WARREN, NJ - In a battle of the only two unbeaten teams in the Junior Skylands Football Conference, the Watchung Hills Middle School Warriors beat the Phillipsburg Junior Stateliners 28-12, this past Saturday night at Watchung Hills Regional High School. The Warriors have now won 24 consecutive games - and 2 league championships - since September of 2015.
The Warriors got off to a fast start thanks to a Jack Reale 45-yard return on the game's opening kickoff brought the ball to the Phillipsburg 30-yard line. After James Marinello's 20 yard run, Vincent Rizzi had two 5-yard runs, the second for the Warriors' first score of the game, and a 6-0 lead.
On Phillipsburg's first play they pulled off a double reverse pass that covered 75-yards and gave them the game tying touchdown. After less than 2 minutes of game play, the score was tied at 6.
From this point the Warriors took control of the game, led by their defense, and dominated play for the remainder of the game. The Warriors accounted for a fumble, interception, and a blocked punt, and gave their offense great field position all night.
Starting off the Warriors' second possession, James Marinello had a 50-yard touchdown return that got the ball down to the Junior Liners 34-yard line, and he accounted for the 34-yards on 3 carries, the last being a 9-yard touchdown. After the missed extra point kick, the Warriors led 12-6.
As has been the case all season, the Warriors defense took over the game and shut Phillipsburg down for the rest of the game, holding them to 6 first downs for the entire game, and a key fourth and short stop by Hunter Seubert and Chris Baker early in the game.
The defensive front of John Calleo, Hunter Seubert, Chris Baker, Chris Huljack, Tony Rodden and Max Lippitt put pressure on the Pburg offense all night and allowed line backers James Marinello - 11 tackles and a forced fumble - Josh Claxton - 6 tackles and a 40-yard fumble return - Brian Hayward and Rizzi, to control the game. Kenny McGoldrick also contributed tackles and toughness late in the game.
After Junior Liners 75-yard pass play on their first play, the Warriors defensive backs - Finn DiGiacomo, Justin Helbing, Alvenis Almonte, Jack Reale and David Labib- kept their pass game in check all night. Safety DiGiacomo had a key interception in the first quarter that led to another Warriors score, a 40-yard touchdown run by Dante Marinello, and after the 2-point kick the Warriors had a commanding 20-6 lead.
The Warriors' offensive line was instrumental in the team's success, as Preston Gully, Baker, Sean Krug, Anthony Brigante, Huljack, and Seubert paved the way for 6 different ball carriers accounting for 260-yards of rushing on 27 carries, for a 9.5 yard per play average. Receiver Charlie Shanahan contributed key blocks to the Warriors' offensive effort, as well.
On the next Phillibsburg possession James Marinello forced the fumble that Claxton returned 40-yards to the Pburg 10-yard line. The Warriors finished off this possession with a 5-yard pass from Marinello to Rizzi, for Rizzi's second touchdown of the night, and after the successful kick the score was 28-6.
The Warriors held the Junior Liners scoreless for the rest of the half, until they scored a touchdown with 15-seconds left in the game, making the final score 28-12.
The Watchung Hills Middle School Football Team continues their season this Saturday night at 5:30pm versus Bridgewater at Tozier Field at WHRHS.