ORANGE, NJ - When good teams are on a serious run, there are always a couple of hurdles that determine if those team are contenders or pretenders. The Cedar Grove versus Orange game on Saturday was one of those hurdles that both teams had to jump through to achieve their ultimate goal. Luckily for the Panthers, they were the ones who cleared it.
Going into this game, Cedar Grove was 5-1 with a 2-0 division record and Orange was 6-0 with a 2-0 division record. It was safe to say, the stakes were high in this game.
With so much riding on the game, both teams needed to have guts and trust in each other to come out on top. Cedar Grove showed both in the first quarter when they faked a punt with quarterback Nick Zecchino lined up as a long snapper, then shifting out to receive a pass from Joe Rufo to convert a first down.
“It was a great call. We’ve been working on it all year and we had faith to do it in the game,” noted Zecchino.
“Our special teams coordinator asked me if we could run the play and I said sure,” added Cedar Grove Head Coach Ed Sadloch. “I’ve always had a lot of faith in my other coaches. My coaches coach.”
That would lead to a touchdown for Cedar Grove, capping off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by Dan DiPrenda. They missed the extra point, but would get redemption for that in the third quarter with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Zecchino to Evidence Njoku and a 2-point conversion run by Matt McManus that gave the Panthers a 14-0 lead.
“We had trips to the right and I saw Evidence one-on-one. I love that match-up every day,” said Zecchino. “I went to him, I knew he would make a play, and he came through for us.”
Trick plays showed up again later in the game, this time on Orange’s side when they tossed the ball to running back Tyrese Harris and had him pass to the wide open wide receiver Nyquee Hawkins for a 28-yard touchdown pass.
If that was not enough, Orange then faked an extra point and quarterback Taree Ward-May passed it to Umar Jenkins in order to make it a 14-8 game going into the fourth quarter.
Coach Sadloch could be heard from the sidelines saying “That’s what they’re doing to try and beat us” and “they’re desperate.”
“I felt that if you are starting to do stuff like that on a regular basis, they were losing a little bit of their faith and their hope,” added Sadloch.
The fourth quarter was about killing the clock whenever Cedar Grove had the football. With six minutes to go, they were able to sustain a ground-and-pound strategy mainly led by DiPrenda that would end with a big run by him on fourth down to convert the first down and drain the rest of the game clock.
“Danny’s a beast. He doesn’t go down and he runs the ball very hard,” noted Zecchino.
The final drive showed how much Coach Sadloch believes in the fundamentals and how much he trusts his players to get the job done.
“There’s a big family attitude right now in Cedar Grove,” said Sadloch. “The kids are taking ownership of the team and they’re doing a great job.”
With this win, Cedar Grove gives Orange their first loss of the season and moves ahead of them in the standings. They are now tied for first place in their division with crosstown rivals Verona, who they play in two weeks.
“This win feels very good. Orange is a great team that was undefeated coming in,” said Zecchino. “The crowd was very loud, but we came in and executed when we had to.”
Before their big game against the crosstown rivals, Cedar Grove will play Shabazz at home on Friday at 7 p.m.