PATERSON, NJ- Paterson’s Silk City Sharks had a single message for the visiting Mt. Vernon Bangers Saturday night, “GET OUT OF THE WATER!”
With their play complimented by an ominous music clip from the 1975 blockbuster movie, JAWS, sounded over the stadiums’ intercom numerous times, the fierce fish not only defeated their opponent, they left them scoreless with a 35-0 shutout.
After a suspenseful victory in their home opener on July 28, the Sharks came into their second game riding high. The improvement from the previous week was instantly noticeable. Paterson’s relentless pass rush and hawking secondary harassed their visitors for the entire contest. Before the Bangers even got their offense going, the Shark defense struck quickly.
Another large crowd saw their home town heroes kick off to their New York state opponents to open the contest. The short return was followed by several Paterson stops of Mt. Vernon runners for little, or no, gain. The Bangers’ quarterback then threw over the middle. However, the Sharks’ Mikal Dixon, from his linebacker position, cut in front of the intended receiver, snatched the pigskin, and rambled into the end zone to put the first six points on the board. The extra point attempt by Richard Gutierrez sailed through the uprights giving the Sharks an early 7-0 lead.
“I always try to read the eyes of the quarterback,” Dixon said about the play in post-game interview. “I can tell which way he is going.”
Following a 20-yard return of the ensuing Sharks’ kickoff, looking to retaliate, the Bangers threw a surprise long bomb down the right sideline. The intended receiver managed to slip between two fish defenders, shake loose, and cruise toward the goal line, only to be brought down by a desperate, shoestring tackle, from behind. The spectacular 60-yard pass play saw the Bangers deep in their opponents’ red zone.
A 1st down aerial completion was stopped cold by Paterson’s Kadeen Cousar followed by an errant Bangers’ snap resulting in backfield confusion and a big loss, courtesy of a sack by 6’1”, 230-pound lineman, Syheem Farrar. On fourth down, a Mt. Vernon run attempt gained scant yardage, turning the ball over to the Sharks.
Starting their offensive series on the ground, the handoff went to running back Rufus Carroll who bounced off left tackle, William Wilson, for seven yards. On the next play, ‘Solo’ again got the call and darted between pancake blocks by right-guard Miles Lesane-Hunt and right tackle Elijah McKenzie for a first down. Sharks’ quarterback and former John F. Kennedy High School star, Rasheed Isom, followed with a scramble right-quick cut left for a huge gain into Bangers’ territory. Isom’s steady leadership and quick decision making was apparent throughout the entire game. The seasoned helmsman repeatedly found ways to extend drives and maintain momentum with key passes and scrambles all night long.
From the shotgun, on 2nd and 10 from the Mt. Vernon 25-yard line, Isom fired a beautiful spiral to Paterson’s wide receiver, Deon Davis, who had sliced between two Bangers’ defenders in the end zone. The perfectly placed pass hit Davis on the run and spelled touchdown. The extra-point attempt, this time by 6-0, 278 pound Sharks’ lineman, Cleo Mitchell, was good.
Following a tackle on the kickoff return by the Sharks’ MacArthur Lee, the Bangers’ offense sputtered due to an intense hit and tackle by the opposing linebacker Akinde McQueen and a QB sack by Beal Clark.
While a short Bangers’ punt gave Silk City excellent field position near the 50-yard line the visitors defense fought back to give their teammates back possession as the second quarter began.
A Bangers’ side-out, left pass was rudely terminated by Paterson’s Dixon. However, Mt. Vernon’s QB ran right, eluding several would-be tacklers, for a huge gain but the ball was called back due to an illegal blocking penalty.
Undaunted, the Bangers offense cashed in on a six-yard run and a quarterback keeper for a first down. However, on two consecutive plays, the Bangers’ signal caller was flushed out the pocket resulting in a no-gainer and an incomplete pass, the latter broken up by Paterson’s Messiah Quiniones. Yet, the Bangers’ drive was kept alive by a 15-yard penalty against the Sharks.
From the Sharks’ 14, a Bangers’ pass fell incomplete. A run left was smothered by Sharks’ lineman, Steven Knight. One of the Bangers’ receivers split wide right and crossed field, diagonally. His amazing catch, while running at full speed yet turning backward to catch the ball, gave Mt. Vernon a 1st and goal at the Sharks’ two yard line.
Rather than attempt a quarterback sneak, the Mt. Vernon coaching staff opted for their quarterback to stay in the shotgun. A QB run up the middle garnered zero yardage. A handoff, again from the shotgun, yielded the same against the stingy Sharks’ defense. The Bangers’ woes continued as a mishandled hike led to a successful Sharks’ sack attack. However, a penalty against the Sharks, resulted in what most fans assumed would transition into a sure score. Those fans were wrong.
With the ball one yard away from the goal line, the Bangers’ quarterback scrambled left but the ball was knocked out of his hands by fish defensive tackle, Rashon Johnson. Incredibly, the Sharks’ Renaldo ‘Ray’ Algarin was able to alertly scoop up the loose leather and bolt up the right sidelines for 98 yards. The scintillating sprint wowed fans and players from both teams, and even the referees. Mitchell’s left-footed boot, again, was perfect for the extra point.
On the following kickoff, the Bangers’ return man was stopped on his own 22. A sweep right was halted by Dixon and Johnson. A quarterback sack and several tackles for no gain turned the ball over to the Sharks.
From his own 23-yard line, Isom went back to pass and lofted a beautiful floater to Davis who dived for the reception deep in the right corner of the end zone. However, to the dismay of Paterson fans, Davis was ruled out of bounds.
The second half saw more Sharks’ highlights. The fish hit the ground running. The Bangers gave an excellent effort but were still kept from posting any scores.
In the third frame, on a spectacular play, former East Side High School wide receiver, Prince Block, pulled in a long bomb down the middle for a touchdown. Soon thereafter, Carroll notched another 6-pointer for the Sharks with a 3-yard run by plowing up the gut and into the end zone. The TD was set up by a long pass completion to wide receiver Rockee Santiago.
Toward the end of the quarter, Paterson running back Joshua DuBose put on his hard hat, pounding for valuable yardage up the middle which resulted in time being run off the clock. Mitchell attempted a 50-yard field goal which had the length but drifted slightly left.
The Sharks’ offensive line handed in a fine performance in not only besting Mt. Vernon but also persevering through the heat and humidity. Blocking for runs and pass protection provided by Xavier Cordova, Miles Lesane-Hunt, Elijah McKenzie, Shakeem McCutcheon, and William Wilson, was excellent.
Silk City defensive lineman, John Burton, turned in another sterling performance with four tackles and two sacks. Also, in addition to his defensive score, Algarin was in on numerous defensive stops.
“I feel good about the rest of the season,” Burton said. “We have to stick together as a team. The key is commitment to work hard in every practice.”
Right tackle Elijah McKenzie prophesied, “Once the line comes together we will be a force!” Fellow linemen, Lesane-Hunt and Cordova, made it clear their goal was to continue to both elevate the running game and improve team chemistry.
Despite the intense competition, sportsmanship was imminent. Late in the 4th quarter a Bengal player was hurt. Following on-field attention by Paterson’s John F. Kennedy High School’s athletic trainer, Nick Semeniak, the courageous warrior was able to limp off the field to a warm round of applause. In a remarkable sign of unity, following the final whistle, both squads kneeled at mid-field and knelt while the Lord’s Prayer was recited.
Led by Pastor Donnie Walton, a group of residents from Paterson’s Good Shepherd Mission, 336 Broadway, attended the contest. The contingent was recognized over the stadium’s loud speaker late in the 4th quarter.
“This is great for our guys and great for the city of Paterson,” the reverend stated.
With a final score of 35-0, Head Coach Charles ‘Cowboy’ Mills and his dedicated disciples now look forward to their next contest. The Sharks will travel to face off against the New York Bandits on Sunday, August 12. A return to the friendly confines of Baurle Field on Saturday, August 18, will pit the Sharks against the Empire State Demons. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m