IRVINGTON – When the season seemed to be slipping away, the Irvington High School varsity football team never quit.
The relatively young Blue Knights turned things around after an 0-5 start, defeating Weequahic, Livingston and Caldwell in the next three games. Though they lost to Columbia and North Hunterdon in the final two games to finish 3-7, head coach Pete Pascarella was quite proud of his team’s determination, week after week.
“The locker room never lost confidence,” said Pascarella, whose team had four straight road games during that five-game stretch to start the season. “We knew that even though we were 0-5, three of those games were all within striking distance. We knew what we had and we knew there was still a chance to play for the playoffs and play for the conference. We kept fighting, keep everybody positive; keeping things in perspective; that you always have to play hard no matter what. It’s all about one-week seasons, and that’s how we kept it rolling.”
Even though there weren’t many seniors on the team, their leadership was still quite evident.
Among those key seniors were twins Rahim and Malik Hazel-Jackson; linebacker Muadh-Abdis Salaam and 6-foot-4, 250-pound two-way tackle Deja Grier. Rahim was a wide receiver/cornerback while Malik played linebacker.
The juniors and sophomores also stepped up as leaders, particularly junior Jyvon Brown, a three-year starting quarterback. Brown, Grier and sophomore wide receiver Jasiah Provillon were the team’s Offensive Most Valuable Players.
Junior Karon Gray also emerged as a standout wide receiver for the Blue Knights.
Abdis-Salaam and sophomore safety Alli Abbas were the team’s Defensive Most Valuable Players.
Junior 6-1, 225-pound linebacker Tyhmir Lassiter was another defensive standout.
Next season, the Blue Knights will compete in the newly-formed North Jersey Super Football Conference, which is a merger of the Super Essex Conference, Big North Conference, Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League and Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference. IHS will compete in a division that includes Wayne Valley, Wayne Hills, Passaic Valley, Millburn and Belleville. Though they aren’t familiar with the three non-Essex County schools, Pascarella and his team are looking forward to competing against their new divisional opponents next season.
With a strong returning group, the Blue Knights have reason to feel excited for 2016.
“We’ll be more experienced next year,” Pascarella said. “We’re excited about what we have coming back. We’re getting everything geared up; seeing who’s (playing other sports); getting our weight room going. It’s promising; very promising.”
Sept. 11, Loss, West Essex, 31-21
Sept. 19, Loss, at Orange, 8-6
Sept. 25, Loss, at Barringer, 27-7
Oct. 2, Loss, at Bloomfield, 24-6
Oct. 10, Loss, at Nutley, 28-7
Oct. 16, Won, Weequahic, 28-24
Oct. 23, Won, at Livingston, 27-21
Oct. 31, Won, Caldwell, 20-10
Nov. 6, Loss, at Columbia, 21-14
Nov. 14, Loss, North Hunterdon, 35-21*
*state regional crossover