It was sunny and warm at Centennial Field on Sunday as the Eagles A-Team took the field for their opening game of the 2014 season against the Nutley Raiders. Coach Steve Lupo’s Team kept the fans on the edge of their seats with a heart-stopping 20-15 win in the closing minutes.
The Eagle D held the Raiders to a 3 and out on the game’s opening possession and forced a punt. Early in their first possession of the season, Nick Riggio ripped off a 20 yard gain around the right end. Quarterback Tommy Sharkey then floated a screen pass to Anthony Zamloot, who caught it and rumbled for 18 more yards. Sharkey then dropped back to pass and found Matthew Frungillo streaking down the left sideline for 34 yards down to the one yard line. From the one-yard line it would be Zamloot taking a handoff and pounding it behind the blocks of Matt Aldiero, Patrick McMurtrie, Jack Gautieri, Brandon Cariani, and Matt Monroe. Patrick Haughney booted the two-point conversion through the uprights and the Eagles led 8-0 with 2:54 remaining in the first quarter.
Faced with 3rd and long on their next possession, the Raiders attempted to pass. Aldiero broke through the line and sacked the quarterback forcing another Raider punt.
The Eagles punted the ball right back and early in the second quarter their defense went back to work. On second down Sharkey knocked down an attempted slant pass. On third and long Nutley tried a pitch pass, but McMurtrie was not having any of it. Murtie swallowed the running back as he was throwing the pass and it went into the awaiting arms of Matthew Frungillo for an interception.
The Eagles took over deep in Raiders territory and quickly Sharkey would strike – hitting Haughney with a 20-yard TD pass. The extra point was no good, so the Eagles lead was 14-0 with 4:16 left in the half. That’s when things got interesting!
Zamloot sacked the Raiders QB to force a punt late in the half. The Eagles had less than a minute to run out the clock deep in their own end of the field. A holding call placed the ball on the Eagles 3-yard line. A play later the Nutley D stepped up and tackled the Eagles ball-carrier in the end zone for a safety. With 49 seconds left in the half it was 14-2 Eagles.
The third period would end with the same 14-9 score, though there was plenty of action, including Matthew Frung’s second interception of the game. The Eagles D was dominant all afternoon. Murtie, Zamloot and Brian Hipp combined on a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Tommy “TK” Kellner also had a sack forcing another Nutley punt with under 7 mins to play in the 4th quarter.
That’s when disaster struck. The Raiders picked off a screen pass and returned it for the go-ahead score with 6 minutes to play. However, the jubilant Raider spiked the ball which resulted in a 15-yard penalty, which would loom large even though Nutley had taken a 15-14 lead.
Coach Lupo elected to have the penalty enforced on the kick-off rather than the point after. Kicking from their own 25-yard line, Nick Giuliano returned the ball all the way down to the Nutley 42-yard line.
From there, Riggio and Zamloot would do the damage. Riggio sprinted for 20 yards, Zamloot rambled for 5, and then #38 again – this time taking it down to the Nutley 8-yard line.
The Eagles were set-up 1st & goal from the 8 with 3 minutes to play. However a penalty and 3 unsuccessful plays put them in 4th & goal from the 20-yard line. Shark dropped back and found Haughney deep in the corner of the end-zone for the score! The extra point failed, but the Eagles regained the lead 20-15 with 2:11 left.
Nutley saw their final hope die when Sharkey picked off a Raider pass with 1:25 seconds left.
The hard fought win puts the Eagles at 1-0 with a trip to Montville on the schedule for next Sunday, September 14 at 3:30. All who attended this game will agree that they got their money’s worth!
Pep rally photos copyright Pam Priscoe. Used by permission.