NUTLEY, NJ – The Orange High School varsity football team lost to Nutley, 21-14, in overtime on Saturday, Oct. 14. The Tornadoes moved to a 2-4 record, while Nutley won its third straight to move to 3-3.
Needing this game and the next two games, the Tornadoes traveled to the Park Oval in Nutley to face Nutley for the probable spots in their respective group playoffs. With the cutoff looming and the necessary wins are pertinent to the campaign the Tornadoes look to pull even.
The Tornadoes and Raiders traded the ball three times over the first 6:18 in the first quarter. But it would be a steady diet of quarterback George Crespo, running back Jair McClary, and wide receiver Nyquee Hawkins that gave the Nutley defense a problem in containing them. Driving almost the length of the field that included a blocked punt by Michael Pennix made it possible for McClary to cap an opportunistic 12-yard scoot into the house with 5:42 left in the first period. McClary finished the game with nine rushes for 29 yards and the TD.
The Orange defense had a field day led by linebacker Mahkye Boswell and defensive tackle Wilgens Previlon, who both had 10 tackles, defensive end Nasir Givens, who had five tackles that included two sacks, and defensive back Louis Thompson, who stayed busy with five tackles and two interceptions while breaking up seven passes.
The Tornadoes played near perfect assignment defense that put Nutley QB Josh O’Neill on his horse to get out of trouble. O’Neill managed to zip the ball in to his receivers, completing seven of 21 passes for 126 yards for two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Orange found the end zone again early in the second quarter, after having a big run by Hawkins called back on a holding call. It would be Hawkins diving into the end zone from 11 yards out with 4:58 left in the first half to put the Tornadoes ahead 14-0 after the point-after kick at the half.
The third quarter was simply a defensive struggle where forced punts and turnover-on-downs were on the menu and a coverage sack was an extra bonus. Both teams were penalized defensively, but Orange was penalized more than the Raiders for a total of 115 yards to the Raiders’ 92 yards.
Nutley DB Vincent Russo was the game-changing difference maker.
“We were certain Orange was going to score on us again when they marched the ball steadily on us for over seven minutes,” said Nutley head coach Steve DiGregorio. But Russo forced a fumble and single-handedly shut down the Orange offensive attack. The fumble put Nutley in great field position going into the fourth quarter. The Raiders benefited from three costly Orange penalties that put them within striking distance of their first touchdown of the game. Nutley would send RB Sam Abreu for the 2-yard power dive and score to put the momentum back in the Raiders’ favor with 7:41 left in the game.
Russo and the Raiders weren’t done with the Tornadoes.
“We were playing a possession game and we wanted to contain Nutley’s quick-strike ability,” said Orange head coach Randy Daniel.
Nutley found the end zone again after forcing a second fumble thanks to Russo’s spot-on recovery.
Russo would flip over to his wide receiver position to catch a crucial 6-yard touchdown pass from O’Neill to tie the game at 14-14, putting the Raiders back in the game with 4:38 left in regulation. The Tornadoes needed a touchdown to escape, but time ran out and the game was forced into overtime.
Nutley got the ball first with an immediate response. O’Neill went up top 25 yards finding Russo on the other end heavily defended by Thompson and Hawkins to pull ahead, 21-14. Orange tried to respond, but once again, the Raiders forced another fumble which succinctly closed the game.
“We can’t blame anyone,” said Daniel. “They played an entirely good game. We knew coming in that we needed this game to help with our playoff bids, but losing this game was extremely tough.” 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.
Meanwhile, Daniel and company will set their sights on rocking the boat when the host the previously-undefeated Parsippany Hills Vikings on Saturday, Oct. 21, at 1 p.m. at Bell Stadium. The Vikings suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of the Knights of West Essex, 24-21, Oct. 13. West Essex also defeated Orange earlier this season in a close defensive struggle, 10-7.
Orange is hoping to capture the next two games and gain a little help to get in the North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 playoffs. The playoff cutoff is Nov. 4.
Orange is in eighth place in the North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 power-point standings. The top eight seeds by the cutoff earn playoff bids. Orange has 36 points. Woodbridge (2-4) is in seventh place with 38 points. Barringer (2-4) is in ninth place with 32 points.
Nutley will visit Chatham on Oct. 21 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.