By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
For the teams that do not qualify for the NJSIAA football state playoffs, there is a tenth game added to the schedule. The NJSIAA calls these games “consolation,” as being a consolation prize for not making the states.
“I can’t be a fan of it,” said Nutley head football coach Tom Basile. “It’s not something you aspire for.”
However, the final game of the season gives teams a chance to end their season on a high note, to go into the offseason with a sense of purpose and hope for the future.
In the case of the Maroon Raiders of Nutley, they had a heartbreaking season.
“We were seven points away from being 7-2,” Basile said.
But instead, the Maroon Raiders headed to face Wayne Valley Friday night with a 4-5 record.
“We were disappointed that we were 4-5, but that’s where we were,” Basile said. “But we had an opportunity to have a .500 record. We had to get the kids to find a reason to get up for the game, so that was it, to come out of it with at least a .500 record. That was our motivation.”
Lyndhurst was paired with winless Chatham, with a chance to improve on the Golden Bears’ 2-7 record.
“A lot of our seniors got one more home game, so it was an emotional thing for them,” said Lyndhurst head coach Joe Castagnetti. “We made a statement that the senior class had to teach the underclassmen the idea that you have to play four quarters and have to finish.”
That was the main problem this season with the Golden Bears.
“All season, we just didn’t play four quarters,” Castagnetti said. “That is what hurt us.”
Both local teams were able to end their respective seasons on a high note.
The Maroon Raiders won a 38-34 thriller over Wayne Valley to finish their season at 5-5, at .500, just as Basile hoped they would.
The Golden Bears defeated Chatham, 24-17, in overtime, to finish their season at 3-7.
Neither team was a world beater this season, but the victories last weekend gave them a sense of achievement and accomplishment. The Maroon Raiders received a stellar offensive performance from quarterback Mark Carnevale, who threw for 180 yards and four touchdown passes.
“It was a career game for him,” Basile said of Carnevale.
Defensively, Pete Russo collected five turnovers on his own, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. It marked the second straight week that Russo had three interceptions in a game.
“I never saw anything like it,” Basile said. “He had one fumble recovery at the 1-yard line.”
For Lyndhurst, Jonathan Hoff had a great night passing, completing 24-of-41 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns. Eric Ferrara had six receptions for 133 yards. Joey Morreale also had six catches.
“It let them taste victory one more time,” Castagnetti said. “At the end of the game, it was almost surreal. There were tears everywhere. The kids were being happy that they won and then they realized it was over. It was a feel-good moment for our seniors. They were able to go out with a win.”
Added Castagnetti, “They played together as a group in the end and instead of playing four quarters, they had the chance to play five. From the beginning of the season, we knew we could be in games, but we just weren’t finishing. This way, we finished in true fashion.”
Basile tried to gather the emotions of the game.
“We got another game to play,” Basile said. “Our seniors got to go out on a positive note and the underclassmen can use it as a springboard for next year. The kids had a chance to perform one more time.”
Basile addressed the difference between being 4-6 and 5-5.
“It’s only one game and it doesn’t sound like much, but in reality, it’s a world of difference,” Basile said. “If you’re one game under .500, it sounds like you had a bad season. At 5-5, there’s a whole other mindset. It’s a lot easier to get the kids to the weight room off a win. This will let them think about football for a while and look forward to next season. It was definitely a positive.”
So in that respect, the NJSIAA consolation round was truly that – a consolation – to Nutley and Lyndhurst.
“It is a consolation,” Basile said. “It’s not your goal when you start the season, so you have to make the most of it.”
“It was a way for them to realize what they could have accomplished,” Castagnetti said. “I guess you can say it’s a consolation. It wasn’t just another game. In that respect, I do appreciate that 10th game. We can use this game to improve in the future.”