Even though summer is technically not over, it felt like a classic, brisk fall night at Wolfpack Stadium as West Morris Central took on the Parsippany Hills Vikings on Friday, Sept. 16.
The end result was a classic, grind-it-out West Morris win which saw two running backs, Jon Ciccone and Stephan Quatorze, each top the 100-yard mark on the way to a 28-21 Wolfpack win.
“Any time you win a close game, you’re happy, you want to enjoy it, and you’re proud of the kids. We do have to tighten up a couple of things, one or two on special teams. I think we’ve got to do a better job defensively; really, tackling,” said West Morris head coach Kevin Hennelly. “We always pride ourselves on being a very good, physical, tackling team, and I don’t know if we tackled as good and as capable as we are, but we’ll get better, because we’re gonna work to get better.”
The scoring began on the second play from scrimmage when Ciccone, after returning the opening kickoff for 49 yards, took the ball at the Vikings’ 36 and didn’t stop until he reached the end zone. Connor Young’s extra point made the score 7-0.
The Vikings would respond on their opening drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Simms to wide receiver Dan Hardwick. Hardwick would then kick the extra point to tie the game at seven. Simms would finish the game 16 of 26 passing with 144 yards and the touchdown to Hardwick.
The Wolfpack opened things up in the second quarter. After Ciccone gained 13 yards on a fake punt on fourth-and-3 to keep a West Morris drive alive, he would later score on that same drive. Later in the period, junior quarterback Jon Gutowski would score on a quarterback keeper from the 2-yard line. Young made both extra points, and West Morris went into the half up 21-7.
The Vikings would rebound in the third quarter by tightening up their defense and preventing any more West Morris scoring opportunities for most of the period. Still down 21-7, however, the Vikings ran a flea flicker to fool the Wolfpack. The end result was Hardwick hitting receiver Mike Comerford on a 68-yard touchdown pass that would close the gap to seven after the extra point with 1:07 remaining in the third.
“I’m not a big flea flicker guy, but sometimes, you’ve got to pull out all the stops, especially against a team like West Morris,” said Parsippany Hills head coach Dave Albano. “We did that, and it got us back in the game.”
The momentum, however, was short-lived. On the ensuing kickoff, West Morris tailback Joe DeBiasse would come away with a 61-yard return to put his team inside the Vikings’ 15-yard line. A few plays later, Gutowski would hit DeBiasse on a 20-yard touchdown pass to widen the margin to 28-14 following the extra point.
The quarterback-receiver duo had the scoring play in mind for the entire half up until this point, as it was an opportunity they missed toward the end of the first half.
“Me and Johnny, in the locker room before we went out for halftime, I was like, ‘if the six-and-go is there, just look for me. I know I’m gonna be open. Just throw it up and (I’ll) catch it,’” said DeBiasse. “It worked out for us in the second half.”
Hennelly has noticed not only his players’ knack for working together, but DeBiasse’s versatility on the field.
“Joe, over the last two weeks, has done a great job for us. On both sides of the ball, he’s made some great plays for us. He’s got great hands, he runs good patterns, and he and Johnny (Gutowski) have a good feel for each other to break patterns off,” said Hennelly. “They work well together, and it’s shown on some of the big first downs that we got.”
DeBiasse finished the game with six receptions, 72 yards and the touchdown, while Gutowski would complete seven of his 13 attempts for 86 yards and the score.
The Vikings put together one more scoring drive, capped off with 6:21 remaining in the game when tailback C.J. Joyce ran the ball in for a five-yard touchdown. Joyce finished the day with 72 yards on 15 carries and the score, and also contributed seven tackles and a sack on defense.
In a game featuring two high-powered offenses, however, it would be the West Morris defense that would seal the deal on a third down play. With 3:20 remaining in the game, Simms fumbled the snap and was sacked by Nick Hamilton and Chris Carfaro to force the Vikings to punt. From there, the Wolfpack would run out the clock and come away with the win.
West Morris now moves into next week’s showdown with Delbarton, undefeated at 2-0, but the Wolfpack knows it will have to bring its absolute best next Friday night to beat the Green Wave.
“We’ve played two solid teams, explosive teams, and Delbarton’s coming in. They’ve had success running the ball and passing the ball, so they’ll be everything we can handle,” said Hennelly. “We’ve got to do a good job preparing the kids, putting them in the right spots on both sides of the ball, and cleaning up our mistakes. They’re a good team; it should be a lot of fun, and a big challenge.”
Notes: Hamilton, defensive lineman Rob Hughes, and cornerback Austin Roland shared the West Morris team lead in tackles with six apiece. Hamilton also finished with 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. For the Vikings, linebacker Andrew Cupo notched ten tackles, while defensive lineman Sean Weg finished with eight. Quatorze, playing fullback in place of the injured Jason Mackewicz for the Wolfpack, finished with 22 carries for 107 yards, while Ciccone ran the ball 11 times for 105 yards. For the Vikings, Hardwick finished with 10 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.
For a photo gallery from the game, go here.