ROXBURY, NJ - Great overall play by the Roxbury High School football team resulted in a 33 to 23 victory over the Sparta Spartans on Friday night, making for a great start to the long-awaited gridiron season..
The Gaels came out early and showed that the team was relying on a pass-oriented offense behind their leader at quarterback, senior Grant Dixon. The Gaels demonstrated, from the very start of the game, that they wanted to move the ball through the air.
With the passing game a focus of the offense for the Gaels, Sparta was caught off guard. Roxbury struck first with a 14-yard run by senior halfback Craig Roumes. Sparta’s defense was left in the dust with 4:27 left in the first.
The Gaels also came out on fire on the defensive side of the ball. Sparta quarterback senior Thomas DeGasperis and his offense were under constant pressure as the defensive line broke through for many tackles for loss early on.
As the game continued, both teams settled down. Roxbury added a field goal by Jack Clevenger in the second quarter and the Gaels led 10-0, much to the enthusiastic Roxbury student section’s delight.
The Spartans’ offense, however, responded in a big way. They scored a 78-yard bomb that was set up by a trick play flea flicker.
But when Dixon returned to the field, he was right back where he started, completing pass after pass. Dixon hit many of his receivers including senior Stephen Loreng and junior Tucker Voelbel.
After a long drive, the quarterback ran it in from the 4-yard line as the Gaels took a 16-7 lead, unable to convert on the extra point.
After having struggles on offense, Sparta began gaining momentum as DeGasperis found a soft spot in the middle of the Gaels defense. The Spartans finished off the impressive drive with a touchdown to narrow the Gaels lead to 16-14.
With less than two minutes to go in the half, Dixon took the Gaels down the field using the hurry up offense. The efficient play of the entire offense lead to an 11-yard touchdown pass. The lead at the half was 23-14 in favor of the Gaels.
Having deferred to the second half, Roxbury received the ball in the start of the third. The heat combined with the humidity caused players from both teams to struggle with muscle cramps throughout the second half.Dixon even missed a play with cramps in his legs as sophomore Donovan Brady played in his first varsity game for Roxbury.
The Gaels eventually went on and added another field goal as the lead expanded to 26-14.
Sparta answered by quickly moving the ball down the field against the Gaels with its quick passing attack. The Roxbury defense, however, held its own as Sparta was held to a field goal and the score went to 26-17 with 3:27 left in the third.
The Gaels were able to stop the Spartans forcing them to punt on their next offensive possession. And Roxbury was back at it as the team moved the ball on the ground and through the air. Sparta seem to have no answer.
Shortly thereafter, Dixon extended the play by scrambling out of the pocket and delivering a perfect throw to Voelbel who made a fantastic sideline grab as he kept his feet in bounds.
The score kept growing for the Gaels and they lead 33-17 in the fourth quarter.
But the game was not over. Sparta was still showing signs of life as it again drove the ball all the way down inside the 20-yard line. Roxbury’s defense bent but did not break as it stopped the Spartans’ drive on a fourth down play with 6:40 left to play.
Dixon and his offense were able to kill most of the clock as the offense still continued its attack through the air. Clevenger came up big with some clutch reception late in the game as the Gaels gave Sparta minimal time to set up a comeback.
When the Spartans did get the ball back, they scored on a reception with under a minute to go. However, they still came up short as the final horn sounded.
The Gaels went on to win by a score of 33-23. Roxbury is now 1-0 on the season and it will head into next week focusing on the next task at hand. The Gaels will take on Mendham on Saturday, Sept. 19. Kickoff is set for around one o’clock in the afternoon at Mendham High School.