Welcomed back to a New Jersey football field in a game situation for the first time in over two weeks, the Jefferson Township High School Falcons took full advantage of their return to the gridiron.
Falcons running back Michael Gould led a scoring onslaught in the first half with three touchdowns, helping JTHS build a 28-0 lead. The defense took care of the rest, as the Falcons coasted to a 35-6 triumph over the Vernon Vikings on Saturday afternoon. The visit to Vernon was the Falcons’ first contest since October 9.
“We got shut down for the two-week span, and it could’ve gone either one or two ways,” receiver Caleb Rippey said. “We beat Vernon last year, so we were pretty confident with us coming out with the best effort we could play.
“We could’ve not taken it seriously, sat at home, watch TV, whatever. On the other hand, during that two-week span, we got on live calls, talked about plays, film, what we were going to do with. our game plan. After that, coach would post workouts for us. I think we really took that two-week span seriously, took it as an opportunity to heal up any injuries anyone might’ve had. Get back to full health and come back out, come out with the win.”
Jefferson (2-1) was originally slated to take on Lakeland at home on October 16, but the ongoing health crisis led to that game’s cancellation. As they waited out their fate, the Falcons were relegated to virtual meetings and workouts. Vernon agreed to shift what was originally a Friday night matchup to Saturday afternoon. It allowed Jefferson to partake in one on-field practice leading into the matchup.
Head coach Jerry Venturino was pleased with the way his team responded to these unusual times.
“They came out with great energy (on Friday), knocked off some of the rust,” Venturino said. “Of course, as a head coach, I’m extremely proud of them for coming out on one day of practice and executing in all three phases.”
“On (Friday) at practice, you could really feel the energy,” Gould, a team captain, said of the team’s lone day of on-field preparation. “Everyone brought the juice, we were ready to go. All the kids were working out, trying to get in their best shape before we had no practice.”
One of the biggest keys for the Falcons was immediately pouncing on the Vikings (0-4) in the early going. The affair started off modest, with the first points coming through a 27-yard Rippey touchdown grab from Eric Garv just before the midway mark. But once Gould took over, Jefferson officially regained the swagger shown in their opening win over West Milford at the start of the month.
Gould went on to score on three of the next four Falcon possessions, including one with just over two minutes to go in the first half. Those scores are good for Gould’s first scores of the year after visiting the end zone 13 times last season.
“I was working out over the break, I was so focused in on getting ready for this game, (so) I was expecting less,” Gould said. He also credited his blockers ahead of him, calling the Falcons’ offensive line “awesome.”
Garv managed to sandwich Gould’s highlights with another score, a 61-yard deep ball to Rory Coyle at the end of the third quarter. That created a 35-point margin and allowed the running clock to commence for the entirety of the final frame. Vernon did manage to score their only points of the afternoon on a 39-yard scoring from Aden Moskovitz. The Falcons would block the ensuing extra point to create the final tally.
Save for that late blemish, the Jefferson defense was otherwise perfect. Vernon did not enter Falcon territory in the first half and only did so in the second after recovering a surprise onside kick to open things up and later when the deficit was inflated to five touchdowns. In the former incident, the Vikings entered the red zone, but the JTHS defense stopped them on fourth down to prevent damage. Lawrence DiBiase had an interception for the Falcons, who also topped Vernon in a head-to-head meeting for the fifth consecutive season.
“Our defense has been pretty solid all year long,” he said. “It starts up front, as it always does. The defensive line does a fantastic job and the linebackers are able to clean up anything they can’t. Our defensive backs are athletic back there. As long as they stick to the game plan, don’t try to do anything else outside of that, we’ll be set.”
Jefferson returns to action on October 30 for their second and final scheduled home game against Passaic Valley. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags