Chewy Chukwuneke has certainly put up bigger numbers during his brilliant career, but the senior’s impact on the J.P. Stevens High School football team’s stunning 9-0 upset of Old Bridge Friday, while not as gaudy statistically, was no less significant.
He scored the game’s lone touchdown on a 56-yard run, carried the ball eight times during a time-consuming 20-play drive in the fourth-quarter that resulted in no points but chewed up valuable clock, and had a key interception on the ensuing series to help seal the win.
Old Bridge, ranked No. 1 at the time in the Home News Tribune Top 10, limited Chukwuneke, a running back and defensive back, to 108 yards on 27 carries, but had to account for his whereabouts on every snap.
Chukwuneke opened the game in the wildcat formation, taking direct snaps, before moving to running back and being put in motion out of the slot, from which he ran jet sweeps or served as a pass-catching decoy out of the backfield.
“We would find a way to get him the ball every down if possible,” J.P. Stevens coach Jim Collins said. “We don’t need pancake blocks from our offensive linemen. He just needs a crease big enough to get through.”
Chukwuneke scored his touchdown in that very fashion, finding a seam on a simple power play off tackle. Once through the hole, he made a quick and decisive cut and was “off to the races,” Collins said.
“Eventually that one hole is going to open and he’s going to go,” Collins said. “He always has the ability to break a long run.”
Chukwuneke has accounted for 14 of his team’s 17 touchdowns while rolling up 1,312 rushing yards. He has amassed nearly 1,700 all-purpose yards and he is the Home News Tribune Football Player of the Week.
J.P. Stevens (4-4), which had been outscored by an average of 31.5 points per game in each of its defeats and whose previous victories came against schools with a combined 2-22 record, was a prohibitive underdog Friday night.
“We wanted this so much and we just played our hearts out,” Chukwuneke said after the game. “We really hadn’t had a quality win but this was a full team effort.”
Old Bridge (6-2) entered the contest with decisive victories over NJSIAA playoff qualifiers Sayreville, South Brunswick, Monroe and Edison. Its lone loss was a 17-16 setback to Piscataway.
The Knights, who committed six turnovers against J.P. Stevens, played well defensively, but their offensive never got on track.
Chukwuneke’s interception, which immediately followed Old Bridge’s block of a field-goal attempt following the Hawks’ 20-play drive, deflated the Knights.
They missed a 25-yard field goal with 3:03 remaining in the fourth quarter and lost a fumble at the J.P. Stevens 18-yard line on their final possession.
The shutout was the Hawks’ first since blanking Perth Amboy 34-0 six years ago.