Big plays spark Passaic’s Thanksgiving Day win by Sean Farrell of The Record
CLIFTON – Justin Mangual backed it up.
The Passaic quarterback came to his coach before fourth down with one bold request.
“Give me the ball.”
The decision that ended seven years of losing wasn’t supposed to happen.
Coach William Widener was ready to punt.
It was the logical choice with his offense facing fourth down from its own end and the score tied with two minutes left.
But Mangual convinced him otherwise and made an unconventional call pay off in the Indians’ 42-35 win over Clifton on Thanksgiving Day.
He needed three yards. And he ran for 71, into the endzone.
That gutsy move gave the Indians their first 5-win season since 2009, and ended a four-game losing streak to the rival Mustangs.
“This is bigger than myself,” Mangual said. “It goes beyond me, past this year and last year. It’s history. We’re making history right here. Passaic has come a long way. I’m proud of everybody. I’m proud to be a Passaic Indian.”
Mangual came up huge for Passaic all day.
The senior ended his high school career on a high note by running for 216 yards and four touchdowns and throwing for another score.
The first-year starter made explosive plays, the key behind the Indians’ third win in four games.
“This team just wanted to work,” Widener said. “This team never shied away from working hard. You never had to chase them to the weight room or chase them to the locker room. When it was cold, they were out there bright and early. They didn’t mind. They worked hard. They deserved this win.”
Offense came easy in Thursday’s game with touchdowns on four straight possessions at one point.
Passaic’s first drive lasted just one play as Antrelle Monroe opened the scoring with a 95-yard run.
But Clifton answered back on the first of three touchdowns by Christian Boneparte and even led late in the fourth quarter.
The Indians tied the game when Mangual found Carlos Pichardo on a 53-yard slant, and they got the ball back with just under four minutes left.
Mangual delivered the game-winner by finding a hole around the right side and going almost untouched on his way down the field.
Passaic’s Deondre Tosen intercepted a pass a few plays later to seal the win.
“I always tell my team, why not us?” Tosen said. “It just feels amazing.”
“The kids deserved it,” Widener said. “At the end of the day, you’re only a coach. I can only do so much. The kids got to want it and today and for the whole season, these men wanted it. It ain’t got nothing to do with me. They wanted it. It was their season and they decided to buckle down and take control of their destiny.”