Lyndhurst football remains unsatisfied after NJIC Liberty Division title

For head coach Rich Tuero and his Lyndhurst football team, Friday night’s NJIC Liberty Division title was simply the first of four championships it hopes to win this season. And if Friday night’s performance is any indication, it might not be the last one it achieves.

In what Tuero called “the most dominating first half this group has ever played,” the Golden Bears scored the game’s first 35 points as it rolled to a 38-21 victory over Waldwick/Midland Park at Joe Cippola Field in Lyndhurst.

The victory gave Lyndhurst its first division title since 2019 and punched its ticket to the NJIC Conference Championship.

“It’s the first of four. We had division title, conference title, sectional title and state title (as our goals),” Tuero said. “Those are our four and it’s only step one. It’s only step one and obviously we’re happy, but we’re not satisfied, not even close.”

Lyndhurst seized control immediately when, on the second play of the game, Roddy Morinho took a shotgun handoff, took off outside right tackle and raced down the right hashmark untouched for a 78-yard touchdown.

“We knew it was coming, we knew it was going to happen.I said to them all week as soon as we call this play, it’s going to the house,” said Tuero of the run call. “We wanted to see how they (on defense) lined up on first down so we ran a little inside zone and then on second, I said ‘Patty (Auteri), let’s call it.’

“We knew we were taking the ball and I told them if we’re not scoring on the first play, we’re scoring on the second play. As soon as we called that play, it was going to the house. The kids executed it beautifully and he was gone.”

The run proved to be the first of three touchdowns Morinho had on the night. The junior powered his way for a 2-yard touchdown on Lyndhurst’s next drive. Shawn Bellenger later found Morinho for a 60-yard touchdown pass that made it 35-0 in the second quarter.

Morinho finished with 134 rushing yards on 15 carries, running behind the stellar blocking of linemen Jake Herman, Nick Adamo, Mike Longo, Shane Keeler and Conor Gill. Morinho added two receptions for 78 yards and a team-high five tackles for loss on defense.

Bellenger completed 8-of-14 passes for 188 yards, including a 9-yard TD pass to Matthew Jarvis in the second quarter.

Isaiah Lopez blocked a punt, picked up the loose ball then ran 38 yards for a touchdown that made it 21-0 in the first quarter.

Unlike a week earlier when Lyndhurst squandered a 14-point second half lead at Cresskill before winning 24-21 on a Cameron Werner field goal, the Golden Bears didn’t let up after building the early lead.

Daniel Mabande had two of Lyndhurst’s six sacks on the day with Lopez, Gill, Herman and Marcelo Navarro adding one each. Michael Rizzo had a team-high 13 tackles, followed by Morinho (12), Navarro (9) and both Mabande and Julian Guzman with eight.

“We had a big scare last week from Cresskill and they realized how much could have been taken away from them,” Tuero said. “(Friday) was Senior Night, they were fired up and we came out and punched them right in the mouth.”

Lyndhurst is set to play Park Ridge in the semifinals of the NJIC Conference Championship on Oct. 6. But before that is a much-anticipated regular season showdown with local rival and two-time defending NJIC champion Rutherford on Saturday in Rutherford. Rutherford, also 4-0, has won 20 consecutive games against NJIC competition dating back to 2021.

Saturday’s matchup in Rutherford is potentially the first of three meetings between the two this season as they could see each other in the NJIC Conference Championship as well as in the NJSIAA Group 2 state tournament.

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)