By ANDY LOIGU
After winning their first three games by routs over Dover, Wallkill Valley and North Warren, the Hackettstown Tigers’ football team (3-2) has found the going to be tougher in the middle part of the schedule against high quality opponents.
Mount Olive (4-1) acted as party crashers on Friday night, spoiling Hackettstown’s homecoming celebration by having the audacity to win the game 28-14. The visitors matched Hackettstown’s quickness and tired out the Tigers (who use many key players on both offense and defense) by running a fast-paced no huddle spread offense with quarterback Liam Anderson throwing darts out of the shotgun formation. The Tigers were chasing Mount Olive wideouts all over the field all evening long, in unseasonably warm and humid weather conditions.
Defensively, Mount Olive had the Tigers’ options all figured out, leaving it up to quarterback Anthony Caputo to extend broken plays with his shuffling feet and ability to throw passes downfield, after buying time to make a play and improvise on the fly.
Caputo tied the game at 7-7 and 14-14 with scoring plays for the Tigers. He threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Christian Maciak after shedding some wannabe tacklers. In the third period he finished a drive by running a keeper into the end zone, on a fourth down and goal to go play. Statistically, Caputo went 6-for-11 passing for 97 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for 114 yards on 11 carries, most of them necessitated by Mount Olive defenders taking away his options. The Tigers’ offense was stalled by five sacks and three fumble recoveries by Mount Olive. The Tigers also shot themselves in the paw with five penalties, three of them being dead-ball personal fouls.
Anderson threw for three touchdowns (one of them on a tipped pass) and put the game away by scoring on the ground with less than two minutes remaining in the game. After the visitors recovered a fumble, Anderson kept throwing to the middle receiver on the triples side as Mount Olive killed the clock with an 81-yard scoring drive. He was a double threat all night long, going 17-for-27 for 204 yards flying the friendly skies, but the Tigers did intercept him twice. When his receivers were covered, he gained 140 yards on 17 carries.
Anderson gave Mount Olive a lead they never relinquished, when his third touchdown pass of the game was caught on a fade route by Lance Johnson, not to be confused with the New York Mets’ centerfielder from 20 years ago.
Max Cash led the Hackettstown defense with 10 tackles.
The Tigers now visit 4-1 Lenape Valley on Friday evening, with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. in nearby Stanhope. Longtime Patriots’ coach Don Smolyn has been teaching a Wing-T offense there since 1977. Those players have known how to execute it since they were in diapers. Last week, in a 33-0 emulsification of North Warren, Smolyn’s crew kept the ball on the ground and gained 340 yards. In the skies lit by the full moon, the cloud of dust could be seen for miles and miles.
HALL OF FAME
At the Tigers’ home game on October 27, the first class of the Hackettstown High School Athletic Hall of Fame will be honored in a halftime ceremony. The 11 charter members will then be inducted at a banquet the next evening, at Panther Valley Country Club.
The first class includes the legendary names of Charles “Chot” Morrison, Alfred “Sass” Applegate, Arthur “Art” Dimiceli, Doug Blake, Bill Smith, Joseph Stanowicz, Jacob C. Hart, Frank Mincevich, Bob Candler, Gary Thomas, and Dave Palmer. Visit the Hackettstown High School website for biographies and information you would need in order to attend.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.