Rahway Indians Edge Johnson Crusaders Varsity Football in Thanksgiving Day Game

The Johnson Crusaders and the Rahway Indians in action during the game Thursday morning at Nolan Field. Credits: Daniel Collins
The Johnson Crusaders walking from the locker room to the football field for the warmups for their game Thanksgiving Day against the Rahway Indians. Credits: Daniel Collins
The Johnson Crusaders fell short in the final matchup of the season to the Rahway Indians 34-33. They finish with a 5-5 record on the season. Credits: Daniel Collins
The 2016 senior football players expressed confidence in the underclassmen for them to take control of the team in the 2017 season. Credits: Daniel Collins
The Rahway Indians finish their 2016 season with a 7-3 record, getting their first Thanksgiving Day win against the Johnson Crusaders since the 2011 season, winning 9-3 in overtime. Credits: Daniel Collins

CLARK, NJ -  Rahway senior quarterback Zahir Wilder scored on a one-yard rushing touchdown to lift the Rahway Indians over the Johnson Crusaders by a final score of 34-33 in the annual Thanksgiving Day rivalry game Thursday morning at Nolan Field.

Rahway started with the ball at their own 38-yard line with 2:47 left on the clock before marching to the end zone for the game-winning score. Indians senior Terrance Anderson intercepted Johnson senior quarterback and co-captain Vin Crisafi’s pass with 1:09 left to secure the victory.

This was Rahway’s first win in the Thanksgiving Day matchups since 2011 (won 9-3 in overtime).

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The Johnson Crusaders struck first in the contest with a ten-yard rush by Crisafi to put Johnson up 7-0. On the afternoon, Crisafi ran the ball seven times for 21 yards to go with his touchdown.

Rahway battled back on the following drive with a few big passes and capped it off with a 23-yard receiving touchdown to tie the game at seven.

The subsequent Johnson drive started at the Rahway 40-yard line. Senior Nick Fischetti completed a flea-flicker pass to senior co-captain Jon Duffy to the Rahway eight-yard line. Three plays later, junior Joe Turek connected for a six-yard rushing touchdown, to put Johnson ahead 14-7.

The Crusaders defense came up in big plays earlier on. Senior Vin Campbell intercepted Wilder’s pass to halt the Indians’ offensive push. The Crusaders also recovered an Indians fumble near the end of the first quarter around their 25-yard line. Johnson led Rahway by a score of 14-7 after the first quarter of play.

Turek, Fischetti and Duffy all took control of the offensive drive that followed for the Crusaders. In a drive that spanned 6:06, Duffy completed the drive with a four-yard rushing touchdown, putting Johnson ahead by a score of 20-7.

Rahway responded with a touchdown with 36 seconds left on the half, scored by senior Qadreek Strickland. The Johnson Crusaders led the Rahway Indians by a score of 20-14 at halftime.

Coming into the second half, Rahway stormed all the way to the Johnson 31-yard line, but turned it over on downs with an incomplete pass in the end zone.

Turek exploded on the ensuing drive with a 47-yard rushing touchdown and the Crusaders built their lead to 27-14. Rahway responded to keep the game close.

In the game, Turek finished with 195 rushing yards on 17 carries with his two rushing touchdowns. On the season, he ran for 995 yards on 159 carries, with 18 rushing touchdowns.

The Indians scored again, Anderson took it in from five yards out, cutting the Johnson lead down to 27-21. That’s where the score would stand entering the fourth quarter.

Facing third down and 19 from the Rahway 27-yard line, Fischetti sprinted for the end zone for the touchdown, extending the lead to 33-21.

Fischetti finished the season with 111 rushing yards on nine carries. On his career, Fischetti finished with 1,263 career varsity rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.

The Rahway Indians would prove why they were 6-3 coming into the game. They struck quickly, with a two-yard rushing touchdown by senior Bernard Howell cutting the lead to 33-27.

The next Indians drive would involve big plays, and Wilder scored to give his team the lead for good. They would later intercept Crisafi’s pass with 1:09 left to secure the Turkey Day win for the Indians.

The Crusader seniors reflected upon the season, and expressed confidence in the underclassmen when they take over the program in 2017.

  • “The underclassmen will do big things next year like really big things if the juniors (upcoming seniors) lead just like we did and the ball bounces their way they will be playing after Thanksgiving.” -Jon Duffy
  • “I think this game will set the tone for the upcoming seniors and give them a drive of anger and anticipation to have a successful season will be determined on the seniors and the way they steer the ship.” -Brett Roessle
  • “Not just this game but every game, we all fought to the end together and that says a lot about the underclassmen's character and leadership going into next year.”-Mike Brennan
  • “The underclass men will be great. They're a bunch of hard nose players who fought and clawed with us until the end. They are a great group of kids.” -Vin Campbell

Despite all the ups and downs, ALJ head coach Anthony DelConte praised his seniors for their leadership this year and was proud of his players for their efforts this season.

“I’m proud of our team this year,” DelConte said. “I’m proud of our guys and everything they’ve done this year, the strides that they’ve taken and where we’ve been going year-and-year, I’m proud of them.”

“These seniors this year, they deserve all the credit,” he added. “They’re very hard workers, they really care about these guys, they love football and they love the program and they love me, which means a lot to everybody here.”

The Johnson Crusaders finish their 2016 season with a 5-5 record.

The Rahway Indians finish their 2016 season with a 7-3 record.

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