Valiant Bucs Come Up Short
Favored Nutley Pulls Out Last-Minute Win in Turkey Day Thriller
Belleville was minutes away from spoiling Thanksgiving in Nutley.
But the Raiders, who this week will play for the North 2, Group III championship, scored with just 48 seconds left in the game to pull out a dramatic 29-22 victory over Belleville on Thursday at Doc Ellis Memorial Field in Belleville.
Last week's game was the neighboring teams' 70th matchup since 1924.
The latest seesaw installment of the Turkey Day rivalry reached its crescendo when Nutley quarterback Nick Tedesco rolled out of the pocket and scored on a 3-yard bootleg to put Nutley in front 27-22. A two-point conversion pass from Tedesco to Angelo Roccamo brought the score to 29-22.
Belleville pushed the ball to the Nutley 49-yard line following the ensuing kickoff, but turned the ball over on downs with 13 seconds left.
"They left it on the field," said Belleville head coach Chris Strumolo, pleased with his team's effort. "They never quit. They kept fighting. It's a credit to these guys and what they are all about. I'm very proud of the effort."
Belleville (3-7) had taken its first lead of the game at 22-21 with only 2:44 left to play, thanks to some hard running by Trevor Torres and a gutsy call by Strumolo.
Torres' one-yard touchdown plunge capped a 10-play, 61-yard drive. With the Bucs trailing 21-20, Strumolo called for a two-point play. Quarterback Anthony Villano faked the pass, then handed the ball off to Torres on a draw play. The big back rumbled into the end zone to give the Bucs the 22-21 lead.
Strumolo said he had decided to call for the two-point play earlier in the drive. The play was the same one Belleville used in a game against Shabazz earlier this season, he said.
The Belleville coach also admitted he knew the game was far from over.
After a short squib kick, Nutley responded with a seven-play, 45-yard drive for the game-winning score. Nutley's Pete Carisssimo and Joey Fiala each had a 16-yard catch during the march.
The Belleville defense just couldn't track down Tedesco as he rolled to his left and managed to squeeze into the end zone before being pushed out of bounds.
"We didn't make a play, but it was a great call on their part," said Strumolo. "We made plays when we had to, and they made plays when they had to. We just ran out of time at the end."
Nutley (8-3) wasted little time jumping out in front on Thanksgiving morning.
The Raiders took the opening possession and marched 54 yards on nine plays. A 15-yard run by Lou Meggiolaro put Nutley on the board with 9:08 left to play in the first quarter.
On its next possession, Nutley went 80 yards over 13 plays to take a 14-0 lead. Matt DelMauro's one-yard run on the first play of the second quarter capped the drive. But Belleville answered with a pair of second-quarter touchdowns to tie the game before halftime.
Torres' 1-yard run capped a 10-play, 70-yard drive and a 69-yard pass play between Villano and Daryl Scales capped a quick 4-play, 84-yard scoring drive with 54 seconds left in the first half.
DelMauro helped put Nutley back in front with an 8-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Nutley now leads the Thanksgiving series 21-4-2 and holds a 47-19-4 advantage in the overall series between the two Essex County rivals.
DelMauro finished with 122 yards on 30 carries for Nutley. Torres had 31 carries for 149 yards for Belleville. Scales had two catches for 90 yards and also gained 77 rushing yards on nine carries.