PEQUANNOCK – Coming into Friday night’s game, Pequannock had won six of their first seven games and appeared to have a spot in the NJSIAA North 1 Group II playoffs wrapped up.
But the teams the Golden Panthers had beaten were a combined 13-29, all with losing records.
What Pequannock lacked was a signature win, a victory in which opposing teams and possible playoff opponents would sit up and take notice.
The Golden Panthers got it Friday night, shutting down Mountain Lakes in a 29-0 victory.
Jake Foukas, Justin Fuss and Zach Toback had two sacks each, and Derek Nelson who returned a 57-yard interception for a touchdown.
“Our defense stepped up great, we had a fire under us from the first play and we came out hard the whole game, ” Fuss said. “We’ve been trying to beat Mountain Lakes for the longest time so this feels great,”
The last three times that Pequannock had played Mountain Lakes, the Golden Panthers were outscored by 96-7 by the Herd.
But with a NJAC-Independence championship on the line, Pequannock (7-1) rose to the occasion, just like in a 7-6 win over Mountain Lakes on October 29, 2011.
“Everybody trusted each other, and went out and did their job, it was an all around perfect game,” Pequannock coach Ed Kopp said. “Mountain Lakes came into this season with a 24-game winning streak. You look at all of the things they have accomplished. They are the model of the program we are trying to get to. To come out on the field tonight, to play together as a team the way we did, is a huge victory for us. We talked about the potential of this team but we were still not sure based upon the opponents we have been playing. Tonight was a true test for us. We played an outstanding tonight. It’s an all around great job by everybody.”
Both Mountain Lakes and Pequannock had come into the game with identical 4-0 records and tied for NJAC-Independence lead. Friday night’s victory improved Pequannock’s division record to 5-0 and should wrap up the championship for Pequannock, which would break the Herd’s six-year run.
Mountain Lakes came into the game ranked fourth in the North 2 Group II powerpoint standings with 86, 15 points ahead of Madison. Depending on the outcome of Madison’s game against Hackettstown, Friday night’s loss should not cost the Herd a playoff berth, but may have cost them a first-round home game.
Pequannock came into the game ranked third in North 1 Group II with 86 points. With the victory, the Golden Panthers could possibly move up and past Mahwah for second place and home field.
Pequannock jumped out to a 6-0 lead on its first possession behind the running of Sean Klimek. Taking over on the Golden Panthers’ 30, Klimek broke through the line for a run of 43 yards to the Mountain Lakes 27. Quarterback Tommy Crooks capped the eight-play drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
“Scoring first really set the tone for us out there tonight,” Kopp said.
After Pequannock punter Dan Duffey pinned Mountain Lakes to the end zone, Pequannock’s defense added to the lead when Zach Toback tackled the Herd’s Dylan Gottesman in the end zone for a safety.
Taking over on Pequannock’s 20-yard line, Crooks started the drive with a 9-yard pass to Derek Nelson and followed it up three plays later with a 26-yard pass to John Tachon. A 14-yard run by Crooks gave Pequannock a first down at the Mountain Lakes 17. On the next play, Klimek took a pitch to the right, and broke two tackles before turning the corner and making it to the end zone to give Pequannock a 15-0 lead.
Klimek rushed for 129 yards and one touchdown.
The Golden Panthers defense contained Mountain Lakes’ running game and kept the pressure on quarterback Griffin Baker. The farthest the Herd got was Pequannock’s 18-yard line with less than two minutes left in the second quarter. But the Golden Panthers stopped three running plays for no yards, and on fourth down, Toback sacked Baker for a 9-yard loss.
“You can’t play defense with one or two guys,” Kopp said. “Everybody has to do their part, and all 11 guys did a great job.”
Mountain Lakes (5-3) 0 0 0 0—0
Pequannock (7-1) 8 7 7 8—29
P-Tommy Crooks 1 run (kick blocked)
P-Safety, Dylan Gottesman tackled in end zone by Zach Toback
P-Sean Klimek 17 run (Dan Duffy kick)
P-Derek Nelson 57 yard interception return (Duffy kick)
P-Justin Brunda 8 run (Duffy kick)