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By: Joe Ragozzino - Essex County Sports Editor
WEST ORANGE – Coming off a thrilling victory the previous week, the West Orange High School varsity football team was looking to continue that momentum and hand town rival Seton Hall Prep its first loss of the season.
But the SHP Pirates used a balanced attack and big plays to thwart the WOHS Mountaineers, 38-14, on Saturday Oct. 6 at Joe Suriano Stadium on WOHS’ Homecoming in Super Essex Conference-American Division play.
The Pirates improved their record to 5-0, while the Mountaineers fell to 2-3.
SHP senior quarterback Peter Burkly threw two second-quarter touchdowns before leaving with an injured ankle late in the game. Senior running back Kevin Taylor scored two long touchdowns, including one of Burkly’s TD passes.
Taylor rushed for 106 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown and junior running back Nasir Austin had 119 yards and a touchdown on nine attempts for SHP.
Remaining perfect at this point of the season, was one of the Pirates’ goals, but there is room for improvement.
“We’ve been working for it all year,” said Taylor when asked about his thoughts on being 5-0. “It was something we looked forward to. We’re really strong. We’re getting better each game. We have a lot more to improve, so every game, we’re going to get better.”
Added SHP senior guard Mike Condon: “We (linemen) focused on getting off the ball quick to open holes for our runners and give our quarterback (Burkly) as much time as he needed to find open receivers which he did.”
With the win, the Pirates claimed the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl trophy, given to the winner between the two teams each year in the series.
An irate WOHS head coach John Jacob was disappointed in his team’s effort.
“No excuses for what happened,” said Jacob after the game. “We’re not going to make any excuses. We walked out here today and we didn’t play the way we needed to play. We didn’t play hard. We didn’t play inspired, and that’s why we deserved to lose.”
After rushing for 220 yards and three touchdowns when the Mountaineers beat East Orange Campus 31-30 on a last-second field goal in the previous week, senior running back Irvin Paye had another strong performance with 165 yards on 26 carries and both WOHS touchdowns.
The loss was certainly a wake-up call for the Mountaineers, who will visit Nutley this Saturday Oct. 13 on Nutley’s Homecoming.
“We just have to go work. We have to work harder,” Paye said.
The Pirates took the opening kickoff of the game and drove 64 yards in seven plays, capped by Austin’s 19-yard touchdown run with 9:08 left in the first quarter. Sophomore Ryan McSherry kicked the extra point.
The Mountaineers answered on their first possession of the game. Paye ran for a four-yard touchdown to end a 10-play, 60-yard drive with 4:55 remaining in the quarter. Junior Cristian Samusenko, who booted the game-winning 21-yard field goal against EO, kicked the point-after to tie the game at 7.
In the second quarter, the Mountaineers marched into SHP territory. But on fourth down-and-three at the SHP 26-yard line, WOHS senior quarterback Brandon Cowley’s pass fell incomplete.
The Pirates took over possession and drove 74 yards in 10 plays, with Burkly hitting senior split end Clay Austin in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown with 5:14 left in the half. McSherry kicked the extra point for a 14-7 lead.
The Pirates scored on their next possession. On the third play, Burkly threw a short pass to the left side to Taylor, who cut to the middle and sprinted into the end zone for a 64-yard touchdown with just 32 seconds left in the half. McSherry’s point-after made it 21-7.
The Mountaineers took the second-half kickoff. But on the third play from scrimmage, Paye fumbled the ball, which was recovered by senior safety Patrick Keyes at the WOHS 23-yard line. The Pirates capitalized when sophomore running back Julian Spain scored on a one-yard run on fourth down with 7:58 left in the third quarter. McSherry’s extra point extended it to 28-7.
The Pirates maintained control, driving from their own 18-yard line to the WOHS nine-yard line, aided by Austin’s 42-yard run. The drive ended when McSherry kicked a 24-yard field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter to make it 31-7.
Taylor scored on a 59-yard run with 5:08 left in the fourth quarter and McSherry kicked the point-after to extend it to 38-7.
Paye scored on the Mountaineers’ next possession on a one-yard run with 2:22 remaining in the game. Samusenko kicked the extra point.
Jacob knows his team must fix their mistakes if they are to get back on the winning track.
“We have to get back to work and we have to do things correctly because we did nothing correct,” he said. “We didn’t do the things we worked on all week long; we didn’t do the things that we needed to do all week long, and that’s the bottom line. “
Does Jacob feel the Mountaineers can bounce back?
Absolutely. But we certainly can’t continue to do the same things,” he said. “The bottom line is, we are at a point right now where if you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten, and that’s what we did today.”
The Pirates will visit Columbia this Friday Oct. 12 in Maplewood at 7 p.m. Columbia is 2-2.
The following are other statistics from the SHP-WOHS game:
SHP: Burkly, 7-for-9 passing, 120 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions; Spain, nine carries, 29 yards, one touchdown; Taylor, two receptions, 76 yards, one touchdown; Austin, five catches, 44 yards, one touchdown; Keyes, 11 tackles, seven solo, one fumble recovery; senior cornerback Markell Milstrey, 10 tackles, four solo. As a team, SHP rushed for 312 yards and three touchdowns on 46 carries.
WOHS: Cowley, 7-for-15 passing, 104 yards, ; five carries for 19 yards; senior tight end Marqus White, two catches for 49 yards; senior slotback Devon Hull, two catches for 22 yards.
Since the formation of the SEC in 2009, the Pirates are 3-1 against the Mountaineers. Here are the results:
2009: SHP defeated WOHS, 28-14
2010: SHP defeated WOHS, 51-27
2011: WOHS defeated SHP, 50-7
2012: SHP defeated WOHS, 38-14