Pompton Lakes was patient en route to title
After experiencing instant success winning a state championship in his first season as head coach at Pompton Lakes, Scott Mahoney would have to wait six years for another shot at a ring.
Friday night at MetLife Stadium, Mahoney and the Cardinals got their chance and took advantage, defeating Glen Rock 20-0 to capture the North 1 Group 1 championship.
Despite having the top seed entering the playoffs many people liked Saddle Brook and its high-powered offense led by Rutgers-bound Steven Longa to finish its perfect run after starting 10-0. But after Pompton Lakes shocked Saddle Brook 17-14 in the semifinals, the title became Cardinals to lose.
Senior running back Nieko Torres ended his four years as a Cardinal in impressive fashion, carrying the ball 35 times for 195 yards and two scores.
Fellow senior captain Larry Gelok scored the game's opening touchdown on a beautiful 29-yard reception from quarterback Robbie Meyers and the defense did the rest, hardly allowing Glen Rock in its end of the field.
“We knew what we had coming,” Mahoney said of his seniors. “These guys have battled for the past couple of years and they got time on the field. We told them if they dedicated themselves work hard that they would have this opportunity. I’m really proud of this group.”
Pompton Lakes dropped a tough game Week 5 to Cresskill 22-21 in overtime, and in a way it may have refocused a team that hadn’t experienced any adversity to that point. The Cardinals cruised to four victories in their first four games, outscoring opponents 186-15.
Despite that loss and a tough draw having to face Saddle Brook in the semifinals of the state tournament, Torres knew this senior-heavy squad had what it took from the start of the season.
“We worked for four years to get to this goal. We lifted extremely hard in the offseason and even gave up our lunch breaks and off days to get better. We did everything we had to do to and it shows.”
Mahoney instilled that work ethic, but he talked after the game about how it only works if you have talented senior leaders like Torres to reinforce what you are preaching.
“He’s tremendous, he always wants the ball and he worked so hard for this,” Mahoney said of Torres. “He told our group, you block and I will run. They did their job and he did his job. He’s one of the best tailbacks we’ve ever had in this program.”
His huge night in East Rutherford gives Torres 1,797 yards and 29 total touchdowns on the season, totals he credits not only to hard work and great teammates, but Mahoney’s tremendous staff.
“The whole coaching staff prepares us so well from the offseason to tremendous game plans it makes us really confident,” Torres explained. “Even after we beat Saddle Brook our guys were focused in practice and raised the intensity even more for this game.”
So now it’s time to celebrate in Pompton Lakes, at least for a day or two. Coach Mahoney knows next season isn’t far away and the preparation starts up just as soon as this game ends.
“We will take the weekend to enjoy this with the great people in Pompton Lakes who love this football team, then on Monday it’s back to the drawing board,” Mahoney said. “They have a great chance next year, they have a lot of potential and a lot of talent. If they work as hard as we did, I’ll see you guys back here next year."
Contact John Quirk at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @QuirkMedia