VERONA, NJ - After battling adversity and a tough Newark Collegiate opponent the Verona Football Team showed their grit coming away with a 28-20 victory to remain undefeated.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m so happy with the way we played,” said Head Coach Kevin Batty.
Holding onto a slim lead at 22-20 midway through the third quarter the Verona squad knew they needed to make a play. The Hillbilly defense answered the call with a sack on third down to set up the offense with a shortened field. The defensive stop foreshadowed four consecutive stops for the group to seal the win.
“Our defense started making plays,” said Batty.
Ultimately, the shortened field helped the Verona offense to take shots to wide receiver Jake McConnachie. McConnachie connected with quarterback Cael Zebrowski three times for 87 yards and a score.
“I’ve just been coming out having a good attitude, getting ready and doing what I need to do,” said McConnachie.
One play later Verona’s Nick Riggio burrowed his way into the end zone for the second time to give Verona a 28-20 lead, capping off a momentous day for him. It was his second touchdown of the half, the first came earlier in the third quarter for 20 yards and put him over 1,000 yards for his varsity career. Riggio finished with an unofficial 142 rushing yards for his third consecutive 100 yard game.
“I’m happy he’s such a good kid he works hard,” said Batty.
In the first half the game looked anything but promising for Verona to come out on top. After a scoreless first quarter McConnachie’s 40-yard touchdown grab put the Hillbillies up first. For McConnachie it was his third consecutive game with a touchdown catch, which is an even more impressive feat in a run-first offense.
It’s awesome I love it,” said McConnachie of his touchdown streak.
The Panthers battled back to capitalize on Verona’s mistakes in the next few minutes. Two back to back turnovers would lead to two Panther touchdowns to give Newark Collegiate a 15-8 lead with 2:36 left in the half.
“That’s on us offensively for not doing what we were supposed to do, but we made plays when we had to make them,” said Batty.
As adversity set in the Hillbillies shaped up their attack. The Verona offense quickly corrected course answering with a long return from Nick Riggio that set them up with a shortened field at the Panther 31. Five plays later Shane Lawless took a quarterback draw in from nine yards out to put Verona back on top 15-14 with 52 seconds left in the half.
Verona’s victory improves the squad to 3-0 on the season as they look to build on a strong start to their campaign. The Hillbillies will have their work cut out for them to keep up their solid play as they will take on yet another undefeated opponent in Shabazz High School on September 28.
“Shabazz is a very good football team, they’re big, athletic just like [Newark Collegiate]…it’s going to be a tall order, but we’re going to come to play,” said Batty.
TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.