BOONTON – Throughout the regular season, Boonton’s offense set the tone each week.
On Friday night, it was the defense.
The Bombers kept Saddle Brook off the scoreboard, winning 13-0 in the first round of NJSIAA North 1 Group I. It is Boonton’s second shutout of the season.
The second-seeded Bombers will host No. 3 Cedar Grove, who defeated North Warren, 25-12, next Friday night.
“It was a great job by the defense,” Boonton coach Bryan Gallagher said. “They are a difficult offense to defend, as they throw a lot of different looks at you. I am so proud of the way our guys played on defense tonight. It hasn’t always been pretty, but we have played really well over the last four weeks.”
Boonton’s offense had spent the regular season running over, around and through almost every opponent, outscoring them 301-85. But on Friday night, Saddle Brook seemed to solve Boonton’s Wing-T offense by not overpursuing on the Bombers’ sweeps and zeroing in on Boonton quarterback Gage Cabalar when he tried to run.
Cabalar was held to only 38 yards on 11 carries in the first half, and left the game in the middle of the third quarter when he injured his ankle on a scramble.
While Boonton’s offense was quiet, its defense was just as stingy as Saddle Brook’s. When the Boonton defense gave the offense an opportunity late in the first quarter, the Bombers took advantage of it for their first score of the game.
Boonton’s defense set the tone of the game in the first quarter by gang tackling Saddle Brook running back Joe Ferri, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Bombers nosetackle Connor Davis at the Saddle Brook 34-yard line. From there, Boonton established its running game, led by T.J. Green. Green carried the ball twice on the five-play drive, the second on a sweep right in which the senior scored on an eight-yard run.
Boonton’s held Saddle Brook to only 61 yards of offense in the first half. In addition to his fumble recovery, Davis combined with James Roberts on a sack of Saddle Brook quarterback Robert Lazzaro. Boonton’s defense did not allow Saddle Brook to get any farther than Boonton’s 39-yard line.
“Our defense stepped up tonight. We really had our motors running,” said Roberts, who had two sacks. “This feels great. We are just trying to finish what we started last year.”
In the third quarter, Saddle Brook began its longest drive of the evening, moving from its own 3-yard line to the Boonton 11. The Bombers’ defense then slammed the door as Davis and Anthony Marino stopped run attempts for losses. On fourth down, a pass attempt into the end zone was broken up by cornerback Amaro Anderson.
On the Falcons’ next possession, they again advanced the ball across midfield only to be turned away by the Boonton defense. Anderson broke up another pass attempt by Lazzaro on fourth down, turning the ball back over to Boonton with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Boonton increased its lead to 13-0 late in the fourth quarter. With Cabalar out of the game, Boonton chewed up yards on the ground and time on the clock. After an offside penalty on Saddle Brook extended a drive, Sean McKeown took a handoff and broke through the left side of Boonton’s line for a 23-yard run with four minutes.
BOONTON 13, SADDLE BROOK 0
Saddle Brook 0-0-0-0-0
B-T.J. Green 8 run (Amaro Anderson kick)
B-Sean McKeown 23 run (kick failed)
Team records: Boonton 9-1, Saddle Brook 6-4