Rebuilt Wall gets off to strong start

Rebuilt Wall gets off to strong start

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Rebuilt Wall gets off to strong start

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WALL

The rebuilding season Wall endured a year ago is in the rear-view mirror, based on how the Pete Miceli-led Crimson Knights steamrolled over Jackson Liberty to a 28-0 victory Friday night in a Shore Conference nondivisional game.

Miceli, a senior running back, rushed for 177 yards, breaking plays for 10 or more yards four times. Quarterback Jack Gifford also had a starring role, running for a pair of touchdowns and throwing a 17-yard TD to tight end Paul Calamaras in the fourth quarter. Gifford was 11 of 19 for 123 yards with no interceptions.

The result marked a program turnaround. Wall in 2012 was unable to overcome heavy graduation losses and stumbled to a 2-7-1 record, ending the campaign with three consecutive losses.

But the rebuilt Knights looked sharp right from the start of their season-opening game Friday. At halftime Wall had a deceiving 7-0 lead on quarterback Gifford’s 9-yard run but reached the Jackson Liberty 25 on another non-scoring drive (turning the ball over on downs) and getting to the Lions’ 6 on yet another drive, only to cough up a fumble.

In the first half Wall had a 186-12 advantage in total yards and a 38-16 edge in plays from scrimmage. Wall also registered 11 first downs to Jackson Liberty’s zero, as 235-pound senior lineman Geoff Horwitz and Tom Munro, who weighs 310, registered sacks for Wall during the half.

Gifford, the 6-foot-4 senior quarterback, scored the game first points with 7:21 left in the second quarter, keeping the ball after dropping back and showing pass.

Earlier in the 10-play drive Gifford completed a five-yard pass to Kyle McDonough, but most of the advance came courtesy of Miceli, who collected 53 yards on the drive on 7 carries.

Miceli also dominated the first drive of the game, picking up 52 yards on 5 carries, but Wall turned the ball over on downs at the 25 when a pass-coverage tackle by Brian Mathieu, assisted by Dom Regina, stopped receiver Cadell Kennedy short.

Jackson Liberty finally picked up a first down in the opening minute of the second half but that was after pressure-weary quarterback Matt Castronuova had yielded to backup John Veneziano, with Liberty in search of a spark.

Veneziano completed a 13-yard pass to Bruce Almdovar and later in the drive picked up a second first down on a 12-yard run. But the Lions couldn’t convert a third-and-eight at the Wall 34 because blitzing defensive back Cadell Kennedy sacked Veneziano for a four-yard loss, and Jackson Liberty punted, and Wall answered with a 10-play drive for its second score. Gifford went in on a 1-yard sneak.

It was Jackson Liberty’s first game under head coach Jim Sharples, who succeeded Tim Osborn. Osborn had led the school’s football program since its inception in 2006 but died while exercising at a Brick fitness facility April 13. He was 53. Sharples had been an assistant coach under Osborn since 2006 and was the Lions’ defensive coordinator the last two seasons.

Sharples grew up in North Bergen and went to high school at St. Joseph (West New York). He was also assistant coach at William Paterson.

Castronuova had a team-high 28 rushing yards and Almdovar added 24 yards.

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