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Cedar Grove coach Rob Gogerty (left) is seen with senior standout John Guaimano who had big night vs. Shabazz as he scored three touchdowns, including 100-yard interception return in third quarter which proved to be the difference as Panthers ended Shabazz's 17-game win streak with 22-19 victory at The Grove. CG is next at rival Verona noon Saturday. (Sideline Chatter photo)

Cedar Grove Steps Up To Make Big Plays
In Ending Shabazz’s 17-Game Win Streak

By Steve Tober

Cedar Grove’s penchant for making big plays at the most opportune time hit a  high point this past Friday night when the now 5-1 Panthers rode John Guaimano’s 100 yard interception return in the third quarter for a 22-6 lead en route to an eventual 22-19 win over Shabazz to end the Bulldogs’ 17-game winning streak.

When it comes to significant victories for an Essex County school the Panthers certainly made an emphatic statement about their ability to be both confident and courageous.

“The whole week we stressed about preparation and being fearless in the moment,” said Cedar Grove coach Rob Gogerty. “I believe we have a team that isn't going to back down from anyone and I thought we executed the game plan for the most part to put ourselves in a position to win the game.  And, then our guys just really stepped up and made a ton of big plays throughout the game.”

Guaimano, a terrific pass receiver who hauled in a pair of TD passes from quarterback Mike Lever in the first half, made his biggest play of the night on defense as he had what has to be one of the ‘Pick 6’s of the season when on a 3rd-and-6 from the 9 yard line he stepped in front of a Shabazz receiver right on the goal line, intercepted the pass and returned it 100 yards to pay dirt to give his team a 2-TD advantage.

“John is having a great year for us on the offensive side of the ball but even more important is that he really studies the game film during the week,” continued Gogerty. “I know he understood the situation and the formation from his preparation and just made a big time play at a crucial point in the game.”

Meanwhile Lever (10-of-20 for 201 yards 2 TDs passing and 16 carries for 54 yards on the ground) continues to be a critically important player in his first season as the starting QB in what is fast becoming a superb season for Cedar Grove.  

“Mike Lever has been tremendous all year long and his best moments have been against the best teams in crucial times,” said Gogerty. “I made a decision this past January that we would play a bit differently on offense this season and Mike has taken it by storm.  His poise and leadership have really taken a huge leap this year and we will continue to put the ball in his hands.

“I also think he is having a lot of fun doing it which makes it all more special to watch!”

Meanwhile Cedar Grove continues to rise to the occasion against a formidable slate of foes and the defense is also responding with increasingly strong efforts.

Against Shabazz among the leaders of the Panthers’ unit of resistance were junior linebacker Gerard Dente (seven tackles), senior DB Mike Guarino (six tackles), senior linebacker Michael Molteni (four tackles and a fumble recovery), freshman linebacker Patch McCarthy (five tackles and a sack) and sophomore end Dillon Jennings (four tackles).

“Our schedule has no breaks in it and I think its one of the toughest, if not the toughest Group 1 schedule in the state,” Gogerty stated. “It would be a very tough schedule for any Group 2 team in the state.

“Our younger guys have gained a ton of experience playing in close games and the upperclassman have made big plays in all our games to win these close ones.  I think our defense continues to get better each week and they have put together two solid efforts in a row now.”

And, the going doesn’t let up one iota this weekend as the Panthers are in the midst of preparing to make the very short trip over to Sellitto Field in nearby Verona to face their archrivals from Hillbilly country at noon this Saturday.

“I think our players know me by now that as sweet a win as it was vs. Shabazz, weI move on to the next opponent very quickly,” added Gogerty.  “My final message to them on Friday night was to enjoy the victory but come the morning, ‘You know what our focus will be!’”

AROUND ESSEX- Very quietly Millburn third-year coach Chris Drechsel has his Millers headed in the right direction highlighted by this past Saturday’s 27-20 win at Orange in a North Jersey Super Football Confernce-Freedom White Division battle. After back-to-back 1-9 and 2-8 records his first two seasons at the helm, Drechsel’s Millers have a very good shot to climb up and over .500 mark with this Friday night’s home game vs. Ferris and then a division game at Belleville on Oct. 26. Quarterback Shane Sullivan (10-of-19 for 141 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int.) helped lead Millburn in an impressive 14-point fourth quarter comeback effort to down the Tornadoes at Bell Stadium…Montclair dedicated its athletic complex surrounding Woodman Field to the late, great Aubrey Lewis before this past Saturday’s game vs. longtime rival Bloomfield. “I thought it was a great tribute to an incredible man,” said Mounties coach John Fiore. “I knew Aubrey II when he was the track coach at Montclair State and his son, Aubrey III played for me and is on our coaching staff working with the running backs. They are a tremendous family and a huge part of Montclair’s rich football history which No. 17 established as such a legacy to remember back in the 1950s.”…Despite its turnovers in the fourth quarter and subsequent 34-17 loss at Delbarton on Saturday to end a 4-game win streak, Seton Hall Prep (4-3) received strong efforts from its two defensive tackles, senior Niko Diakides (7 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fumble caused) and junior Lucas Giordano (8 tackles).

This Week’s Sideline Chatter Essex County Top 10:
1-West Essex (6-0)- Knights host always dangerous Parsippany Hills (5-2) Friday night
2-Seton Hall Prep (4-3)- Pirates fell at Delbarton and now take on strong St. Joe’s Saturday
3-Montclair (4-3)- Mounties rode outstanding game from RB Josh Crawford vs. Bloomfield
4-Irvington (4-3)- Blue Knights continue to try and climb up in North, Group 4 playoff picture
5-East Orange Campus (4-2)- Jaguars posted significant road win at Livingston Friday night.
6-Livingston (4-2)- RB-LB Joe Cullen impresses with hard-nosed, old-school style of play  
7-Cedar Grove (5-1)- Panthers impress while snapping Shabazz 17-game winning streak  
8-Weequahic (6-0)- Coach Brian Logan’s Indians continue to play lock-down defernse
9-Shabazz (5-1)- Shakur Williams Jr. scored all three of team’s TDs in loss at Cedar Grove
10-Verona (4-2)- Hillbillies impressed with one-sided win over Hoboken; Cedar Grove next!

This Weekend’s Schedule Involving Essex County Teams. Pick To Win in Boldface:

Friday Night, Oct. 19 at 7:
Hoboken at Weequahic (Untermann Field)
Newark Collegiate at Shabazz
West Side at Caldwell
Nutley at Snyder (Caven Point)
Parsippany Hills at West Essex
Barringer at Irvington
West Orange at Bloomfield
Belleville at Orange (Bell Stadium)
Ferris at Millburn
East Side at Marist

Saturday, Oct. 20:
Morristown-Beard at MKA, 1:30
Cedar Grove at Verona, noon
Central at Lincoln (Caven Point)
Immaculate at Sussex Tech, 1
Livingston at Montclair, 1
East Orange Campus at Columbia (Underhill Field), 1
Seton Hall Prep at St. Joe’s (Montvale), 1

Bye: Glen Ridge
Record on picks last week: 13-4. For the season: 98-24 (80%)
 Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister         

Cedar Grove's cheerleaders have soared along with their football team which is off to fine 5-1 start including 22-19 upset of Shabazz Friday night. (Photos by Walter Krehel)

Senior Mike Lever (left) has been very effective both as a passer (10-of-20 for 201 yards and 2 TDs vs. Shabazz) and runner (16 carries for 54 yards vs. Bulldogs) all season long.




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