The New Milford team was banged up heading into Friday’s pivotal game against Cresskill. Six players were out with injury. Three sophomores and a freshman were forced into the starting lineup.
“We told them, ‘You have to make the plays out there,’ ” New Milford coach Bill Wilde said. “‘It doesn’t matter what year you are, it’s no excuse. … Man-up, and away we go.’”
The Knights didn’t look young or short-handed against Cresskill. They looked like a playoff team. New Milford’s 31-13 win over Cresskill was the Cougars’ first loss of the season.
The win all but guarantees New Milford a spot in the North 1, Group 1 playoffs.
“It was a great team win,” Wilde said.
“We needed that win.”
As has been the case all season, defense led the charge. Against a dangerous, multi-faceted Cresskill offense, New Milford came up with an interception and three sacks, four quarterback hurries and four tackles for a loss. The Knights also held the Cougars to 13 points, a season low.
“They do a nice job of keeping you off balance,” Wilde said of Cresskill’s offense. “It took a tremendous effort, by the whole team defensively, to slow that [team] down.”
Wilde credited the game plan of defensive coordinator Walker Gonzalez, who is directing an impressive squad this season. Senior Dylan Dzadik has six sacks in seven games; senior Andrew Lingos has three sacks, and four other players have two, including freshman Christian Correa. In seven games, the Knights have 18 sacks, six interceptions, five fumble recoveries and a blocked punt.
The performance against Cresskill on Friday was especially impressive considering New Milford was coming off a 49-14 loss to Pompton Lakes from the week before.
It’s not the first time New Milford has overcome adversity. It also bounced back after its only other loss – a 21-14 defeat to Secaucus.
“The kids have showed a lot of character, coming back [from tough losses],” Wilde said. “Not too many playoff teams out there are starting freshmen and sophomores. And that’s a credit to the older kids, who really help them along.”
The challenge doesn’t get any easier for New Milford, which next faces undefeated Lodi. But the goal now is to get healthy, get power points and gather momentum for the playoffs.
Friday night’s win over Cresskill was quite a start.