NORTH CALDWELL, NJ - The West Essex Knights took a commanding lead in the Super Essex Conference American Division Friday night, after a decisive 24-7 football victory over East Orange. Once again, the Knights were led by two of the SEC’s most dynamic weapons: seniors Chris Vassallo and Matthew Jones.
“They have some dangerous athletes that can score at any time from any place on the field, and I thought we did a good job playing our game,” West Essex Head Coach Chris Benaquista said.
Vassallo scored two first half touchdowns, one from seven and the other from 22-yards out, putting the Knights up, 14-0, at the half. He finished the night with 146-yards on 20 carries and two scores. The senior fullback went over the century mark rushing for the second consecutive game, bringing his season total to four.
“We played old-fashioned West Essex football,” Benaquista said. “Our running game allowed us to keep possession and let our defense assert itself.”
Brian O’Neill led the charge on defense, intercepting an East Orange pass attempt and running it back 22-yards, putting the Knights up, 20-0. He added 11 tackles to go with his two interceptions. Senior Connor O’Reilly anchored the stout Knight defensive front that wreaked havoc all night, sacking the quarterback three times. Senior defensive lineman Frank Hunter chipped in with two big sacks.
East Orange avoided the shutout in the final quarter, when Tyshad Campbell reeled in a 4-yard touchdown pass. The Knights’ Donnie Veiliu connected on a 28-yard field goal in the fourth to push the score to, 24-7, which would be the final points of the night. Veiliu was perfect on the night, striping all three of his PAT’s down the middle, in addition to the field goal.
West Essex now takes to the road after a perfect home stand, where it will put its conference lead to the test against Seton Hall Prep at 1 p.m., at West Orange High School. West Essex looks to bounce back from a decisive, 45-20, loss a year ago to the Pirates. East Orange looks to get back to .500, when they go on the road to Bloomfield that same afternoon.