Ridgewood slides by Passaic Tech in North 1, Group 5 Title Game
Ridgewood 14, Passaic Tech 13
Last year in the North 1, Group 5 championship game at MetLife Stadium, Ridgewood struggled mightily against Passaic and ended up getting blanked 27-0. Undefeated this season at 11-0, the Maroons definitely had revenge in their minds in the rematch on Saturday.
Ridgewood quickly ended the shutout streak in the first quarter thanks to the defense causing a fumble by Bulldogs running back Rahzik Starr. Maroons outside linebacker Coleston Smith recovered the ball inside the 5-yard line. Stymied the first three downs, Ridgewood went for it on fourth down and leading rusher Zach Feagles initially stopped at the line scrimmage, extended the ball across the goal line for the score. The extra point was no good as the Maroons held a 6-0 lead with 3:03 left.
Late in the second quarter Passaic Tech caught a big break with Rhazeer Jones partially blocking a Feagles punt. After a penalty moved the ball back to the 22, quarterback Waleek Huffin connected on a 22-yard fade pass to wide receiver Amado Rodriguez giving the Bulldogs a 7-6 lead with eight seconds remaining in the first half.
The second half became more of a defensive struggle as both offenses kept the ball on the ground and punts exchanged by both teams. Early in the fourth quarter, Ridgewood had an opportunity to take the lead but missed a 32-yard field goal.
Midway through the fourth period, Starr coughed up the ball for a second time on a crunching hit by Maroons cornerback Wylie Sherman and Drew Granski recovering the ball. A personal foul assessed on the Passaic Tech defense gave Ridgewood terrific field position inside the 10-yard line. On 3rd and goal from the 1, Feagles end sweep run put the Maroons back on top. Going for the two-point conversion, quarterback Jack Barclay completed a pass to wide-open Smith in the end zone making it 14-7.
“This team has had so much heart from the beginning,” said Ridgewood Head Coach Chuck Johnson. “I called this the perfect tea, because they worked their butts off in the weight room, modified their diets and bunch of Division III players that play their balls off. If I was going to retire which I’m not this would be the team to do it with. We had them where we wanted at halftime and told the team we have played everybody in the second half all year.”
Getting the ball back with less three minutes remaining, Passaic Tech’s other quarterback Derrick Cuavers flashed his arm strength completing passes of 17 and 18 yards to receiver Vincent Mariani. On 3rd and 10 at the Maroons 15, Cuavers fired a laser down the middle of the seam to Mariani for the touchdown. However, heartbreak set in for Passaic Tech as the extra point went wide right. Attempting an onside kick, the ball rolled out of bounds. A couple of kneel downs and Ridgewood(12-0) celebrated their first undefeated season since 1957.
“Our defense really stood in there and made some big plays and momentum shifted in the second half,” said Feagles. “When we connect on forth-down conversions it’s always a momentum swing and confidence keeps going. Last year definitely was not a good feeling but with a minute remaining and up and our offense on the field it was a great feeling and just being with the boys in the huddle.”
Sunil Sunder Raj
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