ORANGE, NJ – The Orange High School varsity football team lost to Mahwah, 15-12, in its home opener Friday, Sept. 15, at Bell Stadium. The Tornadoes moved to 1-1.
OHS was riding a high coming off a huge road win in the season opener over Ferris HS in Jersey City, 47-6. But the Tornadoes had a test on their hands with the defending North Jersey Section 1, Group 2 state champion Thunderbirds.
Orange, led by quarterback George Crespo and wide receiver/defensive back Nyquee Hawkins, had some early issues with turnovers and costly penalties that were the difference maker during the contest. The Thunderbirds, on the other hand, were coming off a big 41-21 loss to rival Westwood in last week’s season opener.
With both teams playing to a draw in the first quarter, the Thunderbirds struck first in the second. Mahwah was in the midst of an eight-play, 62-yard march that started late in the first quarter. Led by sophomore quarterback Kyle Teel (4-9, 52 yards, 1 interception) and senior running back Sam Mintz (eight carries for 72 yards), the Thunderbirds found themselves knocking on the door of Orange’s goal line twice in the span of two minutes nearing the midpoint of the second quarter. The first time. the Tornadoes were able to force a fumble and take over on their own 9-yard line. But the Thunderbirds reclaimed the ball on a forced Tornadoes fumble three plays later. That set up a 5-yard scoot into the end zone by Mintz, giving the T-Birds a 6-0 lead with just 5:18 left in the half.
Crespo and Hawkins had an immediate answer with a 69-yard screen pass, but a costly penalty erased the touchdown. Mahwah took advantage of the costly mistake to force Orange to punt with 2:06 left in the first half. It would be Mintz again two plays later, squeeking through the Orange defense untouched for 30 yards with just less than two minutes left in the first half.
Crespo had to find his targets quickly in order to avoid being shut out for the half. In quick succession, he orchestrated a blazing five-play drive with the help of senior fullback Jair McClary’s two big gains of 15 yards and 20 yards. Crespo found Hawkins for two quick passes before connecting with senior tight end Mahkye Boswell on a stretching 18-yard touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone.
With Orange receiving the kickoff in the second half, Mahwah found a way to force yet another fumble, but they were forced to trade three-and-outs, turnovers on downs, a few punts and a Tornado fumble for the scoreless third quarter. Orange, with just 55 ticks left in the third quarter, began a seven-play surge that culminated with a 15-yard dash to the end zone by Crespo with 10:45 left in the fourth quarter. Orange pulled even 12-12 with time still on the clock and the defense was holding the Thunderbirds out of the red zone. Mahwah went on an 11-play, 40-yard march that ate under six minutes off the clock. Mahwah sent sophomore kicker Devin Yang out to boot a 37-yard field goal for the go-ahead 15-12 score with just 5:05 left in the game. Orange had just one more shot to avoid being upstaged by the Thunderbirds. Crespo (7-12, 75 yards, 1 TD; 20 carries for 121 yards, 1 TD) marshaled his squad down field in eight plays spanning 62 yards, but wasn’t able to convert the touchdown, leaving Mahwah with just 30 seconds to take a knee and spoil Orange’s home opener. “We had the play in end zone. but the pass just missed our wide receiver,” OHS head coach Randy Daniel. “We were looking for the right opportunity to spring the trap, but the late penalty was the difference maker for us. We will look forward to another good game next week against West Essex as we congratulate Coach Christopher Diaz’s squad on a close game that could’ve gone either way.”
Orange will host West Essex on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 1 p.m.