Nutley HS football team rallies past Orange in overtime for third straight win

Nutey HS senior Nick Mainiero carries the ball in the win over Irvington this season. Photo by Steve Ellmore.

Kerry E. Porter contributed to this article.

NUTLEY, NJ – (updated Monday Oct. 16, 10:19 a.m.) – The Nutley High School varsity football team continued its inspiring turnaround.

The Raiders, who started the season 0-3, rallied to beat Orange, 21-14, in overtime on Saturday, Oct. 14, at Tangorra Field/Park Oval for its third straight victory to improve to 3-3. Orange fell to 2-4.

The junior tandem of quarterback Josh O’Neill and receiver Vin Russo sparked the comeback. O’Neill threw a 6-yard TD pass to Russo, followed by sophomore Justin Lucia’s extra-point, to tie it 14-14 with with 4:38 left in the fourth quarter.

In overtime, Russo scored on a 24-yard TD pass from O’Neil, followed by Lucia’s extra-point kick.

Russo then recovered an Orange fumble, his second of the game, on Orange’s possession in overtime to end the game.

Orange struck first in the game when Michael Pennix blocked a Nutley punt in Raiders’ territory to set up Jair McClary’s 12-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Nyquee Hawkins, rated as one of the best juniors in the nation, scored on a 13-yard run in the second quarter to increase Orange’s lead to 14-0.

The Raiders were threatening later in the second quarter, but Orange’s Louis Thompson intercepted a pass near the goal-line.

The Raiders got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter when senior Sam Abreu ran for a 1-yard TD with 7:47 left to cut it to 14-7. Luccia kicked the extra point.

In a post-game interview, DiGregorio stated , “Orange is a very well-coached team and we were looking forward to a tough game. We weren’t expecting the outcome, especially when we’ve been on the losing end of some tight games earlier in the season.” He also stated that they had some struggles, but they are now coming together at the right time.

Nutley will visit Chatham (1-5) on Saturday, Oct. 21, at 1 p.m. in a must-win game in order to stay in the hunt for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 state playoffs. The Raiders are in eighth place in the North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 power-point standings with 58 points. Rahway (3-2) is in seventh place with 60 points. Cliffside Park (2-4) is in ninth place with 47 points. The top eight teams in the power-point standings by the Nov. 4 cutoff earn playoff berths.

Note: Hawkins, a receiver/defensive back, is rated as a 4-star prospect and the No. 172 overall junior in the nation by He has several scholarship offers. Among the colleges that have offered a scholarship are Penn State, Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt, Nebraska, Michigan, Minnesota, UConn, and Rutgers.

Nutley (3-3)

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, Won, at Paramus, 27-22

Oct. 14, Won, Orange, 21-14 (OT)

Oct. 21, at Chatham, 1 p.m.

Oct. 28, at Parsippany Hills, 1 p.m.

Nov. 4, Barringer, 1 p.m.