CEDAR GROVE, NJ - The Cedar Grove Panthers football team is headed to their first State Championship game in more than four years following a 34-19 win over Butler Friday.
“I have no words. It’s unbelievable, especially to win against a team as good as Butler,” said Panthers quarterback Dario Bryant.
Cedar Grove showed why they are a juggernaut of an offense utilizing their patented air attack. Bryant torched the Butler defense for four touchdowns on the evening and over 200 yards passing.
“Coach Gogerty saw a lot of what they were doing. He saw a lot of cover two and cover three so when we were running a screen play he’d cancel the play, and he’d have us throw a really long ball…I have to give it to Coach Gogerty he’s very skilled at that mental aspect of the game,” said Bryant.
The Panthers adjustments were on display early in the second quarter on a key blow to the Bulldog’s playoff hopes. Bryant would connect with Anthony Bilotta on a 72-yard touchdown strike to put the Panthers up 14-0 early in the quarter. The touchdown was the first of two connections for Bryant and Bilotta for the evening.
“We’re comfortable with whoever we have to create a mismatch,” said Head Coach Rob Gogerty.
The Panthers first two touchdowns were each aided by defensive turnovers, which set them up with a short field. The attacking Cedar Grove defense continued their excellent playoff performance with five sacks, five interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“Our defense has grown every week, and they won us this game to be honest,” said Bryant.
“The past two weeks I’ve been trying to play [defense] in attack mode, and we wanted to play aggressive and I thought we got to that point,” said Gogerty.
Cedar Grove was able to extend their lead from 14-7 at the end of the first half to 28-13 by the end of the third quarter. Bryant connected on his final two touchdown tosses of the game to put Cedar Grove in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the contest.
“[Bryant] has grown up a lot this year, he’s made huge strides, he’s not forcing the ball to any one receiver,” said Gogerty.
“Almost everybody that I talked to, even my friends who don’t play football, they all doubted us. They all said we weren’t going to make it because we lost seven seniors this year…all those that doubted us they’re coming on our side now because we’re proving them wrong,” said Bryant.
The Panthers' victory improves the squad to 8-3 on the year, and they are headed to the North One Group One State Championship Game. The Panthers will take on Boonton on Friday with the chance to claim their first State Championship since 2011.
“It’s a testament to these guys. Our motto has never changed--the goal is to play for a State Championship. That’s the goal and that’s the time these guys put in, they believe they are a bunch of competitors and Cedar Grove wins with a bunch of competitors and that’s what we have,” said Gogerty.
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.
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