Old Tappan took advantage of Paramus turnovers to earn a 35-0 victory in the opening game of the 2017 season Friday night.
“You have to capitalize on those [turnovers],” said Old Tappan coach Brian Dunn. “I wasn’t thrilled with the way we played on offense – too many mental mistakes – but we made enough big plays to put points on the board and take advantage.”
Golden Knights senior defensive back Aidan Bilali picked off a Spartans pass on the third play of the game and senior running back Daniel Vitellaro and senior quarterback Nick McNerney took it from there.
McNerney connected with Bilali for four yards and with senior Sal DeBenedetto for 18 yards, while Vitellaro carried the ball three times for 13 yards, including a 1-yard TD.
“Aidan’s interception was a big play,” said McNerney. “We came out and got a score. When you get an interception like that you have to come out and you have to drive down the field.”
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“After holding Paramus to a three-and-out Old Tappan drove deep into Spartan territory. But the Paramus defense stepped up and stuffed a fourth-down play at the 1-yard line.
The Spartans took over and on second down junior quarterback Nick Tarabocchia hooked up with junior wide-out Steven Prado for 25 yards to give Paramus some breathing room. But a few plays later DeBenedetto intercepted a pass and Old Tappan capitalized to make it 14-0. McNerney was effective on the ground and through the air.
“He had some big plays for us in clutch situations,” said Dunn.” He took off, cut the ball, ran the ball and got us some good conversions to move the chains. He had a big touchdown pass in the second quarter. He did a real good job in his first varsity game as a starter.”
“Coming in here I was a little nervous,” McNerney admitted. “I got the nerves out on the first play, took it down the field and I just felt like myself.” On a fourth down play he scrambled for 19 yards and a first down.
“I’m looking one to two - the first receiver, the second receiver,” McNerney said, describing how he decides when to pull the ball down and run. “If those two aren’t open I look for a hole and take off to get as much yardage as I can. I have to thank the linemen for giving me open holes.” Later, McNerney completed a pass to DeBenedetto for 14 yards and finished the scoring drive with a 5-yard toss to senior Bryan Baker.
“In the first half he really carried us because we weren’t playing that well,” Dunn said of his quarterback. “He enabled us to keep the ball moving down the field to give us a chance to reset and start over.” Old Tappan punched it in to make it 21-0 heading into intermission. Senior running back Marquez Antinori, who has been battling injuries in the preseason, scored on a 3-yard TD run with 35 seconds left in the half.
“We have to give a lot of credit to the O-line,” Antinori said. “They really make it happen for us. It all starts with them. We have Danny (Vitellaro) as the other running back, Sal (DeBenedetto) as a receiver, AB (Bilali) as a receiver and Johnny [Lohrer] as both running back and receiver. So we have a lot of weapons.”
Antinori also scored on a 1-yard run in the first possession of the third quarter to boost the lead to 28-0.
“He had a rough start and a rough finish,” said Dunn.” He had a couple of good series in there. He’s been battling injuries so he didn’t get a lot of practice time. He’s got to sharpen up. He knows it – he wants to play better than he did –and he had some good quality runs when we started getting some momentum going.”
The Golden Knights defense was superb throughout holding the Paramus starters to three first downs in the game.
“The defense played well,” said Dunn. “They did a good job covering in the secondary and got some pressure when we needed it. They did an outstanding job.”
Lohrer, from his position as running back, completed the scoring when he burst through a hole and sprinted 42 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Junior kicker Eric Rodriguez added his fifth extra point to make it 35-0.
“It was good to get that first win” Antinori said. “Everybody wants to win that first game. We made a lot of mistakes that could be improved so next week we’ll have to pick it up. We’re going to take it week-by-week and see how it goes.”
Article By JC Baumuller
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