Thursday, September 28 – Football: West Milford Highlanders 14 at Jefferson Falcons 35

Jefferson continued their formula for winning football by outscoring the Highlanders 28-7 in the second half en route to a convincing 35-15 victory.

Following a missed field goal by West Milford, the Falcons scored put together an 80-yard drive highlighted by a 36 yard run by Paul Monaco. A one yard run by Justin Randzio gave the Falcons an early 7-0 lead.

The Highlanders responded with an impressive drive of their own culminating in a 24 yard touchdown pass from Zack Milko to Dan DiMinno on a 4th and 9 from the Jefferson 24 which made the score 7-7 going into halftime. Just as in last week’s victory over Mendham, the second half would belong to the Falcons.

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Following an exchange of punts, the Falcons utilized their strong efficient running game to march down the field. Quarterback Anthony “Cheech” Johnson’s 1 yard gain on a QB keeper on 3rd down and inches from the Highlanders’ 14 was followed by Monaco racing 13 yards for a touchdown to put Jefferson ahead  14-7.   On the first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, Nick Miller grabbed the first of his two interceptions on the evening to give Jefferson a 1st and 10 from the West Milford 29. The Falcons stuck with their ground attack and it continued to pay dividends on the scoreboard this time in the form of a 5 yard TD run by junior Joe Batelli to give the Falcons a 21-7 lead as the 3rd quarter expired.

After a strong kickoff return aided by a penalty on the Falcons, West Milford  looked to be in excellent position with a 1st and 10 from the Jefferson 47.  However, just as on their previous possession, on the Highlanders’ first play, Nick Miller intercepted his second pass of the evening returning it 30 yards to the West Milford 30.  Justin Randzio’s 10 yard run on first down, started the Falcons’ offense and when Ryan Leyden scored from 5 yards out, the Falcons had a commanding 28-7 lead with just over 9 minutes to play.  But West Milford wasn’t done just yet.  Utilizing Zack Milko’s strong passing arm, the Highlanders marched down the field quickly, needing only 2 and a half minutes to find the endzone with Milko hitting Ryan Coyle from 8 yards out to cut Jefferson’s lead to 28-14.

When West Milford’s attempt at an onside kick went out of bounds, the Falcons had a first down on their own 40. With their rushing attack operating like a finely tuned sports car, Jefferson needed just a minute and 49 seconds to score their fifth touchdown of the evening with Justin Randzio running the final 8 yards for his second TD of the evening to close out the scoring and give JTHS a well earned 35-14 victory.

At the traditional post game victory celebration at “the rock”, Coach Venturino thanked every one in Falcon Nation adding “that means everyone. Band, cheerleaders parents, everyone”. Commenting on the game, the coach spoke with pride about how the team made adjustments at the half with the coaching staff explaining the changes and the boys on the team quickly absorbing them.

Two game balls were awarded for the win. On offense, the game ball went to Justin Randzio who led  all ball carriers with 109 yards on 19 carries. Coach Venturino praised Randzio for “running the ball hard down the middle which set up the rest of our running game.  Running the ball like that breaks the heart of their defense”.

On defense the game game ball went to Nick Miller who had 2 key interceptions. The Coach mentioned how Miller “had one job and that was to stop their best player. He spied him all night and made big plays all night long including two interceptions”.

Following the cheerleaders’ victory poem, Coach Venturino gave one last cheer of “How about them Falcons!” adding “Last but not least, we need everyone to bring falcon Nation to Par Hills next Friday Night.”

When the crowd began to break up, I asked Coach Venturino about the game plan for the second half and and how the team made another solid set of adjustments at half time.  Coach gave tremendous credit to his staff and the kids. “Since I’ve been here we make adjustments some subtle, some major and the kids absorb them though we still need to improve on penalties.  We got pressure on their QB tonight . Our goal was to slow him down.  We didn’t look to stop him just slow him down”

The win moves Jefferson to 3-1 on the season and 2-1 in the NJSFC – Patriot Red Division while West Milford Falls to 2-2 overall and 2-1 in conference.