The players of Malcolm X Shabazz High School are called the Bulldogs and they were tenacious enough on Saturday to be the first serious opponents of the Verona High School football team this season.
It almost didn’t look like it was going to be that kind of game. A blistering opening drive by the Hillbillies got Verona into the end zone in the first three minutes with a Frank Ferrari touchdown. But when Shabazz intercepted a Ferrari throw soon after and put some yardage on it, it was clear that the Bulldogs were putting some muscle on the field. At three minutes to go in the first quarter Shabazz quarterback Zaire Fogle connected with Ike McLean for a touchdown, making the score a 7-7 tie.
Turnovers cost both teams momentum throughout the gray afternoon. Shabazz picked off several Verona passes while the Hillbillies caused two Bulldog fumbles. After a second Ferrari touchdown, the first half ended at Verona 14-Shabazz 7.
But the most critical play to Verona’s ultimate victory came in the third quarter, after Shabazz had upped the ante to 14-13. Fogle fired a long pass in the direction of Sampson Drive and Shallah Mitchell. The Shabazz running back, who was making his first appearance on the gridiron since being shot this summer, ended with his feet just inches wide of the end zone. A touchdown by Verona junior Mark Riggio then brought the game to 21-13, where it would stay for the fourth quarter.