ROXBURY— It was far from pretty, but the Roxbury Gaels got the job done when Friday’s defensive battle against Morristown came down to the wire. Backed by a solid defensive effort and impressive play by sophomore QB Grant Dixon, the Gaels fought their way back from a seven point first half deficit to defeat the Morristown Colonials in their home opener by a final score of 13-10 in overtime.
Following an overtime field goal by Morristown’s Jordan Powell, Dixon marched his Gaels to their second win of the season with a 10 yard touchdown pass to senior TE/DB Joe Maugeri. The touchdown marked the first scores of both players’ varsity careers, and Dixon said that he was looking for his tight end from the moment he broke outside to his right on play action. The ball left Dixon’s right hand and the rest was history, courtesy of a wide open Maugeri.
“There’s pressure but then you gotta be out there, you gotta be relaxed, and you just gotta read what the defense is doing,” Dixon said. “When I came around the edge, I had the ball tucked away like I’m going to run. I saw Joe sneak behind them and I just dumped it into him. Game over.”
Dixon, who was under center for a large majority of Roxbury’s offensive snaps, used his feet as well as his arm to make plays, often rolling out of the pocket to pass or scrambling for positive yardage.
Perhaps the biggest story of the game, however, was not what Roxbury did with the football, but rather what they did without the football. Four turnovers by the Gaels in the first half gave the Colonials quality field position on multiple occasions throughout the night and more often than not, Roxbury’s defense stood their ground. The only long play that either defense surrendered was a Morristown return touchdown on the opening kickoff of the game, but an illegal block in the back penalty ultimately negated the big play.
The Colonials scored their only touchdown of the game on a quarterback sneak with less than a minute remaining in the first half, after a Roxbury miscommunication resulted in a lost fumble inside their own 20 yard line.
“We gotta get better ball security; [we had] a couple of mistakes with the placement of the ball,” said Roxbury head coach Cosmo Lorusso, referencing two turnovers in which the Gaels failed to execute the handoff on running plays. “We gave up five turnovers and four of those five times the defense, sometimes with a short field, did a great job of defending.”
Senior DE Sean Cosgrove and sophomore FB/LB Tommy Miller each recorded a half sack for the Gaels. In addition, senior HB/CB Alex Watson defended two passes in the secondary.
“It was a lot of heart, Lorusso said.” “…Our defense played their butts off.”
Both teams struggled to drive the ball down the field for a majority of the game. The decisive factor in the final outcome was the Gaels’ ability to finish the job down the stretch in front of a crowd of over 1,700 people.
With slightly over nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Gaels finally found the end zone, capping off an 11+ minute, 76 yard drive, with a one yard touchdown run. Sophomore RB/CB Craig Roumes shook off a tackler and was able to stretch the ball over the goal line for his second touchdown of the season.
While the Gaels’ defense allowed less than 100 total yards in the second half, their offense’s last shot to win in regulation was broken after Dixon’s only significant mistake of the night resulted in a red-zone interception.
The first year varsity quarterback was hit as he released the throw, causing him to under throw his intended receiver, Justin Irwin.
“You can’t really put it on him there,” Lorusso said defending Dixon. “He got it in the grill.”
In the end, however, everything worked out for the Roxbury Gaels and Coach Cosmo Lorusso, who credited his defense as the X-Factor in the victory.
“Those kids [on defense] really got after it. They did everything that we asked them to do this week and I was really proud of them.”
With the win, the Roxbury Gaels improve to (2-0) on the year, picking up their ninth consecutive victory dating back to game five of 2012.
The Morristown Colonials drop to (0-2) with their second overtime loss at Roxbury High School in the last three years.
Lorusso has made it no secret that the Gaels need to work on limiting mistakes and protecting the football for their next matchup on the road against the (1-1) West Morris Central Wolfpack, who lost their previous game on the road versus Randolph. The Gaels defeated the Wolfpack by a score of 21-6 last year.
“We’re a work in progress, but it’s nice to be 2-0 and a work in progress,” Lorusso said.
2nd—0:33 – Dallas McCall 1 yard TD run (Jordan Powell PAT is good) [7-0 MO]
4th—9:10 – Craig Roumes 1 yard TD run (Jack Clevenger PAT is good) [7-7]
1st OT – Jordan Powell 33 yard FG [10-7 MO]
1st OT – Grant Dixon 10 yard TD pass to Joe Maugeri [13-7 ROX]