CEDAR GROVE- One sure-fire ingredient of Friday night’s Super Football Conference National Red showdown between two of the better small-school teams in Essex County was that it was going to be a physical battle from the start.
Thanks to a solid defensive effort with players such as senior lineman Denham Ingalls, CJ Morrice and James Cantarelli penetrating into the backfield, plus a lethal pass-catch tandem of sophomore quarterback Stephen Paradiso and junior running back Nick Iannacone propelling the offense, Cedar Grove (4-1, 3-0) was able to do most of what it wanted to accomplish against an athletic Immaculate team in a 21-7 triumph on a cold, late September evening in the Grove.
“We knew that they have a big and powerful line and good athletes in the backfield, but we did well tonight in matching their strength up front and slowing them down for the most part,” said Ingalls, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound two-way tackle. “We practice hard each week, our coaches prepare us well, and we were ready from the start to hit hard tonight and play our game, which includes good, physical football.
“No 50, C.J. (Morrice) had a terrific game and we were able to get a lot of tackles for loss (seven) which helped limit their explosiveness.”
While the Panthers defense was superb, the offense did most of its damage through the air on touchdown passes of 28, 8 and 14 yards as the very impressive young signal caller Paradiso (11-of-19 for 168 yards, 3 TDs) hooked up with his longtime, familiar target Iannacone for TD aerials and a fairly comfortable 21-0 lead after their third scoring hook-up on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“We’ve played together and I’ve run pass routes for him since we were little kids,” said Iannacone, who had quite the night with 5 receptions for 67 yards and the 3 TDs plus an interception in the end zone to halt an IC drive near the goal line in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter and a blocked punt in the first quarter. “We all knew that this was a conference championship game between two top teams in our division and that we’d have to execute well in our passing game.
“Even when we were up 14-0 at the half we knew that we still had to bear down and finish the job which we did.”
IC (2-3) was hindered in its efforts due to the fact that its starting QB, sophomore Jordan Jenkins, was forced to leave the contest in the second quarter after absorbing a hip injury. His replacement, freshman Davion Young (4-of-7 for 20 yards), had to step in and run the Lions offense against one of the better Group 1 defenses in the state and it took a while for the visitors to finally get something going, which they did in the fourth quarter highlighted by a breakway 66-yard TD burst form junior FBS recruit Jasin Shiggs (9 carries for 119 yards) to make it 21-7 with 10:38 remaining.
The Lions had one more strong drive in them in the fourth quarter and sparked by runs of 25 yards from Shiggs and 33 yards from senior Marcus Gornowicz (5 carries for 47 yards), who played just the second half due to a nagging hamstring pull, they drove to the Cedar Grove 4 yard line.
However, the Panthers were able to stand tall with a big tackle of Shiggs for a 7-yard loss, and then Iannacone came up with his pick of Young in the end zone on a fourth down pass to put the final nail in IC’s coffin for the evening.
“It was nice to play four good quarters, which we needed to do and even though we left points off the board after the blocked punt by throwing an interception, I thought overall we played well and our defense did a real nice job in slowing them down just enough,” said Cedar Grove Coach Rob Gogerty. “We knew they had played some bigger teams close and that they have big and talented athletes.
“We expected a game like this and it’s nice to put together a solid victory against them.”
NOTES- Cedar Grove travels to face Newark Collegiate, 2 p.m., next Saturday, at Schools Stadium, in another National Red contest, while IC also stays in the division once again with an afternoon home contest vs. Glen Ridge at the Lions’ Codey Field in Montclair…Cedar Grove’s ‘D’ held IC’s talented senior running back Eriq Harris to just 2 positive yards on 9 carries…On hand to support the Lions on their sideline on a chilly Friday night were longtime IC assistant principal Pat Dyer, who is a former very successful track and cross country coach at the Montclair Catholic school, and IC's well-known boys basketball coach Jimmy Salmon…Cedar Grove’s Babcock, one of the better kickers in the SFC, had a 47 yard punt in the third quarter and was down-the-middle perfect on three successful extra points.
SFC-National Red Division Game:
IMMACULATE (2-3, 1-1) 0 0 0 7 - 7
CEDAR GROVE (4-1, 3-0) 0 14 0 7 -21
CG- Nick Iannacone 28 pass from Stephen Paradiso (Chris Babcock kick)
CG- Iannacone 8 pass from Paradiso (Babcock kick)
CG- Iannacone 14 pass from Paradiso (Babcock kick)
IC- Jasin Shiggs 66 run (Benjamin Price kick)
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