VERONA, NJ - After a 35-8 win over Newark Central last week, Verona came into their home opener with momentum on their side, facing a weaker opponent in Newark East Side. This home opener on Saturday was expected to be a blowout and senior Mark Riggio almost single-handedly pulled Verona to a comfortable lead.
Riggio started off in impressive fashion, when he recovered a Newark East Side fumble for a touchdown on the first play of the game. If that was not enough, Riggio also played running back, running for a 41-yard touchdown on Verona’s first drive and then making a 16-yard interception return for a touchdown when the Hillbillies went back out on defense, all less than three minutes into the game.
“It’s a great feeling,” noted Riggio, on making that kind of impact on the game.
With Riggio leading the way, Verona took control of the game with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Zach Zaccone to John DeMartinis and a 52-yard rushing touchdown by Nick DePaul making it a 35-0 game by the end of the first quarter.
“We wanted to play up to the level of our ability and not play down to the level of our competition,” said Verona Head Coach Lou Racioppe.
The game began to slow down in the second quarter, but that did not mean Verona was going to slack defensively. After having a 13-yard rushing touchdown from back-up quarterback Nick DeVivo, Verona had a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown by Mike Stanisci to make it a 49-0 halftime lead.
Verona ended the game with a 55-0 win and gave the fans a home opener to be excited about. “Coming off of last year, we needed a big fan section” said Riggio. “We need people to be behind us and have our backs.”
Last year, Verona had a season to remember, going undefeated and winning a state championship. Their quest for a repeat is off to a good start with two impressive wins in a row.
“We’re just playing football out here. We did what we needed to do and give credit to everybody,” Riggio said. “We’re doing what we need to do.”
When asked about this year’s chances of a repeat, Coach Racioppe said, “We’re playing it one game at a time and if we keep playing like this, it looks like we can go a long way.”