Roxbury could have played it safe against Parsippany Hills on Friday night.
With a playoff berth and a home playoff game already locked up, Roxbury coach Cosmo Lorusso could have rested his starters in an attempt to make sure that his best players were not injured.
Instead, everyone played and Roxbury emerged with a 21-9 victory. But running back Craig Roumes and wide receiver Stephen Loreng both left the game with injuries.
“This was a war tonight,” Lorusso said. “If a game is on your schedule, you have to play hard, and this was a battle, and if you don’t play to win, it sends the wrong message. We are co-champions of our (division) with Delbarton, and this gave us the opportunity to say we are the best public school in Morris County.”
While Parsippany Hills had been eliminated from NJSIAA contention after losing to Chatham last week, the Vikings came out as aggressive as if this was their playoff game.
Roxbury jumped out to a 7-0 lead on its first possession behind Roumes’ running. He carried the ball on the Gaels first four plays, gaining 28 yards. Senior quarterback Grant Dixon then went deep to Tucker Voelbel, gaining 34 yards to give Roxbury the ball at the 6-yard line. Three plays later, Dixon dropped back, rolled to his left, and rifled a pass to Jack Clevenger in the corner of the end zone. Clevenger caught the ball and got both of his feet down to give Roxbury the lead.
The touchdown pass was Dixon’s 16th of the season against no interceptions.
“When we needed a play, he came up big for us,” Lorusso said. “He put the ball on the money all evening, and Tucker and Stephen made some great catches.”
Cormac Bradley got Parsippany Hills on the scoreboard with a 25-yard field goal in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
The Vikings took the lead on their next possession behind the passing of quarterback Nick Verducci, who completed four consecutive passes on the drive, capping things by rolling to his right and then throwing back across the field to Alex Lerman for the score to give Parsippany Hills a 9-7 lead with 3:30 left in the half.
But that was more than enough time for Dixon to answer back.
Taking over on the Gaels’ 18, Dixon began the drive with two runs that gained 14 yards. After being sacked for a 12-yard loss, Dixon kept the drive going through the air, first finding Michael Alecci for 14 yards, then teaming up with Loreng for 19, then Voelbel across the middle for 16 more yards to move the ball to the Parsippany Hills 32. Dixon went back to Loreng on the next play across the middle. Loreng caught the pass between three defenders at the 10-yard line, then gained 8 more yards taking the ball down to the 2-yard line. On the next play, Malik Goldberry dove into the end zone to give Roxbury a 14-9 lead at halftime.
Verducci appeared to have Parsippany Hills going in for a score in the opening minutes of the third quarter as he started the drive with a 31-yard pass to Matt Borecki. But a false-start penalty was followed by an offensive pass interference call erased the gains. Roxbury defensive linemen Brandon Yaw and Zach Tedescro then combined to stop two running plays for no gain forcing the Vikings to punt.
After a scoreless third quarter, Dixon put the game out of reach when he teamed up with Voelbel on a 78-yard pass. Voebel out-leaped a Parsippany Hills defender, coming down with the ball at the Vikings’ 40-yard line, and out the rest of the Parsippany Hills secondary to the end zone to give Roxbury a 21-9 lead.
Dixon completed 13 of 17 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Verducci, who completed 24 of 38 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown, attempted to rally Parsippany Hills late in the fourth quarter, but the Vikings’ drive stalled on the Gaels 23-yard line. His final pass was picked off by Dixon in the end zone with two minutes left in the game.
“Our kids played a great opponent tonight, they stepped up, gave a great effort, and I was really proud of them,” Parsippany Hills coach Dave Albano said.
ROXBURY 21, PARSIPPANY HILLS 9
Parsippany Hills 0-9-0-0-9
R-Jack Clevenger 6 pass from Grant Dixon (Jack Clevenger kick)
P-Cormac Bradley 25 FG
P-Alex Lerman 5 pass from Nick Verducci (kick failed)
R-Malik Goldberry 2 run (Clevenger kick)
R-Tucker Voelbel 78 pass from Dixon (Clevenger kick)
Team records: Roxbury 8-1, Parsippany Hills 4-5