EAST RUTHERFORD – Hasbrouck Heights opened up its playbook and now has to open up its trophy case.
Scoring on a pair of perfectly-executed trick plays, and with Jasiah Purdie scoring five touchdowns on the day, the Aviators downed Butler, 41-7, Friday in the North Group 1 Bowl Game at MetLife Stadium.
“I rank this team up there with the top,” long-time Hasbrouck Heights coach Nick Delcalzo said. “I have coached a lot of good teams. I have been blessed with good coaches and good kids and life has been very good. I can’t complain.”
No one complains about trick plays in football – when they work. But the Aviators seem to use more than most. It helps to have a player as versatile as Purdie, who is a threat to run, pass or catch the football and he figured in both trick plays used Saturday.
“It’s part of our offense, we try to run at least three a game, just to make the other team have to prepare for something new,” Aviators offensive coordinator Adam Baeira said.
“I don’t know how many [Baeira] has,” Purdie said, smiling. “We probably have about 10 trick plays and we didn’t use all of them this year.”
The first trick play may have looked familiar to North Jersey football fans. Facing fourth and eight at the Butler 21 on its first possession, Avaitors quarterback Spencer Lee hit Purdie on a pass in the flat; Purdie then pitched the ball back to Aviators running back Michael Robertson who beat the Butler defense to the pylon for a touchdown.
“I’d like to thank my friend Nunzio Campanile for that one,” Baeira smiled.
It’s true, it’s a play that Campanile used when he was the coach at Bergen Catholic in the Crusaders’ state final victory over St. Peter’s Prep.
“We have gotten a lot of mileage out of that one,” Delcalzo said, “because where is everyone going? They are all going after Jasiah. He is such a good player and he opens up Robertson and Spencer, he doesn’t get a lot of credit. He’s pretty good.”
Lee quietly put together another big performance, completing 6-7 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns, but his best throw came on the first play of the second half, when he found Purdie all alone on a deep route after a double reverse. That put the Aviators up 33-0.
“It’s called Tecmo,” smiled Lee, referring to the classic video football game.
“We have been running that since freshman year,” Purdie said. “We decided to pull that out today. I go in motion, we show a rocket screen to Michael and flip it back to him and he flips it to Spencer and I’m wide open the majority of the time.”
Baeira said it’s easy for him to signal in a trick play, but it’s up to his players to make it work. Lee said there is always a jolt in the huddle when a special play comes in.
“Everyone is always like, we are going to do this and it’s going to work, so let’s go score,” Lee said.
Aside from the trick plays by Hasbrouck Heights, the other theme Saturday was domination up front. The Aviators had a goal line stand in the second half, denying Butler three times from inside the one yard line. Senior defensive lineman Chris Thibault had three sacks, unofficially, and Will Vera was key to stopping Butler’s strong running game.
It was quite a Friday for the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference finalists. The small-school league saw two of its teams win the first two Bowl Games in New Jersey high school football history. It also must be pointed out that Hasbrouck Heights beat Rutherford in the conference title game. Rutherford showed it was one of the best teams in Group 2, but we will never know what Hasbrouck Heights could have done in that bracket.
The victory caps a perfect season for Hasbrouck Heights at 12-0. Only one other North Jersey team, Ramapo, can finish unbeaten. The Green Raiders play Saturday morning against Summit.
“It all started in the summer, on the hot days, we came down at 6 a.m. and did our job,” Lee said. “We went through the double sessions and put the work in and this is what happened.”