WESTFIELD, NJ — It took a quarter for the Westfield football team to heat up on a chilly Thanksgiving morning, but once the Blue Devils found their scoring ways, they couldn’t be stopped.
In the annual Westfield versus Plainfield Thanksgiving Day football game, the Blue Devils exploded for five touchdowns and a safety to hold off the Cardinals, 37-7. Westfield’s state-best winning streak grew to 36, and the team improved to 61-45-7 in the series with Plainfield that goes back more than a century.
Tim Alliegro rushed for two touchdowns, quarterback Hank Shapiro threw for 143 yards and Westfield received full contributions from its entire team upon improving to 11-0 on the season. Thursday’s 37 points were the most Westfield has scored in a game all season.
“There’s a thing in [the stadium] that says [the rivalry] has gone back since, like, 1901 — that’s a really long time,” said Stevie Barden, who recorded a huge third-quarter pick-six. “It’s an emotional game, but it’s not serious because everybody wants to have fun but win at the same time. Coming out here, doing our job and getting a 'dub' for our town … everybody had a nice time today.”
After the Blue Devils were shut out in the first quarter, Alliegro scored his two touchdowns in under a five-minute span in the second to put his team on the board and give the Blue Devils a lead they’d never relent. The sophomore walked one yard into the end zone on his first score, which capped off a sizable Westfield drive where he raced 21 yards down the field two runs prior. His second TD occurred moments later, as he ran four yards on a pitch and banged heads with a Plainfield defender before crossing the goal line.
Alliegro now has a team-high eight rushing TDs.
“I haven’t gotten into the end zone in a couple games, but it was good to get back,” Alliegro told TAPinto.net. “Our lineman really put their assignments together; I can’t do anything without them. They’re amazing — my brother [Fran], the McCauleys [Jack and Declan], Isaac Montez, Chris Culhane, Russell Weber — they’re just really great and opening up holes left and right for me.”
Westfield’s defense absolutely dominated Plainfield’s ground game — it allowed just eight rushing yards the entire game — forcing the Cardinals to pass the ball. While quarterback Leonte Langston threw for a total of 160 yards, Westfield picked him off twice in the second half, including a signature play late in the third quarter.
Barden intercepted a Langston pass near midfield with two minutes remaining the quarter. Upon making the leaping snag, the Blue Devils’ star two-way player came streaking down the right sideline, and through timely blocking, reached the end zone for a pick-six. It was Barden’s second-career interception.
“I haven’t had a pick-six all year, even since our sophomore year,” said Barden. “I told my coach I was getting one today, so getting one for him made me feel really proud. It was nice to get into the end zone for my team.”
Opening up a sizable lead in the second half, Westfield inserted many of its non-starters into the game, but there wasn’t the slightest drop-off in skill. This was fully displayed through the play of Nick Martini, a running back who showed out upon receiving playing time. In the fourth quarter, he recorded his first-career TD, and received 13 total carries on the afternoon. He additionally ran for a pair of seven-yard carries, a game-high for the sophomore.
“That was a great feeling,” Martini said of his TD. “Thanksgiving Day, huge crowd — probably biggest of the year — and I just wanted to get one in. It felt great.”
Added Tim Alliegro, team leader in carries, of the full-team effort: “A lot of my friends got in. Nicky Martini got to score, which was amazing. I think it’s great that everybody played.”
Westfield quarterback Shapiro had himself a nice day, throwing for 143 yards and completing 10-of-19 passes. Two minutes out of halftime, he connected with Griffin Rooney for a seven-yard TD, which opened up the scoring in the second half.
Three minutes following the Shapiro-to-Rooney hookup, Westfield was awarded two points on a Plainfield safety. The Cardinals’ punter muffed a snap and with the ball lying on the ground, turned around and purposely booted it into the end zone just 10 yards away.
Plainfield also avoided a shutout in that eventful third quarter. Langston had a pair of major completions — one for 37 yards and another for 20 — before the Cardinals’ Antwan Spencer ran for a three-yard TD.
In addition to Barden’s monstrous pick-six, Jake Dayon recorded his first-career interception and Westfield’s second of the game. Dayon’s pick ceased a threatening Plainfield drive halfway through the fourth quarter.