In a repeat of last year’s North 1 Group 2 sectional final, Westwood proved to be the stronger team, winning its second sectional final Championship in as many years, 20-7.
Both teams came into the game undefeated with 10 wins.
Quarterback Robbie Carcich made all the right decisions using his ability to scramble, buying his receivers time to find open spaces then displaying his arm strength and accuracy. This was most evident in both of Westwood’s first two drives where Carcich extended plays resulting in first downs.
When asked about his quarterback’s execution, Head Coach Bobby Guy said: “Our offensive line did a great job protecting Robbie and he did the rest.”
After defensive back Steve Klein intercepted a pass on Rutherford’s opening drive, Carcich found wide receiver Joe Klein on fourth and 17, throwing a 37-yard strike for a touchdown. Westwood’s second drive ended almost identical to its first.
When the Cardinals were once again faced with fourth and 7, Carcich dropped back and hit wide receiver Tommy Bussanich in stride for a 25-yard touchdown. Westwood went into halftime with a 14-0 lead.
Westwood’s defense, led by Linebacker Luke Biello, shut down Rutherford’s stellar ground attack and put a lot of pressure on freshman quarterback Myles Balchan. It was obvious Westwood was not going to let Power 5, UNC commit Ryan Ward beat them and their game plan worked, holding the star receiver to two receptions for 34 yards.
Biello, a junior two-way starter, said: “Stopping the run was our number one priority. It takes everyone doing their 1/11th. We out hustle teams and our angles are sharp. And we tackle. Our defensive coordinator is just great.”
Coach Guy praised his defensive coordinator as well, saying: “Coach Amir Saadah did an amazing job with our game plan and getting our kids ready — not just tonight but the entire year.”
In the third quarter, Carcich led the Cardinals deep into bulldog territory and once again on fourth-down found Joe Klein on a perfectly thrown fade route for a 4-yard TD. The senior receiver had nine receptions for 127 yards and two scores.
Carcich threw 30 times completing 18 passes for 213 yards.
“We really worked hard in practice this week on particular routes. They came out in a press coverage and we were able to take advantage of that. Our coaches made some great adjustments on offense. We all trust each other,” Klein said.
Klein also had a great family moment during the game when his younger brother, Steven, intercepted a pass during Rutherford’s opening drive.
“That was the happiest moment of the game for me, to see my brother make that play,” the elder Klein said.
Late in the fourth quarter, Balchan found Ward who made a tough grab in traffic where he was tackled at the 2 yard line. Running back Cole Goumas scored on a short run for Rutherford’s only score.
In Guy’s first year at the helm for the Cardinals after spending nine years as an assistant coach under head coach Dennis Hard, he has won a sectional title and will now prepare his team to meet Bernards in the Group 2 semifinals.
“I feel like Dennis was preparing me for the transition to head coach for a while and that definitely helped me because the difference between assistant and head coach is big,” Guy said.
Guy gave credit to playing a competitive schedule for his team’s success and mental toughness.
“Something has to be said for playing a tough schedule and being battle tested, being physically and mentally tough,” he said.
Its obvious watching this team they are very tough they play four quarters of football and collectively have a high football IQ.
Westwood, 11-0, next hosts Bernards, 12-0, Friday night at Westwood Regional High School in the NJSIAA Group 2 semifinals.
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Bobby Crudele | Special to The Observer
Det. Sgt. Robert Crudele (Harrison Police Department) is a freelance sports journalist who covers high school sports outside The Observer's coverage area.