NEWARK, NJ – The Shabazz High School varsity football team defeated Roselle Park, 27-6, in the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 1 state playoffs on Friday night at Shabazz Stadium.
For the second year in a row, Shabazz, now 10-0 on the season, will face Weequahic in the championship game. Weequahic defeated Shabazz in last year’s state final.
The Roselle Park Panthers came to the Brick City with one thing on their minds, playing their game plan and stopping the undefeated Shabazz Bulldogs from reaching the championship. Shabazz on the other hand had some unfinished business to attend to and Roselle Park was just another stop in getting there. Shabazz wanted another shot at rival Weequahic High School and complete their first undefeated season since 1966.
From the opening kickoff, it was looking like the plan was going to work. QB Patrick Gergich marched his team down the field, giving the Bulldogs a steady diet of RB Dylan Camillo, TE Devin Hilburn, and RB Abel Crespo. Starting from their own 42-yard line, the Panthers rolled to the Shabazz 1-yard line in just under nine minutes in the first quarter. But the Bulldogs, led by DL Sha-quan Hollins, DB McClinton Crosby, and LB Yusef Mapp, stalled the Panthers’ attack and thwarted their pending score with a stifling goal-line stand. With the turnover on downs, Shabazz then moved the ball 3 yards before taking a quick time out 2:01 left in the first quarter. Shabazz RB Michael Fields made the next play the spark that they needed to crack the game-opening tie. Fields bounced out to his right side and exploded for a 96-yard touchdown.
Trailing 7-0, Roselle Park went on a nine-play, six-minute drive that spanned the final 1:42 in the first quarter and the first 4:18 of the second quarter, but yet again Shabazz froze out the Panthers on the Bulldogs 28-yard line. Shabazz countered with another quick strike, a 70-yard hook-up from QB Anthony Travis Jr. and WR Nasir Collins giving Shabazz the 14-0 lead at the half.
Shabazz wasn’t looking to let up at the start of the third quarter. They went 10 plays in 57 yards, led by QB Anthony Travis Jr. Travis found Collins for the second time in the game, tossing a 13-yard pass to stretch 20-0. But Roselle Park once again wasn’t backing down either, starting from their own 24-yard line after the ensuing kickoff. The running back-by-committee in Dylan Camillo, Abel Crespo, and Gary Reach all contributed to the 76-yard drive which included a 31-yard reception as well as a 42-yard sweep and score by Camillo to cut the lead down to 20-6 after the missed extra point once again owning the clock and keeping Shabazz’s potent offense off the field. “We wanted to keep the ball in our hands and run the ball,” said Roselle Park Head Coach Terrence Hanratty. He went on to explain that they achieved their goals minus the two big plays early in the game. Shabazz Head Coach Darnell Grant agreed with the sentiment as well. Roselle Park would go on to force a turnover on downs with 1:25 left in the third quarter. QB Patrick Gergich (4 of 8 for 100 yards 1 INT) fed the ball to RB Dylan Camillo twice before airing it out 57 yards to WR Enzo Brutas setting up a crucial first and goal situation for the Panthers going into the final quarter of the game. Gergich, looking for his TE Devin Hilburnm, was picked off by Shabazz DB Shakur Williams stopping the momentum swinging into the Panthers’ direction. “We knew that we were in for a tough game,” said Hanratty, “but we are happy that we were able to keep the game competitive.” The two squads would trade punts and turnover-on-downs for much of the final quarter until the final 2:20 left in the game where Gergich was sacked for the fourth time in the game. Shabazz would take over on downs at the Panthers 15-yard line and immediately would send RB Michael Fields to the house for the final 27-6 score two plays later.
Roselle Park has been to the State Playoffs five out of the past six years, getting to the group semifinals three times and winning it all once during that time span. “I am extremely happy with our group of kids, we have seventeen graduating this year, although we wanted reach the finals this year we will look forward to our game against Roselle,” concluded Hanratty. For Shabazz this will be their second consecutive trip to the North Jersey Section 2 Group 1 State Sectional Final against rival Weequahic High School. But both schools will have one little piece of business before they can take a shot at the title.
The Panthers will close out their season with their annual Thanksgiving Game against Roselle at Roselle Park High School. Meanwhile Shabazz and Weequahic will play on Thanksgiving for the Soul Bowl which will be at Shabazz Stadium this year. Weequahic won both the Soul Bowl and State Championship last season.