked up 117 yards on the ground on 16 rushes. For South Plainfield, Nieves racked up 60 yards on 11 carries, including a 20-yard rushing touchdown early in the second half, while DelVecchio picked up 62 yards on 15 carries.
After the game, Smith said that ending the year on a win is always good, but this particular victory means a lot because of the rivalry and because it showed just how skilled his team is.
“It means a lot to us; It proves how tough how our schedule is, and the teams we play,” the senior quarterback said. “We play different teams, and sometimes when they have a good record they think they’re going to win. It’s tough in our league. So it always means a lot to win this. It’s a good rivalry.”