Football 101: Run the ball.
It was obvious to see the 2011 West Morris Central Wolfpack caught up on its studies before opening the season against the West Orange Mountaineers, as the team rumbled to a 34-25 victory on Friday, Sept. 9.
After graduating a trio of senior running backs last year, questions arose as to who would fill the shoes of Tom Cabarle, Shane Thompson and AJ Caruso.
It was Joe DeBiasse, Jon Ciccone and Jason Mackewicz, another trio of seniors, who raised their hands Friday night, combining for five touchdowns–all on the ground.
The Wolfpack got off to a rocky start on offense, going three-and-out on its first two possessions. When the Mountaineers got a second chance on their own 16-yard line with 4:44 left in the first quarter, they took full advantage.
Senior running back Lance Smith broke around the right edge, hurdled a defender and was off to the races, leaving the Wolfpack defense behind him. Kicker Christian Samusenko missed the extra point, giving West Orange a 6-0 lead.
Central’s running game would answer on the ensuing possession, as the team chewed up nearly five minutes of clock time on its way to a 10 play, 73-yard drive resulting in a Mackewicz touchdown run around the left side. Connor Young’s extra point was good, and the Wolfpack went up 7-6–a led they would not relinquish.
On it’s second drive of the quarter, the Wolfpack made quick work on the Mountaineer defense, putting together a six play drive–all runs–that ended in a three-yard DeBiasse touchdown jaunt. Connor Young’s kick was good, and the Wolfpack had a 14-6 lead.
The mid-game break didn’t slow Central’s running attack, as Ciccone got in on the action scoring his first touchdown of the night to cap off a five-play drive, aided by a 31-yard DeBiasse run. With Connor Young’s kick true, the Wolfpack was breezing with a 21-6 advantage.
But in the blink of an eye, West Orange got its confidence back.
Quarterback Jon Loewhing threw a slant to the right side for receiver Gregory Johnson, who turned up field for a 75-yard touchdown reception. Samusenko’s kick was good, and the score was 21-13.
On Central’s first offensive play in response to West Orange’s quick strike, Mackewicz carried the ball up the middle, only to be stopped dead in his tracks and lost for the game with a foot injury. The Wolfpack would go three-and-out, and was forced to punt.
After a high snap went over punter Connor Young’s head, West Orange was given a golden opportunity with the ball at the Wolfpack’s six-yard line.
It took the Mountaineers just two plays to punch it in, with senior quarterback Austin Vanderhoof taking a direct snap in for six yards. West Orange attempted a two-point conversion but came up short, making the score 21-19, Central.
As the fourth quarter rolled along, both teams traded touchdowns, when DeBiasse hit pay dirt for the second time, followed by a quarterback keeper for the Mountaineers–who would again miss the extra point–bringing the score to 28-25.
With 6:18 left in the game, and the Wolfpack starting at its own 36-yard line, taking time off the clock was paramount.
The ground game continued to work its way up field with a steady combination of DeBiasse, Ciccone, and senior Stephan Quatorze, who replaced Mackewicz.
With 2:34 left in the game, Central was faced with a fourth-and-15 at the Mountaineer 37-yard-line.
“We were going back and forth on what to do,” said Wolfpack head coach Kevin Hennelly. “I was saying to punt, (assistant coach) Danny (Wydner) wanted to run a draw. Danny made a great call–that’s why I listen to my coaches.”
That great call was a draw play out of the backfield, with Ciccone taking an angle around the left side. A downfield block by junior Tyler Amandos sealed the deal, ushering Ciccone in to the end zone after a 37-yard dash.
“We’ve practiced the draw,” Ciccone said. “It was a risky call, but it worked out.”
A fumbled snap wouldn’t allow Young to attempt an extra point, but with the score 34-25 with just 2:34 remaining, Central had sealed the deal.
“We ran the ball well,” Hennelly said. “We never put it on these guys to fill shoes of the players they’re following, rather, we explain to them the tradition of Wolfpack football and the great running backs we’ve had in our program.”
For a photo gallery from the West Morris Central Wolfpack home opener, .
West Morris Central hosts Parsippany Hills High School at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16.