Once the jitters went away, that heralded Bulldog attitude arrived.
Al-Rasheed Benton scored two rushing touchdowns in the third quarter and some opportunistic defense paved the way for an explosive second half as Malcolm X. Shabazz cruised past Nutley, 33-10, on Friday evening.
“We came out and there were all these cameras and we were supped up, but we knew we had to get it going,” Shabazz defensive end Kevin Curry said of the MSG Varsity live-broadcast showdown. “In the second, we were better on offense, we ran the ball better and we passed better.”
Quarterback Juwan Jackson rushed for 144 yards and two scores and also completed 12 of 18 attempts for 120 yards for the Bulldogs, who overcame a four-point deficit at halftime and improved to 5-2 on the season.
Shabazz trailed, 10-6, before Benton shined in the third and handed his team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“They tried running a lot and tried keeping our offense off the field,” Benton said. “I told the guys this isn’t Bulldog defense. Then we came out, buckled down, and that’s when it all happened.”
The Bulldogs stopped Nutley from capitalizing on great field position. The Maroon Raiders, who fell to 3-3, faced fourth down three times inside the 14 and came away with one just field goal in those chances.
Sean Stroud punctuated a stellar defensive effort by returning an interception for a 47-yard touchdown with 3:20 left in the fourth, sealing the triumph.
Coming off a 34-32 loss to Orange, Shabazz won for the third time in four weeks. Prior to last week, it had notched victories over Caldwell and Newark Central, respectively.
In the beginning of this contest, though, it was Nutley that controlled the tempo.
Matt DelMauro, who entered having amassed just under 700 yards and 10 touchdowns, carried the ball 27 times and racked up 80 rushing yards in the first half. He scored from one yard out with 18 seconds left in the second to hand the Maroon Raiders a four-point cushion.
“It was horrible,” Curry said. “We should have been able to stop him. With our defense, we had to go harder and stay focused.”
After that, things clicked for the Bulldogs.
They held DelMauro to five carries and 18 yards the rest of the night and outscored the opposition, 27-0, in the final two quarters.
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter