Saturday, October 21 – Football:  Jefferson Falcons 14 at Morris Hills Scarlet Knights 21

A ten-minute 21-point offensive explosion in the second quarter decided the game for the Scarlet Knights. Following a missed field goal on Morris Hills’ opening possession, the Falcons executed one of their signature clock-draining drives, running out the remaining 7:52 of the first quarter.  Just two plays into the second quarter, on a 4th and 4 from the MH 18, Falcons’ quarterback Anthony “Cheech” Johnson hit Drew Benfatti with an 18 yard touchdown pass which coupled with Benfatti’s PAT. gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead with 11 minutes to go in the half.

The Falcons forced the Scarlet Knights to punt  and were primed to add to their lead when a turnover  set Morris Hills up with a first and 10 on the Jefferson 34. MHHS brought their Homecoming crowd to their feet with an efficient 7 play drive that took just two minutes as a 9 yard pass from Nick Carlotti to Sam Valerio tied the score at 7 with 7:25 to go. The Scarlet Knight defense forced Jefferson to punt and Morris Hills started at their own 25. On their first play, Morris Hills Angelo Macera ran for 70 of his game high 160 yards  bringing the ball to the falcons 5 yard line.  Three plays later, Macera barreled in from the 1 to give the Scarlet Knights a 14-7 lead.  Again the Falcons were forced to punt and with 2:33 to go, Morris Hills had a 1st and 10 on their 33 yard line.

Unfortunately, a series of big plays victimized Jefferson and a 27 yard pass from Carlotti to Rey Almodovar with 27 seconds left in the half gave Morris Hills a 21-7 halftime lead.

As anyone who has been following the Falcons this season knows, the second half is usually “Falcons Time’ and this game was no exception. Jefferson took the second half kickoff and taking advantage of their depth at running back, used 4 different ball carriers to grind out 70 yards in 8:15 before Johnson once again took to the air to find Benfatti from 23 yards out to pull the Falcons to within 7 at 21-14.with just over 3 minutes to go in the third quarter.

For the next 15 minutes, both teams amped up their intensity with Falcons stiffening their defense, refusing to allow any of the big plays which had victimized them earlier in the game.  The Scarlet Knights were driving to put the game potentially out of reach but on a 4th and 4 from the Falcons’ 25, Morris Hills was stopped cold and the Falcons took over on downs at their own 25 with 1:27 to go but without any time-outs to stop the clock.

A 10 yard pass from Johnson to Benfatti showed the crowd the Falcons still had more than just a little fight left in them. Paul Monaco followed that up with a 6 yard gain but an option pass intended for Brandon Mantilla was intercepted and all that was left was for Morris Hills to take a knee on the final play to escape from the talons of the Falcons with a 21-14 victory.

After the game, Jefferson head football coach Jerry Venturino summed up the afternoon by saying, “this was another game where if you take away about 7 minutes it’s even up.”  Rather than criticize any of his players, the coach explained “it’s a long game and no single mistake costs you the game. A player may make a mistake but then he comes back a little later and makes a great play.”

When questioned about how another solid set of halftime adjustments paved the way for yet another strong second half by the Falcons, Coach Venturino described the team’s goals for the second half. “Our keys to defense were to stop their sweep, don’t allow big pass plays and show good tackling and I think we accomplished all of those goals”.

Despite the loss, the coach remained “proud of our team.  We won the second half and didn’t pack it in. The staff made adjustments, the kids bought into them and played tough to the very end”.

The loss drops the Falcons to 4-3 on the season and 3-2 in the NJSFC patriot Red diivision.  With the victory, Morris Hills moves to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the division.

The Falcons will welcome Sparta to JTHS this Friday with a 7PM kick off time.

                                                                1   2   3   4   F
Jefferson Falcons (4-3/3-2)                  0   7   7   0  14
Morris Hills Scarlet Knights (6-1/3-1)  0   21  0   0  21

2nd Quarter

J – Benfatti (18) pass from A. Johnson  PAT Benfatti  kick  J 7 MH 0

MH – Valerio (9) pass from Carlotti  PAT kick good   MH 7 J 7

MH – macera (10 run PAT kick good MH 14 J 7

MH – Almodovar (27) pass from Carlotti  PAT kick good MH 21 J 7

3rd Quarter

J – Benfatti (23) pass from A. Johnson PAT Benfatti kick  MH 21 J 14

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Michael Chirichella has worked in the Sports Information Departments of Marquette University, the University of Dayton and the University of Memphis, where he also served as a staff writer for University's Office of Media Relations. He's also served as an interim sports editor for weekly newspapers in Central and South New Jersey. He can be reached at