Madison Advances to State Final In 34-33 Thriller Over Hanover Park

Photo by Lisa Mita Photography

Try to think about everything you know about high school football. You got it? Good. Now throw it all out the window. Throw out the rulebook, throw out your thoughts about the coaches and players, and throw out your predictions (especially if you’re George Muha because he’s usually wrong anyway).

The Madison Dodgers took on the Hanover Park Hornets this past Saturday on the Dodger turf in the North 2 Group 2 semi-final. Hanover Park deferred the toss and Madison began with the ball. The opening drives for these teams were eye-opening. Both are used to being able to score off that opening drive and building on that momentum throughout the game. Unfortunately, it did not play out that way in this game. Madison’s Mike Kearney and PJ Mulcahy had a difficult time getting through the Hornets’ defense led by Rory DeLuca. The Dodgers were only able to complete one set of downs and were forced to punt back. Hanover Park’s possession was even shorter. They went four and out then kicked it back to Madison. These next possessions that followed looked very similar to these first two, both yielded very little movement.

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Madison QB Mike Kearney was a man on a mission in this game, throwing for 159-yards and 2 touchdowns and running for 137-yards and another 2 touchdowns (photo by Lisa Mita Photography).

The Dodgers decided it was then time to kick this game into full gear. Brian Bradley started it off slow with a two yard gain. After Kearney fell incomplete on the 2nd down, he went for the 70 yard TD to his partner in crime PJ Mulcahy. Isaac Zapata’s kick was good, making the score 7-0, with 2 minutes left in the first quarter.

Zapata kicked back to Hanover Park’s Mark Amendola who brought it back to his own 27 yard. Donato Casolaro of HP took shotgun during the first play of his possession and aired the pass right to Madison’s Ryan Schmitz for interception. Mike Kearney came back onto the field and threw to Stephen Esposito who caught it one-handed and brought into the endzone. The refs called it back due to a pass interference on the Dodgers. Santi Quintero helped regain some of that yardage with a 14 yard gain. Kearney on the pass brought up the first down. The quarter ended 7-0 Dodgers.

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Hanover Park’s Donato Casolaro had a productive afternoon, passing for 246-yards and 4 touchdowns and rushing for another 50-yards (photo by Lisa Mita Photography).

Kearney opened up the following quarter keeping the ball and running it three yards. That is when Madison decided to bring out my favorite play ever. Kearney switches places with Mulcahy, and Kearney caught the ball for a 14 yard reception. Thus bringing the Dodgers to the goal line. Kearney kept for the lst down and broke through the line, securing another Dodger TD. The PAT was good, 14-0 Dodgers.

Hanover Park’s Bobby Lupo brought Zapata’s kick back to the fifty yard line where Casolaro was ready to make a statement. After two failed downs, Casolaro threw to Jimmy Fortier who catches the ball on an amazing one-handed catch for the 40 yard TD. The PAT was good, score now 14-7.

Madison following HP’s scoring drive decided it was now the appropriate time to give them a Dodger’s response. For those of you that don’t know, a dodger response is almost always a touchdown. It was not an easy road to this touchdown especially with Michael Ferrone at the helm of the D-line and Michal Radomski deflecting Kearney’s passes. But a pass connection from Kearney to Matt Mulcahy propelled the Dodgers 50 yards and the rest you see is history. With Kearney on the keeps and PJ Mulcahy to take over on drives, PJ Mulcahy carried the ball into the endzone for the touchdown. PAT good, 21-7 Madison.

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Madison dynamic runningback PJ Mulcahy got the Dodgers out of a couple jams on his three receptions for 103-yards and 1 touchdown (photo by Lisa Mita Photography).

Don’t you dare count out the Hornets just yet. They were not going down without a fight and one person on the sideline was going to ensure this. Eric Magnifico was injured in last week’s game against Caldwell most likely with a torn meniscus and was not playing this game. THAT DID NOT STOP HIM. I knew he was this loud because I was standing right next to him and heard him for the better part of the first half. All game he was encouraging his teammates, cheering on every member that stepped on the field. I saw this strong sense of morale and I thought you all needed to hear about it.

HP’s rebound did not start off the way they most likely intended it to because second play of their, Donato Casolaro is intercepted by Ryan Schmitz. The Dodgers did not make much headway on this turnover and gave it back to the Hornets.

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Hanover Park’s powers through the Madison defense on one of his carries to help the wear down the Dodger defense (photo by Lisa Mita Photography).

Attempt two at the rebound went better. Even with Casolaro facing some pass deflections, his receivers Radomski and Fortier brought the ball to the 20 yard line. Fortier on the pass struck gold in the endzone. The PAT was blocked by Dante Dilonno. Score now 21-13. The rest of quarter goes uneventful minus a 30 yard carry from Madison’s PJ Mulcahy. The half ends at 21-13.

If the goal for the Hornets was to score as soon as possible following halftime, they achieved it. DeLuca started it off with a 20 yard carry. Then Calzolari picked another 10. And then of course once the ball was passed to Fortier and he headed right to end zone about 35 yards out. PAT was good by Radomski, 21-20 Madison.

Kearney started the Dodgers out with a 20 yard carry. But he would lose some of those yard after an illegal procedure play against Madison. Madison employed their go-to techniques with Kearney on the keep or Mulcahy on the carry. Also sprinkle in Stephen Esposito for a 7 yd carry and Santi Quintero for another 7 yard reception and BOOM they’re in the redzone. Matt Mulcahy on reception gave Madison the TD, PAT was good. 28-20 Madison.

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Madison’s line created a wall most of this game which allowed the Dodger offense to have 363-yards of total offense and 5 touchdowns (photo by Lisa Mita Photography).

The Madison defense headed by Dante Dilonno and Yiakos Kostidakis were all over the HP offense this drive. The Hornets made very little headway and kicked it back to the Dodgers. After the HP touchback, Madison brought it up to the 34 before the third quarter was called. It ended at 28-20 Madison.

It’s time for my favorite quarter of this game and quite possibly my favorite experience all season. You could not take your eyes off this game for a second and you needed to be as close as possible to the field to see all the action. Madison’s opening drive I think needs to be attributed to our POW Kearney because he had such good runs on his keeps that he got the Dodgers to the goal and put the ball in the endzone for the TD. Zapata’s kick went under the posts and was no good. 34-20, Madison.

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Hanover Park’s Jimmy Fortier had a banner afternoon, catching six passes for 227-yards and 3 touchdowns to keep the Hornets in contention until the final minute (photo by Lisa Mita Photography).

Casolaro, second play on his drive found once again Jimmy Fortier was caught an 80 yard reception for an HP TD. PAT was good, 34-27 Madison. Here’s where it gets interesting. HP goes for the onside kick, but it gets recovered by Madison. Madison gets nowhere on their drive and has to give it back to the Hornets with 2 minutes left. The game spirals a little out of control for the Madison defense. Casolaro first got a 20 yard gain on the keep. Rory Deluca picked up the next first down. Fortier snagged a 15 yard gain and the Deluca put it away for the TD. The pivotal moment of the 2 point conversion came for the Hornets. The first attempt gets called back and the ball was pushed forward following penalty on the Dodgers. The second attempt at the 2pt by DeLuca is no good. The score was now 34-33.

The Hornets again tried the onside kick, which appeared to be recovered by Hanover Park but the refs said it didn’t go the necessary 10-yards. The Dodgers got in victory position and allowed the clock to run out, which gave the Dodgers the 34-33 win.

“You have all earned the right to play this championship game,” said Coach Kubiak, closing to his team post-game and I have to agree. They fought hard through their difficult schedule and the hard work, dedication, and camaraderie on and off the field have earned them the right to take on Lenape at MetLife for the ring.

Box Score

Hanover Park 0 13 7 13 33
Madison 7 14 7 6 34

1st: Madison: P.J. Mulcahy 69 pass from Michael Kearney (Isaac Zapata kick)
2nd: Madison: Michael Kearney 5 run (Isaac Zapata kick)
2nd: Hanover Park: Jimmy Fortier 49 pass from Donato Casolaro (Michal Radomski kick)
2nd: Madison: P.J. Mulcahy 1 run (Isaac Zapata kick)
2nd: Hanover Park: Michal Radomski 19 pass from Donato Casolaro (kick blocked)
3rd: Hanover Park: Jimmy Fortier 35 pass from Donato Casolaro (Michal Radomski kick)
3rd: Madison: Matt Mulchahy 22 pass from Michael Kearney (Isaac Zapata kick)
4th: Madison: 7 run (kick failed)
4th: Hanover Park: Jimmy Fortier 79 pass from Donato Casolaro (Michal Radomski kick)
4th: Hanover Park: Rory DeLuca 3 run (run failed)

2 Comments

  1. Kathi Magnifico

    February 9, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I have been wanting to comment on this article for a very long time. I want to thank Marcella Parisi for making such a nice comment about my son Eric Magnifico in this article, for his dedication to his team from the sideline. This was the most difficult thing for him to do, not being able to play this game. But he did all he could from the sideline. Thank you so much for writing about him.
    I also want to thank all of the Morrissussexsports reporters for all the fine articles you have written this past season and the seasons before, especially Gearge Muha. You truly have given the boys recognition when they deserve it, and I thank you for that. I’m grateful for every little thing you notice about each hard working player. You truly have a passion for the game. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Sincerely, Kathi Magnifico

    • Morris Sussex Sports

      George Muha

      June 22, 2017 at 5:19 am

      Hi Kathi, I missed this comment until now and thank you so much for your kind words! I’m going to forward this to Marcella so she sees it as well!

      Good luck at the next level, if I’m Eric’s future opponents, I’d be worrying!

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