NORTH CALDWELL, NJ - Being “clutch” can mean many things, but most commonly it is considered someone who is at their best when under pressure. In football, there is no time that provides greater pressure than the playoffs.
West Essex senior quarterback Pat Glenn had arguably his best game of the season against Nutley in the first round of the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 playoffs last Saturday. West Essex, the seventh seed, was the underdog against second seeded Nutley, who, after an 8-1 regular season, was widely expected to advance to the championship in MetLife Stadium. West Essex was 5-4 after a three-game losing streak to end the regular season. However, Glenn led the Knights to a dominating performance in a, 28-7, upset on Nutley’s home field.
Glenn has been through some adversity this season, having had to deal with sprains in both of his ankles, limiting him to only five regular season games. However, he is fully healthy now and is back to leading his team from under center.
He was able to overcome the tough matchup against Nutley by throwing for almost 200 yards along with three touchdowns, giving him a stellar 146.8 quarterback rating according to MaxPreps. This was significantly higher than his seasonal average of 83.5 yards per game with a 104.6 quarterback rating.
While he was significantly better in the playoff game than in the regular season, Glenn said that he didn’t prepare for the game “any differently than we did for the first game of the season. We were not necessarily focused on being underdogs, but focused on playing our game.”
Glenn’s great performance coincided with a balanced effort by the West Essex ground game as well, as the team ran for 247 yards, and seniors Matt Jones, Daniel Calix, and Chris Vassallo each had over 50 yards.
“The game was set up by the run,” said Glenn. “The play action was open, so my numbers improved.”
However, Glenn’s performance had the same beneficial effect for his running backs, preventing the Nutley defenders from stacking the box to prevent the run.
“Knowing we have Pat back there to make big throws in big spots really opens up my play calling,” said West Essex Coach Benacquista.
Glenn’s touchdowns were to seniors Connor O’Reilly and Jason Rusignuolo, along with junior Drew Lepre. O’Reilly’s touchdown was 77 yards and broke the halftime tie between the two teams, opening the floodgates as the beginning of West Essex’s 21 unanswered points in the second half.
“Pat was on target this week against Nutley,” Lepre said. “He saw the field and the gaps in the defense clearly with nearly no flaws at all.”
As one of Glenn’s top receivers, Lepre sees the leadership that Glenn exerts in the huddle.
“He brings the team together,” Lepre said. “As a leader, everyone looks up to him. He focuses on making the team perfect and uses that to force us to work harder.”
Coach Benacquista also recognizes the hard work that Glenn has put in this year.
“From his leadership to his work ethic to his determination, he has improved in all phases,” Benacquista said. “Pat is living proof of the old saying hard work pays off.”
With the win, the Knights advance to the semifinals against sixth seeded Chatham, who also pulled off an upset in the first round over third seeded Barringer by a score of 31-6. This will be yet another tough test in a challenging season for the Knights, as they have an extremely difficult section headlined by undefeated Cranford. However, the team must focus on Chatham and can’t afford to look ahead.
“We need to continue focusing on the semis and take it one game at a time,” Glenn said. “We have to devote every practice, rep and drill to improving ourselves and minimizing mistakes to reach our full potential.”
This leadership, along with his tremendous game against Nutley, is what makes Glenn the TAP into West Essex Athlete of the Week.
“Pat is such a fierce competitor and he steps up his game in big moments. That is exactly what he did Saturday against Nutley,” said Coach Benacquista. “Players get better when they work hard and put in the time, and no one exemplifies that more than Pat Glenn.”
Jake Wolf is a student at West Essex High School participating in a journalism progrma with TAP into West Essex.