Old Tappan survives Mt. Olive to win state title by Jim McConville special to The Record
NV/Old Tappan faced its stiffest challenge to a perfect season, as they had to overcome a game Mount Olive team, but in the end it cemented it’s legacy with a 31-28 win at MetLife Stadium.
The Golden Knights take home the North 1, Group 4 title and will be the top-ranked public school team in the NorthJersey.com top 20.
For the first time all season, the Golden Knights found themselves trailing in a game and they had to fight tooth and nail before finally breaking the Marauders down.
“Today is a great example of how we were able to overcome adversity,” NV/Old Tappan coach Brian Dunn said. “I’m more proud of that, to see that our guys had the guts to overcome the adversity and make plays.”
Marquez Antinori scored two touchdowns in the first half as the teams played to a 14-14 tie before NV/Old Tappan wore down the Marauders in the second half. Antinori had 125 rushing yards on 27 carries. His first score offset a Liam Anderson to Evan Kelson touchdown pass for MO and the second answered a scoring run by Anderson.
The Knights took their first lead of the game at 17-14 on an Eric Rodriguez 25-yard field goal with 3:20 left in the third quarter, but Anderson found Kelson again for a 7-yard score with 40 seconds left in the third. A missed extra point left Mount Olive up 20-17.
After struggling for much of three quarters, NV/Old Tappan quarterback Nick McNerney threw a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth period, the first a nice 55-yarder off a great play fake that froze the secondary. Bryan Baker ran the post pattern and was five yards behind the secondary when he caught it to put NV/Old Tappan up 24-20.
After forcing a second straight punt, the Golden Knights made it 31-20. Bryan Lukas had a pair of sacks that pushed Mount Olive back and the Knights took over at their 49. An Antinori 22-yard run helped set up McNerney at the Marauder’s 8. He rolled right and found a wide open Johnny Lohrer for the touchdown with 4:24 remaining.
“I think we need to extend rather than shorten the game,” Dunn said. “They were moving the ball well and I didn’t think we could get into a situation where we could just run Marquez and wear them down. We stayed aggressive and it paid off on the long one to Bryan.”
Mount Olive (10-2) came back with a touchdown, taking advantage of an NV/Old Tappan secondary that was minus Aidan Bilali (hamstring). Completions of 35 yards to Lance Johnson and 25 yards to Yanni Kalas preceded a three-yard Kalas TD catch with 2:21 to go. A two-point conversion made it a three-point game.
Mount Olive forced a punt and took over with 59 seconds left. On second down Anderson (19-25, 280 yards, 3 TD) hit Johnson for 36 yards to the NV/Old Tappan 30-yard line, but a botched snap trying to spike the ball was recovered by Jack Dippolito for the Knights.
“I saw the ball on the ground and I took it,” Dippolito said. “I had no idea, I saw the ball and I dove on it.”
NV/Old Tappan stat line: Antinori finishes the season with 1,106 rushing yards while McNerney (10-16, 153 yards, 2 TD) ends up with 2,098 passing yards and 23 touchdown passes. Lukas had 3.5 sacks, half of the seven sacks the NV/Old Tappan defense recorded. Sal DeBenedetto had seven catches for 71 yards.
Marauder stats: Kelson (7-94), Kalas (7-68) and Johnson (4-96) gave the Golden Knight secondary fits. There was a definite difference without Bilali at one of the corners, though Nick Orecchio made some nice plays. Anderson also ran for 46 yards on 11 carries and Anthony DiJoseph was 11-52 rushing.
Stopping the run: Both Anderson and DiJoseph came in with over 1,000 yards rushing and were held to a combined 98, half of what they average. Credit the Golden Knight’s front seven with keeping them in check, especially Liam Murphy, Dippolito, Pat Passalacqua, Jackson Downey and Michael Mancuso