IRVINGTON, NJ (updated Thursday Nov. 11, 1:11 p.m.) – It’s now time for the playoffs.
This is what the Irvington High School varsity football team has been waiting for.
Under first-year head coach Ashley Pierre, the Blue Knights are looking to win a state playoff championship, something that has never been done in the program’s history.
It now has become a little bit easier to achieve that goal.
On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Irvington was awarded the No. 1 seed in the state North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 playoffs. When the official brackets were released on Monday, Nov. 7, Irvington was seeded No. 2. However, Wayne Hills, which was seeded No. 1, was found in violation of using ineligible players and thus was disqualified for the playoffs, according to northjersey.com.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association released a press release that stated Wayne Hills self-reported a violation that it had three players who did not have a bona fide change of address, yet played in each game this season, according to northjersey.com.
The Blue Knights will host No. 8 seed Northern Highlands in the first round on Friday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. Northern Highlands has been awarded the eighth and final playoff berth after being in the No. 9 spot in the power-points standings. The top eight teams in the power-point standings earn playoff berths. Northern Highlands has a 5-4 record.
The teams in the playoff bracket have all moved up a spot. Randolph was originally Irvington’s first-round opponent, but now has moved from the seventh seed to the sixth seed.
This is the first time the Blue Knights are in Section 1, Group 4.
Wayne Hills, incidentally, handed the Blue Knights their first loss of the season, 48-27, last Friday night, Nov. 4, at Wayne Hills in a game that determined the inaugural North Jersey Super Football Conference-Freedom White Division championship. The Blue Knights were 8-0 before the game. It was Wayne Hills’ eighth straight win following a season-opening loss to Pahokee of Florida.
But because of the violation, Wayne Hills was forced to forfeit its eight wins. Also as a result, Irvington has been declared the division champions.
Following the ruling, Irvington’s record now is 9-0.
Pierre said he found out about the news from a telephone call from Randolph coach Tariq Holman. Pierre added his phone “started going off the hook,” with all the calls he was getting on Tuesday.
Pierre admitted being more disappointed than shocked, simply because he wanted his team to get another shot at Wayne Hills in the playoffs. If Irvington and Wayne Hills had met in the playoffs, it would have been in the championship, most likely at MetLife Stadium.
“We wanted to play them again, man,” said Pierre. “That was the crazy thing. We wanted to play that team again.”
The 21-point loss to Wayne Hills is a bit misleading, noted Pierre. Wayne Hills didn’t really outplay Irvington; it was just that the Blue Knights hurt themselves with bad mistakes, Pierre added.
Though he felt sympathy for the Wayne Hills seniors, Pierre said his team is moving on and focused on Northern Highlands.
“These are uncontrollable circumstances,” said Pierre. “It’s just one of those things. We’re just worried about us, never really worried about anybody else we play and anything else that is going on. I just feel bad for a lot of those seniors on that team…. But we’re just worried about us. We just work.”
The Blue Knights are now adjusting their game preparations.
“The last 72 hours we’ve been watching film on Randolph. Now we have to spend a whole lot of time watching film on Northern Highlands,” Pierre said. “The good thing is the kids are off from school this week (for teachers convention), so they are already locked and loaded. We just have to regroup and get ready for Northern Highlands on Friday night.
“We have to worry about us. We dictate how we play. We didn’t play too well against Wayne Hills. They didn’t beat us; we beat ourselves. We got to get ready to play another game, against Northern Highlands, and we got to make sure that we have to do what we have to do.”
But make no mistake, Pierre is strongly confident in his team.
“I love my team, man,” he said. “Last week was good humble pie. We needed last week to kind of put us back to the hunger mode. My guys have been working the last couple of days. After that loss on Friday night, the minute we left Wayne Hills, we got back to work. The guys have gotten back to work ever since. They have a positive mindset. They are just ready to go to work on Friday night.”
UPDATE: The Wayne school district reportedly has decided to join in legal action pursued on behalf of the players to fight the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association to disqualify Wayne Hills from the playoffs. Darren Del Sardo, an attorney representing the Hayek family, said he has filed an appeal of the NJSIAA ruling with the State Education Commissioner, according to a report by nj.com
In Friday’s game against Wayne Hills, senior quarterback Jyvon Brown passed for two touchdowns and ran for another for the Blue Knights.
Wayne Hills was led by quarterback Brendan DeVera, who passed for five touchdowns to give him 29 for the season, breaking the school’s single-season record.
The Blue Knights took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Brown scored on a two-yard run on fourth-and-goal. Brown kicked the extra point.
DeVera hit Tyler Hayek for a 23-yard scoring pass to tie it 7-7. Joe Mongelli ran for an 11-yard touchdown to make it 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
DeVera threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jaaron Hayek to make it 20-7 in the second quarter. The two-point conversion pass failed.
Senior running back Alnazir Blackman ran for a one-yard touchdown for the Blue Knights to cut it to 20-13 later in the quarter. The extra-point kick failed.
DeVera threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Evidence Njoku for a 27-13 halftime lead.
The Blue Knights fumbled on the second-half kickoff and Wayne Hills recovered the ball. DeVera connected with Mongelli for a 13-yard touchdown pass to extend the lead to 34-13. Mongelli had an eight-yard touchdown run to make it 41-13 at the end of the third quarter.
Brown threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to junior Jasiah Provillon to cut it to 41-19 in the fourth quarter. The two-point conversion run failed. DeVera hit Hunter Hayek for a 22-yard touchdown pass to increase it to 48-19. Provillon caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Brown. Provillon also caught the two-point conversion pass from Brown.
The Blue Knights are in the playoffs for the first time since 2014. They appeared in the North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 playoffs for three straight seasons (2012-2014).
IHS’ only state playoff championship appearance occurred 10 years ago. The Blue Knights lost to New Brunswick, 18-14, in the North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 playoff championship game at Rutgers in 2006.
North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 playoffs
8-Northern Highlands at 1-Irvington
5-Morris Knolls at 4-Fair Lawn
6-Randolph at 3-West Morris
7-Roxbury at 2-Wayne Valley
Sept. 9, Won, at Lincoln of Jersey City, 46-24
Sept. 16, Won, West Orange, 22-3
Sept. 23, Won, Barringer, 36-23
Sept. 30, Won, Nutley, 20-0
Oct. 7, Won, at Millburn, 34-18
Oct. 15, Won, Wayne Valley, 52-25
Oct. 21, Won, at Belleville, 48-0
Oct. 29, Won, Passaic Valley, 33-20
Nov. 4, Won, at Wayne Hills, forfeit*
*Wayne Hills forfeits its 48-27 win over Irvington.