POMPTON LAKES — Matt Gilmour helped the New Milford defense overcome a shaky start. Donald Coaxum III did the same for the offense.
The Knights rallied from a 7-0 halftime deficit to top Pompton Lakes, 19-7, in Saturday’s NJIC football opener at Hershfield Park.
After the Cardinals (0-1) completed two big passes and scored on their first possession, New Milford (1-0) kept their aerial game at bay and sacked the quarterback seven times.
“We knew that we have a superior defense,” said Gilmour, a senior linebacker who had three solo sacks and two half-sacks.
“Although the first drive didn’t go our way, we knew we had to come back with a higher intensity, because we have the players.”
Coaxum, a junior running back, atoned for an early fumble by carrying 19 times for 240 yards and scoring all three Knight touchdowns.
What it means
New Milford won this Week 0 matchup last year en route to a 6-0 start. Coach Bill Wilde’s team once again established itself early as a contender for the NJIC Liberty Division title.
“The first half, we were just beating ourselves,” Wilde said. “We settled down at halftime and started playing some real good football.”
Pompton Lakes must regroup after a bye and two road games, as it will not return to Hershfield Park until Oct. 5.
The Pompton Lakes defense held firm in the first half, twice derailing the visitors inside the red zone.
But after the Knights made a pair of fourth-down stands in the third quarter, Coaxum broke off runs of 56 yards (to start a touchdown drive) and 55 yards (for the go-ahead TD).
“I knew I had to get my team on the board,” he said. “So I just did my best to get close to, or into, the end zone.”
By the numbers
New Milford out-rushed Pompton Lakes, 336-40. The Knights also forced seven straight incompletions in the second half, relegating the Cardinal passing game to 6-of-18 for 114 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
► Gilmour (eight tackles) was the top defender for New Milford, followed by senior tackle Doug Korzelius (five tackles, 1.5 sacks) and defensive backs Jais Juarbe and Jack Feeney (INT each).
► While Coaxum led the ground game, sophomore Shawn Mastropierro added 12 carries for 87 yards.
► Pompton Lakes’ top defenders were Justin Garcia (eight tackles), Dillon MacDonald (seven) and Dan Malkinski (five tackles, half-sack, fumble recovery).
Pompton Lakes has a Week 1 bye before visiting Secaucus on Sept. 20.
New Milford opens up its new turf field against Harrison on Sept. 13. “I can’t wait to show our town we deserve it,” Gilmour said. “We deserve to play on that field, and we deserve to play like champions.”