The first two months of the high school football season had definitely not been kind to the Red Hawks of Parsippany.
There was the introduction and initiation of yet another new head coach, this time Flip McGuane, the program’s fifth new coach in the last seven years. There was the specter of yet another losing season hanging over the program’s collective heads. There were the grueling, sweaty practices of August, followed by the losses of September into October, six straight in all.
And last Friday night, the Red Hawks had game they controlled for most of the night, only to squander the lead in the opening stages of the fourth quarter to Sussex Tech, 34-30.
For all intents and purposes, it looked like yet another setback, yet another heartbreak for Parsippany.
“It was a home game, Homecoming for that matter,” said McGuane, who took over the program this season after serving as an assistant in Dunellen for the past few seasons. “We had a great crowd with great excitement.”
But this was not going to be the same old Parsippany football team. The Red Hawks mounted an amazing drive, marching 65 yards on 18 plays, taking almost 10 full minutes off the clock. Sheldon Ealy went in from the 11-yard line, scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 40 seconds remaining and the Red Hawks had the elusive 37-34 victory.
McGuane had his first victory as Parsippany head coach. The team enjoyed the sweet taste of victory. Yes, Virginia, Parsippany won a football game.
On Monday, there was a different sense of accomplishment among the Red Hawks.
“There was a little bounce in their steps,” McGuane said. “There was excitement in the school. We’re thrilled with the win, especially with the way the kids came back, facing adversity. I think that says a lot about the kids. It was great, just to see the smiles on their faces. It had been a long time. The kids had been with us the whole time and stuck with us. I think we had only two bad practices in the last two months, so I’m really proud of them.”
After the game, McGuane had a message to his players.
“I told them that they learned how to win,” McGuane said. “They found a way to win. Sometimes, things go bad and then you find a way to lose. These kids found a way to win and that was great.”
McGuane said that he had a sense that a win was certainly a possibility, considering the way the Red Hawks had been playing of late.
“I knew that we were getting better and that was a good sign,” McGuane said. “But with as good as the conference (the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference-Freedom Division) is, we weren’t going to get many chances. That’s just the way it is. But I knew we were getting better and we were happy to get the win.”
Although the Red Hawks hadn’t won a game in 2013 prior to Friday, they had been receiving stellar play all season from junior fullback Andrew Masseffski, who had 169 yards on 30 carries in the win, the fifth time in seven games that Masseffski had eclipsed 100 yards.
“He’s just a solid, hard-nosed good football player,” McGuane said. “He runs when he has the ball, runs when he’s blocking and runs when he’s not.”
Ealy also went over 100 yards in the game, collecting 101 yards in nine carries and scored two touchdowns, including the game-winner. Josh Crawford just missed making it a trifecta of 100-yard Parsippany rushers, collecting 97 yards on seven carries.
“Our line played well,” said McGuane, mentioning center Brett McLain and tackles John Bucciarelli and Angad Bhatia. “It could have been very easy for this team to shut it down, but they didn’t quit. Our coaches have also done a great job coaching the heck out of this team. I do feel the reason why the kids are hanging with us is because our staff is working so hard.”
One of McGuane’s assistants is Morris County coaching legend Gerry Gallagher, the former Morris Catholic and Montville head coach who joined the Parsippany staff this season after two years working with his son, Bryan, on the staff at Boonton.
The Red Hawks were back at work Monday, preparing to face Newton Friday night.
Changing of the hornet guard
Before the 2013 season kicked off, Hanover Park head coach Gerry Moore had to feel good about the Hornets’ offense, especially since he had senior Matt Hoberman returning at quarterback.
Hoberman started the final five games of the 2012 season after starter Jimmy Civollella went down with an injury and those five games provided Hoberman with the necessary impetus to get ready for the 2013 campaign.
Hoberman played well for the first three games, passing for more than 125 yards in each game, but in the first series of the fourth game against Dover, he suffered a high ankle sprain that sent him to the sidelines.
It meant that junior Christian Bassolino had to take over for Hoberman as the Hornets’ signal caller.
“We were lucky to have Christian,” Moore said. “It wasn’t like we were taking a step backwards.”
Bassolino didn’t miss a step, also throwing for 369 yards and three touchdowns in his two starts, but when the Hornets faced Kittatinny in a crucial game last Saturday, Hoberman was back as the starting quarterback.
“Matt is our guy,” Moore said after the Hornets defeated Kittatinny, 14-7, to clinch an NJSIAA North 2, Group II playoff berth. “We knew that when Matt came back, it was Matt’s job. In a sense, it was a blessing, because it gave Christian valuable experience as the starter, much like Matt got last year. Christian is more comfortable now there.”
There are two Bassolinos contributing for the Hornets, with Anthony Bassolino at running back and Christian back at starting safety. The two Bassolinos, both juniors, are cousins.
“We even use Anthony sometimes as our Wildcat quarterback, so we have three kids we feel comfortable with back there. Christian can do so much for us, so it’s great for us. It’s huge getting Matt back, because of all he does, especially in a leadership role. We got Matt back at the right time.”
The Hornets, currently third in the NJSIAA North 2, Group II power point standings, travel to Hackettstown Friday night trying to secure a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
The following local teams have already clinched berths in the upcoming state playoffs: Butler and Hopatcong in North 1, Group I; Jefferson and Sparta in North 1, Group III; Randolph and Morris Knolls in North 1, Group IV; Mountain Lakes and Hanover Park in North 2, Group II; Parsippany Hills in North 2, Group III; West Morris and Mendham in North 2, Group IV; Morristown-Beard in Non-Public Group 1 and Pope John and Delbarton in Non-Public Group 3.
Schools like Dover and Madison are alive in North 2, Group II and can clinch berths with victories this weekend.
Needing a win to keep hopes of qualifying for the North 2, Group II bracket they had won the last three years, the Dodgers of Madison turned to Pat Zimmerman to lead the way out of the backfield. Zimmerman, who had been a backup receiver for most of the season, had 161 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns in the Dodgers’ 27-0 win over perennial nemesis Lenape Valley, moving the Dodgers to ninth place in the playoff standings with one game at hand…Talk about diversity. Morris Hills’ Joe Bencel lined up at eight different positions — quarterback, both fullback and halfback, tight end and wide receiver, defensive end, linebacker and long snapper — in Scarlet Knights’ thrilling 28-27 win over Vernon. Bencel had 102 yards on 13 carries, scored two touchdowns, added a two-point conversion reception and made 12 tackles, including two sacks on defense.
Nick Rella, Morristown-Beard, 20 carries, 181 yards, 2 TDs; Andrew Masseffski, Parsippany, 30-169 yards; Pat Zimmerman, Madison, 21-161 yards, 3 TDs; Travis Canty, Butler, 11-150 yards, 4 TDs; George Scalley, Dover, 13-127 yards, 2 TDs; Connor Thompson, West Morris, 20-118 yards; J.R. Reese, Jefferson, 9-116 yards; 2 TDs; Matt McFadden, Morristown-Beard, 13-115 yards, 1 TD; Kyle Neuschatz , Jefferson, 15-114 yards; Ryan Cirillo, Butler, 13-111 yards, 1 TD.
James Quiles, Dover, 10-of-13, 303 yards, 4 TDs; Tim Horgan, Pequannock, 7-of-12, 185 yards, 3 TDs; Alec Oriolo, Mount Olive, 10-of-16, 183 yards, 1 TD; Brandon Katzenberger, Parsippany Hills, 15-of-24, 154 yards, 2 TDs; Connor Logoyda, Randolph, 7-of-9, 151 yards, 3 TDs; J.R. Reese , Jefferson, 5-of-7, 130 yards, 2 TDs; Colin Waters, Morristown-Beard, 5-of-8, 115 yards, 1 TD.
Player of the week
(Dover, senior quarterback): With the Tigers desperately needing a victory to keep their NJSIAA North 2, Group II playoff hopes alive, Quiles had the best passing day of his career, completing 10-of-13 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns in a huge 46-7 win over Newton, catapulting the Tigers into eighth place in the power point standings.