EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The Verona Hillbillies football team completed a historic undefeated season with a 41-0 victory over Lyndhurst at MetLife Stadium on Friday giving the team its first-ever 12-win season and clinching the NJSIAA North 2 Regional championship.
“It’s amazing that it’s the first time we’ve done it. It’s a tradition they’ve built here and for us to be the first team to do it says something…I said they were probably one of the best teams in the history of Verona, and they proved it today,” said Head Coach Kevin Batty.
Verona was out to avenge a loss in last year’s state playoffs to Lyndhurst. From the start the Hillbillies set a physical tone powering through the opposing defense. Frank Riggio galloped for 68 yards on the opening drive capping it off with a 14 yard TD for the game’s opening and decisive blow.
“It’s a tribute to our offensive line. Our offensive line coach [Ray] Bowes is tremendous he’s one of the best in the state…he works them hard, and they respond to it,” said Batty.
Riggio was able to pound the football all game against a previously undefeated Lyndhurst squad. Riggio finished the first half with 109 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The junior ultimately ended the contest with four touchdowns and an unofficial 147 rushing yards.
“We kept a good pace, we kept going, we kept getting stronger, we had a great week of practice we were all ready. The minute we stepped on this field we knew we were going to show them,” said Riggio.
Verona put a stranglehold on the game with a defensive unit that stifled the Lyndhurst offense. The Hillbillies forced the first of five turnovers on the opening Golden Bears possession with an interception.
“Defensively we started peaking at the right time towards the end of the season and playoffs honestly it comes down to all our work in practice and us executing,” said Shane Lawless.
The ensuing possession would see Lawless take in a touchdown from six yards out for the 14-0 Hillbilly lead.
“Honestly after last year’s loss we’ve been waiting for this game for over a year now and to go 12-0 like this I wouldn’t want it any other way,” said Lawless.
For Verona the defensive effort has been a staple all postseason long. The Hillbillies did not allow a single point scored in the last two games of the year.
“[Defensive] Coach [Owen] Haveron and his staff did a tremendous job getting them ready for the playoffs and back to back shutouts against two very good football teams and our kids bought into it,” said Batty.
Verona will close out this season at a perfect 12-0 playing their best football when it mattered the most.
“We talk all the time about peaking at the right time and this team peaked at the right time,” 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.
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