Shabazz HS football team falls to Verona

The Shabazz High School Bulldogs from the South Side of Newark continued to struggle as they dropped a 35-14 decision to the Hillbillies from Verona High School, who were look for retribution from last year’s thumping that Malcolm X. Shabazz High School gave them. This time it was in Verona with a packed house where the Hillbillies made no bones about it that they wanted to get their revenge.

The game got off to a fast start in the first quarter, where Shabazz took an early 6-0 lead missing the two-point conversion. Verona didn’t blink as they made their way to an easy 12-play, 56-yard drive with QB Cael Zebrowski finding his favorite target WR Steven Petro for a three-yard pass into the end zone, giving the Hillbillies a 7-6 edge after the PAT kick was good. But the Bulldogs did everything they planned to do to the Hillbillies in shutting down their running game forcing them to throw the ball were the Bulldogs picked off Zebrowski as they were making another speedy march to the promise land late in the first quarter. But the Bulldogs couldn’t take advantage as time expired to end the first period, leaving the door open for Verona to punch their way in with a seven-yard touchdown after going 47 yards in six plays from the Zebrowski – Petro combo. The Bulldogs had him them on the ropes when Petro was left all by his lonesome with nothing but the end zone behind him. The Hillbillies went up 14-6 but only for a quick moment as the Bulldogs’ one-two punch in QB Alterick Johnson and WR Al-Shaquan Floyd made quick work of the Verona defense going 67 yards in seven plays that coupled in RB Nasir Williams and Deshawn Hardy -Walker gritty and bruising rushing attack. Floyd waltzed into the house unscathed on a one-yard screen to pull Shabazz even after Johnson’s two-pont sneak at 14-14.

With the crowd going almost to the edge of their seats, it would a matter of moments when one of these two squads would blink. With just 38 ticks left the Bulldogs blinked first when the Hillbillies sent their RB Tandem in Frank and Nick Riggio to wear down the Shabazz front 8 along with costly penalties that would set up another Zebrowski -Petro short yardage dart the go ahead 21-14 lead at the half.

By the second half, the Hillbillies would gain full control and not look back. With the help of a costly penalty against the Bulldog late in the third quarter, it would be Nick Riggio getting the just reward from a yard out to extend Verona’s lead to 28-14. But the game changer came early in the final frame. Shabazz was on the move, they found a way to mix in steady diet of running the ball with Williams all the will slicing and dicing the Verona defensive backfield on the edges with Floyd and fellow WR Kyrie Wilson, Antonio William, and Julien Harris. Until Verona forced a fumble which Shabazz recovered but Verona force a second fumble along the Bulldog sideline in which Shabazz recovered but Verona got the ball back despite Shabazz Head Coach Tyrone Turner’s attempts to plead to the officials that his players knee was down on the ground but the officials overruled the play and ultimately gave the ball to the Hillbillies who made quick work of their chance with the ball after a big holding call against them. Zebrowski and company were behind their own twenty yardline with Bulldogs Defense starting to pin their ears back looking to get that ball back. With no go and hide, Zebrowski was able find a bigger target in his 6’3″ Senior WR Jake McConnachie showed some fancy footwork to dodge an oncoming Shabazz defender and take home the final score 83 yards to paydirt giving the Hillibillies the 35-14 victory over the Bulldogs. “We made some mistakes but we will bounce back and I look forward to making the playoffs this year” said Turner. He was disappointed that there were several missed calls that could have helped them out and his squad left a lot on the table. One Verona fan said they were looking forward to this game and they were happy that Verona was able to get retribution for loss in last year’s playoffs where Shabazz won handily in a blowout before losing in a dogfight to Hasbrouck Heights in the 2018 NJSIAA N2G2 Sectional Playoffs. Verona will end its home stand, against another Brick City Foe in Weequahic High School, before going on the road to face Hoboken, followed two backyard brawls with Cedar Grove and Glen Ridge.

Shabazz will have its work cut out for them when the Lions from Jersey City’s Lincoln High School come for a visit Friday evening (October 10, 2019) to kickoff a two game home stint. They will also face Cedar Grove the following week (October 18, 2019). Both games will have playoff implications and will start at 7pm. The remainder of the Bulldogs’ schedule will have them on the road facing nearby Newark Collegiate (10/25/2019) and Hudson Catholic in Jersey City (11/1) before coming back home for the annual Soul Bowl against rival Weequahic on Thanksgiving day.