WARREN, NJ - The Watchung Hills Pop Warner Junior Varsity team defeated the Newark Brick City Lions in the second round of the Eastern Region Playoffs on Saturday, 14-6.
Eleven conference champions from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania made up the field this year and now it is down to four teams competing for a berth in the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Florida. A former division one team, Brick City draws players from all over Essex County, NJ. With the win, Watchung Hills moves to 9-1 on the season with their only loss to a current division one powerhouse, the North Philly Aztecs.
The Watchung Hills Wolverines advance to play the Juniata Thundercats from PA next weekend. The other semi-final features the Irondequoit Lancers from Rochester, NY versus the Geddes/Westvale Knights from Syracuse. Watchung’s exact date, time, and location are still TBD for next weekend. Game captains vs. Brick City were Mac McAteer, James Palaia, Sherrod Hudson, and Ty Marion.
The game was scoreless in the first quarter.
On Watchung’s first drive they turned it over on downs and Brick City followed with a punt on 4th down a few minutes later. Watchung was also forced to punt with poor field position but a fortuitous bounce went the Wolverine way. The lively ball glanced off the Brick receiver’s leg and Hudson was there to secure the loose ball.
Watchung would be unsuccessful yet again on their first possession in the second period. But this time, Brick had the answer. A long, sustained drive took up much of the second period as the Lions ran it in for the game’s first points. Their extra-point kick missed but Brick City held a 6-0 lead.
Momentum was clearly in the Lions favor as they recovered an on-sides kick on special teams. Brick City was moving the ball again but the second of several costly mistakes would occur. A sideways pass by the Lions was ruled a lateral and the Brick City player dropped it. Multiple players from both teams streaked toward the ball as it bounced off a few bodies. Finally, Watchung’s McAteer dove on the loose ball and established Wolverine possession around mid-field.
With very little time remaining in the half, Watchung went to the air-attack. Quarterback, Ty Marion led Watchung to the game-tying score. Marion’s first attempt to pass was spoiled by Brick City as no receivers were clearly open. He did find running room, however, and carried for a solid gain. Marion then completed three straight passes; his first was to Palaia which was followed by a timeout. Next, it was a long strike to Jamarques Lawrence whose terrific catch in traffic gave Watchung the ball, first and goal, with 9 seconds left in the half. Marion then found tight-end McAteer over the middle for a touchdown reception and the game was tied 6-6. The conversion kick just missed to the right, but the Wolverines were right back in it as the game went to intermission.
Christopher Hopf attempted an on-sides kick for Watchung to begin the third quarter but it was fielded well by the Lions’ player. Brick City’s drive was stopped pretty quickly this time as Hudson made the big play with a tackle for a loss. Billy Black had a first down run. Then Palaia carried for another Wolverine first down and Watchung looked poised to score. However, a costly fumble gave the ball back to Brick City and the Wolverine defense was back on the field.
The Lions have a dangerous passing-game which the Wolverines were prepared to face. Nice pass coverage by the Wolverine secondary: corner-back, Jake Checchio; safety, Lawrence; and corner-back Tyshaun Anderson forced an incomplete pass on second down. McAteer made a tackle for a loss on third down and the Lions were punting again on 4th down.
As the game went to the fourth quarter, Hudson and Palaia had back-to-back runs for a Wolverine first down. Then, Marion was back to pass yet again, but again, there was more running room than open receivers downfield. Marion carried for another first down as Elhanan Wilson provided a key block on the play. Marion was “locked-in” today with the passing game as he then found Palaia over the middle giving Watchung first and goal from the 1 yard line. Black powered it in from there with the strong blocking of Anderson and Damon Schumann leading the charge. Will Grabko nailed the 2-point conversion kick and Watchung moved in front for the first time, 14-6.
Watchung seemingly had the game locked up when Hudson recovered Hopf’s on-sides kick on the next play. They appeared to be running out the clock but fumbled yet again giving the Brick City Lions one more opportunity. Needing a lot of yardage in a small amount of time, the Lions quarterback dropped back to pass. Wilson pressured the passer and nearly brought him down for a safety but a weak throw was the result and Watchung’s Schumann was right there for the interception.
The Wolverines then ran out the clock and advanced with a come-from-behind victory, 14-6. Watchung Hills is an Eastern Region Semi-Finalists for the 4th straight year. They are 10-1 on the season and they will attempt to make it to their fourth consecutive Regional Finals by beating Juniata next weekend.