Westfield wins second straight NJSIAA North 2 Group V title over Bridgewater-Raritan, 15-13
Westfield 15, Bridgewater-Raritan 13
A lot was on the line for the Westfield High School Football team on Saturday afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford NJ. The first thing was to keep the teams undefeated streak alive, which stood at 24 looking to extend it to 25 going into Saturday’s game. Secondly, be the first Westfield team to repeat as back to back state champions since 1976-77 team and the glory days of Butch Wolfolk. Lastly, to accomplish all this they must once again beat the team they defeated last season in finals. That team being Mid-State 38 Conference member Bridgewater-Raritan, which came in with a winning streak of its own having gone undefeated this season, last losing in last year’s state final to this same Westfield team.
Last year’s game was a defensive battle ending in a three-point win for the Blue Devils, which had a goal line stand and a blocked field goal to give them the victory last season. This game was all about defense as well, as both teams looked strong defensively. Westfield however looked just a little bit better, coming up with some big plays when they needed them. The Blue Devils sacked Bridgewater quarterback Nick Attanasio five times, and cornerback Adam McDaniel picked off two of his passes including one for a touchdown to steer Westfield to a 15-13 victory giving them their second straight North 2 Group 5 State Championship.
It would have to be about defense for the Blue Devils as the team was without three key offensive players due to injury, even though Mike Moriarty resumed his kicking duties. He gave Westfield an early 3-0 lead on a 28-yard field goal with 1:58 left in the first quarter. Towards the end of the first quarter Bridgewater Quarterback Nick Attanasio fumbled on his own 12 yard line, which was quickly recovered by Westfield player Nick Maher to end the first quarter. From there with 10:26 left in the second quarter FB Jake Vall-Llobera scored on a four yard plunge to give Westfield a 9-0 lead as the PAT was no good. Bridgewater quickly responded as Attanasio scampered 50-yards for a touchdown to cut the Westfield lead to 9-7 after the PAT.
Westfield quickly answered the bell and started another drive, but a fumble down near the Bridgewater 32-yard line would give the ball back to the Panthers with 2:00 minutes to go on the clock. From there the Westfield defense took over the game and made the key stops when they needed them. A few plays later Cornerback Adam McDaniel intercepted a Bridgewater Raritan pass and ran it back 39-yards for a touchdown, extending the Westfield lead to 15-7 after the made PAT. However with 1:32 to spare in the first half and three timeouts remaining Attanasio would drive the Panthers down the field, and after a late hit out of bounds by Westfield a senior running back Dave Usewick Bridgewater was in business down at the Westfield 40-yard line. A 13-yard completion by Bridgewater on a 4th and 10 brought the Panthers down inside the Red Zone, but a holding call on Bridgewater would make it 2nd and 29 for the Panthers. It seemed like turnovers, penalties, and mistakes would hurt the Panthers all day long, as Attanasio would be picked off once again by Adam McDaniel at the Westfield 6 yard line that ended the first half at 15-7.
After a scoreless and defensive 3rd Quarter, Quarterback Nick Attanasio hit RB Dave Usewick for a 25-yard strike with 11:48 left in the game to cut the lead to 15-13. Bridgewater elected to go for two, but was stopped on the one foot line on a huge hit by linebacker Shea Elliot which kept the score at 15-13. After a Philip Martini completion for Westfield later on at the 10:00 minute mark for a nine-yard gain to TE Kyle Dombroski he promptly fumbled and turned the ball back over to Bridgewater in their own end of the field. After a series of three and outs for both teams Westfield would get off a great punt, which they would down inside the Bridgewater 13 yard line with 3:47 to go. After a sack of Bridgewater quarterback Attanasio by lineman Owen Kessler to make it 4th and about 16, Attanasio would complete a 25-yard strike on 4th down to move Bridgewater to their own 40-yard line. From their Nick Attanasio would put the ball down and take off for a 25-yard run that brought the ball to the Westfield 35-yard line would be called back on a holding call. A very late flag to say the least from the head referee, which Bridgewater was not happy with. That made it 1st and 18 from their own 32, and on a 4th and nine with 44 seconds remaining lineman Owen Kessler would once again sack the Bridgewater Quarterback for the second time and the teams fifth to seal the victory, and the defense of their North 2, Group 5 title for the second straight year against their nemesis and arch-rival.
At the end of the day, Westfield could lay claim to a second repeat of a Football State Championship something that they not had done 38 years, which has the people of Westfield dreaming of the glory days and a dynasty, but there is always the 2017-18 season. Will the streak of 25 continue to 26? With some great young players coming back for Westfield next year could we see Bridgewater and Westfield part 3? For now The Union County school has bragging rights for at least for one more season, Westfield is the King of the Mid State 38 castle as State Champions.
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