Coming off a shocking 9-0 loss to J.P. Stevens in its last regular-season game and a 24-0 defeat at home to Hunterdon Central in the opening round of the NJSIAA Central Group V playoffs, the Old Bridge High School football team still had something important to play for on Thanksgiving Day.
The Knights were seeking their first Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division title in their 20-year history with a win against East Brunswick in the Battle of Route 18.
Behind 269 yards rushing from its offense and a defense that forced one turnover and recorded four sacks, Old Bridge rolled to a 35-6 win over the Bears in the 20th edition of the Thanksgiving Day rivalry.
“It was definitely tough coming off those two losses, getting shut out two games in a row, and it was a nice win today and we’re especially happy for our seniors,” Old Bridge coach Anthony Lanzafama said. “We have 36 (seniors) so it was a nice send off for them.”
Old Bridge now leads the all-time series 17-3.
“Always, we told them all week throw the records out, every year it’s a good, hard-played game,” Lanzafama said. “It’s what a rivalry game on a holiday should be all about.”
Old Bridge (7-3) took a 7-0 lead with 2:52 left in the first quarter as senior quarterback Nick LaVecchia capped a five-play, 69-yard drive with a 12-yard run.
“From day one I’ve always had a goal to beat East Brunswick and I’m glad we came away with the win, it feels great,” said LaVecchia, who rushed for 62 yards on 13 attempts and was named the Old Bridge offensive MVP for the game.
Senior running back Marcus Lominy spearheaded the Knights rushing attack, gaining 112 yards on 11 carries.
East Brunswick (1-9), which showed some momentum on its opening drive by converting three third-downs, answered back the Old Bridge score.
Senior running back Jon Gerhartz scored on a 4-yard run with 1:06 left in the first quarter to bring the Bears within 7-6 (kick failed), one play after his 60-yard run down the sideline on a pitch brought the Bears inside the five before he got tripped up from behind.
Gerhartz rushed for 150 yards on 22 carries while also catching two passes for 24 yards, as he earned East Brunswick offensive MVP game honors.
Old Bridge went on a couple of lengthy 12-play scoring drives in the second quarter that resulted in touchdowns, the first which ended with Cameron Hutchins’ 24-yard run and with 30 seconds left in the half, LaVecchia hit Tyler Hopman on an 8-yard pass as the Knights held a 21-6 halftime lead.
Old Bridge took a 28-6 lead 3:09 into the second half as Hutchins’ scored his second touchdown of the day, a 2-yard run, and the Knights made it 35-6 with 1:25 left in the third quarter when junior Ed Mish ran an interception back 50 yards on a fourth-down screen pass.
Mish earned Old Bridge defensive MVP honors while East Brunswick senior linebacker Michael Quintin was the Bears’ defensive MVP.
OB – LaVecchia 12 run (Mish kick)
EB – Gerhartz 4 run (kick failed)
OB – Hutchins 24 run (Mish kick)
OB – Hopman 8 pass from LaVecchia (Mish kick)
OB – Hutchins 2 run (Mish kick)
OB – Mish 50 int. return (Mish kick)
RUSHING: OB – Lominy 11-112, LaVecchia 13-62, Giles 5-59, Hutchins 3-36; EB – Gerhartz 22-150, Hemmings 10-2, Walker 1-(-1), Jones 1-(-10).
PASSING: OB – LaVecchia 3-7-0-28; EB – Hemmings 7-12-1-84.
RECEIVING: OB – Hopman 3-28; EB – Gerhartz 2-24, O’Sullivan 2-23, Werder 2-21, Ganzaroli 1-16.