ROSELLE PARK – Roselle Park held on to defeat Roselle 7-6 in the 100th Thanksgiving Day football game played between the neighborhood rivals Thursday morning at Herm Shaw Field.
Roselle Park now leads the series, which began in 1915, 51-41-8.
Roselle Park defeated Roselle for the first time since 2014 and as a result was able to keep the Shoe Trophy emblematic of the team that last won three straight. Roselle Park won three in a row from 2012-2014.
The host Panthers reached the scoreboard first when on the initial play of the second quarter junior quarterback Patrick Gergich completed a 25-yard pass – on second-and-eight – to senior end Enzo Brutus toward the right side of the end zone.
“I immediately saw that he was open,” Gergich said.
Brutus caught the ball over his shoulder – using only his right hand as he brought the ball into his chest = to beat single coverage.
“Enzo just made a great catch,” Gergich said. “I didn’t think that was going to be our only touchdown, but our defense was able to hold them.”
For Brutus, the final touchdown reception of his high school career proved to be the points that gave Roselle Park the lead for good.
“I knew I had to run a little extra to catch up with the pass,” Brutus said. “I reached up with my one hand and made sure that I got it.”
Roselle pulled to within 7-6 with 10:58 remaining when senior running back Craig McRae dragged tacklers up the middle for about 10 yards before breaking free for a 44-yard touchdown run.
McRae had a solid game, leading all rushers with 91 yards on 15 carries.
With just 20 seconds to go, Roselle Park stopped Roselle on fourth-and-two at the Roselle Park 32 when Roselle’s pass went incomplete at the Roselle Park 20.
Roselle Park senior captain Sean Matthews, who wore No. 56 this year, donned uniform No. 100 for the historic game.
“This is such an honor, to be a part of this tradition,” Matthews said.
Matthews had two uncles – Steve and Rob – play in the game in the 1990s, in addition to his older brother Brian, a 2014 Roselle Park graduate.
“We wanted to come back and win after the Shabazz (playoff) game, so this feels really good,” Matthews said. “We had sort of a bend-but-don’t-break mindset today on defense. We couldn’t let them score again.”
Roselle Park completed a 7-4 campaign, bouncing back from last year’s 3-7 finish.
Roselle closed with a two-game losing streak to finish 6-4.
This was the first time in the 100-game series that the contest was played at the same field two years in a row.
“I’m so happy that our seniors were able to go out on a high note,” Roselle Park head coach Terry Hanratty said. “They deserve it.”
Dylan Camilo, Roselle Parks’ leading rusher, was bothered by a knee injury and didn’t carry the ball as much as he’s used to. However, he came up with a couple of big runs in the second half.
“Dylan came back in the game and made a key first down for us, I was happy for him,” Hanratty said. “Our kids just don’t quit.”
It was running back by committee for Roselle Park, with Brutus, Abel Crespo and Gary Rexach getting most of the carries.
FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
-Roselle senior wide receiver Jordan Gray hauls in a 17-yard reception.
-Roselle Park senior linebacker Abel Crespo has a sack for an 18-yard loss.
-The Roselle defense stops Roselle Park senior running back Dylan Camilo from getting a first down on fourth-and-three from the Roselle 24.
-Roselle Park junior quarterback Patrick Gergich completes a 25-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Enzo Brutus, who makes a fine, one-handed catch of a pass over his shoulder.
-Roselle Park senior lineman Oniks Fazliu has a sack for an eight-yard loss.
-Roselle senior Julien Fernandez produced a 56-yard punt to the Roselle eight-yard line.
SECOND HALF HIGHLIGHTS:
-Fernandez executed another solid punt, this one good for 48 yards and no return to the Roselle Park five-yard line.
-Roselle Park junior defensive back Justin Bellante had a sack for a six-yard loss.
-Roselle senior quarterback Marvens Lormejuste completed a 16-yard pass to senior wide receiver Nasir Cherry.
-Fazliu had another sack, this one good for a four-yard loss.
-Roselle’s second possession ends with Bellante tackling Roselle senior running back Craig McRae from behind for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the Roselle Park three-yard line. Two plays before, Roselle had a receiver wide open in the middle of the end zone, but the pass was just overthrown.
-McRae drags numerous defenders straight ahead for some 10 yards before breaking free and scoring on a 44-yard run on Roselle’s first play of its third possession. However, the ensuing extra point kick went wide right.
-On fourth-and-two from the Roselle Park 24, Roselle is stopped when Lormejuste runs up the middle for just one yard. The measurement showed that the Rams were short by the length of a football.
-Lormejuste and Cherry hooked up again, this time for a 24-yard pass that gave Roselle a first down at its own 39 with 1:03 remaining.
-Lormejuste ran up the middle for eight yards to give Roselle a fourth-and-two at the Roselle Park 32 with just 20 seconds to go after Roselle called its final timeout.
-The game’s final play was an incomplete pass at the Roselle Park 20, with the Panthers hanging on for a hard-fought, one-point triumph.
“We wanted to show blitz and get into zone and do a lot of variations,” Hanratty said. “We mixed it up to keep them honest.
“Coach (Greg) Dunkerton did a great job with our blitzes and we stopped them when it counted.”
This was the third game in the series decided by one point and the second by the score of 7-6. Roselle Park won Game No. 45 in 1965 by the score of 7-6 and the Panthers also won Game No. 86 in 2003 by the score of 13-12.
Roselle Park now has a record of 26-23-2 in the games played at Herm Shaw Field.
THANKSGIVING DAY GAME AT HERM SHAW FIELD
Roselle (6-4) 00 00 00 06 – 06
Roselle Park (7-4) 00 07 00 00 – 07
Roselle Park – Enzo Brutus 25 pass from Patrick Gergich,
Patrick Gergich kick (RP 7-0)
7 plays, 48 yards, 3:19 used
Roselle Park capitalized on a turnover – an interception by
Angel Tlanipa off a tip by Devin Hilburn.
Roselle – Craig McRae 44 run, kick failed (RP 7-6)
1 play, 44 yards, :13 used
Roselle won a battle of field position that set up this score.