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Mahwah Snaps Westwood 20 Game Winning Streak

(Photo by Sunil Sunder Raj)

(Photo by Sunil Sunder Raj)


Mahwah Thunderbirds head coach Jeff Remo said after the game against the Westwood Cardinals, “It’s been written on our bulletin board in big letters, the number 20 and last year’s score has been written on all week.”

Mahwah was the last team to defeat Westwood which was back in 2013 by a score of 24-20, but last year, the Cardinals trounced Mahwah 48-14. Coming into this highly anticipated match-up, the Thunderbirds had accumulated 104 points while Westwood’s stingy defense had allowed a total of six points in two games.

Sparked by another stellar performance from senior QB James Ciliento, who scored four touchdowns and rushed for 180 yards on 13 carries, Mahwah crushed Westwood 41-13 at Egidio Corporale Stadium in Mahwah. Ciliento has racked up 10 scores in three games.

“We worked really hard in the summer and I can’t thank the coaches and lineman enough who busted their buns on offense and defense,” said James Ciliento. “Last year we took the lead and Westwood came out in the 2nd half and dominated us so we didn’t want that to happen again. To go up three scores on the field goal was huge and Patrick Cowan’s ability to kick it that far, well and accurate.”

After Michael Skopin returned the opening kickoff to the Thunderbirds 45-yard line, Ciliento wasted no time electrifying the home crowd on first down with a QB option run to the left and cut back towards the right sideline darting into the end zone giving Mahwah a 7-0 lead 17 seconds into the game. Mahwah’s defense forced Westwood into a three-and-out on their first possession. Cilento returned the ensuing punt to midfield. On third-and-3 from the Cardinals 27, Cilento displayed his speed cutting up the middle before slashing towards the right sideline for pay dirt, increasing the Thunderbirds lead to 14-0 with 4:45 left in the first quarter.

Westwood QB Steele Lombardi faced intense pressure from Mahwah’s defense front line, getting sacked on consecutive plays by Justin Walker and Alexander Lanzana. On Mahwah’s next possession Cilento completed a 23-yard pass to Mike Peltekian moving the ball down to the Westwood 22-yard line. Ciliento had appeared to have scored on a touchdown run right up the gut but was called back on an illegal motion penalty. An illegal man downfield penalty cost the Thunderbirds valuable yards forcing a field goal attempt where kicker Patrick Cowan split the uprights on a 42-yarder making it 17-0 in the second quarter.

The Cardinals started out at the 33-yard line on their first possession of the second quarter and proceeded to march down the field. Lombardi running for 23 yards and completing a 12 yard-pass to tight end Ryan Lawton. However, the Mahwah defense held and on a fourth-and-8 from the Thunderbirds 32-yard line Westwood head coach Dennis Hard decided to go for it which paid off as Lombardi under duress launched a pass towards the end zone as wide receiver Bobby Catherman got behind the defense backs to make the catch and walk into the end zone narrowing the margin to 17-7.

Ciliento gave Mahwah back the momentum blasting out of the gate for an 82-yard kickoff return pushing the lead back up to 24-7 with 6:28 left in the first half. Things would only getting worse for Westwood on their next possession as on second-and-10 from their 22-yard line, Lombardi fumbled the ball near the left sideline with linebacker Sean Noonan scooping up the ball and rumbling towards the end zone boosting the lead to 31-7.

Starting out at their own 30-yard line on the following possession, the Cardinals managed to move the ball effectively as Lombardi hooked up with Catherman on a 15 yard gain on third-and-11 and 27-yard completion on third-and-5 at the 49-yard line. Facing fourth-an- 10 at the Mahwah 25-yard line, Lombardi rolled to his right and heaved the ball where Lawton amazingly tipped the ball to himself for the sensational one handed catch while falling into end zone. Unfortunately the extra-point attempt failed leaving the score at 31-13 Thunderbirds.

Westwood received the second half opening kickoff and began at their own 33-yard line. Lombardi delivered a 58-yard strike to Catherman setting up the Cardinals at the Mahwah 4-yard line. The Thunderbird defense stepped up top the plate forcing Lombardi into throwing 3 straight incompletions as the score remained 31-13. Cowan booted home a 37-yard field goal early in the fourth and Cilento racked up his fourth score of the game with 9:16 remaining.

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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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