Offense wins games, defense wins championships.
Teams that can do both, go down as historic.
Hasbrouck Heights defeated Pompton Lakes, 14-13, as two high-scoring offensive teams with under-appreciated defenses faced each other for the inaugural North Jersey Interscholastic Conference championship Saturday afternoon in Pompton Lakes. Both teams had come into the game with perfect 7-0 records after defeating their previously undefeated opponents a week ago in the first round of the NJIC playoffs.
Pompton Lakes opened the scoring by marching down the field on the game’s opening possession. Senior quarterback Kevin Cotter hit wide receiver Nick Posimato in the corner of the end zone with 7:01 remaining in the first quarter.
Hasbrouck Heights finally got on the board with 7:07 remaining in the first half, as Heights quarterback Frank Quatrone scored from 12 yards out, cutting the lead to 7-6. Joey Giancaspro’s kick was blocked by Cardinals standout lineman Joe Nicolleti to preserve the lead for Pompton Lakes.
The Cardinals bounced back, as Cotter hit running back Chris Grecco with a 31-yard screen pass for a 13-6 lead with just 48 seconds remaining in the first half. Herlberto Herrera’s kick was no good, an extra point that would loom large later in the day.
Heights nearly scored right before the half, but Chris Sanders picked off a Quatrone pass in the end zone on the last play of the first half.
What was expected to be an offensive shootout, had settled into become a hard-hitting defensive battle in the second half. The Heights defense, led by defensive ends Jordan Wexler and Phillip Miller, started asserting itself, shutting Grecco down and forcing Cotter to scramble every time he dropped back to pass.
Quatrone scored his second touchdown of the game late in the third quarter, cutting the lead to 13-12. Heights coach Nick Delcalzo decided to go for two, and Quatrone hit reserve fullback Matt DiChiara for the Aviators first lead of the day.
The defense for Heights would hold the fort in the fouth quarter, as linebacker Travis Culkin and defensive tackles Dylan Freschi and Sean O’Malley joined Wexler and Miller in shutting down the run game of the Cardinals.
With a little more than three minutes remaining in the game, a John Iurato fumble gave the Cardinals a chance to win the game, taking over at the Heights 24. After an incomplete pass and short run by Grecco, Iurato sacked Cotter for a seven-yard loss, pushing the Cardinals out of range for a field goal, forcing a fourth and 14. Cotter’s pass was broken up by DiChiara, and the Aviators had the ball at their own 31.
Iurato’s redemption continued, as he ran for 27 yards on five carries, picking up three first downs, and enabling the Aviators to run out the clock for the 14-13 victory.