IRVINGTON, NJ — It just so happened that in the week leading up to the Nov. 21 game between Irvington and Passaic Tech, both teams were looking to play their second postseason games. Irvington was originally scheduled to play East Orange Campus this past week but, due to a COVID-19–related reason, East Orange had canceled their remaining two games and closed out their season. Irvington head coach Ashley Pierre said he was aware of everything going on but still wanted to play. Passaic Tech just wanted to close out their season on a high note and give their seniors a memory they won’t forget.
It was Senior Day for the Bulldogs, but the Knights had other things on their minds as they wanted to flex their muscles as one of the top Essex County teams to play this past weekend. It didn’t take long to see fireworks during the game, as the Knights were led by senior running backs Al-Jay Henderson and Rakeem Ross, who combined for seven plays on the ground, with Henderson breaking up the Irvington sideline for 31 yards, setting up Ross’ 7-yard score for the early 7-0 after kicker Anthony Ellis’ PAT kick was good. Passaic Tech tried their best to find answers, but were not able to stop the high-powered Knights defense as defensive line Zaire Angoy and linebacker Lensley Therlonge came crashing in for a sack of Bulldogs quarterback Raysun Belton. This forced Passaic Tech to punt, giving Irvington the ball inside the Bulldogs 50-yard line. The Knights didn’t waste much time taking eight plays in 45 yards to tag Henderson for the 8-yard skip to paydirt for the 14-0 lead after Ellis’ PAT kick with 1:30 left in the first quarter.
The second quarter was pretty much like the first, with the Knights flexing their will over the former 2019 North Jersey Section 1, Group 5 finalists. The Knights went up 21-0 as they sent Ross for his second 6-yard dash after being set up on a big punt return to the Bulldogs’ 13-yard line with just 11:22 left in the first half. With just 8:07 left, Passaic Tech was in another punt situation.
“We knew it was inevitable,” Pierre said. “Our whole right side was open, and we thought they were going to take a shot.”
That shot was a 53-yard fake punt with Bulldogs upback Keshon Holt taking the direct snap for the score.
“We had to try something,” Passaic Tech head coach Matt Demarest said, adding that he was happy that it worked, giving his team something to build on going into the second half, trailing 21-7.
Irvington tried a field goal with just 10 seconds on the clock, but Ellis’ 35-yard kick dropped short of the uprights to end the first half.
Irvington came out of the half firing on all cylinders, going 48 yards in five plays, giving Ross his third touchdown on the afternoon from 15 yards out and a 27-0 lead. Irvington came back again on their next series and immediately put the ball in the endzone again with 9:23 left in the third quarter. It was Henderson’s turn as he stormed his way to paydirt from 12 yards out and then sent Angoy on a lineman-eligible play to rush for the two-point conversion and the 35-7 lead.
The score stayed the same until the Bulldogs felt they had to put it in the hands of their sophomore passing duo of Belton and wide receiver Michael Kiritsis, who found the endzone on a 13-yard hookup to pull the score 35-14.
“They are an awesome team,” said Demarest of Irvington. “We are so lucky to have this game scheduled and would like to see them again going forward. However, this will be our swan song for the season.”
Irvington will be closing its season out against Clifton, who lost to East Orange 36-0 the week prior.
“We are scheduled for Friday but we will see if we can play on Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving,” Pierre said.
Photos Courtesy of Kerry Porter