Football: Passaic Valley remains on the playoff path
WEST MILFORD – On a night which could have easily provided a trap scenario, the Passaic Valley football team played perhaps its most dominant game of the 2014 season so far, as Zach Mazalewski and company could not be contained en route to a 33-14 victory at West Milford last Friday.
Bill Johnson’s team improved to 3-2 on the season. The Hornets are home this Saturday for a 2 p.m. kickoff opposite Lakeland.
The West Milford game had all the ingredients for what could have been a tough game for the Hornets. Passaic Valley had lost at home the previous Sunday to Ramapo and in the process, had lost its best defensive player in senior Dylan Atieh. The short work week and playing a solid team in West Milford (3-2) on its Homecoming Night, no less, may have spelled a problem in other years.
But not this season, as Mr. Mazalewski and the Passaic Valley offense took care of business early and the defense made sure there would be no comebacks.
“I thought we played very well in all three facets of the game,” said Johnson. “Our offense ran effectively, we played really good defense and our work on special teams was also good. It was a nice win against a solid team, on the road. It’s hard to find a lot wrong with that kind of game.”
Mazalewski made it clear early on that he was going to be nothing but trouble for West Milford, which had come in off the heals of a solid road win a week earlier against Wayne Valley. The senior quarterback rushed for 126 yards and was 15-for-21 in the air for 166 yards and a touchdown.
“Zach was something special,” said Johnson. “And considering the way he’s been playing all season long, that’s saying something.”
Passaic Valley opened a 13-0 lead in the first quarter on a three-yard scoring run by Chris Armagno and later, an 80-yard interception return for a score by Keith Martinez.
After West Milford had cut the lead to 13-7 in the second, Mazalewski used his feet and arm to put the Hornets ahead 19-7. He hit his twin brother, Anthony Mazalewski with a pair of passes, then found Armagno on a seam pattern before finishing the drive with two runs, the second for a 10-yard scoring jaunt.
Later in the quarter, Passaic Valley extended its lead to 26-7 when Zach Mazalewski hit Shawn Ulrich on a three-yard stretch pass in the corner of the end zone, followed by Steve Luisa’s point-after kick. It was the third-straight game in which Ulrich had caught a touchdown pass, which is even more noteworthy considering Ulrich had only played three varsity games in his high school career.
In the third quarter, the Hornets continued the onslaught as the law firm of Mazalewski and Mazalewski connected on two long passes, setting up a two-yard run by Armagno, which made it 33-7.
West Milford scored its second touchdown in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.
Ryan McCabe was once again outstanding, including a fourth quarter interception that ended a West Milford scoring threat. James Glenbowski and Tyler Hablitz also had key hits on defense for Passaic Valley.
Johnson is hopeful that Atieh, who had a possible concussion in the Ramapo game, should be available for the Hornets against Lakeland.
“He’s feeling good, and going through the (concussion) protocol,” said Johnson. “We’ll see.”
NOTES: The Hornets should get a good test from Lakeland.
“They’re a solid team, like always,” said Johnson. “Lakeland has put together some really good seasons and they’re tough. We’re expecting a real tough game on Saturday.”
Lakeland is 2-3 this season, having lost to Demarest last weekend, 35-20. Its two wins have come against Tenafly and Indian Hills.
The Hornets last played Lakeland in 2009, and won that game, 26-15.
“They were a big rival of ours over the years,” said Johnson. “It’s good to have them back on the schedule.”