Team VH Insider
Old Tappan vs Wayne Hills (PLAYOFFS)
Game Of The Week
The Golden Knights jumped out to a 21-7 first quarter lead and coasted to a 42-7 win over Wayne Hills in the North 1, Group 4 semifinals Friday night. They will play Mount Olive, 21-16 winners over West Morris, for a sectional title at MetLife Stadium the first weekend in December.
“The kids came out and were ready to play,” said Old Tappan coach Brian Dunn. “We’ve turned into a really good practice team and I could tell by the way we were practicing we were ready to go. The kids were sharp all week and knew what they were doing and knew how we wanted to get things done.
“The first play was indicative. It was executed perfectly. Nick [McNerney] threw it right on the money and hit it on a route we thought would be there early in the game. If any quarterback has played better than him I don’t know who it is.”
The first play from scrimmage was a 57-yard TD throw from McNerney to senior wide receiver Sal DeBenedetto.
“We saw the safety moved over - that was actually something we game-planned,” DeBenedetto said. “It was a new variation of a play we’ve been running this season. As soon as I saw the safety go over with the second receiver I was wide open down the middle of the field.”
“It was a shocker to me,” added McNerney. “My eyes blew up when I saw him wide open downfield. It was a kill shot. I said we’re going to score on this first play and set the tempo right now.” The uptempo offense for Old Tappan continued after its defense held the Patriots to a three-and-out. McNerney connected with DeBenedetto for eight yards and then DeBenedetto scooted around right end for 15 yards. Two plays later senior running back Marquez Antinori bolted through a hole for 15 yards down to the Wayne Hills 25. From there McNerney scored on a quarterback draw to make it 14-0 a little more than three minutes into the game.
“Every game we want to get on top of the opponent,” McNerney said. “Today we said if we score first and set the tempo it’s going to be our game.”
“We were going full speed all week,” added DeBenedetto. “We knew this game was the most important game [because] it was the game right in front of us. So we worked every day as hard as we could and came out and executed.”The lead grew to 21-0 when the dynamic duo of McNerney and DeBenedetto hooked up on a 28-yard touchdown pass play. A minute into the second quarter Wayne Hills got on the board with a five play, 73-yard scoring march. Junior quarterback Jaaron Hayek was unstoppable, with a 5-yard pass completion and four running plays for 68 yards, including a 36-yard TD scamper around and through the Knights defense to make it 21-7. The teams traded punts and the punt by Patriots junior JP Lemchak pinned Old Tappan back at its 2-yard line. Three running plays went nowhere and sophomore punter Sebastian Santana positioned himself in the end zone to punt the ball.
The snap was high and the 6’1 Santana jumped up, cradled the ball with one hand, juggled it, stepped forward and booted the ball as two Wayne Hills defenders crashed into him. The referee flagged the duo for roughing the kicker and the Golden Knights retained possession of the ball on their 15-yard line.
“That was probably the play of the game by the punter,” said Dunn. “They got it to 21-7, pinned us down and that ball should have been snapped through the end zone or been blocked for a touchdown. Either way it’s bad news for us. Sebastian (Santana) made an unbelievable play, not just to catch it but to get it off without it getting blocked. It was a phenomenal play - it was the biggest play of the game. If they hit a touchdown it’s 21-14. They had a lot of momentum going after they scored. I thought it was the play of the game.”
Old Tappan took advantage and on a 3rd-and-11 McNerney scrambled for 37 yards to midfield. A couple of plays later McNerney and DeBenedetto combined for a 35-yard gain down the left sideline to the 4-yard line. “I was running a zero downfield,” said DeBenedetto. “I actually thought that Nick under-threw me a little bit so I had to come back. But then I realized he didn’t under-throw so I had to adjust and catch it over my head. As soon as I knew I had possession of the ball I tried to locate the sideline to keep my feet inbounds.”
“I thought I overthrew him but he ran under it,” McNerney said. “It surprised me and it got us going.” From the 4-yard line DeBenedetto went in motion to the left and a Wayne Hills defender mirrored him. Suddenly, DeBenedetto ran back to the right, McNerney took the snap and tossed the ball to DeBenedetto who beat the defender to the corner of the end zone and increase the Old Tappan advantage to 28-7.
“We do that on purpose,” DeBenedetto said, “because we know on jet motion the No. 1 guy out there will stay with the jet. As soon as I cut back out he wouldn’t expect it.”
“Once I threw that ball,” McNerney said, “I knew he was going to get into the end zone. No doubt about it.” Old Tappan iced the game by scoring the first two times they had the ball in the second half. Antinori made it 35-7 with a 1-yard run to complete a drive in which he gained 40 yards on eight carries, including a 16-yard run on 4th-and-1. “Marquez did a great job,” said McNerney. “He got us yards, got us first downs and kept the clock rolling.”
“I thought the third quarter drive by our guys was impressive,” said Dunn. “Obviously we were trying to kill some clock and we turned a couple of third downs into first downs, we got the 4th-and-1, which he (Antinori) turned into a pretty big run. At that point we knew we were taking over the game.” Fittingly, McNerney and DeBenedetto closed out the scoring with a 63-yard bomb where DeBenedetto got behind the Wayne Hills defense and McNerney led him perfectly.
“It just takes hard work and preparation,” McNerney said. “We practice every day, watch film every day and we just gotta do what we gotta do.” For Old Tappan the sectional final in two weeks marks the third straight year they are going to the title game. They beat Wayne Hills in 2015 and lost to River Dell in overtime last year.
“It’s unreal,” DeBenedetto said. “I don’t know what it’s not like [to be in the title game]. So just going back there, knowing it’s my last time and we could actually win it [is amazing]. We’re just going to be that much more intense. We’ve got to bring it home this time.”
Article By JC Baumuller
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