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Madison, Westfield Capture NJSIAA Football Titles

North 2, Group 2 Final: Madison 27, Rutherford 6

Madison Dodgers (10-2) head football coach Chris Kubik said after the game, down 6-0 is not where you want to be but it’s a long game. “We knew if we hunkered down we could make plays,” said Kubik. In the second quarter, the Dodgers defense stepped up with a momentum-shifting play, stopping the Rutherford Bulldogs from gaining on fourth-and-1 at the Rutherford 43-yard line. From there, Madison went on a 12-play, 44-yard drive, consuming 5:17 off the clock. The drive was capped off by an 8-yard touchdown run from Dom Luppino.

Rutherford got the ball to start the second half, but Madison’s defense provided spark with Joe Mobley picking off a Nick Birchby pass taking it back for 35 yards for the score, putting the Dodgers up 14-6  just 15 seconds into the third quarter.

After forcing Rutherford into a three-and-out on their next possession and a 16-yard punt, Madison’s offense started at the Bulldogs 45-yard line. Swiftly moving down the field, the Dodgers pushed the lead to 21-6 on a 3-yard score from P.J. Mulcahy with 4:49 left in the third quarter.

Mulcahy carried the ball 19 times for 87 yards on the game.

In the fourth quarter, Mulcahy helped seal the game with his second score of the game.

Rutherford started with a flourish on their opening possession, using some trickery with Birchby handing off the ball to Tom Reid who in turn chucked the ball down field to junior wide receiver Laris Mullic for a 68-yard touchdown. The extra point was no good, leaving the score at 6-0. That proved to be the bulk of yardage of offense the Bulldogs could muster only gaining 11 additional yards the rest of the first half.

Birchby was held to 54 yards of passing while leading rusher Kevin Kosakowski who came into the game with over 1,000 yards rushing, 16 touchdowns and 7.7 yards a carry was held to eight carries for 26 yards.

“The line was phenomenal and the M.V.P. of the game,” said Mulcahy. “The first play by Rutherford caught us off guard and after that we had an idea what they wanted to run. At halftime, the coaches saw something in the way they lined up and we could hit a couple of gaps. The holes opened up and they couldn’t stop us.”

“Joe’s interception return a huge play and got one when we needed to,” said Kubik. “P.J. is a hell of a back, tough kid and played great today. It feels awesome to win a state title and you would be surprised how long two years seems and forever but you can’t win every year. I tell you what, four out of six is not bad and proud of the boys.”

In their 13th sectional finals appearance, Madison(10-2) won its ninth state title and first since 2012.


(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)


North 2, Group 5 Final: Westfield 10, Bridgewater-Raritan 7

Thrust into a dramatic situation with leading rusher Jack Curry out with an injured ankle, junior Matt Varano answered the call, barely crossing the goal line on fourth down at the 1-yard line with 8:20 remaining in the fourth and final quarter, giving Westfield a 10-0 lead that would stand up in the end. The Blue Devils capped off an undefeated season at 12-0.

“Matt Varano is a good running back and we did not change up anything and continued to run the football,” said Westfield head coach Jim DeSarno.

The Blue Devils defense hunkered down with a goal line stand with under two minutes remaining as Jacob Kurstedt picked off an Eric Nickel pass in the end zone. Westfield appeared to have things in hand until Bridgewater’s Cole Harper blocked and recovered a punt with 14 seconds left in the end zone for the score, trimming Westfield’s lead down to 10-7.

The Panthers attempted an onside kick, but on the first attempt were flagged for offsides. On the second try, the ball glanced off Blue Devils junior Jack Shirk but the Panthers were unable to recover the ball as it landed out of bounds, allowing Westfield to run out the clock and secure the North 2, Group 5 title.

The Blue Devils limited Nickel to 122 yards of passing and 39 yards rushing. Coming into the game, Nickel had amassed 1,820 yards passing along with 20 touchdowns and on the ground, 577 yards and eight touchdowns.

Bridgewater-Raritan took the second half kickoff and marched down the field to the Westfield four-yard line but the Blue Devils defense put the clamps on, tackling Nickel for a 1-yard loss and junior defensive end Jeffrey Gagum sacked Nickel for a 15-yard loss. The Panthers attempted a 37-yard field goal that was blocked.

“I have so much confidence in our defense and has to be hands down of the best in the state,” said Desarno. “Our kids stepped up when we had to.”

In the first quarter, Bridgewater quickly moved the ball on their first possession and had the ball inside the Blue Devils 10-yard line. However, on third-and-goal at the seven yard line, Nickel’s pass to Tate ended up with Tate fumbling the ball and Nick Maher recovering for Westfield. The Blue Devils took advantage of the miscue embarking on a 16- play, 87-yard drive that consumed 6:44 of the clock and resulted in a 23-yard field goal from Michael Moriarty.

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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