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West Morris dominated from their first possession to their last in an impressive 35-20 win under the lights on Friday in Mount Olive.

The pushups came early and often for the West Morris Central cheerleaders as they kept pace with Wolfpack productivity. Bryce Sokolowski scampered for a 40-yard touchdown run on West Morris’s fourth play of the game, nearly untouched, to jumpstart the powerful offense. Another score from running back Cole Draghi put the Wolfpack up 14-0 just five minutes in. Coupled with a strong pass rush and great secondary play, West Morris forced Mt. Olive into two consecutive three-and-outs to start the game. After exchanging several quick possessions, West Morris again drove down the field and scored on another touchdown from Draghi from two yards out to finish the first quarter, putting West Morris up 21-0.

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West Morris’ Will Modla and PJ Wright work on some mid-game adjustments in their 35-20 victory over Mount Olive (photo by Chris Henwood).

Despite the unfavorable score, the Marauders fought back in the second quarter. An 18-yard reception by Ryan Bakovich quickly put Mt. Olive in the red zone. Mount Olive quarterback Jason Drury just missed wideout Maxwell White on a fade in the endzone on third-and-12, bringing up a crucial fourth down early in the game. Needing a score to keep the game in reach, Mount Olive called a timeout to talk things over on fourth-and-long. But the West Morris defense prevailed, pressuring Drury into an incompletion in the endzone.

Consecutive catches of 14 and 20 yards by Sokolowski initiated an 86-yard scoring drive for the Wolfpack, capped off by a two-yard rush from tailback Solomon Holzworth. The West Morris cheerleaders were getting tired after their 28 pushups, but for good reason.

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Mount Olive’s Marcquis Small Wood (18) tries to evade West Morris’ Ethan Dolan (photo by Chris Henwood).

With two minutes to go in the half, Mount Olive put together a 70-yard drive, starting with a crafty dumpoff on third-and-long to halfback Bryson Bey for 21 yards. A 15-yard completion to Marcquis Smallwood and 16-yard pass to Spencer Labaska again put the Marauders in scoring position with 34 seconds left in the half. With ample time to throw, Drury threw a strike to receiver Zachary Stanilious for a 16-yard score, getting Mount Olive on the board.

With the support of hundreds of their classmates decked out in “black-out” gear, the Marauders forced West Morris into a third-and-20 to start the second half. With great field position, Drury scrambled for a 13-yard gain on second-and-15, before being hit out of bounds, causing uproar among the coaches, parents, and students. The players shared some unfriendly words and the referees intervened. The ruling on the field was a late hit penalty on the Wolfpack, resulting in 15 free yards for the Marauders. From the 19, Drury shook off one defender and found Smallwood for a first down on the goal line, only to hook up with the receiver again for a 3-yard score. A missed extra point made the score 28-13 with 4:40 to go in the third.

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Kicker John Harman (85) and holder William Ruppel (5) team up for five extra points (photo by Chris Henwood).

To counter Mount Olive’s solid drive, ‘back Holzworth bolted for 30 yards down the opponent’s sideline, tossing two defensive backs with a strong stiff arm, before being dragged down by the lone defender in his way. Draghi then began the fourth quarter by scoring yet again on a goal line push.

With the game seemingly out of reach, Drury mishandled a snap losing the fumble only to see his defense force and recover a West Morris fumble at the Marauders’ 45-yard line. After an attempted 40-yard incompletion was ruled defensive pass interference, Drury found White on a 30-yard heave. However, the score proved to be too little, too late, as the Wolfpack converted consecutive first downs to put the game away.

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West Morris runningback Solomon Holzworth navigates through Mount Olive’s defense (photo by Chris Henwood).

Despite the team’s wire-to-wire win, West Morris assistant coach Henry Frayne thought his team kept the score too close as the game progressed. “We were disappointed that we let them hang around for so long,” Frayne explained. Understanding the bustling atmosphere, under the lights, Frayne said the team simply “tried to prepare like it was any other game. We came out hot, and were lucky to maintain the lead.”

Mount Olive will play Morristown (1-1) next week, while West Morris faces a tough test against Delbarton (0-2).

West Morris Central has come out of the gate 2-0 to shake things up in the National Division (photo by Scott Buchanan).

West Morris Central has come out of the gate 2-0 to shake things up in the National Division (photo by Scott Buchanan).

Jamie is an honor student and varsity basketball player at Mendham High School. He's a regular contributor for Morris Sussex Sports as he pursues in interest in sports journalism.

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