PLAINFIELD – “Discipline, assignments, trust.”
That was the theme for Linden this week as the Tigers had to make sure they remained focused for a confident Plainfield team, despite all of the distractions around them.
“Discipline meaning how we have to act on the field, assignments meaning how we go about trying to win the game and trust meaning how each of us trusts are teammates and coaches,” said Linden senior captain Guirvenson Guillaume, who rushed for 92 yards on 24 carries and single touchdowns in each half to help lead the Tigers to a 26-18 Mid-State 38 Conference-Watchung Division triumph Saturday over Plainfield.
Asked after the game how his team improved performance-wise from last week’s season-opening 26-6 home setback to Immaculata, first-year Linden head coach Albert Chiola echoed Guillaume’s sentiments,” discipline, assignments, trust,” Chiola said.
“Discipline is the football team, assignments are how you play and trust is trusting in your teammates, your family and your coaches,” Chiola continued.
Before Saturday’s game at Hub Stine Field – in the wake of Linden 18-year-old senior Fritz Moncion being dismissed from the team this week after his unsportsmanlike behavior in last weekend’s season-opener – Chiola, who picked up his first win as a varsity head coach afterwards, was asked what steps Linden is taking to prevent such actions from happening again?
“We’re using the incident as a teachable moment,” said Chiola, who has been a coach at Linden since 2007. “We need to educate the kids on the gravity of the situation and for them to beware, because there is always someone watching or filming.”
Linden had just wrapped its pre-game warmup and went back into the lockerroom glad – and ready – for another opportunity to represent itself in a positive manner on the football field.
“We always preach self control on the field,” Chiola said. “Frustration can lead to bad decisions sometimes. Our kids have to realize that everything (in terms of social media) is out there and what happened (last weekend) can not be tolerated.”
Guillaume, also a key member of last year’s North 2, Group 5 state championship team, took it up on himself as a team captain to get his team through what was a rough week.
“Guirvenson is our motivational leader,” Chiola said. “This week his senior leadership was really important to this team.”
Linden took Saturday’s opening kickoff and marched to the Plainfield three-yard line before its initial drive stalled on a rush for a three-yard loss.
However, on the very next play, Linden sophomore Jayden Johnson recovered a Plainfield fumble at the Plainfield 8. After running the ball up the middle during its first possession, Linden decided to go outside on first down, with Guillaume sweeping right and scoring from eight yards out to give Linden the lead for good at 6-0.
Plainfield didn’t waste any time getting back into the game. On the second play of its next possession, quarterback Jayson Bryant found receiver Jaleel Simmons open at the 40, with Simmons taking the ball the rest of the way for a 65-yard touchdown pass that brought Plainfield within 7-6 after a missed extra point.
After a few more running plays and a seven-yard pass from Joey Krempa to Elijah Harrison put the ball on the Plainfield 39 near the end of the first quarter, Linden struck again.
Krempa, a junior in his first year as Linden’s starting quarterback, went back to Harrison and hit the receiver at the Plainfield 25. Harrison, a senior, then found room down the right sideline to haul the pass in for a 39-yard touchdown.
Linden extended its lead to two touchdowns early in the second quarter when Krempa completed a 62-yard touchdown pass to junior end Kyree Rogers, who went up on the right side of the field and made a nice catch against single coverage before taking the ball all the way into the end zone.
“After halftime we came out and knew that we couldn’t let up,” Guillaume said.
After holding the Cardinals to a three-and-out, Linden continued to move the ball into Plainfield territory and struck for what would be its final points. Guillaume closed a six-play, 49-yard drive by scoring from nine yards out on first and goal.
“Last week I had a bad game myself,” Guillaume said. “This week I wanted to keep coming on strong.”
To Plainfield’s credit, with the Cardinals coming in at 1-0 for the first time since 2005, the home team did not let up at all after being down by three scores.
Plainfield got two of them back and nearly got the third.
On Plainfield’s next possession the Cardinals came right back with another touchdown, this one a 31-yard pass from Bryant to Simmons. The drive began with consecutive completions of seven and 22 yards.
After Linden went three-and-out, Plainfield drove from the Linden 36 to the Linden six-yard line before a 10-play drive closed after an incomplete pass on fourth-and-five.
With Linden taking over on its own six, Guillaume took the handoff on first down and burst through the line. Unfortunately for Linden, the ball was knocked away from Guillaume, with Plainfield senior DJ Kennedy scooping it up and running into the end zone with a 15-yard fumble recovery.
Plainfield attempted another extra point kick, but it was wide left, keeping the score at 26-18, but still keeping the contest a one-possession game.
With 10:32 remaining, Linden continued to move the ball behind the running of Guillaume and Johnson before a 10-play drive halted at the Plainfield 32.
On Plainfield’s final possession, the Cardinals marched into Linden territory again and reached the Tiger 30 before an incomplete pass over the middle on fourth down was batted away by Linden standout senior defensive back Samad Starling.
Linden’s only other returning starter besides Guillaume, Starling produced a solid game on defense.
“The momentum was really shifting back and fourth in the second half,” Chiola said. “We had a goal-line stand and then an unfortunate turnover.
“We were resilient and showed that all week long. I was proud of the way our kids remained focused. They could have made an excuse because of all the distractions and news cameras, but instead they had a great week of practice.
“We were just glad to be playing football again and very happy to get this victory against a tough Plainfield team.”
Both teams are now 1-1 overall and 1-1 in the Watchung Division. Linden extended its winning streak over Plainfield to seven games. Plainfield last defeated Linden in 2008 and at home in 2007.
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION GAME
LINDEN (1-1, 1-1) 14 6 6 0 – 26
PLAINFIELD (1-1, 1-1) 6 0 6 6 – 18
LINDEN – Guirvenson Guillaume 8 run, Gregory Fyfe kick (L 7-0)
1 play, 8 yards, :06 used
PLAINFIELD – Jaleel Simmons 65 pass from Jayson Bryant,
kick failed (L 7-6)
2 plays, 67 yards, :19 used
LINDEN – Elijah Harrison 39 pass from Joey Krempa,
Gregory Fyfe kick (L 14-6)
6 plays, 62 yards, 2:50 used
LINDEN – Kyree Rogers 62 pass from Joey Krempa,
kick failed (L 20-6)
3 plays, 65 yards, 1:03
LINDEN – Guirvenson Guillaume 9 run, kick failed (L 26-6)
6 plays, 49 yards, 2:14 used
PLAINFIELD – Jaleel Simmons 31 pass from Jayson Bryant,
pass failed (L 26-12)
7 plays, 80 yards, 1:53 used
PLAINFIELD – DJ Kennedy 15 fumble recovery (on defense),
kick failed (L 26-18)
Plainfield capitalized on a turnover – a fumble recovery.