EAST ORANGE, NJ – It was a bright and windy sky this past Sunday, Oct. 23, as most Youth Football teams are gearing up for the first round of their conference playoffs. It was no exception as Paul Robeson Stadium was the site for the first round of the North Jersey Pop Warner Division 3 Playoffs for the Junior Pee Wee level and the Junior Varsity Level hosted by the East Orange Rams. The teams that were playing were the Linden Tigers vs. Union Rams; 5th Ward Hurricanes vs. the Union Rams; and the East Orange Rams vs. 5th Ward Hurricanes.
The first game of the afternoon featured the Junior Pee Wee Contest between the Union Rams vs. the Linden Tigers. The Tigers led by Cordell Hinton were able to hold off the late charge by Union Rams’ Mechai Best to advance to the next round of the Division 3 Playoffs to face the winner of the East Orange Rams vs. 5th Ward Hurricanes in the 2016 Playoff version of the “Battle of East Orange.”
Fifth Ward Hurricanes took on the Union Rams for the right to move on to the next round in the JV level Playoff game. The Hurricanes jumped out to an early 6-0 lead in the first quarter with a four-yard touchdown run only to have the Rams answer back later with a 45-yard bomb of their own to take the lead 8-6. The two squads continued to trade punches as they both scored in the second quarter. But Union went in the half with the lead 16-13. Union never looked back as they pulled away late in the fourth quarter driving the ball 48 yards in seven plays and skipped into the house from four yards out for the final 24-13 win.
The final game of the night featured a special “Battle of East Orange: The Playoff Edition.” Although the East Orange Rams were hosting the day’s festivities, they were in fact the visitors for this game as they played their neighborhood rival 5th Ward Hurricanes. Fifth Ward is based out of East Orange’s Columbia Park while the Rams have been longtime residents of Oval/Hare Park in lower East Orange. Both teams reside in the Grove Street Corridor of East Orange and are separated by less than a quarter mile. Not only bragging rights for the Conference and City were on the line, but the Neighborhood as well.
The first series of the game saw the East Orange Rams march down the field with ease as they ran with power in six plays before the Hurricanes put a stop their scoring ambitions with a terrific goal-line stand. But that did not stop the Rams from getting on the board first. With the ‘Canes backed up against their own end zone, the Rams’ defense stormed their front line twice and nabbing the Hurricanes’ quarterback for the eventual safety and 2-0 lead.
The second quarter saw RB Elijah Wright of the Hurricanes churn up the field and leave the Rams in his wake as he erupted for an explosive 83-yard touchdown to give his squad a 7-2 halftime lead. But the Rams came out swinging in the second half. Hurricanes RB Elijah Wright felt that wasn’t enough as he erupted again for a 55-yard gallop giving the ‘Canes a 13-2 lead early in the third quarter. The Rams led by RB Michael Henderson kept their composure as he galloped away from the pack on 31-yard touchdown to pull within 13-9 late in the third quarter.
The Rams had their rally caps on as they entered the final frame trailing by four points. The Hurricanes were eyeing the next game with the Linden Tigers but they needed to stop the Rams’ brutal stampede. The Rams continued to pound the ball, gobbling up valuable yards each time they touched the ball. Suddenly with just over three minutes left in the game, the Rams found paydirt. Led by a committee of running backs in Damian Phillips, Michael Henderson, and Keyshawn Lyles, the Rams ran with power behind their front line and plowed their way to the Hurricanes 3-yard line where they sent Keyshawn Lyles for the 3-yard touchdown giving the Rams a slim 15-13 lead. The Hurricanes had other ideas as they sought to steal the game away. But the Rams defense held as they made their case with an exciting tackle of the Hurricanes’ RB Elijah Wright dropping him for a big loss and locking their position in the NJPW Division 3 Conference Championship.
For more information on the games you can contact your local teams and go to www.njpw.org or www.facebook.com/northjerseypopwarner for all your league action and updates.