Patriots Win State Title On Late-Game Touchdown
Coach Chris Olsen: "What can I say about these kids. At halftime they said, ‘Coach we’re going to win this game’.”
EAST RUTHERFORD — The Wayne Hills football team, missing nine suspended players, scored 15 second half points to repeat as North 1, Group 3 state champions Saturday, by defeating Old Tappan 15-12 at The Meadowlands.
The game was a rematch of the 2010 final, in which the Patriots won on a last-second lateral.
“What can I say about these kids,” Wayne Hills Coach Chris Olsen said. “At halftime they said, ‘Coach we’re going to win this game’.”
Wayne Hills was without eight starters, but both quarterback Kevin Olsen and wide receiver Jeff Gignac expected to win, regardless of the circumstances.
“We have talent all around us. Just because we have nine guys down doesn’t mean we can’t win,” said Gignac, who had eight receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
The Board of Education suspended nine players from extracurricular activities Nov. 25. The boys were charged with aggravated assault Nov. 9 for allegedly beating up two Wayne Valley High School students. An administrative law judge and the state’s acting commissioner of education upheld the suspensions this week.
Patriot fans said they were proud of the team for the character it showed late this season.
“These boys showed so much heart this week,” Donna Henry said as she cheered from the stands. “For them to not only win, but to come from behind the way they did, it was just incredible. They should be very proud of themselves.”
Gignac caught the game-winning touchdown in the corner of the end zone with 3:05 remaining in the game, as Wayne Hills drove 89 yards.
“It was a counter pass,” said the 6-foot-5 Gignac. “I ran to the right—nothing was there. I scrambled back, jumped over Devin [Fuller] and just caught it. I knew I had to step up for my team and that’s what I did.”
Kevin Olsen spoke highly of the receiver.
“He’s been around all year,” Olsen said of Gignac. “I guess he was waiting for the biggest game to make the biggest plays of his life.”
Old Tappan started from its own 27 on the possession following the Hills touchdown, but an intentional grounding penalty pushed the Golden Knights back to their own five.
On third and four, Old Tappan quarterback Devin Fuller fumbled for the second time, as Erik Moskal recovered the ball with 2:35 remaining.
Wayne Hills was held scoreless through the first half for the first time this season, down 12-0 at the intermission.
The Patriots struggled to contain quarterback Fuller, who rushed for 104 yards and both of his team’s touchdown, from 18 and seven yards out, respectively.
Wayne Hills opened the game with a three-and-out and punted on its first four possessions. Olsen was picked off on the fifth drive and threw an incomplete pass as time expired going into halftime.
The Golden Knights fumbled the ball four times in the second half and threw an interception.
Hills running back Dom Santoro (19 carries, 112 yards) got his team into opponent territory with a 43-yard carry on second and four.
Olsen completed 14 of 23 passes for 169 yards. He threw for one touchdown and one interception.