It’s safe to say I missed the high school football during this past off season. Luckily, this past week Madison vs Pequannock game gave me exactly what I have been craving. I missed the nail biting moments, the camaraderie and fieriness each team’s holds. I missed the unpredictable moments that can change the course of a game in a snap. Thank you Madison and Pequannock for reminding me of why I love high school football and how much I will miss writing for Morris Sussex Sports next year.
Madison elected to receive and after Edi Kamili kicks back to the Madison 30, the game began. Madison started their possession off shaky, PJ Mulcahy was not gaining much running yardage. Mike Kearney’s passes fell incomplete and were almost intercepted. However, Ryan Schmitz on the run picked up 20 yards and sparked fire within the Dodgers. Mulcahy, Kearney, and Matt Boyd gained significant running yardage barely needing third downs to propel them to the opposing 20. An offsides penalty on Pequannock also helped. Kearney pitched the ball to Boyd who ran to the 6 yard line. Mulcahy could not find the endzone for the 1st and goal. So Kearney decided to punch it in for himself, making it 7-0. Isaac Zapata’s kick was good.
Pequannock possession was short, very short. The Golden Panthers offense which included Dave Jachera, Sean Kilmek, Luc Bongiovanni, and Matt Ungar could not handle the Madison’s rock hard defense led by Dante Dilonno and Yiakos Kostidakis. The Panthers went three out only once and kicked it back to Madison. The Dodgers played two sets of down with nothing major, just some short, effective carries by the Mulcahy brothers and QB Kearney. The first quarter ended at 7-0, Dodgers.
The Dodgers hit a roadblock starting out the 2nd quarter. By roadblock I mean the Panthers’ defense. Madison barely gained inches in their first plays, Madison needed to catch the Panthers off guard and with their 3rd and 9 play, and they sure did. Kearney favored as QB to either run the ball with Mulcahy or to run it himself. There was minimal use of the air this game with each team having great strength in their defensive backs. Therefore Kearney decided to bust out a fake handoff to PJ Mulcahy, where he actually ran the ball up the middle for the 1st down. The Madison offense just thrived off of this momentum, Mulcahy and Matt Boyd helped the ball to the opposing 20. Mucahly caught it for the TD avoiding the almost interception. PAT is good 14-0, Dodgers.
The Panthers were not about to be shown up just yet. They took over on 20 after Zapata’s kick. Sean Kilmer ran from a handoff for a 76 yard TD on their opening drive. He broke through the pack and flew down the field as if no one could catch him. And no one did. Madison was rattled. They got hit early with a personal foul penalty for 15 yards, making it 2nd and 17. PJ Mulcahy only gained three yards on the next play and Kearney’s next pass fell incomplete. Madison attempted a fake kick but Ryan Schmitz was not able to pick up the first down.
Pequannock on their first possession again handed the ball off to Kilmek and ran for another TD for 80 yards. He tied up game and with the kick called good, 14-14. Madison’s PJ Mulcahy ran up the middle three times to pull out a first down. Schmitz on the next second down would run 15 yards. Mulcahy ran for 15 yards right after which brought the Dodgers closer to the redzone. This work fell to the waste side when Kearney’s pass, intended for Mulcahy, was intercepted by Kilmek. The Panthers took over, but had a hard time getting through the Dodgers’ defense. A pass interference called against the home team aided the Panther, but Jachera could not complete his passes to move the offense down the field. The half ends at 14-14.
As per tradition, my photographer Mattie and I always change sides for each half to remain as unbiased as possible. The second half we were on the Madison side and it was explosive. The Dodgers did not have a substantial fan section this game most likely because of the cold, so they relied on each other for hype. The teams were tied up going into the second half and the chance of a perfect record was on the line. It got heated very quickly.
The Panthers received the ball starting off the third quarter. Kilmek was on the two opening plays, first gaining 5 yard and then gaining a first down. Pequannock slightly back peddled 5 yards after a penalty. Jachera then carried the ball for the 1st down. Then all we saw was yellow and all we heard was yelling. Madison players and Pequannock were up in arms shoving each other a fight looming to break out. The refs called a personal foul on the Dodgers and the Dodgers sidelines exploded. They were not in accordance with the refs and Kubik and his assistant coaches did their best to calm them down. Kubik did not want this misplaced anger energy to translate into a dirty game. The Dodger defense shut down the next two running plays from the Panthers. They were extremely fired up and the encouraging words from the sidelines must have fueled this. Kilmek took over as QB for the next play and was intercepted by Kyle Monaco, giving Madison back the ball.
Kerney kept most of the running for himself this possession. But it ended up being no good after a fired up Madison team received another personal foul. Kearney would run it again, getting nowhere. On his third down pass it was intercepted by Justin Fuss who ran it all the way back for a TD. The PAT was called good, making the score 21-14, Panthers. Madison on the kick return received another personal foul penalty pushing them back to their own 48.
This penalty did not stop the Dodgers. Mike Kearney and the Mulcahy brothers ran for constant 1st downs, only needing one 3rd down to get to the 10 yard line. Kearney pulled out the fake handoff to PJ Mulcahy to score the tying up TD for 21-21 score overall. Zapata kicked the ball back to the Panthers. They gained four yards before time expired in the quarter.
It was a tense environment with a tie score and both teams fighting tooth and nail for every single yard. The sidelines were insane, it was not quiet for even a second. Everyone had something to say. Most of them were not too nice, so I won’t share those comments. My hands were shaking at this point because I had all this nervous energy. The game could have gone to with either team. The anticipation was killing me with every play. At one point in the quarter, I dropped my notebook in defeat. I had paying so much attention to the game that I did not write any notes.
Pequannock turned over the ball after their second and third down plays yielded no gain. Except an almost interception by the Dodgers. Madison took over on their own 42, where they were able to successfully complete two first downs. The next set of downs they could only gain 5 yards on their 3rd down. The Dodgers opted to bring out Zapata to try for the field goal, but it skirted wide, giving the Panthers the ball. The Madison defense needed to pull out a big stop this possession to bring the offense out one more time. The only yardage gained by the Panthers was in the red, Jachera first lost two yards and then lost 5 yards. On 3rd and 15, Jachera’s pass fell incomplete. The Dodgers then took over.
This drive was nerve-racking. It started out okay with Matt Mulcahy first gaining three yards. Then catching a complete pass from Kearney to bring up the first down. Then came the flags, a false start on Madison brought up 1st and 15. Kearney rushed for the first down, but the play was cut short by a holding penalty against the Dodgers. The Dodgers now had to claw their way out of a 1st and 20 with about a minute left in the game. Mike Kearny first ran for 10 yards. PJ Mulcahy caught a pass for 9 yards. Kearney then brought up the first down for the Dodgers. Matt Mulcahy carried the ball for 5 yards which brought up a 2nd and 5. Kearny then took the ball back for a 12 yard gain on the 30 yard, with 20 seconds left. Madison got pushed back 5 yards for an illegal procedure, but that did not stop Kearney on the next play. He ran it in for the TD and the PAT was good, making it 28-21 Madison. The Panthers got the ball back with about 6 seconds lefts, plenty of time for one last play, but their chance never came. The ball was snapped and Jachera was sacked by Ryan Schmitz right as the play began. The Dodgers were victorious.
Pequannock 0 14 7 0 21
Madison 7 7 7 7 28
1st: Madison: Michaeal Kearney 1 run (Isaac Zapata kick)
2nd: Madison: P.J. Mulcahy 14 pass from Michaeal Kearney (Isaac Zapata kick)
2nd: Pequannock: Sean Klimek 77 run (Jon Kelly kick)
2nd: Pequannock: Sean Klimek 51 run (Jon Kelly kick)
3rd: Pequannock: Justin Fuss 20 interception return (Jon Kelly kick)
3rd: Madison: Michael Kearney 4 run (Isaac Zapata kick)
4th: Madison: Michael Kearney 8 run (Isaac Zapata kick)