WARREN, NJ - The Watchung Hills JV Pop Warner team traveled to the home of the Woodbridge Barron’s on Sunday to take on the Howell Lions in the First Round of the Pop Warner Eastern Region playoffs. The game had added incentive following a call the night before from the Eastern Region Commissioner who advised Head Coach Mark Fenton that the winner would advance to the Eastern Region Finals - as the next scheduled opponent from Philadelphia had withdrawn from the tournament. In addition, with both finalists scheduled to receive an invite to the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Disney this game offered everything this team aspired to achieve - all they had to do was win the game.
The Wolverines faced a tough team in the Howell Lions and Howell started with the ball following a deep kick off. A very quick 4 and out set the tone for the day as the defense led by Rocco Salerno, Joe Richardson, Joe Hardy, Micah Leibowitz, David Dubas, Ryan Johnson, Brennan Fahs, Carman Marano, Jack Clintock, KJ West and Braden Fenton shut down the Lions potent running attack down.
The Wolverines set out on Offense and Scottie Drews expertly led the offense - as he has now for the past 5 season - flawlessly executing from the QB position making astute adjustments and audibles to drive the ball downfield. After a series of strong run, Carmen Marano barreled his way into the end zone with a tough determined run behind the blocking of Jack Martin, Max Philips, Rocco Salerno, Benny Sokolowski, Mike Ebel, Finn Slattery, KJ West and Joe Hardy. Fenton slotted the PAT as the Wolverines led 8-0.
On the next series, the Wolverines once again shut down the Lions offense and the Wolverines offense took over. After a series of missteps, the offense found itself in a 3rd and very long. David Dubas dropped back to pass and with all of his receivers well covered by the Howell defense did what he’s done so often this season, tucked the ball and powered his way through the entire Lions’ defense for a 65 yard touchdown. Jack Clintock confidently slotted the PAT to bring the score to 16-0.
The ensuing onside kick off from Fenton was aggressively recovered by Hardy with help from Clintock – Wolverines ball!. Once again the “pound it out” offense moved the ball downfield with key runs from Fahs and Adam Bowles before Dubas once again powered his way on a 45 yard touchdown run with excellent downfield blocking from Bowles and Hardy. The Fenton PAT made it 24-0 with 6 minutes left in the half. Could this be the year the 2019 JV Team realized their dream of making it to the Pop Warner Superbowl in Disney?
On the next series the Lions offense gained some traction and ultimately a short pass secured them their first score of the day. A successful PAT conversion resulted in a score of 24-8 Wolverines. With the JV Cheerleading Team at their Regional Competition, Team Mom Ann Johnson led the cheers as the travelling Wolverines fans joined in to encourage the boys. However, following kick-off, the Wolverines were held by the stout Lions Defense and a 4th and long punt was partially tipped to give the Lions excellent field position going into the half. The Wolverines defense was up to the task with Quadir Anderson, Brady Marshall, Leibowitz, Hardy and Johnson leading as the entire defense continued to put pressure on a QB intent on the long pass. Great pass coverage and a last second tip from Clintock saved a guaranteed TD and on the next play a swarming defense ultimately sacked the Lions’ QB with a hard hit from Hardy.
The two teams entered half-time with the Coaches knowing what was at stake, while the young men from Watchung Hills were unaware as the Coaches had decided not to tell them until after the game.
The second half was very similar to the first with the Wolverines able to move the ball freely, while their opponents struggled in the face of strong defense from Joe Amweiler, Alejandro Dilone, Adam Bowles and Brady Johnson. On one series the Wolverines were uncharacteristically stopped on 4th down at the Lions’ one yard line and as the Lions sought to dig themselves out of their tough field position, Ryan Johnson baited the QB into thinking the TE was open, before promptly jumping the route and taking the INT for a big pick 6. Clintock’s PAT made it 32-8 in favor of your Wolverines. Toward the end of the 4th Quarter, the strong Wolverines ground game again drained the clock and with about 2 minutes left, Brennan Fahs punched home the final score of the day. The Wolverines opted not to attempt the kick as a gesture of good sportsmanship and the two teams met at the 50 yard line to shake hands with the Wolverines victorious 38-8 on the backs of a true team win.
The Coaches assembled the boys and their families and delivered the message that they were “GOING TO DISNEY!” It was pandemonium as the boys congratulated one another and the parents watched on - filming the moment for posterity. A day that the boys will never forget ahead of two additional historic events for this team – the Eastern Region Championship Final on November 16th and the subsequent Pop Warner SuperBowl in Disney from December 7thto December 14th. The magical season continues as the boys continue to peak at the right time under the excellent Coaching of Jason Taub, Greg Dubas, Joe Slattery Kevin Marshall, Mike Fahs and Tony Clintock.