H.S. football: No. 20 Passaic Valley holds off Lakeland, 35-28
LITTLE FALLS — Jake Sliker made numerous critical catches on third downs and fourth downs for Passaic Valley this season before the fourth quarter Saturday.
That’s why, despite his chemistry with twin brother Anthony Mazalewski, senior quarterback Zach Mazalewski didn’t hesitate to throw to Sliker with the game on the line. Tied with visiting Lakeland, Sliker out-leaped a defensive back, caught Mazalewski’s pass and adeptly touched both feet in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown with 4:44 left in the game that pushed Passaic Valley to a 35-28 win.
“It was a better catch than throw,” Zach Mazalewski said. “It was all him on that one. I just threw it up, and he made the play on it. That was 100-percent Jake. He stepped up.”
The Mazalewski twins also were huge factors for Passaic Valley (4-2), ranked No. 20 in The Record Top 25, in a game Lakeland (2-4) needed to win to realistically remain in contention for a North 1, Group 3 playoff berth.
Zach Mazalewski completed 17 of 28 passes for 231 yards and four touchdowns and wasn’t intercepted. He also rushed 18 times for 92 yards and sealed this Big North non-division victory for the Hornets by intercepting a pass at Passaic Valley’s 7-yard line, with just 1:18 to play.
“He’s everything for us,” Passaic Valley coach Bill Johnson said. “He makes plays when you don’t expect it. Every time he has his hands on the ball, it’s a potential touchdown.”
Anthony Mazalewski, a senior receiver, caught 11 passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns. Senior tailback Keith Martinez added 66 rushing yards, including a 5-yard touchdown in the third quarter, on 12 carries for Passaic Valley.
As well as Passaic Valley played on offense, resilient Lakeland answered each of the Hornets’ first four touchdowns and played like a team that doesn’t want its streak of consecutive postseason appearances to end at seven.
Senior quarterback Danny Mullin ran for two touchdowns in the first half, one apiece in the first and second quarters, to help send the game into halftime tied at 14. Junior tailback Jake Catalioto’s 7-yard touchdown run and extra point also knotted the game at 21 with 7:08 to go in the third quarter, 7:01 before Catalioto’s 34-yard touchdown reception and extra point tied it at 28.
“We were overconfident a little bit,” said Sliker, a senior receiver. “At halftime, we went in, talked about it a little bit, came out in the second half and got it done. Our coaches were happy we were confident, but we were overconfident. They told us to stay confident, but play hard because [Lakeland] was a good team.”
Passaic Valley will play an even better team Friday night, when they’ll travel to Hillsdale to face defending North 1, Group 4 champion Pascack Valley (5-1). The Hornets lost, 46-3, at sixth-ranked Pascack Valley in the first round of the playoffs last season.
“If you want to be a champ, you’ve got to beat the champ,” Johnson said. “We know what we’re in for.”
Photo by Mr. Maffucci