Team VH Insider
Old Tappan vs Mount Olive
State Championship

Old Tappan senior lineman Jack Dippolito saw the ball laying on the ground and without hesitating he just dove on it. “I had no idea if they spiked it,” he said. “I saw the ball on the ground and I dove on it.”

“He’s been playing great all year,” Old Tappan coach Brian Dunn said of Dippolito. “He had a torn ACL last year. He had a really good game on both sides of the ball. Their quarterback was not ready for the snap and the ball went right down to the ground.”

Dippolito’s instincts saved the day as Old Tappan was awarded possession of the ball with 38 seconds left in the game. That enabled the Golden Knights (12-0) the opportunity to take a knee, run out the clock and win the North 1, Group 4 state title in a thriller over Mount Olive, 31-28.


The Golden Knights were down, 20-17, with 40 seconds left in the third quarter but they came roaring back in the fourth quarter to take a 31-20 lead with 4:24 to go in the game. After trading punts early in the final frame Knights senior quarterback Nick McNerney hooked up with senior wide receiver Bryan Baker for a 55-yard touchdown to retake the lead, 24-20. “We kept trying to be aggressive and take our shot,” said Dunn. ‘It paid off when we got the long one to Baker.” The defense stepped up after that, holding the Marauders to a three-and-out, including two sacks by senior linebacker Bryce Lukas. He finished with 3.5 of Old Tappan’s seven sacks.

Old Tappan turned to its running game as McNerney (8 yards) and senior running back Marques Antinori (22 yards) gave the Knights a first down at the Mount Olive 21-yard line. Running plays by McNerney and Antinori moved the ball to the 8-yard line and on second down McNerney rolled right and zipped the ball to junior Johnny Lohrer for a touchdown and 31-20 lead with 4:24 to go in the game.

“In the second half, we got timely stops,” said Dunn. “It gave us enough to take the lead and go up by 11. I didn’t want to give up a quick one, but we did.”
Marauders senior quarterback Liam Anderson, as he had all game, moved the Mount Olive offense down the field. The scoring drive, which took less than two minutes to complete, ended with Anderson tossing a 10-yard TD pass to sophomore Yanni Kalas to cut the Old Tappan lead to 31-28. “Their quarterback was phenomenal tonight,” said Dunn. “He was unreal. We couldn’t get a hand on him.”

After an onside kick was recovered by Golden Knights defensive back Nick Orecchio, Lohrer scampered 55 yards around and through the Mount Olive defense for an apparent touchdown. But Old Tappan was flagged for a chop block penalty and three plays later the Knights were forced to punt the ball back to Mount Olive with 59 seconds to go in the game. Anderson launched a bomb downfield, which senior running back Lance Johnson hauled in before being tackled at the Old Tappan 30-yard line. The Marauders sprinted up field and in an attempt to “clock” the ball there was a mixup between Anderson and the center and the ball fell to the ground where Dippolito fell on it. One kneel-down by McNerney and the game was over.

After going three-and-out on their first possession of the game the Golden Knights found themselves behind on the scoreboard for the first time all season. Anderson led the team downfield using his arm and his legs. He converted two consecutive third down plays with pass completions to Johnson. A few plays later he scrambled away from defenders before finding senior wide receiver Evan Kelson wide open in the end zone to give Mount Olive a 7-0 lead. But the Golden Knights have Antinori and he was the workhorse in the game (27-125 yards, 2 TD).

“We created gaps up front,” said Dunn, “and we gave Marquez a lot of inside runs and were able to get him to the second level consistently.” After the Marauders took the lead, Antinori carried the ball six times, gaining 31 yards, including a 3-yard TD run. The key play of the drive was a 19-yard pass completion from McNerney to Lohrer to give Old Tappan a first down at Mount Olive 15. The Marauders took a 14-7 lead when Anderson completed a pass to senior wide receiver Robert Bakovic for 22 yards to open the scoring march and scored on a 4th-and-19 with a quarterback draw. But Antinori went back to work the next time Old Tappan got the ball, running eight times for 34 yards with a 2-yard TD run to knot the score at 14-all.

Mount Olive got the ball with 6:06 to go in the half and drove down the field with a mixture of passes by Anderson and some runs by senior Anthony DiJoseph. With less than a minute to go Golden Knights senior Michael Mancuso sacked Anderson at the 18-yard line. On a 4th-and-17 Anderson was tackled at the 4-yard line as time ran out and the teams went into intermission tied at 14. “It (stopping Anderson) was big,” said Dunn. “They kind of ran out of time, but the kid made it close.”

Old Tappan took a 17-14 lead on its first possession of the third quarter but Mount Olive came right back aided by a spectacular diving catch by senior wide receiver Evan Kelson on a 2nd-and-20, good for 49 yards. Kelson’s catch gave the Marauders a first down at the Knights 31-yard line. Four plays later Anderson hooked up with Kelson for a 7-yard touchdown to give the lead back Mount Olive, 20-17. Then came the Golden Knights huge comeback. McNerney was 10-16 for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the season with 2,098 yards passing and 23 TDs. Antinori finished the season with 1,106 yards rushing.

“Today is a great example of how we were able to overcome adversity,” Dunn said. “We could have played better, but we did what we had to do. It’s the first time this year I can say that we really stuck one out. It’s the first time we were losing all year. I’m more proud to see that our guys have the guts inside to overcome adverse situations and make those plays. That makes me proud.”

Article By JC Baumuller


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