RUTHERFORD — The Rutherford football team couldn’t exhale until the final tackle was made, 8 yards short of its goal line, with the clock expired.

But that only made the Bulldogs’ drama-packed, 28-27 NJIC Colonial Division win over Elmwood Park all the more gratifying.

“It’s such a relief,” Rutherford coach Andy Howell said. “You have no idea. It was a very tough physical battle for 48 minutes, a lot of tension, a lot of ups and downs. Let’s put it this way, I’m in a totally different mood right now if we drop a game like that.”

Howell was in a good mood Saturday night because JJ Watts caught a 12-yard pass midway through the fourth quarter from quarterback Jim Hadraza to give Rutherford its 28-27 lead. The defense stopped Elmwood Park twice in the final minutes — including stopping one final play just short of the goal line to get the win.

Rutherford led 21-20 late in the third quarter before Elmwood Park quarterback Michael Dare found Randy Santos for a 37 yard touchdown pass.

The Bulldogs answered with the only touchdown of the fourth quarter, and their defense bent but did not break. Rutherford (2-2) had done just enough to get the win over previously undefeated Elmwood Park (3-1).

“We were in trouble,” Howell said. “But we kept our composure.”

PARK RIDGE 40, WALLINGTON 14 (at Park Ridge):
Jason Smith starred as the Owls snapped an 11-game losing streak with a Patriot Division victory.

Smith carried 20 times for 141 yards and four touchdowns, including two in the first quarter as Park Ridge opened a 21-0 lead. Vincent Pagano caught four passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.

EMERSON 30, WOOD-RIDGE 21 (at Wood-Ridge): Bobby Palombit threw four touchdown passes to spark the Cavos to a come-from-behind win in Patriot Division action.

Palombit threw his TD passes to four different receivers as Emerson rallied from a 14-0 deficit. Ryan Hennessey threw two touchdown passes to Stephan Barrett for the Blue Devils.

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