The Game At A Glance: Trailing 12-7 at the half, Caldwell put 33 unanswered points on the board to beat Cedar Grove, 40-12.
First Half Highlights: Each team traded punts twice and Caldwell took possession on its own five yard line. On first down, there was a low snap to quarterback Sonny Puzzo in the shotgun, where he proceeded to knock the ball out of the end zone for a safety and Cedar Grove led, 2-0. The Panthers took over on its own 45, but had the tables turned on them when Andrew Goodman intercepted for Caldwell and went 50 yards for the score and a 7-2 lead.
Caldwell has the ball on its own five yard line again and it was deja vu to some degree. On third down, Cedar Grove's Rodney Diprenda blitzed through the middle to sack Puzzo in the end zone for another Panther safety and it was 7-4, Cedar Grove, three minutes into the second quarter. Cedar Grove struck later in the quarter, when Joe Slattery found Paul Rufo near the left sideline and Rufo raced away for an 81 yard score. The two point attempt was successful on a Charles Dorman run and the Panthers led 12-7, with three minutes left.
Second Half Highlights: On the first play of the half, with ball on its 20, Slattery fumbled the snap and James D'Agostino recovered for Caldwell on the 17. Five plays later, Puzzo found Billy Pierce in the end zone for a six yard score. The two point conversion failed and it was 13-12, Caldwell, a lead they would not relinquish. On Caldwell's next possession, Mark Mattheiss went inside and cut left to race 35 yards for a score and the Chiefs were in front, 20-12 midway through the quarter. Cedar Grove had a chance to pull close when Slattery found Michael Rowe for 54 yards on a screen to the 20. But on consecutive plays, Caldwell sacked Slattery with many defenders in on each play, giving Cedar Grove a fourth and 17. The following play was stopped for no gain, turning the ball over to Caldwell on downs. The Chiefs drove down the field on four plays, scoring when Mattheiss scored from 34 yards out on the draw play, making it 26-12 with 16 seconds left in the quarter.
Caldwell forced a punt on the following series and six plays for 60 yards, scoring when Puzzo found a wide open Sean Nastelon for a 33 yard score. The Chiefs recovered a Cedar Grove fumble and Ray Iodice scored through the middle from the 8 and slammed the door on Cedar Grove.
Play Of The Game: I will make it two successive plays in the third quarter when the Caldwell defense sacked Slattery, killing Cedar Grove's drive when they reached the 20. It was 20-12 at that point and the outcome was still undetermined. From that point on, Caldwell scored three touchdowns to put the game away.
Game Balls: The Caldwell offensive line of Nick Sibilia, Joe Galioto, Frank Hotaling, Griffin Smith, and Steve Machi dominated in the second half. In addition, two way end Billy Pierce played a big game on both sides of the ball. The Caldwell defense also kept the Cedar Grove offense in check. The defense did a very good job of shutting down Cedar Grove.
Caldwell Head Coach Ken Trimmer - "We made simple mistakes in the first half that were uncharacteristic of us. We made some adjustments in our pass blocking in the second half. Cedar Grove's number 61 (Vincent Cordasco) dominated us in the first half and we simply ran away from him in the second half."
Caldwell tight end/defensive end Billy Pierce - "Our theme this year is the Giant theme of "all in!" We decided we could win by three touchdowns or have a dog fight. Our offensive line ran the ball well after that. They had confidence they could do it and we let them do it. Our motto is hard-nosed football. We decided to come out firing in our first game."