LINDEN, NJ — On the second-to-last play of the third quarter, senior Davante Burroughs came up big for Linden by blocking a Colonia 28-yard field goal attempt to keep the game tied.
However, just four plays later, the host Tigers made a special teams miscue that put them behind once more.
On fourth-and-13 from its own 13, the snap to punter Steeve Dorvil went over his head and through the end zone for a safety.
Not only did the visiting Patriots take a two-point lead, but they took the ensuing free kick and went down the field to score their third touchdown.
It was enough for Colonia to pull out a hard-fought 23-14 win against Linden in the Big Central Conference–Division 4 clash at Tiger Stadium on Friday, Oct. 1.
Colonia High School improved to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in Division 4, while Linden High School slipped to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the same division.
Both teams are also situated in the section North, Group 4, so there is also the possibility of a playoff rematch.
Colonia was led by senior quarterback Joshua Oluremi, who scored the game’s first two touchdowns on electrifying runs of 29 and 57 yards after breaking containment and then threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jake Ciencen with 8:05 remaining.
Oluremi rushed for 189 yards on 18 carries and his two touchdowns. He had 144 yards on 11 attempts in the first half.
Passing the ball, Oluremi completed five of seven passes for 68 yards and one touchdown.
Linden sophomore quarterback Tequan Thomas completed touchdown passes to senior tight end Pablo Montanez on the final play of the first half and to senior running back Andrew Cuervo in the third quarter to get Linden back in the game, as the Tigers came back from a 14-0 deficit to tie the game at 14-14. Thomas completed nine of 14 passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
When Linden blocked the field goal, the Tigers started on their own 16. There was no gain rushing on first down and then a 3-yard loss on second. Thomas was stopped for another 3-yard loss on third down.
“We blocked the punt, but then, on the drive after, we just couldn’t get anything going,” Linden head coach Al Chiola said. “That was a big possession. Give Colonia credit for stepping up big there.”
Oluremi, who Linden faced in last year’s 20-16 setback at Colonia, broke tackles and was nearly impossible to bring down in the open field.
“We didn’t contain him at all in the first half,” Chiola said. “We did a better job in the second half and bottled him up, but he still was able to make a play with his arm.
“The difference was that they just made more plays than we did.”
On its first possession, Colonia drove all the way to the Linden 15 before the Tigers stopped the Patriots.
Then, after a fine Dorvil punt that rolled all the way to the Colonia 1-yard line, the Patriots proceeded to drive 99 yards in nearly six minutes to score the game’s first points. On third-and-1 from the Linden 29, Oluremi slipped through a hole in the middle of the line and then sprinted to the end zone for his first score.
Oluremi scored again on Colonia’s next possession. This time, after bouncing off contact near the line of scrimmage, he sprinted up the middle untouched for a 57-yard touchdown run.
With just 2:52 remaining in the first half, Linden started at its own 41, following a positive yardage kickoff return by Thomas. On the drive, Thomas completed passes of 16 and 10 yards to senior wide receiver Jahaad Halsey and Montanez that gave Linden first downs.
With just three seconds left in the second quarter, Thomas rolled left on first-and-goal from the Colonia 6 and threw a low ball over the middle to Montanez, who cradled it in with two hands as he fell in the end zone with first half time expiring.
Linden then tied the game on its first possession of the second half, when Cuervo caught a screen pass at right and then used some shifty moves of his own to race through a hole and into the end zone from 40 yards out.
Colonia then drove from its own 25 to the Linden 11, where it sent junior kicker Patrick Miller out for the field goal attempt that Burroughs blocked.
“We knew we were going to be in for a battle,” Chiola said. “We had a nice drive to end the first half and were confident going into the second half. Their quarterback is a tremendous player, and we knew that going in.”
Chiola also said that Linden had no snap issues at all in its first three games. Dorvil jumped high earlier in Friday’s contest to make a fine play of hauling a snap in and getting off a quality punt.
Cuervo was Linden’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 11 times for 64 yards.
Linden is scheduled to play at Scotch Plains on Friday, Oct. 8.
Photos by JR Parachini