Photos by Steve Ellmore: Nutley Raiders (maroon uniforms) vs. Irvington Blue Knights, Sept. 30, at Park Oval.
NUTLEY – The Nutley High School varsity football team is a model of perseverance this season.
The Raiders entered their game with state-ranked Irvington with an 0-3 record, with two of those losses coming in heartbreaking fashion.
But head coach Steve DiGregorio’s team continued to work hard. And that hard work paid dividends with an emphatic 34-12 win over the Blue Knights on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 30, at the Park Oval.
Irvington came into the game ranked No. 15 in the state by The Star-Ledger/NJ.com, after being ranked No. 9 the previous week before they lost to Smyrna, Del.
The loss dropped Irvington to 2-2.
Things didn’t start off well for the Raiders. Irvington scored on its first possession of the game as senior quarterback Brandon Robinson hit senior tight end Keyon Means-Bowman for a 5-yard TD pass in the first quarter. The point-after kick was missed.
Following a Nutley punt, the Blue Knights threatened to increase their lead on their second possession. On third-and-goal from the 5, Robinson’s hard pass bounced off the chest of Irvington receiver Taiyon Battle in the end zone and Nutley linebacker John Luberto made a diving catch for the interception.
The Raiders capitalized on the ensuing drive with senior running back Nick Mainiero’s 1-yard TD run to tie it 6-6. NHS lined up for the point-after kick, but executed a trick play as junior receiver Eli Acosta took a pitch on an end-around and hit junior receiver Vin Russo for the two-point pass and an 8-6 lead early in the second quarter.
The Raiders maintained control in the second half. Acosta scored on a 65-yard run for the lone TD of the third quarter to extend it to 14-6.
In the fourth quarter, the Raiders scored three straight TDs for a commanding 34-6 lead, including junior quarterback Josh O’Neill’s 65-yard TD pass to Russo.
The Blue Knights scored as time expired on Nim Salaam’s 6-yard run.
Nutley had tough breaks this season. In the season opener at the Park Oval, West Essex scored on a kickoff return as time expired to beat Nutley, 27-22.
After losing to Bloomfield, 49-21, at Monsignor Owens Field, the Raiders fell at Pascack Valley, 35-31, in Hillsdale. PV scored a TD in the fourth quarter to erase a 31-28 deficit.
But the Raiders refused to quit and it showed in the impressive win over Irvington, a team that features several Division 1 college prospects, including Robinson and N.C. State-bound receiver/defensive back Jasiah Provillon.
NEXT GAMES – The Raiders will look to make it two wins in a row when they visit Paramus (2-2) on Friday night, Ot. 6, at 7 p.m. Irvington will be home, also on Oct. 6, against Millburn (1-2) at 7 p.m.
NOTES – DiGregorio is in his first year in his second stint with the Raiders. He was the head coach of the Raiders for eight seasons from 2004-2011, leading the Raiders to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 championship game at MetLife Stadium where they lost to Morristown.
O’Neill has committed to Division. Stony Brook University to play baseball. Fellow NHS junior teammate Marty Higgins committed to Division 1 St. John’s University.
Sept. 9, Loss, West Essex, 27-22
Sept. 15, Loss, Bloomfield, 49-21
Sept. 23, Loss, at Pascack Valley, 35-31
Sept. 30, Won, Irvington, 34-12
Oct. 6, at Paramus, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14, Orange, 1 p.m.
Oct. 21, at Chatham, 1 p.m.
Oct. 28, at Parsippany Hills, 1 p.m.
Nov. 4, Barringer, 1 p.m.
Sept. 8, Won, Lincoln, 38-0
Sept. 15, Won, at West Orange, 28-7
Sept. 22, Loss, at Smyrna, Del., 30-18
Sept. 30, Loss, at Nutley, 34-12
Oct. 6, Millburn, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13, at Wayne Valley, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21, Belleville, 1 p.m.
Oct. 28, at Passaic Valley, 1 p.m.
Nov. 3, Wayne Hills, 7 p.m.