By Andy Loigu
Hackettstown football and Warren Hills field hockey were headline makers in early November state tournament action. For Tiger football, it was their first state playoff win in a decade, advancing to the sectional semifinal. For Blue Streaks field hockey, it was their sixth consecutive sectional title, although their run ultimately ended with a loss in the state championship game.
Before the start of state play, there was The Beater Board to be won, the prize which goes to the winning football team in the annual local bragging rights battle between Hackettstown and Warren Hills. In the 92nd meeting, the all-time Warren Hills series lead was narrowed to 44-42-6 as the Tigers pulled out a 27-21 win and celebrated on their home field together with their jubilant fans.
In the game’s final minute, the Tiger defense got the ball on downs and then scored the winning touchdown three plays later in dramatic fashion.
A “Hail Mary” pass from quarterback Nick Gagliardi to Matt Macaulay was completed for a 37-yard gain despite the fact that a Warren Hills defender got his hands on the ball. Macaulay snatched it away. With precious seconds ticking down, the Tigers ran up to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball, to stop the clock and set up one final play from the seven. A seven-yard option run by Tim Ervey then sealed the Tigers’ dramatic win.
It capped a game that saw each team quickly answer after falling behind. “Our kids play tough and they play resilient,” said winning coach CJ Robinson. Warren Hills finished the season with a hard-luck 3-6 record.
For the Tigers it was on to Mountain Lakes, and bitter cold and blustery conditions did not deter them from gaining a 35-7 first round playoff victory over The Herd in North Jersey Section 2 Group 2 play. The Tigers played winter football and now take a 7-3 record into the semifinal. “We wanted to control the line of scrimmage and play physical,” Robinson said after Friday night’s fait accompli.
The story of the game was the dominance of the Tigers’ offensive line of Connor Loughrey, Max Cash, Jake D’Ambola, Joe Andes, and Alan Hatten.
The first score was set up by an incredible 84-yard run on a Gagliardi keeper. He then plowed into the end zone from the one. He finished the next drive by recovering his own fumble in the end zone for another touchdown. The lead expanded to 21-0 on the Tigers’ first pass of this dark and stormy night, as Snoopy would write. The combo of Gagliardi to TJ Sciaretta looked like Joe Montana to Jerry Rice, as the sprinting receiver caught the ball in stride and dashed along the sideline to a 54-yard score.
Gagliardi carried the ball 18 times for 180 yards and running back Brandon Kuehner toted the pigskin 15 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
Hills Hockey Only So Far
A tremendous 24-2 Warren Hills field hockey season came to an unceremonious conclusion with a 6-1 defeat to Moorestown of Burlington County.
The Blue Streaks won the Skyland Conference title with a 10-0 record and were the top seed entering North 2 Group 3 tournament play. Second seed West Morris faced Warren Hills in the section final and got a spectacular 20-save performance from goalkeeper Abby Chapin, but could not score against the Blue Streaks’ defensive wall of freshman Ashley Moskal, sophomores Kate Fenner and Jess DeSanto and senior Sydney Moskal. They allowed no shots on goal and just two corners. Not only were they road blocking obstacles, but they were mobile and moved the ball up-field to create scoring opportunities for the fast forwards.
Despite earning 10 corners in the first half, Warren Hills was in a 0-0 struggle until 3:50 into the second half. The Streaks finally capitalized on a corner as senior Mikayla Dugan scored on an assist from her sophomore sister Samantha Dugan.
The offense got hot in the state semifinal, as Warren Hills emulsified Colts Neck 10-1 to reach the final.
Rebecca Sigman was a runaway freight train, scoring five goals and assisting three times. Also in the scoring parade was a three-goal hat trick from Alyssa Appleby, who also provided an assist. Samantha Dugan and Katie Mahoney also scored goals.
“What’s good about this team is we don’t let anything get us down, no letdowns,” Sigman said after Warren Hills outshot Colts Neck 35-2. A team that just keeps coming at you, the Streaks out-cornered Colts Neck 14-0.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.