HANOVER PARK, NJ - The Cedar Grove Panthers football team showed tremendous grit with a dominant fourth quarter en route to a 35-28 victory over Hanover Park on Friday.
“We’ve always had battles with this team for the last three years so we were kind of expecting that,” said Gogerty.
The Panthers were down 21-14 at the end of three quarters when they dug deep for the final push. A blocked punt by Sebastiano Locascio set the squad up with a short field to try and tie the game up. A few plays later Gerard Dente bulldozed his way in to cut the lead to 21-20. Dente finished the contest with 42 rushing yards and a touchdown.
“I was really happy with the way after we scored to make it 21-20 we went for two and had some bad luck with eight minutes left so we were down by one, but they just stayed the course, they knew we were going to get another shot,” said Gogerty.
The defense ultimately would need to make a play to keep their hopes alive and they too responded as a unit. Antonio Cuffari’s interception on a halfback option gave Cedar Grove another possession to take the lead.
“It’s [Cuffari]’s second week in and two weeks in a row he’s made some big plays…he’s kind of stepping up, he’s being coached and he’s listening and making some big plays for us,” said Gogerty.
Anthony Bilotta’s touchdown reception one play later gave the Panthers the lead at 28-21. Bilotta was a matchup nightmare Hanover Park with seven grabs for 138 yards and three scores.
“We got a quick turnover and then we got a quick score,” said Gogerty.
The special teams unit for Cedar Grove stepped up once again on the next drive. Making up for an earlier punt return for touchdown the unit stopped a fake punt effort with 5:23 left to give the Panthers a short field. In perhaps a one upmanship game Gogerty elected to run the halfback option that the Hornets failed a few drives earlier. For the Panthers it was successful, resulting in another touchdown reception of over 20 yards for Bilotta.
“We capitalized on their mistakes in the second half. Everyone stepped up--we had contributions all over the field from a bunch of guys to really get the win,” said Gogerty.
The game wasn’t over just, yet as the Hornets continued to hang in the contest. A touchdown with 2:30 left put the pressure back on the Panthers to gain a crucial first down to run out the clock. Clinging to a one touchdown lead late in the final 90 seconds of the contest the Cedar Grove offense refused to give in.
“I was having déjà vu from two years ago when we played there and it was almost the same situation where we needed one first down to win the game, we wound up not getting it and punting it to them,” said Gogerty.
Needing just a single yard to clinch a victory Gogerty asked his squad what they wanted to do on a fourth and one. He handed the ball off to Dente who plowed forward for the eventual game clinching first down run.
“I kind of asked the kids too ‘do you want to punt or not?’ they kind of looked me in the eyes and said ‘we’ll get this yard’ so it shows a lot about this team,” said Gogerty.
It is an emotional victory for the Panthers that can help propel them throughout the remainder of the season.
“It was really nice to see. Those kind of situations show you a lot about the type of team you have. There’s ups and downs and they battled through some adversity, stayed the course and played for four quarters,” said Gogerty.
Cedar Grove will improve to 3-0 on the season as they remain undefeated. The squad will look to continue their winning streak as they take on Glen Ridge on Friday.
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.