NEWARK, NJ – The first-ever State Sectional Title to be held in the City of Newark did not disappoint as the highly anticipated bout between top-seeded Malcolm X. Shabazz Bulldogs played host to the second seeded Aviators from Hasbrouck Heights in the North Jersey Section 2, Group 1 finals at Newark’s Shabazz Stadium this past Saturday afternoon, Nov. 17.
Hasbrouck Heights beat the defending champion Bulldogs, 13-7.
The Aviators got the game going when they took an opening drive inside the Bulldogs’ 30-yard line, but coughed up the ball for the first fumble of the game. “We were lucky to get the ball back after Shabazz fumbled in the second quarter,” said Hasbrouck Heights head coach Nick Delcalzo. He’s speaking of the fumble exchange in the second quarter that would lead to breaking a deadlocked scoreless game. Four plays later Heights QB Spencer Lee fed his main go-to guy in athlete Jasiah Purdie who capped a 70-yard, 15-play drive with a jump pass to WR Shawn Calhoun for 7-0 lead late in the second quarter.
“We wanted to get our front line to control the tempo of the game,” said Delcalzo.
“With the loss of our running back, Aziz Wilson, due to a shoulder injury, we couldn’t find our normal groove” said Shabazz head coach Darnell Grant. Wilson was on track to having a 100-plus yard day at the time of his injury.
The Bulldogs found the response they were looking for in the third quarter. QB Anthony Travis, Jr launched a 69-yard bomb to Shakur Williams Jr., then followed with a 1-yard punch into the house to tie the score after the point-after try by Elliot Idemudia to tie the game once again with just 4:02 left in the third quarter. “We felt that if our team was clicking then we would have had a better opportunity in the fourth quarter to pull that out,” said Grant.
But Purdie was the complete game-changer as he finished with 140 yards on 23 attempts. “Jasiah was doing his best Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley impersonations as he caught seven passes for 47 yards an a late fourth-quarter touchdown to break the second stalemate of the day. We knew it could go either way but the interception for us was big play late in the game” said Delcalzo. “It was matter who will blink first.”
Hasbrouck Heights was hoping to be in the North Jersey Section 1 Group 1 bracket but were pushed down to North Jersey Section 2 when Pompton Lakes snuck in to have the last slot in the tournament. Shabazz was the defending North 2 champion but will ultimately close the season after their annual Thanksgiving game against backyard rival Weequahic, who lost to the Aviators in the Semifinals.
Purdie put the nail in the proverbial coffin when he snagged a 16-yard touchdown pass to seal the deal 13-7 with the help of a crucial interception by Zai’heer Jenkins of Shabazz’s Anthony Travis.
Hasbrouck Heights will play for the very first North Jersey Group 1 Bowl at MetLife Stadium against another set of Bulldogs, this time from Butler. Game will kick off at 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon, November 23. Shabazz and Weequahic will square off at Untermann Field Thanksgiving morning at 10 a.m.