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Veteran Roxbury coach Cosmo Lorusso remains inspirational presence for his Gaels, who have a perfect 6-0 record to date as they prepare to take on 6-0 Delbarton in Morris Township Saturday afternoon in Morris County's 'Game of the Year.' (Photo by Todd Mundt-tmundt.smugmug.com)
QB Grant Dixon (5) has been a strong passer for Roxbury. (Photo by Todd Mundt)
Delbarton QB John Chiarolanzio confers with coach Brian Bowers. (Photo by Sean Reilly)
Both 6-0 Powerhouses Hitting Full Stride
By Sean Reilly
It's being called the Game of the Year in Morris County, but there's another exciting aspect to the matchup sending Roxbury to Delbarton in a clash of unbeaten teams on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Sure, the game will likely decide the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference-National Division championship and significantly boost the winner's standing in its respective NJSIAA playoff section.
But what makes the meeting between the two powers, both 6-0, truly special is that because of its placement in the schedule, each side is seemingly at playing at full stride.
"To play in the biggest game in the county in Week 7 is a testament to how hard our team has worked," Roxbury coach Cosmo Lorusso said. "We've improved tremendously since game one. We are running better routes, employing more complicated schemes and executing offensively in ways that Roxbury has never done."
Delbarton coach Brian Bowers has similar feelings about his team.
"We have tried to get better every day in practice," he said. "That is our goal. Last week against Mendham (a 37-0 win) we finally got great execution from all phases of the game, and it showed. Football is very much about attention to details and for the first half of the season we were a little spotty with that. I think our younger players have grown up and are ready to get better and better. That's what we are hoping to get against Roxbury -- a consistent effort in every phase of the game."
The teams offer a somewhat similar offensive look. This year's Roxbury team has taken a step back from its normal Wing-t focus and is throwing the ball with junior quarterback Grant Dixon more than it has in decades. He's 63 of 101 for 1,082 yards and has already set a school single-season record with 16 TD throws. He's also thrown for at least 150 yards in every game.
What makes Dixon particularly lethal is his ability to improvise with his feet. He can run, and does so wisely, which has stretched opposing defenses even further.
He'll target teammates such as Stephen Loreng and Jack Clevenger, while Craig Roumes is having a solid season in the backfield.
"Roxbury is doing a really nice job of utilizing the offensive talent that they have," Bowers said. "Their QB is an excellent multiple-threat kid. He throws well and is a very good runner. They've tailored the effective offense that they ran for years to the talents of this quarterback. They have good skill guys in the backfield and at receiver and they execute very well."
Roxbury has also excelled up front and defensively, and will need clean games in each department against a Delbarton team that's won 26 straight contests against county opposition since a 21-14 loss to Randolph on Oct. 30, 2010.
Delbarton also will mix its run and pass effectively. The difference is that Green Wave QB John Chiarolanzio (48 of 86, 723 yards and 11 TD) isn't as much of a mobile threat as Dixon, but will instead air the ball out to an assortment of receivers that include sophomore sensation Andrew Papantonis, Ian Lodge and TJ Comizio. The Green Wave's main weapon when it runs is junior Andrew Sanders (109 carries, 779 yards, six TD).
Like Roxbury, the Green Wave is rugged up front and throughout its defense. Something to watch may be the health of two-way lineman Bill Murray, a 6-4, 250-pounder who was injured against Randolph two weeks ago and sat out the win over Mendham last week.
"We've done a great job stopping opponents’ ground attacks and are continuing to work on limiting giving up the big play through the air," Lorusso said.
"Having a chance to play for a share of the conference is exciting," he added. "Our kids come every day and work so hard to improve. When game time comes, they believe in themselves and go out and play their hearts out for 48 minutes."
"Defense and special teams will be huge in this game," noted Bowers. "We have been able to force turnovers and protect the football during our games thus far, but they have also. So in a big game these things are magnified. Momentum can change drastically with a turnover. We're hoping to get a consistent effort in every phase of the game."
Roxbury is 1-4 all-time against Delbarton. The teams never met until the formation of the NJAC in 2009. The Gaels won that initial meeting, 21-7, but haven't beaten the Green Wave since. Roxbury hasn't lost five straight to an opponent since it dropped seven straight to Randolph in a string that began in the 1980s and lasted until the 6-6 tie that ended Randolph's then-state record 54 game winning streak in 1991.
Another big game on this weekend's schedule will send Sparta (5-1) to Parsippany Hills (5-1) on Saturday. Sparta holds a one-game lead over Parsippany Hills and Pope John in the NJAC-American Division standings. Since Sparta has already beaten Pope John and Pope John has beaten Parsippany Hills, a Sparta win over the Vikings would likely clinch the division title. If Parsippany Hills beats Sparta on Saturday a three-way championship at the conclusion of the season would be likely.
SIDELINE CHATTER MORRIS CUNTY FOOTBALL TOP 10
1-Delbarton (6-0) Last week: 1
2-Roxbury (6-0) LW: 2
3-Parsippany Hills (5-1) LW: 3
4-Mountain Lakes (6-0) LW: 4
5-Madison (4-1) LW: 5
6-West Morris (3-3) LW: 6
7-Randolph (4-2) LW: 7
8-Mendham (3-3) LW: 8
9-Pequannock (6-0) LW: NR
10-Hanover Park (4-2) LW: 10
MORRIS COUNTY FOOTBALL SCHEDULE AND SELECTIONS
FRIDAY, OCT. 24
Mount Olive at X-Randolph, 7
Butler at X-Hanover Park, 7
Dover at X-Lenape Valley, 7
Jefferson at X-Hackettstown, 7
X-Kinnelon at Whippany Park, 7
X-Madison at Parsippany, 7
West Morris at X-Mendham, 7
X-Vernon at Montville, 7
Wallkill Valley at X-Mountain Lakes, 7
Newton at X-Pequannock, 7
SATURDAY, OCT. 25
X-Morris Hills at High Point, 1
Hopatcong at X-Morristown-Beard, 1
Roxbury at X-Delbarton, 2
X-Boonton at Morris Catholic, 2
Chatham at X-Pope John, 2
Morris Knolls at X-Morristown, 2
X-Sparta at Parsippany Hills, 2:30
Last week: 13-2 (.867)
Season-to-date: 78-18 (.812)
NORTHWEST JERSEY ATHLETIC CONFERENCE STANDINGS
Delbarton 5-0 (6-0 overall)
Roxbury 5-0 (6-0)
Randolph 3-2 (4-2)
West Morris 3-2 (3-3)
Mendham 2-3 (3-3)
Morristown 1-4 (2-4)
Morris Knolls 1-4 (1-5)
Mount Olive 0-5 (1-5)
Sparta 5-0 (5-1)
Parsippany Hills 4-1 (5-1)
Pope John 4-1 (3-3)
Vernon 3-2 (3-3)
Morris Hills 2-3 (3-3)
Chatham 2-3 (2-4)
Montville 0-5 (0-6)
High Point 0-5 (0-6)
Madison 3-0 (4-1)
Lenape Vallley 2-1 (5-1)
Dover 2-1 (3-3)
Hanover Park 2-2 (4-2)
Hackettstown 2-2 (3-3)
Jefferson 1-2 (2-4)
Parsippany 0-4 (2-4)
Mountain Lakes 3-0 (6-0)
Pequannock 3-0 (6-0)
Kinnelon 2-2 (3-3)
Kittatinny 2-2 (2-4)
Whippany Park 1-2 (3-3)
Newton 1-2 (1-5)
Wallkill Valley 0-4 (0-6)
Boonton 2-0 (4-2)
Hopatcong 2-0 (3-3)
North Warren 2-1 (4-2)
Morristown-Beard 2-1 (4-2)
Butler 1-3 (1-5)
Morris Catholic 0-4 (0-6)
Follow Sean Reilly on Twitter @SeanReillyHS
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