PATERSON, NJ- Rome was not built in a day. Neither was the remarkable comeback that occurred at Paterson’s Bauerle Field on Saturday. Down by a score of 21-6 in the first half, the Silk City Sharks football squad, slowly but surely, saw hard hitting, precise play calling, and superior physical conditioning pay off. The fierce fish virtually wore down the visiting New York Bears. The Sharks scratched and clawed to prevail by a score of 24-21. However, the game’s outcome was in question until the very final whistle was blown. The contest featured every offensive and defensive highlight possible. Big game moments were provided by both sides.
Before the opening kickoff, Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh and 4th Ward City Councilwoman, Ruby Cotton, joined players and referees at mid-field to provide an official Silk City welcome. To inaugurate thehome opener/first game of the year, Mayor Sayegh booted the pigskin off the tee. The ball squibbed, at best, and appeared to be an on-side attempt. However, whatever the ceremonial kick lacked in accuracywas more than made up for by the mayors’ enthusiastic support for the Sharks.
The Sharks kicked off to open the contest. Immediately, Paterson, a.k.a. Akinde McQueen, wreaked havoc for the Bears offense. The 6-4, 200 pound, defensive end not once, but twice, alertly charged through the Bear line before the ball was snapped. The Bears were called both times for illegal motion. Another penalty saw the Bears with a 1st and 30 from deep in their own territory. A pitch play followed. The Sharks’John Burton blitzed and nailed the Bear ball carrier for a loss. On 3rd down, a long bomb attempt down the right sideline was squelched, courtesy of blanket coverage by defensive back Richard Gutierrez.
The ensuing 25-yard punt gave the Sharks excellent field position. On the first offensive play from scrimmage of the season, the pitch from quarterback Quatrell Huffin went to running back Rufus ‘Solo’ Carroll. Following a wall of blockers, the 38-year old, 5-8, 165 pound speedster delivered a smart cutback, against the grain, and reversed field. It was then off to the races. Any Bears’ attempt to catch the former Eastside High School star was wasted energy. Carroll went untouched for a 60-yard score. After the extra point attempt failed, the Sharks enjoyed a 6-0 lead.
To start the game, the Bears faced a Sharks’ defensive of cornerbacks Gutierezz and Ryan Rios; linebackers Syheem Farrar and Steven Knight; linemen Bilal Clark, McQueen, William Wilson, JasonYes Jackson, and Markeith Williamson.
The Bears opened their offensive series with a successful wide out right. However the reception yielded only short yardage due to a rude reception (no redundancy intended) by the Sharks’ Gutierezz. Paterson’s Wilson followed with a stop of a Bears’ runner for no gain. It was then the Bears made a statement: they came to play. New York’s Mike Rodriguez received a pitch right for what appeared to be a running play. However the quarterback, briefly turned running back, pulled up and fired a long rainbow down the right sideline. The play fooled the Sharks’ defense. The receiver, all alone, caught the perfectly placed pass on the run and cruised into the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point kick attempt sailed wide left, knotting the score at 6-6.
The ensuing Bear kickoff was fielded by Joshua DuBose. The 5-9, 215 pounder’s return reached the Sharks 30-yard line. The former Hackensack High School phenom’s presence would be key for the entire evening. Whether carrying the ball or returning kicks, DuBose was literally all over the field.
On first down, Huffin was caught in the backfield but managed to dance around, back to the line of scrimmage. A delay of game call against the Sharks brought up a 3 rd and 15. A pass attempt failed, bringing up a punting situation. However, a wild snap from the Sharks punt unit sailed out the back of the end zone leading to a Sharks safety. The miscue provided the Bears 2 points and an 8-6 lead. Forced to kick off, the Sharks’ pop-fly boot gave the Bears excellent field position at their own 40-yard line. However, the Bears’ penchant for penalties continued. The umpires marked off 5 yards for a false start. An off right tackle run attempt was smothered by Clark. A delay of game penalty set the Bears back 5 more yards. However, once again, the visitors from New York counted on the big play.
In almost a carbon copy of their first scoring exchange, a Bear player also raced down the right sideline. However, this time the Bears’ quarterback (Rodriguez) had switched to wide receiver. The pass to Rodriguez and his successful catch resulted in another Bear TD. The extra point was good as the score read, Bears 15-Sharks 6.
On the Sharks’ consequent offensive possession, DuBose was stopped up the middle for no gain. However, Huffin followed by scrambling right and firing to receiver Deon Davis for a 20-yard completion. Two consecutive incomplete passes resulted in Paterson’s head coach, Charles “Cowboy” Mills, to call a time out. Yet, two more passes fell short and the ball was turned over.
The Bears were able to mount a 40-yard drive, deep into Sharks territory. An arrow to a receiver in the end zone, near the goal line, resulted in the Bears’ third TD of the first half. The extra point attempt bounced off the left crossbar. Now up 21-6, few in the crowded stadium would envision that this would be the Bears’ final score. The Sharks’ defense, including Knight, Passaic High School product Messiah Quiniones, and John Burton, proved to deliver bone crushing tackles for the remainder of the contest. Paterson’s return man, Rockee Santiago, gathered in the subsequent kickoff, on one bounce, and jetted for 15 yards. A sweep right resulted in lost yardage. Another delay of game penalty against the Sharks was called. However, Huffin the surprised the Bears with a QB sneak that netted 15 yards. The veteran helmsman’s uncanny ability to escaped pass rushes and jig-jagging runs kept Sharks’ drives going all evening.
Huffin then faked a handoff right and cruised for another 1st down. A handoff to DuBose saw a Jesse Owens type hurdle over a would-be tackler, followed by an explosion upfield for another big gain. The next handoff went to—who else? Rufus Carroll. As the huge crowd of Paterson fans stood on their feet, the ageless wonder juked right and steamed up field, blowing by Bear defenders, untouched, for another scintillating touchdown run, this one for 33 yards. The 2-point attempt fell short yet the Bears’ lead was cut to 21-12.
Following a fine kick-off by the Sharks’ Jordan Serrano, the Bears started with a 1 st and 10 at their own 35 yard line. A successful sideline pass gained 10 yards of real estate. Quinones leveled a shoulder into a Bear runner for a no-gain tackle. A Bear pass attempt up the middle was broken up by Gutierezz, forcing a punt.
The Sharks next offensive possession saw Huffin, from the shotgun, avoid not only tacklers but also a brief collision with a referee. The crowd quieted as Sharks’ offensive lineman, Cordova Xavier, lay motionless on the turf. However the Jersey City native was able to valiantly walk to the sidelines after receiving aid from John F. Kennedy High School athletic trainer, Nick Semeniak.
The Bears defense stiffened but the Sharks soon returned the favor.
The score stood 20-12 at halftime.
In what could be called the turning point of the contest, the second half Bears’ kickoff was fielded by none other than Joshua ‘Color Me Gone’ DuBose. Heading right, the speed demon found a seam and then shifted left. Excellent special team assistance provided an opening nearly as large as the Red Sea during the time of Moses. Bears’ defenders were left grasping for air. The dynamic 90-yard jaunt brought the Sharks to within 3 points of their adversaries. One of the key blocks was delivered by Obina Onuchukwu. Now, smelling blood in the water, the Sharks only need a field goal to tie the game.
In postgame interview, DuBose credited his teammates for his success. “I caught the ball at the 10 yard line,” DuBose described. “Then, I got a good block, went right to the sideline, and cut up the middle.”
Mid-second half report saw both squads not being able to score for some time. With the fourth quarter soon approaching and both teams still having two timeouts left, energy gathered as the game’s conclusion neared.
The Bears’ following offensive series was rudely interrupted by a Clark tackle for a huge loss. An errant Bears’ sideline pass resulted in 3rd and 17. Another aerial, to the right flat, was broken up by Quinones and Knight.
Forced to punt, a roughing the kicker call against the Sharks gave the Bears new life and a 1 st and 10. Following a stop by DuBose, Huffin battled a Bear receiver in a dramatic standoff down the right sideline. Huffin won the confrontation as the ball fell harmlessly to the turf. On 4th and 8, within striking distance from Paterson’s 20, the Bears’ quarterback incredibly survived a furious pass rush by a horde of Paterson defenders. However, his pass flew out of bounds turning the ball over to the fish.
Following two straight Huffin carries, Paterson was faced with a 3rd and 2. A pitch right garnered no fruit. With a 4th and 2 at their own 26-yard line, the Paterson coaching staff convened in an extensive pow-wow.
To the amazement of fans and as jaws dropped, Sharks’ management opted to go for the first down despite being deep in their own territory. The incredibly courageous gamble paid off as the Bears were called for off sides, giving the Sharks a 1st down.
With momentum building, Huffin scooted right from the shotgun and found Williamson on the run for a 10-yard completion. Huffin then faked a handoff and spurted up the middle into Bear territory for another nice gainer. A muffed hike/ball exchange in the Sharks’ backfield initially appeared to be a fumble recovery by the Bears. However, after a conference by the referees, the ball was awarded back to the Sharks. Paterson’s Davis then accepted a lateral from Huffin. Davis, despite seemingly insurmountable pressure, ebbed and flowed toward, and down, the right sideline for another 1st down.
A brief skirmish then erupted on the field which resulted in offsetting penalties called on both squads. When play resumed, the Sharks threatened at the Bears’ 26-yard line. Huffin faked a pitch left to DuBose, darted right, and was forced out of bounds, but not before an 8-yard gain. The next play saw DuBose literally carry a horde of tacklers several yards for a 1st down. Another DuBose carry, off left tackle, netted four more. With 2nd and 6 yards from pay dirt, to the dismay of expectant Paterson fans, a pitch was mishandled for a Sharks’ loss. The next play, a jump ball pass from Huffin, deep into the right corner of the end zone, resulted in neither squad finding success. A penalty then set the Sharks back further.
In a do or die situation, on 4th down, Huffin went back to pass but could find no receivers open. In desperation, the Paterson QB opted to run up the middle. Narrowly slipping away from a swarm of Bears’ defenders, Huffin landed inches away from the goal line. Silk City fans held their breath, hopefully awaiting the referee’s signal for a first down. It was only until the chains were taken onto the field and the measurement conducted that the verdict was given. The familiar 1st down gesture was displayed as Silk City fans erupted with joy.
The home team wasted no time in scoring. Behind devastating blocks, Huffin sneaked up the middle for the go-ahead touchdown. As Michael Jackson’s smash hit, Rock With Me, played loudly over stadium speakers, the Sharks celebrated by reclaiming the lead, 24-21.
Enthusiasm continued as Huffin followed his score with a crushing tackle of the Bears’ kick returner on the ensuing kickoff. The Bears’ offensive series was then marked by confusion on three pass plays. On pass attempts to the left sideline, each aerial went right as the receiver broke left. A running attempt was met by a Paterson gang tackle, led by McQueen. Another incompletion followed. A 4th down long bomb, incomplete pass was nearly intercepted by the Sharks’ Santiago.
With 1:42 left in the contest, the Bears again gained possession, almost 70 yards from their goal line. Following an initial, successful 1st down pass, the Sharks defense, with Rios patrolling the secondary, rose to the occasion. Time ran out with the final score favoring the home town heroes, 24-21.
After the game, Carroll said the victory was “especially sweet” after losing to the Bears last season, 13-6. “This was a big victory,” ‘Solo’ stated. “Our team played together excellently as a unit and we stuck together.”
Truly, the Sharks found a big way to overcome the odds and bring home the win for their families and city. Winning the season opener serves as an incredible boost of morale. Only great resilience and determination could have pulled off the miraculous comeback.
The Sharks’ next home game is Saturday night, August 4, at 7 p.m. against the Mt. Vernon Bangers.