For a high school football game between a couple of teams with losing records, Thursday’s annual turf war between J.P. Stevens and Edison was quite enthralling.
The outcome remained in doubt until Chiebuka Chukwuneke sealed the 7-6 victory for J.P. Stevens by diving to break up a fourth-down Edison pass in the end zone with 1:15 remaining.
The deflection was the last of several crucial plays delivered by Chukwuneke, who hauled in a 68-yard pass from Dario Brzozowski on the Hawks’ third play of the game and scored Stevens’ only touchdown from eight yards out two plays later midway through the opening quarter. The junior carried 18 times for 104 yards and caught three passes for 74 more.
J.P. Stevens’ defense, which entered having yielded just 46 points over its previous three outings, was impenetrable over the first 45 minutes. The Hawks limited Edison to 70 yards on the ground for the game, 70 yards of total offense in the first half and forced the Eagles to punt from its own half of the field on its first three possessions of the second half.
“Our defensive coordinator, Joe Tremarco, does a phenomenal job breaking down film and preparing our kids,” J.P., Stevens coach Mike Ryan said. “Once again he did it and the kids executed it.”
Edison took over at its 24 with 3:14 remaining and a total of one first down over its prior three possessions after the break. On first down, quarterback Dan Lordi tossed a screen pass over the middle to Jordan Dunn and the senior cut to his right and took off down the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown pass that reduced the margin to 7-6 with 2:59 to play.
Edison elected to go for two points and the win but senior linebacker Nick Pinho stuck Lordi at the 1-yard line on the keeper to preserve the lead.
“I was the man on the quarterback there and I saw him make the cut and I just broke,” Pinho said. “It was the last play for me pretty much so might as well make it my best.”
The Eagles regained possession at the Stevens 38-yard line with 2:50 remaining following a fumble and got as close as the 7 before Chukweneke broke up the potential game-winning pass from the 12.
Despite the gut-wrenching outcome, both teams could walk off the field feeling pretty good about themselves, Edison (4-6) secure in the knowledge that it qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
“It was a disappointing end but we did have a productive season,” Edison coach Matt Fulham said. “We had a great group of kids that worked hard and believed. Even at the end you thought the game was over and we got back in it. I admire them a lot.”
For J.P. Stevens (4-6), coming off a winless season two years ago followed by a 3-7 campaign last year, its first win over its crosstown rival since 2009 marked another step in the growth of the program.
“Ending 0-10 was really tough as a sophomore, we kind of got thrown into the fire,” Pinho said. “To see where we are now is a dream come true.”
|J.P. Stevens (4-6)||7||0||0||0||—||7|
J – Chukwuneke 8 run (Minor kick)
E – Dunn 76 pass from Lordi (run failed)
Rushing: J – Chukwuneke 18-104, Mincey 2-32, Marino 5-6, Brzozowski 4-0, Perkins 1-(-2); E – Waldron 6-28, Dunn 9-28, Lordi 4-11, Daniels 4-3.
Passing: J – Brzozowski 8-18-1-124, James 1-1-0-36; E – Lordi 2-3-1-94, Waldron 9-18-0-44.
Receiving: J – Chukwuneke 3-74, Ballou 2-50, Johnson 1-20, Pinho 1-10, Mincey 2-6; E – Dunn 2-79, Best 1-18, Daniels 1-14, Kim 2-13, Wales 2-10, Bangura 1-2, Boyer-Tucker 2-2.