North Arlington head coach Joe Borkowski is well aware of what the opposing defense’s game plan is whenever they face the Vikings.
Keep the ball out of Ian Crudele’s hands – No. 5 on the North Arlington roster and the unquestioned No. 1 target in the Vikings’ passing game.
“It’s no secret. They want to stop 5. But we’re trying to do the best that we can moving him around with motions and different formations and try to find creative ways to get him the ball,” Borkowski said. “He had seven carries on Friday, I think that was a season high. We have a couple of weeks left, we’re going to continue to try to get him the ball.”
On Friday night, with North Arlington in desperate need of a victory, the Vikings made sure Crudele got the ball and the results were what they expected from the star wide receiver.
Crudele caught six passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 34 yards on seven carries. For good measure, he intercepted a pass and recorded two tackles for loss as North Arlington defeated Cresskill, 27-20, in overtime.
For his performance, Crudele has been named The Observer Athlete of the Week.
“Coach did an excellent job. He put me in different spots – running back, receiver, slot (to get me the ball),” said Crudele. “He did everything perfectly.”
“He’s able to go get it. He’s got some impressive highlight catches this year,” Borkowski said. “He does a great job of perfecting his craft. He put a lot of work into it, he worked really hard this offseason and it’s great to see him have success and have all of that hard work pay off.”
This season, Crudele has 46 receptions for 662 yards. According to stats submitted to NJ.com, he is tied for sixth in the state in receptions and 13th in receiving yards.
Crudele has done it while facing a multitude of different defensive schemes aimed at minimizing his production.
“That actually started after game 1 so I started to get used to it,” said Crudele, who has heard from a host Division I FCS, Division II and Division III schools about playing football in college. “They’ll bracket me or put their safety over the top on me. Sometimes they press their linebacker on me.”
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Crudele is the latest top receiver to come out of North Arlington under Borkowski, starting with Jaivon Aquino in 2021 and Kyle Villani last year. The biggest difference is that in those other years, defenses couldn’t shade coverage towards Aquino or Villani due to the depth at receiver.
“All three of them were great in their own way,” said Borkowski. “It was nice that Kyle replaced Jaivon and Ian has stepped right into Kyle’s place and replaced him. Ian is great in space, he’s a hard worker, he’s a good leader and really, for three years, he hasn’t come off the field at any point in the game.”
Crudele and his North Arlington teammates might have thought their season was destined to end with a consolation game after losing three games in a row to fall to 1-5. But Friday’s win pushed the Vikings into 16th and final spot in the current North, Group 1 super sectional rankings.
A victory over Lodi on Friday likely puts North Arlington into the playoffs for the second year in a row.
“It could have been very easy for this senior group to pack it in. And I told them after the win on Friday that I was proud of the seniors for that reason,” Borkowski said. “We could have just packed it in and played a consolation game (in two weeks). But we got the win and we’re fighting to hopefully play in the state playoffs (with another win) next week.”
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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 (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)