Hackensack rallies past Teaneck on Thanksgiving by Jim McConville special to The Record
TEANECK – Andrew Achirem called it composure. It was a make or break moment for the senior, who like the rest of his Hackensack teammates had endured a season of frustration.
Two times, Achirem needed to concentrate on the ball. Both times he did his job, and the Comets turned what would have been a truly deflating defeat into a victory that propels them into the offseason with a lot of positivity.
Achirem’s second touchdown of the game, a 9-yard touchdown catch on a slant pattern with seven seconds left, sent Hackensack to a 19-18 come-from-behind win over Teaneck. While both teams finished at 4-6 on the year, there was definitely a different feeling on each side of the field.
“We finally grew up in the second half,” Comet coach Benjie Wimberly said. “We kept shooting ourselves in the foot with the penalties and we just weren’t sharp.”
Teaneck had taken a 12-0 lead at halftime on a pair of touchdowns by DeAndre Grange. The Highwaymen QB scored from 8 yards out on the first play of the second quarter and turned a fourth and 21 into a 40-yard touchdown run on the last play before the half.
Three plays into the second half on a third and 6, Hackensack went with the flea-flicker as sophomore wide receiver M.J. Ramirez came on an end around, pulled up and threw to a wide-open Achirem for a 48-yard touchdown that sliced the deficit in half.
“We’ve run that play a lot in practice,” Achirem said. “I just had to concentrate on the ball and not worry about anything else.”
Even though Teaneck came right back and scored on Grange’s third TD of the game, a 3-yarder, there was a new life on the Hackensack sideline after a lackluster first half.
“We just had to keep playing,” Achirem said. “We could see they were getting tired and all we had to do was stay composed and make plays.”
Hackensack had to overcome a lost fumble at the Teaneck 3 with 8:52 left, and Teaneck tried its best to milk the clock but the Comets got the ball back off a short punt at the Highwaymen 31 with 5:58 to play.
On third and goal from the 10, Comet QB Zion Frazier found Ramirez near the goal line and he reached the ball over as he went down for the score. Senior Edwin Espinal added what would become the deciding extra point with 3:08 to go.
Teaneck then got hit with an illegal block penalty that forced them into a fourth and 6 at the Hackensack 47. They elected to go for it and Grange was stopped for a yard loss by Justin Boyce.
“I was looking to end the game (with a first down) right there,” Teaneck coach Harold Clark said. “I thought they would bite on the dive fake but they didn’t. I probably should have punted but I really felt we had a good shot at the first down.”
With 1:32 to go, Frazier scrambled for 14, Ramirez had catches of 6 and 9 yards and Teaneck was called for pass interference, putting the ball at the Highwaymen 9-yard line. Two incomplete passes set up the third down slant.
“We showed maturity on those last two possessions,” Wimberly said. “That’s something we can definitely take into next year and it’s a great way for these seniors to go out.”
Teaneck was looking for its first non-losing season since 2007 after making its first playoff appearance in 10 years, and Clark said that, “I really feel bad for the seniors. They deserved better, but we didn’t finish the game out.”
Where are they? The Comets did not arrive for the game until around 10:25, or five minutes before kickoff. Wimberly explained that he had been told that they would have had to be off the field at 10:05 to accommodate Teaneck’s Senior Day ceremony) and that wasn’t enough time for them to complete their pre-game. Instead, they did a full pre-game in Hackensack before boarding the bus. In hindsight, it may have contributed to the sluggish start.
Highwaymen stat line: Grange, a senior, made plays all day, running for 195 yards on 205 carries. Senior Aaron Clark added 70 yards on 14 runs as both teams had 272 yards of total offense. The Highwaymen had only one pass completion for 5 yards. Senior Marcus McIlwain led Teaneck with 7 tackles and seniors Saeed Foster and Yahoshawa Mingo each had interceptions.
Comet stat line: Frazier, a junior, had both of his first half passes intercepted. He rebounded with 7 of 15 for 57 yards in the second half and added 37 yards rushing on 5 runs. Seniors Rashawn Hammond (5-46) and Koran Gregory (14-46) topped the rushers and Achirem was 4-66 receiving. Sophomore Isaiah Spain had 11 tackles and senior Justin Boyce and junior Raheem Nathan had 9 tackles each.