EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Rounding out a perfect season, the Westfield Blue Devils proved to be victorious one last time on Thursday night, defeating Bridgewater-Raritan, 10-7, in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 5 State final at MetLife Stadium.
Both teams entered the game among the 13 undefeated squads in the state vying for a title, yet only one could remain on top.
Rallying around Jack Curry’s 1,640-yard, 28-touchdown season, the Blue Devils continued to feed their senior running back the ball on Thursday. However, after amassing 80 yards in the first half, Curry exited the game with an ankle injury under his own power.
The Blue Devils found themselves in an unusual position at halftime, leading only 3-0 as opposed to their average 28-point margin this season.
“This was going to be a battle, we knew it,” head coach Jim DeSarno said.
In the second half’s opening drive, B-R quarterback Eric Nickel drove the Panthers down the field, but was held short of the endzone by a stubborn Blue Devils defense. Westfield maintained their lead when Owen Kessler blocked the 37-yard field goal attempt on fourth down.
“For me, it was all about our defense stepping up and they did as they usually do,” DeSarno said. “Defensively, all the big plays we made have been what carried us.”
Without star running back Jack Curry, Westfield handed the reigns to Matt Varano in the third quarter, and would not regret it. The junior made the biggest play of the game when he powered through the B-R line on fourth and goal from the one-yard line, putting the Blue Devils ahead 10-0.
“It’s just trust,” Curry said. “If one guy gets hurt, the next guy is going to do just as good of a job, if not better."
Red zone struggles continued to plague the Panthers after great drives, as the team marched down the field in the final two minutes of the game only to throw an interception in the endzone.
“We’re down 10 nothing, we could have all just said pack it up on the sidelines,” B-R head coach Scott Bray said.
But, with 14 seconds left, the Panthers finally got on the board when Cole Harper blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown to narrow the lead. The team caught a break when they were allowed to re-try an onside kick afterward, but failed to recover the ball before it spurted out of bounds.
“They’ve been resilient all year long, but we just ran out of clock. All we ever asked them to do was play 48 minutes of football, and they played right down to wire,” Bray added.
The win grants Westfield its third state championship, and for record-breaking running back Jack Curry, a dream come true.
“I never thought that it would be me. I was a short little fat kid and never expected to be talked amongst the greats. It’s remarkable – I can’t describe it,” Curry said. “I am so ecstatic for these guys, they all deserve it, they’ve all worked their rear ends off this summer, sweating together, grinding together, and we came out on top.”
“I’m just so happy for our kids and what a great turn out from Westfield tonight. It was awesome,” Coach DeSarno added. “We have constantly raised the bar and it’s raised now and I hope they’re going to work hard ... and they will.”
Superintendent of Westfield Public Schools Margaret Dolan offered this video message (filmed by Mitch Slater):