(Photo Credit: Samantha Marques - JSN)

Westwood cruises past Rutherford to win second straight North Jersey Section 1, Group 2 Title

The Westwood Cardinals (11-0) faced the Rutherford Bulldogs(10-1) in a rematch of the North Jersey Section 1, Group 2 Sectional Final at Westwood Regional High School in Westwood, New Jersey. Last year, Westwood eked out a 21-20 victory over Rutherford.

Westwood, the number one seed  reached the final by crushing Newton in the semifinals 42-8. Conversely, the second-seeded Bulldogs coasted to a 28-7 win over Hanover Park.

The Cardinals' defense set the tone early in the first quarter with defensive back Steve Klein intercepting a pass at the Rutherford 41-yard line.

Westwood's offense could not advance the ball further due to an illegal grounding penalty assessed. Facing a fourth and 17 at the Bulldogs 37-yard line, Cardinals quarterback Robbie Carcich heaved a pass towards the right side of the field as wide receiver Joe Klein made a phenomenal diving catch in the end zone for the score to give Westwood the 7-0 lead with nine and half minutes left in the opening quarter.

With seven minutes remaining, the Cardinals' offense started at their 20-yard line. Carcich completed a 21-yard pass to wide receiver Aidan Carrazana that moved the ball to the Rutherford 43-yard line. Carcich, in the zone passing, connected on a 21-yard pass to Klein that advanced the ball down to the 20-yard line.

The Cardinals offense was in a familiar situation, facing another fourth down situation and this time from the 25-yard line. Carcich lofted a high-arching pass that was heading to the end zone, with wide receiver Tommy Bussanich making a sensation grab as Bussanich dove to the ground for the score, extending the Westwood advantage to 14-0.

Rutherford appeared on the verge of getting blown out, but defensive end Ryan Ward changed that outlook in a split second, intercepting a pass thrown by Carcich in the second quarter.

The Bulldogs' offense behind the gritty running style of running back Cole Goumas helped propel the ball to the Cardinals 12-yard line. However, the Westwood defense dug a line in the trenches that forced a fourth down play, resulting in a turnover on downs as Cardinals linebacker Luke Biello sacked Rutherford quarterback Myles Balchan.

In the third quarter, the Westwood offense had a short field to work with again as defensive back Michael Rinaldi intercepted a pass throw by Balchan at the Rutherford 40-yard line.

The Cardinals' offense mixed up the running and passing game to move inside the red zone and eventually into a goal-line formation. Westwood entered familiar territory with another fourth down play at the five-yard line. With time winding down, Carcich lofted a pass toward the left corner of the end zone and found a favorite target in Joe Klein, leaping into the air to snag the ball for the score with 16 seconds left.

Once the fourth quarter commenced, the Bulldogs' defense boosted the offense, with safety Matt Scheibe swooping in to make an interception with six and half minutes remaining.

Balchan completed a 27-yard pass to Ward, who made a remarkable catch while sandwiched by three Cardinals defensive players. A pass interference call assessed against Westwood moved the ball inside the ten-yard line.

On first and goal at the two-yard line, Cole Goumas plowed straight ahead into the end zone for the score that trimmed the Cardinals' margin to 20-7.

The Bulldogs attempted an onsides kick, but Bussanich recovered the ball as the Cardinals went on to cruise to the 20-7 win and make it back-to-back North Jersey Section 1, Group 2 titles.

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