By Zack Botos
While the snow could slow traffic and close streets, it could not prevent WHS from notching a victory over host Linden and clinching a spot in the North 2, Group 4 playoffs. The Blue Devils beat the Tigers 12-0, setting up a huge matchup next week at home against Immaculata.
The Blue Devils came into the meeting averaging over 22 points per game, but points were at a premium in this game. Said senior Quad-Captain Ryan Elliot, “[The weather] limited our play calling because it was very tough to make cuts and pulling blocks because of the snow.”
WHS defense shivered on the sideline as the offense turned to the run game. Senior Quad-Captain and running back James O’Rourke rushed for a total of 68 yards. In the second quarter, he rushed for a touchdown, which was set up by his own interception that he ran back to the two yard line. Said senior quarterback Nate Mitchell, “I moved under center...which really helped out our offense. [O’Rourke] was able to get a lot more momentum going to the line of scrimmage, which is key when the footing is really bad.”
WHS’s defense stepped up and held Linden’s high-powered offense to a shutout, its fourth of the season. Linden had been averaging nearly 20 points a game, but the swarming WHS defense not only managed to hold the Linden offense to zero points, they held Linden running back Ruhann Peele, already committed to play football for Rutgers, to -13 yards, and they also kept Linden from completing a pass.
Despite the challenges with the passing game, senior quarterback Nate Mitchell still managed to throw for about 60 yards, including a touchdown pass to tight end David Kane. However, the two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
In the second half, the cold took its toll on Linden quarterback Dazzmen Johnson, and he was taken out of the game at halftime and later diagnosed with hypothermia. Peele touched the ball on 14 of 15 of Linden’s second half plays.
Through seven games, WHS has allowed 10 points a game. Said senior Joe Rinaldi, “What makes our defense so special is that we’re smart, and we all hustle to the ball. Size doesn’t play a big factor when you play hard and smart.”
Said Rinaldi on the playoffs, “A lot of people see us as a team of small kids from a wealthy neighborhood, but what people don't realize is that we may not have the size necessarily, but we have heart, something that is often overlooked.”
“No matter who we are put up against in the playoffs, don't count us out.”