East Orange football Panthers are playoff-bound

EAST ORANGE, NJ – The East Orange football Panthers have something to celebrate this fall. For the first time in several years, they are sending their whole team to the playoffs.

In an unprecedented move, the Garden State American Youth Football Conference has granted the opening of the playoffs to all their member organizations at all levels of play. The GSAYF had only six active teams and had to augment their playing schedules to allow for a shortened regular season.

“There were member organizations who did not have certain levels, which cause a few teams to merge and create new teams that spanned several towns and vicinities,” stated a GSAYF official.

This past weekend, the first round of the playoffs were played where “The Battle of the Oranges” took on a different appeal. Two of the three games played were regular-season games while Orange completed their game schedule at the 12U level.

The 8U game saw the Panthers run away from the Hudson County Dolphins with a 33-0 victory and putting them in direct line for the conference championship. But first, they have to play in the second round next week as the Union County Warriors come to Paul Robeson Stadium in East Orange to attempt to stop the Panthers from claiming the top spot in the GSAYF Conference Championships. The winner will face the winner of the Silk City Cardinals versus Hudson County Dolphins for the conference title at Montclair’s Woodman Field.  

The 10U game kicked off the first round of the GSAYF playoffs as the Panthers were looking to find an answer to  win on a high note. But they ran into a strong Orange Hurricane defense that shut down the Panthers’ offense at every attempt and in turn gave their own offense opportunities to score. Orange scored three touchdowns in the first half to put East Orange’s 2016 playoff championships to rest.

Orange will face the Hudson County Dolphins as they will look to upset them in order to get a shot at a rematch with the Silk City Cardinals, who will face the Union County Warriors in the semifinals next week.

The final 12U regular-season game showed what Orange had to bring to the table for the 2017 season. They found out that they were able to hold East Orange’s quick-strike offense to four total possessions in the first half while limiting Calvin Scott and Aniyah Motalvo to just a few yards apiece and no receptions.

The Cyclones found the end zone with just under four minutes remaining in the first half. QB Edwin Thomas III escaped the Panthers’ pass rush and tossed an 18-yard strike to RB Zaki Williams, who broke a tackle and carried two more Panther defenders with him into the end zone for the lone score of 6-0.

The Panthers came alive in the waning minutes of the game. With QB Kaleb Harmon-Simmons and his corp of receivers and running backs, he went right to work in picking apart the Cyclones’ defense. He found RB Calvin Scott and TE Aniyah Montalvo on back-to-back pass plays to put the Panthers inside the Cyclones’ 35-yard line. But the Cyclones had enough and were not letting the Panthers go any further. Quickly forcing three incomplete passes and throwing RB Calvin Scott for a loss, the Cyclones were able to shut the Panthers out of the end zone for the first time this season.

The East Orange Panthers 12U squad will move on to face the Union County Warriors in the semifinal round of the GSAYF Playoffs on Sunday in Rahway. This is a rematch of their Week 3 battle where Union County upset the Panthers, 14-8.

The Panthers 13U team had a bye week and will also play in the semifinals this Sunday at Paul Robeson Stadium. They will face the Montclair Cobras in a rematch of Week 5 where the Panthers won the game, 29-6. There will be live coverage of the game via www.facebook.com/ppypanthers at 11:30 a.m.