PASSAIC, NJ - Many high school football games are marked by exciting runs and long, successful passes. However, Friday night’s contest under the lights between Eastside and Passaic High Schools was highlighted by blocking and tackling, and more blocking and tackling. Played at Boverini Stadium in Passaic, another aspect on display for both teams in the defensive struggle was punting.
Just prior to kickoff, as previously reported by TAPinto Paterson, Eastside players took a knee during the national anthem to stand up for racial justice. On the other side of the field, Passaic players did the same.
In a tight defensive standoff, watched by only 300 fans due to COVID-19 restrictions, the visiting Ghosts managed to eke out a grueling 9-7 victory. The real heroes of the grudge match were the offensive and defensive linemen from both squads. Offensive fireworks in the game were few and far between and when they did occur, on numerous occasions, the plays were called back due to penalties.
Eastside won the opening coin toss and opted to kick off. On first down from their own 25, an Indians’ run up the middle was stopped by the Ghosts’ defensive back Messiah Muckle. A sideline pass, right, to Jameil Chalmers gained more yardage. However, on the next snap with Passaic in shotgun formation, the hike was fumbled and Paterson eagerly pounced on the loose pigskin.
With 1st and 10 on the Indians’ 23 yard-line, Ghosts’ senior running back Amir Smith sliced off right-tackle and was stopped only inches from the goal line. Fellow senior, quarterback Wymeir Reed, carried on the next play for the score. After the extra point failed, Eastside owned a 6-0 lead with 9:38 left in the first quarter.
Jonathan Gonzalez returned the ensuing kickoff to his own 25-yard line for the Indians. Chalmers then bounced off right tackle for huge yardage but the play was rescinded due to a Passaic false start. After quarterback Jaremyiah Johnson carried for a short gain, the senior signal caller was sacked by Paterson’s Nyreek Clyburn for a big loss. On the next play Johnson was flushed out of the pocket and sacked again, this time by Ghosts’ linebacker Shemar Douglas, bringing up a punting situation.
The ensuing Eastside offensive possession was stymied by a pair of tackles on running plays by Passaic 5'10”, 270 pound, defensive tackle, Sanchez. After a pass completion actually lost yardage, the Ghosts were also forced to punt.
The Paterson sack exchange continued as Johnson was hauled down in the backfield yet another time by Douglas. Several plays later, a pass to the left flat was broken up by the Ghosts which led to another punt.
Awaiting the kick, deep in Eastside territory, was Paterson return man, Ahsin Jacobs, who allowed the ball to hit the turf. Turning backwards, the speedy junior caught the ball on one bounce and headed upfield and jetted all the way to the Passaic 25-yard line. However, the promising drive stalled as the Indians’ Frankie Gonzalez stonewalled a run and a subsequent pass to the right sideline fell incomplete.
On the Ghosts’ next possession, Paterson QB Wymeir Reed, from the shotgun, scrambled, pulled up, and fired a bullet to senior running back Albert Canty for a sensational score over the middle. However the seeming touchdown was called back due to a Paterson clipping call. A fumble on the next play, recovered by Passaic, turned the ball over to the Indians.
Led by outside linebacker Taneras Yojansy, the Ghosts again held their opponents to scant yardage leading to another punt. Starting from their own 22, Eastside running back Amir Smith carried, bounced off a tackle at the line of scrimmage, and bulled for eight yards.
Paterson’s Jacobs crossed over the middle and looked in a 15-yard pass from Reed. However, the moment the ball touched his hands, Passaic’s Johnson was there to deliver one of the hardest hits of the night, resulting in an incomplete. A long bomb near the goal line towards two Eastside receivers, both blanketed by defenders, fell harmlessly to the turf.
On Passaic’s following offensive thrust, senior wideout Jeremiah McNair nabbed an aerial over the middle for a 25-yard gainer. However, a furious blitz and sack by Paterson’s Smith successfully squelched the would-be rally.
Despite a holding penalty and an offside flag, the Ghosts were able to post a drive on their next offensive series. Taking a handoff from Reed, Smith curled around the left end and captured a first down. However, after a long gain was nullified by a flag, Reed initially, and miraculously, eluded a host of Passaic pass rushers but was tackled by the sideline while attempting to flee as the quarter concluded.
In the second half, the defensive standoff continued with the only Eastside scoring coming from a successful, short field goal with 3:35 left in the third quarter. Behind 9-0, the Indians managed to notch their only touchdown of the evening on a 15-yard run.
The final frame continued the trading of punts between the two teams.
Highlights included a spectacular bat down of a Passaic pass attempt by Paterson’s Jacobs (Jahsin). Brother Ahsin also contributed with a scintillating punt return. Passaic returned the favor with a sensational 40-yard scamper by Antrell Monroe to the Ghosts’ 26-yard line. Passaic’s drive was momentarily stopped, courtesy of a jarring tackle courtesy of Paterson’s Fashaw. However, on 3rd and 12, the Indians’ Monroe took the handoff, sped by several defenders, and raced to the left side of the endzone to hit pay dirt. The extra point was good and the score stood: Eastside 9-Passaic 7.
The Ghosts’ next possession was highlighted by spectacular blocking on a run off right tackle by Smith who raced 50 yards, untouched, into the endzone for a seeming score. However, once again, the play was called back due to an infraction. Despite a nice pass reception by wide receiver Jair Steward, a pulverizing run by Canty, and a successful sweep-left carry by Elijah Carroll, the Ghosts were forced to turn the football back to Passaic after a delay of game penalty and a clutch tackle by the Indians’ Diaz.
The second to last chance for the Indians offense did not go well, to say the least. Lowlights included: a delay of game penalty, a false start, a personal foul late hit, a recovered fumble, and a run attempt that was stopped at the one-yard line. Forced to punt from deep in their endzone, the resultant kick gave the Ghosts excellent field position near midfield.
The Ghosts turned to their running game to successfully run time off the clock. After using all three of their timeouts, Passaic was able to retain the ball one last time. From deep in their own territory, a brilliant 50-yard run and catch to midfield gave the Indians hope. Unfortunately for the home team, the effort was too little, too late, as Eastside was able to hold on for the victory.
Deserving accolades for valiant trench warfare were: Eastside offensive linemen: Kevin Medina; Marquis Tudor; Arthur Edmunds; and Kamar Fashaw. Eastside defensive linemen: Jashin Jacobs; Fashaw; Jaheim Parker; and Edmonds. Passaic offensive linemen: Jayden Graham; Issac Cespedes; Devin Fragle; Albert Vargas; and Frankie Gonzalez. Passaic defensive linemen: Cespedes; Jamair Diaz; and Washington Sanchez.
The Ghosts’ home opener and next game will be Thursday, October 8, at 6:00 p.m. at Bauerle Field.
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