JORDAN 2 INT, 25-YARD TD; CHO TD RUN, 2 TD PASSES
Defense and discipline was needed if the Westfield High School football team was going to prevail over the highly improved Plainfield Cardinals, who featured several outstanding athletes, during the Annual Thanksgiving Day Classic at Hub Stine Field in Plainfield on November 23.Although they may have stumbled briefly on the discipline part early in the game, the Blue Devils’ defense certainly did not and emerged with a 28-9 triumph.
The two rivals have met each other 118 times – not all were on Thanksgiving Day – and this victory put the 6-5 Blue Devils up 66-45-7. Additionally, the Blue Devils have won 19 of the 23 meetings since 2000 (There was no game on 2020).
The Blue Devils’ defense controlled the outcome of the game, limiting the 6-5 Cardinals to 98 yards rushing -only 33 in the first half. Yasir Wyatt was the Cardinals’ leading rusher with 69 yards on 13 carries. Blue Devil cocaptain/ lineman Julian Montez recorded a five-yard sack, teamed up with co-captains lineman Max Romano and linebackers Chris Rossetti and Luke Jordan, along with Zac Wragg on a number of throws for losses to go with several stuffs at the line of scrimmage. Junior defensive lineman Lincoln Meyers recorded a 15-yard TFL on the very last play of the first half.
Blue Devil quarterback/co-captain Max Cho, who enjoyed watching his defense perform, commented, “It’s so comfortable that I can sit on the sideline being excited to watch these big boys get their sacks, cause some turnovers.”
The Cardinals were forced to go to the air 30 times. Junior quarterback Ala-Meen Watkins completed eight of 12 for 73 yards then Kamai Lowery took over and completed eight of 18 for 92 yards, including a touchdown to Joel Cordoba (12 grabs for 140 yards). But they paid dearly as the Blue Devils intercepted Watkins once in the first half and Lowery three times in the second half. Senior Brendan Scheper’s interception of Watkins’ pass set up the Blue Devils’ first touchdown. Jordan intercepted Lowery twice in the third quarter then senior defensive back Steve Csorba, who had a key pass knock down in the first half, added the fourth interception. Romano also batted down one of Lowery’s passes.
Jordan expressed, “Big time defense! We made a lot of plays in the secondary. We were just looking at the quarterback’s eyes. His eyes were telling us where the ball is going. Our safeties played on their toes. The quarterback just couldn’t do anything against our secondary. We were aware the ‘D-line’ played great with a lot of pressure. And that’s what basically helped up out. The pressure!”
On the four interceptions Cho said, “It’s always exciting seeing interceptions. I think Steven had one, Luke had two, Brendan. The seniors stepped up. We got the turnovers. It’s nice that we converted most of the points.”
Penalties were rampant from the start of the game and for a while, the Blue Devils got caught in that trap but they quickly disciplined themselves, while the Cardinals continued to acquire further penalties.
“We have been talking about it the past three weeks how Plainfield thinks they are going to come in here and shut us out,” Jordan said. “They have a good record this year but we just had it in our heads the whole time we got to keep this going and every single play we kept in mind that we got to keep this streak going, and we did that.”
Rossetti explained why his team was successful against the Cardinals. “They were talking a lot and saying how they were going to shut us out. They have singular players but we come together as a team. We obviously took them down pretty well.”
“We expected to shut them down today. We did for most of the game. There were a few plays that we slipped up but we kept them to a short score. We did our job today,” Montez said.
Romano added, “We came into this game. We knew they had a good offense. We just had to do our jobs that’s like we do every week. We stepped up, the seniors stepped up, the scoreboard reflected it. We won!”
Offensively, Cho completed 11 of 19 passes for 124 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. Junior split end Sebastian Magherini had three receptions for 35 yards, including a 22yard touchdown. Junior tight end Colin Coyle had four receptions for 49 yards, junior Enzo Ferrero had three receptions for 36 yards and Rossetti had a four-yard touchdown reception. Jordan gobbled up 107 yards on the ground on 21 carries, which included a 25-yard touchdown. Cho carried 10 times for 64 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown.
After a scoreless first quarter, Scheper’s interception that he returned to the Plainfield 27 plus a penalty on the play set up Westfield at the 14-yard line. On the third play, Cho on a keeper, broke through the middle, slanted right and dove over the pylon for a 12-yard touchdown with 7:40 on the clock. Niko Lukis kicked the first of his four points after.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to break that out but I saw him slip and fall. I knew we had to win the game. It was 0-0, I had to put some points on the board, so I dove for the pylon, got the six,” Cho explained.
The Cardinals answered with a drive of their own which resulted in a 26-yard field goal by Armando Avril with 3:55 left in the half. But the Blue Devils answered with a 12-play 65yard scoring drive when Cho had good protection and flicked the ball to Rossetti on the right side of the end zone for his four-yard touchdown to make the score 14-3 with 23 seconds on the board.
“It was great! I have been playing with Max since third grade. It’s great to finally connect with him on offense for the first time. That big guy right there (Montez), he definitely helped us out. The pressure wasn’t too crazy on the quarterback and I was able to put it in the end zone,” Rossetti explained.
Early in the third quarter, Jordan’s first interception at the Plainfield 43 that he returned to the 34 put Westfield back in business again. On the fourth play, Cho struck gold when he spotted Magherini in the right end zone for the 22-yard touchdown with 6:48 showing.
Late in the quarter, Jordan read Lowery’s eyes again for his second interception at the Plainfield 37.
On his interceptions, Jordan commented, “I believe that’s all I have this year, but it’s the last game and I had to go all out. Couldn’t have done it at a better time.”
Afew minutes into the fourth quarter, Csorba also became a mind reader and intercepted Lowery’s pass at midfield. On the fifth play, Jordan got the handoff from Cho, slipped through the middle then weaved his way to the right 25 yards for the touchdown with 6:12 left in the game to up the lead to 28-3.
On his weaving touchdown run, Jordan explained, “I cut that one back. I saw a hole on the right side just free daylight. I just sprinted to the daylight. The last touchdown, it’s a great feeling seeing that end zone wide open.”
The Cardinals finally scored a touchdown when Lowery connected with Cordoba for nine-yards with 1:49 remaining. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
“I have been playing with these guys since fifth grade but ever since we stood together, we played together on the same side of the ball. Maybe nine year in a row! Ending the way we did, It’s great,” Romano expressed.
Montez added, “It’s great. We always want to win big. We always want to do it comfortably.”