Little Falls, NJ – The Millburn Football Millers fell to the Passaic Valley Hornets on a perfect autumn afternoon, 6-0. Although the Millers and the Hornets had comparable records in the same division (NJSFC – Freedom White), and Millburn was coming off of their first and only win of the season, the odds were stacked against the Millers from the start.
The Millers, on the road, were forced to play on a grass terrain for the first time in their 2016 campaign. It seemed like many of their players, especially on the offensive and defensive line, struggled to find their footing. The Hornets were also fueled by a lively crowd, which filled the home stands, as Passaic Valley honored their senior band members, cheerleaders, and football players during their annual senior day celebration.
The Hornets’ defensive line, led by Senior Jose De la Rosa, swarmed the Millers’ ground game, through all four quarters. In fact, Millburn, a team that relies on their running game, only managed 68 rushing yards as a team. This forced Millburn into many 2nd and long, and 3rd and long situations, and thus out of their comfort zone, and try to beat the Hornets in the air with the passing game.
The air game struggled. Junior quarterback Peter Serruto completed only 47.1% of his 17 passes, and Senior wide receiver Drew Pickard was limited to only one reception. Although the skill players were unable to enhance their stat sheets, the Miller offensive line, with the grass field, and a quick group of Hornets in the trenches, were unable to fend off the pressure.
The Millers were also able to hold their own on defense though. They were able to limit the big plays, and take advantage of the penalty yards that Passaic Valley gave them, as the home team was called for 11 penalties for over 100 yards. However, the Millburn defensive success was largely in part to the presence of Senior defensive lineman Liam Murphy. Murphy was able to pick up a few sacks and was involved in many tackles in front of, at, and behind the line of scrimmage. Murphy kept his team in the game with his best performance of the season.
In the second quarter, the Hornets broke the scoring drought on a 34 yard touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Nuozzo. Nuozzo was able to shake the cornerback, and make an over the shoulder catch, dished out by Senior quarterback Steven Luisa, with plenty of room. The Hornets would miss the extra point attempt after the ball was pushed back as a result of an unsportsmanlike penalty against Nuozzo.
Late in the third quarter, with a slim six point lead, but nonetheless control of the game, start running back Vincenzo Brigati fumbled the ball on a blast, his only blemish on the day. Millburn recovered, and there was new life on the Miller sideline. However, the Millers were unable to take advantage of Brigati’s turnover.
Later in the game, the Millers would have a similar opportunity. With less than a minute and a half left in regulation, Passaic Valley was in control of the ball, inside Millburn’s 20 yard line. In the back corner of the end zone though, Millburn’s Jack Meisenheimer came up with a heroic interception, giving the Miller’s the ball at the 20 yard line after the touchback.
The Millers were unable to advance the ball on their “two minute drill” though. The Hornets continued their dominance in the trenches, and pressured Serruto in excess.
After the second missed opportunity off of the second Passaic Valley turnover, the Millers fell to 1-7 on the season. At the same time, the Hornets improved to 5-4 to end their season, and move past Millburn in the divisional standings. Millburn will strap up once more, before the annual Thanksgiving Day game against Madison. Their consolation game opponent will be announced on Monday.