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Mahwah rallies for 35-28 win over Westwood in North 1, Group 2 Final

Mahwah 35, Westwood 28

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)


Down 21-7 to Westwood (9-3) in the second quarter, there was no panic or desperation on the Mahwah sideline., Mahwah head coach Jeff Remo said

“We didn’t let it get too far out of hand and scoring right before the half helped us,” explained Mahwah head coach Jeff Remo.

With Thunderbirds quarterback Ron Riccie and Westwood quarterback Sean Hopkins (18 of 38, 209 yards, 4 TD’s, 2 INT’S) engaging in an aerial touchdown show, it was a defensive play that propelled Mahwah (11-1) to their second straight North 1, Group 2 Title at MetLife Stadium.

With the game tied at 28-28 in the fourth quarter, Hopkins threw a pass into a maze of players with senior Jack Wood stepping in front of host of players picking off the pass at the 31-yard line and racing down the left sidelines diving headfirst across the pylon putting Mahwah ahead for good at 35-28. The Cardinals had one last attempt to tie the game up but Mahwah’s defense came up with another big defensive stop forcing a Hopkins incomplete pass on 4th & 9 at the 46.

“That was probably the most nervous I have been,” said Wood. “The ball was right there and coaches had me in the right spot.”

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)

“Nothing surprises me about Brian DePaola and Jack Wood and at halftime I challenged those seniors to win a state championship,” Remo said. “There was one guy (Wood) who could have done it on this team and it was him. A year ago I said it was the greatest day of my life and today just as good. They played four quarters of football tonight.”

Down 28-21 with seven minutes remaining in the quarter, Mahwah started inside Cardinals territory due to catch interference called on a punt return. Gatta connected with DePaola for a third time chucking a high-arching 36-yard pass that DePaola reeled in while back pedaling into the end zone.

“Brian has been doing it all year for us, catching, running the ball and put him in at quarterback and definitely outstanding,” said Remo. “He (Ron Riccie) threw the ball well and into traffic and kids came down with the ball and great catches.”

“Today we showed we are a dominant senior class” said Brian DePaola. “Ronnie and I played together for years and tonight he threw it up and putting it in a good spot and did what I could do and make plays. Me and Ronnie really have good chemistry and he threw the ball amazing.”

“Going into the locker room, Coach (Remo) said the seniors have to come out here and get this win and we just stuck to the game plan and made a few offensive and defensive adjustments. It feels amazing considering we had a really talented senior class last year and to do it again with nine new starters.”

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)

Receiving the opening kickoff in the 3rd quarter, the Thunderbirds started with excellent field position at their own 41. After a couple of running plays, Riccie launched a 47-yard missile to DePaola who fell back landing in the end zone evening the game at 21-21 with 9:47 on the clock. Riccie completed 17 of 27 passes for 255 yards while DePaola caught 8 passes for 173 yards.

The Cardinals responded in a flash on their ensuing drive with Hopkins completing several passes to wide receiver Sean McKay. A key play was Hopkins finding McKay for 11 yards on 4th & 3 at the Mahwah 9. Two plays later Hopkins tossed a pass to McKay in the flat who did the rest stretching across the goal line for the score putting Westwood back on top 28-21 with 6:51 left.

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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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