WESTFIELD — Star running back Jack Curry has gotten most of the headlines for the Westfield football team this season. Saturday, the second-seeded Blue Devils displayed additional star power in a 44-14 win over sixth-seeded Union in a NJSIAA North 2 Group V semifinal.
Yes, Curry got in on the act. The senior, who has rushed for over 1,500 yards this season and who owns Westfield’s all-time career rushing record, scored two touchdowns, including a 59-yarder.
But the Blue Devils opened the big lead by going to the air and with two turnovers by linebacker Jacob Kurstedt, one of which was a 25-yard interception return for a score. Quarterback Zach Kelly threw two touchdowns to Jelani Pierre and one to J.D. Marner.
“He’s very, very good, but they have a lot of weapons,” Union coach Lou Grasso said. “They do a great job.”
Westfield (10-0) advanced to play top-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan in the final on Dec. 4, setting up a battle of undefeated teams. The Panthers beat No. 5 Ridge 30-29 in overtime in Friday’s other semifinal.
First, Westfield had to get by the Farmers (5-5), which upset No. 3 Piscataway in the quarterfinal. Despite the records, it seemed to be a toss-up. Both Westfield and Union beat Hunterdon Central in the regular season 33-14.
“Coming into this week, we knew they were going to have a lot of fire coming into this game,” said Kelly, Westfield’s senior quarterback. “I think they really thought they were going to come in here and take care of us, especially after Piscataway last week. So we knew that we couldn’t come out flat. So we came out on fire and that’s what happens when you come out on fire with a team like us. … Once we get momentum we have so many different facets of our offense, we just go off.”
After a Union punt on the opening possession, Westfield took two plays to score. On second-and-three from Union’s 31-yard line, Pierre caught the Kelly pass around Union’s 45-yard line and took off for the 69-yard touchdown just over four minutes into the game. Michael Moriarty kicked the first of his five extra points to give the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead. Moriarty also added a 32-yard field goal.
On Union’s second play after the kickoff, Kurstedt stripped the ball from running back Jeron Whitfield around Westfield’s 40-yard and made it to the 3-yard line. On the next play, Curry motored for the touchdown and a 14-0 Westfield lead with 7:25 left in the first quarter.
Westfield upped the lead to 21-0 when Kelly threw a 19-yard touchdown to J.D. Marner with 1:10 left in the quarter. Early in the second quarter, Westfield scored twice in 11 seconds. First, Curry broke up the middle for a 59-yard touchdown as the Blue Devils led 27-0 with 10:18 remaining in the second quarter. It was Curry’s 28th touchdown of the season. On Union’s first play, Kurstedt jumped in front of Union quarterback Justin Beckett’s pass and scored on a 25-yard interception return with 10:07 left in the quarter to give Westfield a 34-0 lead.
“You make mistakes in a game of this level, that’s what happens,” Grasso said. “We pretty much had a nightmare first quarter and the hole was so deep we couldn’t get back out. They’re a very good team. They deserve to be where they’re going.”
After the game, a steady stream of former Westfield players congratulated head coach Jim DeSarno. A sign on the press box noted that Westfield won eight state titles in a span from 1961 to 1977. Now, the Blue Devils get another chance for their first title in nearly 40 years.
“Coaches said to attack straight from the get-go, and we just did that,” Kurstedt said. “The crowd was great today, full house. Hopefully we get another crowd like that for (the final).”
UNION (5-5) 0-7-7-0-14
WESTFIELD (10-0) 21-13-7-3-44
W – Pierre 69 pass from Kelly (Moriarty kick)
W – Curry 3 run (Moriarty kick)
W – Marner 19 pass from Kelly (Moriarty kick)
W – Curry 59 run (kick failed)
W – Kurstedt 25 interception return (Moriarty kick)
U – Beckett1 run (Malquin kick)
U – Boyd 62 pass from Beckett (Malquin kick)
W – Pierre 18 pass from Kelly (Moriarty kick)
W – Moriarty 32 FG
Rushing – U: Beckett 11-40, Whitfield 16-40, Okemezie 1-14, Perry 2-9, Morris 1-3, Holden 3-minus 7; W: Curry 27-128, Kelly 2-54, Varano 7-34.
Passing – U: Beckett 2-9-0-79; W: Kelly 6-10-0-120, Martini 1-1-0-12.