PLAINFIELD, NJ – It took more than a quarter for either team to score, but the Westfield High School varsity football team struck first in the 112th annual Thanksgiving Day football game as they defeated their cross-county rival the Plainfield Cardinals. Westfield’s 30-14 victory extended their state-best winning streak to 24 games and marked their 60th win in the rivalry game that extends more than a century.
Juandre House scored on a 13-yard run early in the second quarter to jump start the scoring for the Westfield Blue Devils. However, they failed to convert on the extra point.
“My line opened two holes for me, so I had two option. I just faked left and went right,” House said. “I just really wanted to set the tempo for the game.”
The Cardinals fumbled on their next possession and gave Westfield the ball deep in their own territory. After being stopped on the first three plays and being set back by two penalties, Westfield quarterback Philip Martini converted on a short fourth down pass to fellow senior Ian Humphrey. Two plays later, Martini scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak (kick good) to extend the Blue Devils’ lead.
In a form of déjà vu, Plainfield again fumbled on their next opportunity, but this time Westfield cashed in with a defensive score in the end zone (kick good). Drew Ortiz scooped up the ball for the touchdown.
That score marked 20 unanswered points for the Blue Devils in a six-minute span.
Nahseem Woodard, who lost the fumble on the previous play, got some redemption when he scored on the ensuing kickoff to put Plainfield on the board. He ran the ball back 86 yards while juking would-be tacklers in the process. The score narrowed Westfield’s lead to 20-6.
Martini capped off a methodical drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to Conor Scanlon on a bench route just before the end of the first half.
“Me and Phil have been practicing on that play all week and everything worked out,” Scanlon said after the game. “Everything worked out and I was open; he threw me a great ball.”
Scoring was limited in the second half as both sides played well defensively. Two second half interceptions – one by Matt McIntyre and the other by Joseph Sangiacomo – for Westfield helped them shut down Plainfield.
Westfield added a field goal in the fourth quarter and Plainfield scored a late touchdown (two-point conversion good) to bring the game to 30-14 and that figured to be the final score.
“We told the kids before the game that this was a tradition and something to take serious,” Westfield coach Jim DeSarno said. “It’s what we do every year. We went out and played our game. The defense played really well.”
Next Saturday, Westfield will play for the NJSIAA State Championship as they square off in a rematch of last year’s game against Bridgewater-Raritan. Both teams are undefeated this year. The game will be played at MetLife Stadium, home to both the New York Giants and Jets.
“It’s just like last year, two undefeated teams getting after it,” added DeSarno. “It’s going to be a good game. We’re just going to do our thing next week. These kids have been playing well for 11 weeks.”
The undefeated Blue Devils ended last season as state champions in a 10-7 win over the Bridgewater-Raritan Panthers.