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Cedar Grove's senior quarterback Nick Zecchino has completed 75 of 140 passes (54%) for 1,364 yards, 15 TDs and 6 Int. this season in leading Panthers to a solid 9-2 campaign as N1G1 final nears. (Photos by Glenn Kross-glennkrossphotography.com)
CG's Nick Zecchino has rushed for 190 yards (4.0 per carry) and 4 TDs this season
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Zecchino persevered, took his occasional lumps while directing the Panthers’ offense in 2014, but he was determined to have a season of redemption for him and his Panthers this fall, which meant a tremendous amount of work put in during this past off-season.
“We all worked real hard last winter and all throughout the summer with our sights set on having a big senior season in football,” said Zecchino, who is also a starting third baseman in the spring for Cedar Grove’s fine baseball program. “My dad knows (former Westfield, Delaware and Giants QB) Scott Brunner, and I was able to work with him for several months, very early in the morning or later in the evening at Test Sports Center (in Martinsville) and he helped me tremendously with improving my passing and just how to be a better quarterback.
“Then, I worked with all my receivers at Cedar Grove – and we have a lot of good ones – and we all just kept getting out to the field whenever we could, and the time we all put in has really paid of this fall.
“It’s been a season to remember, and now we want to finish the job with a playoff championship!”
Zecchino has continued to work during this season with Cedar Grove assistant coach Steve Adams, a former standout QB with the Panthers and at both Shippensburg and East Stroudsburg at the college level. All the tutelage from terrific quarterbacking minds, plus his own diligence and maturity as a high school senior team leader has now paid off in a very big way.
He is one of the top QBs in Essex County and in the state’s Group 1 ranks.
“Nick has worked real hard to become a better quarterback, and he simply got it all going this fall with consistently strong play for us at the position plus he has toughness and is just a tremendous team leader,” said Cedar Grove’s longtime head coach Ed Sadloch. “He knows that he has some great receivers and his offensive line has done a nice job protecting him.
Among the top receivers for Cedar Grove are the very effective Tom Greatorex (14 receptions for 306 yards, 1 TD), who is back in the lineup after missing the first Verona game and the first round playoff contest vs. North Warren due to a concussion suffered vs. Shabazz; sure-handed Joe Rufo (team-leading 23 receptions, 484 yards, 6 TDs), who is the younger brother of ex-Panther star Paul; speed merchant Evidence Njoku (18-333, 5 TDs), who is the younger brother of current Miami standout David; Matt McManus (10-134, 2 TDs), Michael Slattery, Nick Zirolo, Christian Werndly and fullback Dominick Ferrara, who is valuable as an extra pass catcher out of the backfield.
The Panthers’ superb O-Line is led by left tackle Eric Kriegsman, left guard Sean Dougan, 3-year starting center Kledis Tabaku, right guard Gerard Castellano and right tackle Sean Foster.
Cedar Grove’s starting QB and veteran long snapper is friendly off the field with a few of the Verona players, including running back Mark Riggio and lineman Sean Crawford, plus he has a first cousin, Joe Zecchino, who is a sophomore basketball player for the Hillbillies and had been part of the football program as a freshman.
“Although we don’t run into each other much despite the fact our towns are right next to each other, there are definitely guys I know at Verona, and my cousin is an athlete there as well,” added Zecchino, who is 75 of 140 for 1,364 yards, 15 TDs and 6 Int. in 2015). “But, it will definitely be all business when it comes to everyone going head-to-head when we play with a playoff championship on the line.”
Verona edged Cedar Grove, 22-20, in a memorable and very hard-fought regular season contest at Doc Goeltz Field over in Hillbilly country on Nov. 7, a game that was not decided until Verona QB Zach Zaccone broke loose on a 44-yard TD run with 2:35 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“That was definitely a tough loss, but we know that we’re capable of coming out on top when we meet them again in the playoff championship game,” said Zecchino. “We have to make sure that we play a complete 48 minutes and don’t give up any big plays at the end this time.”
Whether he winds up being a quarterback or playing another position at a D3 or 1-AA school next fall, or perhaps does begin a journey at a major college FBS program as a long snapper like his dad did at Tenneessee, remains to be seen, but whatever ensues, the veteran long snapper at Cedar Grove has also become a QB to be reckoned with while leading his team to the ultimate setting in order to try and reach the pinnacle of the sport in the Garden State: namely vying for a sectional playoff title.
“It’s been an amazing journey and I wouldn’t trade what I’ve experienced at Cedar Grove for anything,” said Zecchino, whose dad owns the very popular Nicolo’s Bakery on Baldwin Street in Montclair. “My dad taught be all there is to know about being a long snapper and I love doing that, but being able to quarterback this football team has also been a dream come true and this has already been a season to remember as we strive for one more victory.”
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Cedar Grove coach Ed Sadloch confers with one of the Panthers' outstanding passing targets, junior wide receiver Evidence Njoku. (Photos by Bill Allen-NJSportAction.NET)
Cedar Grove QB Nick Zecchino (8) has made tremendous progress at the position since taking over as the Panthers' starting signal caller at the beginning of the 2014 season.
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