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Morris Hills defeats Parsippany Hills for State Championship, 27-14

Morris Hills 27, Parsippany Hills 14

Morris Hills High School had two things on their mind Saturday morning at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford NJ. First they were trying to win the school’s first State Football Championship since 1975, and secondly they would have to do it by knocking off fellow Morris County high school football team Parsippany Hills, which Morris Hills hasn’t beaten in in the last five years minus this year because they didn’t play. Parsippany Hills was going after their 2nd North 2 Group 3 Championship in the last three years, and were feeling confident with a high powered offense led by junior QB sensation Nick Verducci.

The Scarlett Knights of Morris Hills however have an amazing quarterback of their own in senior quarterback Daymon Fleming. Fleming continued his amazing play in the state finals as he threw for one touchdown and ran for another that sealed a 27-14 victory over the Vikings of Parsippany Hills, and gave the Morris Hills Scarlet Knights the school’s first state championship in 41 years.

Morris Hills won opening coin toss, electing to take the ball and marched the opening kickoff right down the field with a series of dives, sweeps, and bootlegs from running backs Dajon Chappell, Angelo Macera and quarterback Damon Fleming. It looked like a precise surgical procedure that ended with a Nick Walls 3 yard TD run for a quick 7-0 with 5:58 left in the first quarter.  The teams pretty much held serve with one another for the remainder of the quarter as both had some three and outs that ended the first quarter. The second quarter didn’t possess much drama either as Parsippany Hills best chance midway through the 2nd quarter deep in Morris Hills territory ended with a series of mistakes for the Vikings. Parsippany Hills had their best scoring chance of the half in that sequence as Verducci just couldn’t get going in the first half at all, but when Wilson Done toughed out a close 4th and 1 with 4:37 remaining it looked like the Vikings were in business, and were starting to figure out this Morris Hills defense. However, a sack of Nick Verducci for an 11-yard loss with 2:40 left in the left in the half  pushed the Vikings out of field goal range gave Parsippany Hills a 4th and 23. An encroachment penalty by Morris Hills made it 4th and 18, and on a 12 yard pass that came up short on 4th down the Vikings turned it over on downs as Morris Hills ran out the clock in the first half.

The third quarter started just as Parsippany Hills though it would for the entire game, after what looked like a series of adjustments by Coach Dave Albano, Mike Bettelli ran the 2nd half kickoff 23 yards to give the Vikings great field position to start the half. That’s when Quarterback Nick Verducci went to work and looked like the player that carried the Vikings to the State Finals. He rushed 6 times for 35 yards on the drive and also completed two passes for 11 yards capped with a 13 yard run and a successful PAT to tie the score at 7-7.  It took just three minutes and thirty five seconds off the clock and resembled the offense that Coach Dave Albano was used to that racked up 326 points on the season. They say though that in any sport, great players rise to the occasion and make big plays, and for Morris Hills HS that’s just what Daymon Fleming did. Morris Hills took the ensuing kickoff and drove right down the field to the Parsippany Hills 23 yard line. On a 4th and 4 Fleming dropped back in the pocket and with hands in his face completed a 23yard strike to Devin Caruso in the end zone to take back the lead at 13-7 after a missed PAT for Morris Hills. Fleming finished 3-4 for 34 yards for the game with one touchdown no interceptions. After a kickoff out of bounds to give Parsippany Hills the ball at their own 35 yard line Nick Verducci threw a nine-yard completion which was promptly fumbled and picked up by Devin Caruso, thus giving the ball back to Morris Hills inside Par Hills territory once again that ended the 3rd quarter.

Morris Hills took control pretty much the rest of the game and on a 4th and 5 at the Par Hills 30 yard line, Daymon Fleming ran for seven yards and a first down to keep the drive alive. A couple of plays later RB Angelo Macera ran for a 23 yard TD capped off by a Fleming to Dajon Chappell pass for a 2 point conversion to make the score 21-7 Morris Hills. Par Hills was stoned once again on the ensuing drive as a hold negated a 15 yard scamper by Verducci and gave the ball back to Morris Hills on their own 23 yard line with nine minutes and change remaining. On a second and 21 deep in their own end Senior Nick Walls broke off a 23 yard run to put the Scarlet Knights in great field position. From there the man of the hour Damon Fleming ran for a 57 yard touchdown to put the game out of reach for Parsippany Hills. The PAT was no good making the score 27-7 with just 4:54 left in the game. Fleming carried the ball 15 times on the day for 101 yards and a touchdown. Parsippany Hills got a late touchdown with 2:59 left on a Nick Verducci 5 yard touchdown pass to Kyle Davis to make the score 27-14. However, Parsippany Hills wouldn’t be able to mount any offense after that as Morris Hills went on to win their first North 2 Group 3 Title since 1975. Nick Verducci finished the day with 20 rushes for 67 yards and a touchdown and 11 for 16 for 56 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.

With two schools separated by just 10 miles they had to drive 35 miles and 25 miles respectively to Bergen County to settle a score of who is the best Group 3 team in Morris County, and at the end of the day the Scarlet Knights of Morris Hills can lay claim to that. So as they hoist the trophy tonight for their first state championship in 41 years they can also lay claim to being Group 3’s best Morris County team beating a rival Morris County school for the first time in five years.

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