Lions' 'O' is shut down

Lions' 'O' is shut down

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Lions' 'O' is shut down

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COLONIA

As Colonia High School football coach Ben LaSala called it, the “Magical Season” continues for the Patriots.

After losing the bulk of their scoring from a year ago and their playoff opener last season, the Patriots have taken another unlikely step into the sectional semifinals.

Colonia’s defense held the opposition to 101 yards rushing on 41 attempts and quarterback Trent Barneys rolled up 229 yards of offense as the fourth-seeded Patriots defeated fifth-seeded Jackson Liberty, 28-14, in the opening round of the Central Jersey, Group IV sectional playoffs.

Colonia, which has won two straight games, will face the winner of Friday night’s Woodbridge/Sayreville game in the sectional semifinals the weekend of Dec. 1.

The Patriots defense made things difficult for the Lions, who faced constant pressure from Colonia’s defensive front. Quarterback Matt Castronouva was limited to just 44 yards on the ground as the sophomore was tackled for a loss or no gain nine times. Linebackers Chris Carothers, Pete Melendez and C.J. Cimilluca were quick to the perimeter, allowing only two runs for more than 10 yards in the game.

Even after the Lions’ bruising 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back Bruce Almodovar had a team-high 51 yards at halftime, he was limited to 11 yards for the rest of the contest.

“We let our offense do what they could do and the defense just had to follow up,” said Cimilluca, whose defensive unit recovered three fumbles in the game. “We knew (Castronouva) was an athlete and our focus was just trying to contain him.”

At one point in the fourth quarter, Cimilluca, the Patriots hard-hitting linebacker, nailed Castronouva on a passing attempt that sent the quarterback to the sidelines for the duration of the contest with an apparent rib injury. Reserve Bob Davies stepped in and completed 6 of 9 attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown to close the last half of the final quarter.

“They stuffed us and we weren’t very effective throwing the ball,” Jackson Liberty coach Tim Osborne said. “We thought we were prepared for it. We put our defense in some bad spots and that didn’t help.”

Colonia (9-1) had much more success with its running game as Barneys and Jake Pero combined for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Each time Jackson Liberty put itself within one possession of tying the game, Barneys or Pero came through with a huge play. The Patriots, who were hampered by several unsportsmanlike penalties throughout the game, were tagged with a pair on one play, leading to a 6-yard touchdown run by Castronouva for a Patriots 14-7 lead with 46 seconds left in the third quarter. That’s when Barneys faked a handoff to Pero and raced 63 yards along the right sideline to set up a Cimilluca 11-yard touchdown run.

Liberty (6-3), which had been riding a three-game winning streak, climbed back into the game once again with a 39-yard touchdown pass from reserve quarterback Bob Davies to Ahmed Foster to cut the Colonia lead to 21-14.

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