Visiting Hillside has positives to build on
By JR Parachini, Sports Editor
RAHWAY – Justin Becker, as a team captain and returning two-way starter, realized the importance of his football team getting out to a good start.
“We worked hard all week to come out here and play well,” Becker said.
Rahway was efficient offensively, scoring on its first three drives, and unyielding defensively last Saturday afternoon, posting a commanding 39-6 victory over Hillside in opening Mid-State 38 Conference-Mountain Division action at Veterans Field.
Without benefit of a turnover, Rahway drove 11 plays, eight and then seven for its first three scores, with Becker scoring the initial Indian touchdown of 2012 on a two-yard run.
“Scoring those three touchdowns set the tone,” said Becker, who carried five times for 35 yards and two first half scores.
“We made it easier on ourselves.”
Rahway’s first drive consisted of nine running players and two passes. Diminutive junior tailback Gabril Gross (5-6, 170) carried three times on the march for 21 yards.
Gross, a first-year varsity starter, led all rushers with 134 yards on 15 carries. He scored on four-yard runs in each half.
“He’s a hard runner with a low center of gravity,” Rahway head coach Gary Mobley said. “He has great patience and decent vision.”
Rahway had the edge in total yards at the half by a 229-92 margin. Junior quarterback Tyler Bost did a good job of directing the multiple-I offense, hitting on four of eight passes in the first half for 101 yards. He also scored Rahway’s first second half touchdown on a one-yard run.
Hillside’s first five carries of the second half were for negative yardage.
“We had to key on their spread look,” said Becker, who excelled at linebacker.
“We have all the tools necessary and we’re well prepared.
“We feel we can match up with anybody we play.”
Also making an impact for Rahway were freshman offensive tackle Edriece Patterson, sophomore defensive lineman Sean Twerdak and senior cornerback Willie Calloway.
Patterson, making his first varsity start in his first varsity game, provided excellent blocking for Rahway’s backs.
“We didn’t mention his name all game, so that was a good thing,” Mobley said. “He handled all his assignments. Two years in a row now we’ve started a freshman.”
Last year’s freshman starter was Tyler West, who is back as Rahway’s placekicker and punter in addition to being a key linebacker.
Twerdak produced a first half quarterback sack of returning Hillside signal-callerk Joey Straile, good for a nine-yard loss.
“He’s a coach’s dream,” Mobley said.
Mobley said that Twerdak’s dedication and commitment set him apart.
Calloway prevented a Hillside touchdown by coming down with an interception late in the first half. Then in the third quarter he scooped up a fumble off a botched screen pass and returned it 11 yards for his first high school touchdown.
Calloway played Pop Warner before, but this is his first year playing high school ball.
“He’s another new guy we have who will help us,” Mobley said.
Despite the lopsided score, there were some positives for Hillside. Straile, a junior who started last year as a sophomore, displayed an ability to throw the ball well, completing nine of 18 passes for 126 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Michael Stradford had Rahway’s other pick.
“He’s doing a better job, with the game slowing down for him,” Hillside first-year head coach Kendall Ashford said.
“His ball placement has to be better.”
Junior tailback Josh Wilkins had two receptions for 21 yards the first half, while junior wide receiver Luis Iheanacho caught two balls for 36 yards in the second half, including Hillside’s touchdown.
“We didn’t give up like we did last year and that was very important,” Ashford said.
Junior defensive back Ishmeal Jones had an outstanding game, picking off Bost passes in the first and second half.
“We’ll need to build off the positives going into our next game,” Ashford said. “Ishmeal was actually on the sidelines cramping up before he got his two interceptions. He got his first one right after he went back in.”
Hillside’s touchdown came against Rahway’s starting defense as Mobley played his starters right until the end.
“Our kids laid it out on the line,” Ashford said. “They’re starting to believe in the concept of the team coming first.”
“Our kids got a lot of snaps and I thought we played well defensively,” Mobley said. “Our defense is in the hands of coordinator Jimmy Young, who does a good job and has total autonomy.
“I was a little disappointed that we gave up some big plays, so we will have to work on that.”
NOTES: While Hillside moved back to Central Jersey, Group 2 – I know, how is it that Hillside is in Central Jersey? – Rahway also moved back to North 2, Group 3, where it was situated in 2008 and 2010.
Mobley knew the NJSIAA would reconsider and put Rahway back into North 2, Group 3 after this year’s first classification had Rahway in North 2, Group 4.
Rahway petitioned the move back to North 2, Group 3 and it went down officially last Friday. Matawan came out of the section and went to Central Jersey, Group 3, while Belleville replaced Rahway in North 2, Group 4.
“We just want to play and compete anywhere, anytime,” Mobley said. “We felt the state had to change something.
“We just want to stay in one section and not be constantly moved around.”