Nutley earns win in snow after less than eight minutes


Photos by Jim Hague/ Nutley has been receiving solid performances from running back Matt DelMauro (top) on offense and linebacker Mike Hovan (bottom) on defense.

By Jim Hague

The Nutley High School football team earned a win on Saturday and with the victory, the Maroon Raiders earned their fourth straight NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoff bid.
That should be enough to celebrate for the Maroon Raiders and head coach Steve DiGregorio, collecting a slice of history, accomplishing a feat that no other Nutley football team ever achieved.
But DiGregorio is a little upset, considering the bizarre set of circumstances that surrounded the win.
“It’s not the way you want to win,” DiGregorio said. “It’s not what the kids believe in. They work hard and deserve the chance to play. I think it’s a bad thing for our kids.”
Here’s what transpired. Despite the treacherous snowstorm that blanketed the area on Saturday, Nutley and Barringer began its regularly scheduled game at Schools Stadium in Newark.
Things started out well for the Maroon Raiders. Mike Hovan intercepted a pass to start the game and it led to a 6-yard touchdown run from Matt Delmauro.
Delmauro then broke off a 65-yard touchdown run, giving the Maroon Raiders an early 14-0 lead.
The Maroon Raiders then recovered a fumble and were all set to score again, with the ball at the Barringer 2-yard line, when the officials heard thunder through the snow.
The game was suspended at that point and the teams had to wait the mandatory 30 minutes until the thunder passed.
“It got really bad,” DiGregorio said. “Once they stopped the game, they tried to determine whether they could continue and they conceded that they couldn’t.”
So the Maroon Raiders played football for less than eight minutes on Saturday. It was declared an official game with Nutley earning a 14-0 win, even though the two teams didn’t even play one full quarter of football.
“It’s 7:57 to be exact,” DiGregorio said. “The bottom line is that we’re all guaranteed 10 games and that’s it. Now, we don’t have that. Our kids put in a lot of hard work. They were coming off a three-game losing streak and had a positive feeling going into the game. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
DiGregorio said that the snowstorm caught everyone by surprise.
“No one was prepared for what happened,” DiGregorio said. “It wasn’t supposed to be that bad for all of Essex County.”
DiGregorio feels like his players were cheated, even in victory.
“The bottom line is that you prepare to play a game and you prepare to win, but not this way. Football is difficult, because it’s not like baseball or basketball, where you get a lot of games. You only get 10 games and that’s it. This wasn’t a full game. It wasn’t even a tenth of a game. I’m not happy with how it happened. We don’t play football for eight-minute games. It was totally bizarre.”
But there is good news. The Maroon Raiders did clinch a berth in the state playoffs for the fourth straight year and the fifth in the seven years that DiGregorio has been coaching at his alma mater.
“That is a good thing,” DiGregorio said. “I’d rather be in the playoffs than out. It was our goal before the season and I’m not going to begrudge that. We had a tough three game stretch that we had to get through.”
The Maroon Raiders had a lead against West Essex late, then ended up losing. They also lost standout running back Lou Meggliolaro to a broken collarbone in that game. The Raiders came from behind against Livingston, only to fall, 22-21 in overtime. Then they had a halftime lead against Shabazz, only to lose again.
So the Raiders desperately needed the win Saturday. It just wasn’t the way anyone planned it.
The Maroon Raiders have been getting solid play from DelMauro, who now has 13 touchdowns for the season. Defensively, Hovan has been solid, leading the team in tackles. Defensive end Nick Rodriguez has been collecting sacks and Andre Hamlin is clogging up the middle. Greg Palma, who missed most of the beginning of the season due to injury, has returned. Things are definitely looking up.
“Anything can happen once you get into the state playoffs,” said DiGregorio, who guided his sixth-seeded Maroon Raiders to the state sectional championship in the Meadowlands last December. “You never know.”
Who knows? There could be another excursion to MetLife Stadium in the future.
“It could have been very easy for this team to pack it in after losing three straight,” DiGregorio said. “It’s a credit to them for believing and sticking to the plan. The kids believe in the things we teach and they are things that are being passed down from team to team. Five out of seven years is a credit to the kids.”
It’s definitely become a tradition in Nutley, earning a berth in the postseason.
Just how they got the latest one will always be a sore subject.
“We’ll just have to put it behind us and move on,” said DiGregorio, whose team will face Irvington this week before learning their fate in the state playoffs. “We just have to keep playing.”
And hopefully, this weekend, there will be no snow and no partial games to contend with. The weather forecast already calls for 60 degrees and sunny. Snow will not be an opponent this time.

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