It had been a long time — since 2005 to be exact — since Boonton had a chance to clinch a berth in the NJSIAA North 1 Group I playoffs.
So when the Bombers defeated Morristown-Beard 35-13 last Friday night, it pushed their record to 6-2 and enabled them to nail down a berth in the postseason.
“Honestly, I thought we had a chance to be pretty good,” said Boonton head coach Bryan Gallagher, who suffered through three of those seasons in the postseason drought. “It was all about surviving. As the season went on, week after week, we just tried to survive. We never had a break. Every game was a big game. We were as good as our schedule was.”
The Bombers had to endure a brutal five-game stretch to start the season and even bounced back from a brutal fourth-quarter meltdown against Pequannock in the second week of the season to make the postseason push.
Gallagher believes the reason for the Bombers’ success stems from the team’s depth.
“We knew we had players like Josh Corporan, Josh Smith and Joe Norton,” Gallagher said. “If there is a surprise about us, it’s the others that I didn’t expect much from. They all stepped up and did a nice job.”
For example, Norton, the team’s starting quarterback, broke a finger against North Warren last week. The injury forced Norton to the sidelines and made receiver Gage Cabalar move under center.
“Cabalar is still our leading receiver,” Gallagher said. “But when Joe went down, we knew that Gage was a quarterback as a freshman, so we put him in and he led us into overtime against North Warren.”
It was a game that the Bombers won 20-19 in overtime and which started them on their current four-game winning streak.
Connor Davis, a junior center/defensive tackle, has also stood out in the coach’s eyes.
“He’s been a force on defense,” Gallagher said of Davis. “He’s been very steady at center and also handles kickoffs for us.”
Junior linebacker/fullback Quinn Sweeney has also caught the coach’s attention.
“He’s done a solid job at linebacker,” Gallagher said of Sweeney. “So much of what we do offensively is behind his blocks. He’s done all the dirty work. His blocking has freed us up to do other things.”
Junior linebacker David Koval has been another Bomber standout.
“He has an unbelievable motor,” Gallagher said of Koval. “He’s all over the place.”
Gallagher pointed out that the Bombers’ two losses have come to teams that are also headed to the postseason – Pequannock in North 1 Group II and Mountain Lakes, sure to be the top seed in North 2 Group I.
“The one thing I said to the seniors is that they have been through some awfully tough times,” Gallagher said. “So I feel this gratifying for the seniors. They never questioned what we asked of them. They came to practice every day and worked hard. We had a great offseason in terms of hard work. They kept bringing it and this is their reward. I’m so happy for them that they’ve had some success.”
The Bombers also appear headed to hosting a first round state playoff game. Right now, they have 109 power points, good for third in the North 1 Group I section. Becton has 112 points in second, with Hasbrouck Heights close in fourth with 105.
The Bombers also have a huge game this Friday night against Hopatcong, a game that will decide the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference-Liberty Division championship.
Crusaders taste victory
It had been a difficult first year for new Morris Catholic head coach Brendan Gebert, as he lost his first seven games of the season.
But the Crusaders finally rewarded Gebert with his first win, a 14-7 decision over Parsippany last Saturday.
“All of us needed that one,” Gebert said. “I think we have a good young group of guys who all want to win. I’m excited what the future holds here. We start five sophomores and one freshman who are all getting quality playing time. They all want to be part of the ones who change things at Morris Catholic. The guys understand where we’re going to be and where we’re headed.”
Gebert said that his team never lost faith, despite losing their first seven games of the season.
“They kept themselves together,” Gebert said. “It’s all about building our future. That’s what it’s really about.”
Gebert said that he showed his team the NFL Network’s “A Football Life” featuring the life of Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
“We watched that video and he talked about knowing when the change would happen from losing to winning,” Gebert said. “It all had to start somewhere.”
Gebert credited linebacker/tailback Steve Lahoe for being a leader.
“He’s fought through injuries and some of those tough times and still comes back,” Gebert said. “I know it’s been real difficult for him. I wish I had him back for more time together.”
Junior defensive tackle Joe Lapinski is another key Crusader.
“He’s been getting like 12 tackles per game,” Gebert said. “He’s been phenomenal. I usually don’t like making juniors as captain, but he’s a special kid and talent. He’s another leader who kept us together.”
Junior wide receiver/free safety Pete Palumbo has been another solid player.
The Crusaders close out the regular season this weekend with Wallkill Valley and just might sneak into the NJSIAA Non-Public Group I playoffs, even with the losing record.
“We’re excited about the future,” Gebert said. “The program is moving forward and everyone is happy about it. It’s a big turnaround.”
Chris Jones, Mendham 19 carries, 227 yards, three TDs; Andrew Sanders, Delbarton 27-206 yards, 2 TDS; Bobby Frawley, Mountain Lakes 17-188 yards, 2 TDs; Angelo Gallego Parsippany Hills 15-180 yards, 3 TDs; Grant Dixon, Roxbury 25-138 yards, 3 TDs; Gage Cabalar, Boonton 13-117 2 TDs; Ryan Cirillo, Butler 18-110, 1 TD.
Dominic Gentile, Butler 24-of-48, 394 yards, 3 TDs; Kyle Presti, Kinnelon 15-of-23, 359 yards, 4 TDs; Grant Dixon, Roxbury 18-of-33, 296 yards, 2 TDs; Alec Oriolo, Mount Olive 18-of-35, 277 yards, 3 TDs; Alex Sands, Chatham 14-of-19, 240 yards, 3 TDs.
Player of the Week
Grant Dixon, Roxbury, junior QB
It might be hard to find a better all-around game in recent memory than the one the brilliant Dixon put up Friday night against Randolph. Dixon passed for 296 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for an additional 138 yards and three touchdowns in the Gaels’ huge 49-35 come-from-behind victory. Performances like this usually lead to Player of the Year honors.