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Punishing ground attack lifts Wallington past Emerson 28-19

Two undefeated teams in the NJIC Patriot Division took to the field at Emerson High School on Friday night in the Wallington Panthers and Emerson Cavaliers. The game featured two of the more underrated running backs in Bergen County in Elijah Mitchell from Wallington and Ryan Shaw of Emerson. Both players would have a meaningful impact in the game.

Entering the second half, Wallington held on to a slim 13-7 advantage. Receiving the kickoff to start the third quarter, the Panthers flipped the script, marching 68 yards in 13 plays while chewing up almost five minutes of the clock. The drive was capped off by quarterback David Backo’s second rushing touchdown of the game. Going for the two-point conversion, Backo (13 for 16, 139 yards) fired a pass to Zaheir Mitchell in the back of the end zone.

“We have good athletes and lineman and try to mix it up and keep the defense on their toes and not get too predictable and whatever works against a team we’re going to stick with it,” said David Backo. “When we went into the locker room we said we had some missed opportunities in the first half and had the ball and time of possession and we made it one of our goals to come out with the first possession and take a nice long drive and wear them out. This was a huge game, felt different and knew something was on the line.”

Limited by a staunch Panthers defense in the first half, Shaw (19 carries for 135 yards) found open holes in the line on the ensuing Emerson drive gaining 23 yards before rumbling 35 yards to pay dirt. However a botched extra point left the score at 21-13 with 5:15 remaining in the third quarter. Rejuvenated by the score, the Cavaliers defense forced a quick three-and-out. Shaw went back to work on the ground as Emerson’s offense moved the ball down to the Wallington 36. However, on 4th & 3 Shaw was stopped short of the first down marker by a stacked Panthers defense.

With 1:22 left in the quarter, the Panthers relied on their workhorse Elijah Mitchell (33 rushes for 115 yards) carrying the ball 10 times on the drive as Wallington ran a 15 play, 66-yard drive that consumed 8:17 of the clock resulting in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Backo to Zaheir Mitchell.

“I have to give credit to our offensive coordinator Charlie Vellis and really getting the mix of passing and running the ball,” said Wallington Head Coach Barry Blauvelt. “David Backo has really matured since his freshman year as a quarterback, player and person. The maturity level is really paying off. We take a lot of pride in our conditioning and keep working on wear a team down. We knew coming out they would make adjustments and able to play smash mouth football and just eat away at the clock and be in control at the end of the game.”

Refusing to throw in the white towel, Emerson quarterback Peter Durocher rallied his team completing several passes including running for 20 yards on fourth down to keep the drive alive. On second and ten from the Panthers 24, Durocher scrambled out of the pocket and zipped a strike to a wide-open Nico Savino.

Attempting the two-point conversion, Wallington’s defense rose to the occasion forcing an incomplete pass. One last gasp for the Cavaliers with an onside kick did not go according to plan as the kick was short of 10 yards as Wallington ran out the clock to end the game.

“This is a huge win, we’ve been down last couple of years and to come up here on the road and face a 4-0 team, excellent coaches and players and to take care of business and control of our own destiny,” Blauvelt said.


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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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