The Cardinals repeated as North 1, Group 1 football titlist, coming from behind with a fury in the fourth quarter and pulling away to a 28-13 victory Saturday afternoon over Cedar Grove.
Pompton Lakes punctuated a school-record 12-0 season by scoring three consecutive touchdowns in the fourth at MetLife Stadium, erasing a 13-7 deficit against the top-seeded Panthers.
“We all have that one goal, and we’re not going to stop until we get there,” said Cardinals senior lineman Myles McMahon. “We have that one mind-set, and that one mind-set will bring us anywhere.”
Pompton Lakes‘ offense and defense brought the program to its North Jersey-leading 19th consecutive victory. The Cardinals’ defense created field position and the offensive capitalized.
The defense made a big stop in the opening minute of the fourth. With Cedar Grove facing a fourth-and-3 at the Cardinals’ 31-yard line, McMahon and junior lineman Vojo Cogura teamed to sack junior quarterback Joe Slattery for a 10-yard loss.
Pompton Lakes then took a 14-13 lead with 7:54 remaining when senior quarterback Rob Meyers tossed a 16-yard TD pass to junior receiver Corey Flynn and junior Tony Capobianco kicked his second of four extra points. Meyers floated his pass high into the end zone and Flynn made a leaping grab to cap a six-play, 59-yard drive.
“We made a great stop on defense, the momentum led us into a touchdown,” McMahon said, “and right then it hit us: We own the fourth and we think we know what to do, and we just took over and did what we did all year.”
The Cardinals extended their lead to 21-13 with 3:25 left when senior running back Dane Torres scored on a 7-yard run. Torres’ TD capped a seven-play, 73-yard drive whose pivotal play was a 36-yard catch by senior receiver Dan Foote, who last week caught the game-winning TD in the dramatic, 39-33 semifinal win over Saddle Brook.
Torres scored on a 1-yard run with 1:33 left to expand the lead to 28-13, his third TD of the game. That score came five plays after senior Jose Arroyo’s interception set up the Cardinals at the Panthers’ 26-yard line. Torres carried 23 times for 126 yards.
“[The defense] got us great field position and we played on a little shorter field,” said coach Scott Mahoney, whose Cardinals outgained the Panthers in the fourth, 156-41. “We had the running game going through the first half and that allowed our athletes to take over in the second half.”
Pompton Lakes‘ fans had to be anxious at halftime after an inability to score on the final play of the second quarter left the score tied, 7-7. On a fourth-and-goal inside the 1-yard line, the Cardinals opted to kick a field goal, but Capobianco was wide left on an 18-yarder.
“We were down the other two [playoff] games. Nothing was different,” Meyers said. “We’ve been doing it the whole playoffs, and we knew it wasn’t going to be any different.”