DePalma’s career night helps Wayne Valley take down West Milfory by Sean Farrell of The Record
WAYNE – Anthony DePalma’s big moment finally arrived.
The Wayne Valley tight end who came into the week with one varsity reception caught four passes for 147 yards in a 25-19 win over West Milford on Friday. DePalma rewarded the Indian coaching staff for moving him into the playbook and up the depth chart. The junior scored the game’s first touchdown and stretched the field, helping his team improve to 4-2 on the season.
Ryan Michels threw for a pair of touchdowns in the win, while Nick Trani and John Testa each scored on short runs.
“I knew I was going to get a lot of time tonight,” said DePalma, a JV player last year. “I just wanted to come out and give my all. It’s all credit to Michels and the line. My coach always says to throw him open. That’s really what he did. He threw some great balls that I was able to get to.”
What it means
Wayne Valley is a serious postseason contender. The Indians, ranked No. 16 in the North Jersey Public Top 20, have won four games in a row and haven’t allowed a team to score more than 20 points since Week 0.
With six returning starters on offense and seven on defense, this is a much different group than its 1-9 squad from last season. Beating West Milford put the Indians alone in second place in the SFC Freedom Red Division with one league game to play.
“This game is a rivalry that goes back a while,” coach Roger Kotlarz said. “It’s always a tough, hard-fought game. That’s exactly what we expected. They did what we expected, to have everybody stop the run. But that’s what opened up a lot of the play action early.”
The game hinged on two plays that helped Wayne Valley in the fourth quarter.
Nick Duncan recovered a fumble in his own territory with 7:48 left, stopping what could have been a go-ahead drive for the Highlanders.
The second was a video replay review that locked up the win for the Indians. West Milford’s Brandon Sanchez recovered an onside kick in the final minute, but was penalized for touching the ball before it traveled 10 yards. Instead of having last-minute drama, the Indians were able to kneel down for a one-possession win.
“It’s a good vote for the instant replay,” Kotlarz said. “Moments like this show you why you want to have that. It was kind of neat.”
By the numbers
► Michels went 6-for-11 with 121 yards passing and two touchdowns.
► Trani rushed for 68 yards and completed a 25-yard pass.
► The Indians’ defense stopped 10-of-11 third down attempts and forced two turnovers, including a first quarter interception by Thomas Moran.
DePalma was the difference-maker with nearly all of Wayne Valley’s production in the passing game. He was on the receiving end of a reverse pass and was tackled just shy of the endzone on another big play.
“I don’t know if I could have predicted that many yards, but we definitely have seen it in practice,” Kotlarz said. “He was poised to have a big game. We were ready. That’s why we designed a couple of things because he’s making progress.”
They said it
“This game means so much. This was a must-win game. For us to go far in the playoffs, we had to win this game. That’s what we did. We came out and played as a team and moved the ball.” – Wayne Valley quarterback Ryan Michels
► Wayne Valley hosts NV/Old Tappan on Friday.
► West Milford plays Fair Lawn at home on Friday.