KENILWORTH – In a measuring stick kind of season-opener visiting Cedar Grove wanted to see where it stood while challenging a not-so familiar opponent on enemy turf.
While the Panthers lost a ton of players to graduation, a squad cutting its teeth of sorts didn’t plan on making that an excuse as it traveled to Kenilworth to face fellow North, Group 1 school Brearley.
Of the two teams the host Bears had much more back and they were at home. If Cedar Grove considered itself an underdog, the Panthers took that as added motivation to show just how well they could play, despite several players breaking in on the varsity level.
Two quick touchdowns certainly helped, the second coming after a costly Brearley turnover. Cedar Grove also had the upper hand in the trenches, winning the game at the line of scrimmage once it went ahead.
The Panthers scored in every quarter on their way to a decisive 31-7 triumph over Brearley in season-opening Friday night action at Ward Field.
Setting the tone early – in the first quarter – was the B & B connection of junior quarterback Dario Bryant and junior wide receiver Anthony Bilotta.
Bryant hit Bilotta on a slant pass left that covered 35 yards to give Cedar Grove the lead for good and then he lofted the ball in the left corner of the end zone for Bilotta to come down with a 14-yard touchdown pass to give the Panthers a 13-0 advantage with still 5:43 remaining in the first.
On the slant left Bryant caught the ball and then sped through the Brearley defense, running down the left sideline untouched for his team’s first TD of 2019.
“Our offense increased with everyone’s ability and I was getting a lot of time to throw,” said Bryant, who threw three TD passes, including his final one to sophomore running back Patch McCarthy in the fourth quarter.
“Anthony is my No. 1 receiver and on the slant I tried to pump fake. It worked a few times.”
“On the first touchdown I told my quarterback I would be open,” Bilotta said. “On the second one it was stop and go – during scrimmages we saw that the cornerback would bite.”
A 60-yard punt return by Brearley senior Antonino Principato gave Brearley a first-and-goal at the Cedar Grove 10 late in the first quarter. On fourth-and-goal from the 16, junior quarterback Dan Ramos hit Principato over the middle for Brearley’s first and what would be only score. Principato’s extra point pulled Brearley to within 13-7 on the final play of the first quarter.
However, that’s as close as the Bears would get.
Cedar Grove scored a big touchdown with less than two minutes to go in the first half before a rain-soaked first 24 minutes came to a conclusion. Senior running back Gerard Dente capped a six-play drive with a seven-yard TD run up the middle.
An interception by senior defensive back Peter Johnson at the Cedar Grove two-yard line thwarted Brearley’s first series of the third quarter.
Coming up with key quarterback sacks for Cedar Grove were sophomore linebacker Nick Coletta in the first half and McCarthy, from his linebacker position, in the second.
“I thought our defensive line and linebackers played really well,” Cedar Grove head coach Rob Gogerty said. “I thought our defense had to carry us and I thought our coaches came up with a pretty good game plan.”
Junior running back Tyler Rummel also found room up the middle to score on an 11-yard run for Cedar Grove’s third quarter touchdown.
“We were the underdogs because we have a young team, but we came here and proved a point,” Bryant said. “Although we lost 16 seniors, we still definitely came here to win.”
Brearley standout junior middle linebacker Michael Dotro did not play in the second half. He was in on several tackles, including one solo, in the first half.
“We all worked together and didn’t play sloppy football,” Bilotta said.
“We have 4-5 good athletes that make our offense click,” Gogerty said. “Being able to get them out in space – our athleticism helped us tonight.
“It was wet in the first half and we won the turnover battle and that was also big. For a lot of our guys this was their first time. This was a good test to see where we are, playing solid Group 1 program.”
MATCHUP OF TWO NORTH, GROUP 1 TEAMS
CEDAR GROVE (1-0) 13 06 06 06 – 31
BREARLEY (0-1) 07 00 00 00 – 07
Cedar Grove – Anthony Bilotta 35 pass from Dario Bryant,
Anthony Bilotta kick (CG (7-0)
3 plays, 42 yards, :44 used
Cedar Grove – Anthony Bilotta 14 pass from Dario Bryant,
kick failed (CG 13-0)
5 plays, 29 yards, 1:23 used
Cedar Grove capitalized on a turnover – a fumble recovery.
Brearley – Antonino Principato 16 pass from Dan Ramos,
Antonino Principato kick (CG (13-7)
4 plays, 10 yards, 2:13 used
Set up by 60-yard punt return caught on a fly by Antonino Principato.
Cedar Grove – Gerard Dente 7 run, kick failed (CG 19-7)
6 plays, 35 yards, 1:50 used
Cedar Grove – Tyler Rummel 11 run, kick failed (CG 25-7)
5 plays, 55 yards, 1:28 used
Cedar Grove – Patch McCarthy 18 pass from Dario Bryant,
kick failed (CG (31-7)