Kowalski returns to attack, Vernon beats Kittatinny 34-13

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It had been a long time since the Vernon football team had been able to send John Kowalski in attack. Finally healthy, Kowalski gave the Vikings an extra weapon and performed a few critical plays.

Kowalski threw the touchdown in the second quarter and caught a 35-yard pass to the 3rd and 13th of Vernon’s 7-yard line to help the Vikings go 90 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter as Vernon fought Kittatinny 34- 13 Friday in Newton.

The Vikings (3-1) already broke last season’s 2-6 record and tied their winning streak of the past two years combined.

“Our seniors have suffered a lot of losses,” said coach Steve Down. “And I think they’re just difficult because of it. They really moved the program forward. And our seniors were tough tonight.

Perhaps no one has embodied this tenacity better than senior Kowalski. He led the team by rushing and receiving three years ago as a freshman before suffering three meniscus tears, including both knees.

Kowalski scored two touchdowns in less than two quarters in Game 1 of his sophomore year before the first tear occurred. He reached the second game of his junior year before a tear in the other knee occurred. He underwent a third surgery for a tear in his meniscus in August, which gave him a recovery time of four to six weeks.

“We didn’t think we’d have it the first week,” Down said. “He’s just a warrior. He only played defense for three weeks for us. So today we saw him run, starting to feel great again. But we’re talking about three knee surgeries for this kid…. He has had this difficult career, but he continues to truck. And you saw the way he’s playing tonight, he’s playing with an attitude, an edge. I will say, if he is there, we will be solid, because he brings tenacity. He really does.

In the second quarter of a 6-6 game, Vernon faced a third and a goal from the 10-yard line. The Vikings put together a trick game reminiscent of the famous design the Philadelphia Eagles used to score a touchdown against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

“We have a trick game almost like a ‘Philly Special’ type game,” Down said. “We’re looking to send him back to the quarterback. “

This game didn’t go as smoothly as when Nick Foles and the Eagles led it. The ball hit the ground at one point, but Kowalski picked it up and found Jeremiah Carfello for a touchdown.

“I think most of the kids were in a panic, but John is pretty experienced,” Down said. “He just stayed calm. My heart breaks, I’m like, “What is it, we call a game of tricks…” (but he) takes it back, keeps his cool and finds Carfello… sitting in the wide open end zone. . Sometimes it bounces in your way. We needed it, that’s for sure.

The Vikings forced a three-and-out from the Cougars (3-1) on the drive that followed, and Carfello blocked that punt. Vernon took his time advancing from Kittatinny’s 34-yard line and eventually scored about 30 seconds at halftime. Quarterback Derek Lazier rolled right and threw a touchdown pass to a wide-open Franco Luna on the left side of the field.

Kittatinny reduced his deficit to one point in his first practice of the second half, which was set up by David Michelman’s punt block. Quarterback Michael Cerbo threw a sneak pass to Luke Brex on the move. Brex caught the ball and scored from six yards away, making it 20-13 Vernon.

The Cougars seemed well positioned to return to the game with Vernon lined up for the third and 13 on his own 7-yard line later in the third quarter. But Lazier, after spending most of the game throwing quick passes into the apartments, broadcast it for Kowalski. Kowalski used a double swing to shake the safety of the men’s cover and fired a ball 35 yards deep for a first try.

“We nailed them to the goal line, it was probably a major play and the turning point of the game,” said Kittatinny coach Joe Coltelli. “We stop them there, they come out of their own end zone, we’re down a score I think at this point – (it) changes the whole complexion of the game of football. But they did a play. Give them credit, they played a game when needed.

Kowalski said: “It’s been a bunch of months of rehab, two years I think, and (to) finally play on offense, it felt good to get the win tonight.”

Vernon continued to build up to third for the remainder of the practice. Carfello caught a 14-yard pass in the third and 7th in midfield. And on the third and the goal of the 1-yard line, running back Gage Moskovitz scored the second of his three touchdowns.

The Vikings refused the Cougars in the fourth and goal of the 17th during the next practice. Carfello landed a sack in the first play of Kittatinny’s next possession, who came in with about five minutes left in the fourth. This derailed this player, which ended with a turnover on the lows.

Senior Carfello made important plays in attack, defense and special teams on Friday. He caught a touchdown, blocked a punt and scored that timely sack.

“Everything I do, I give 100% of my effort,” Carfello said. “And above all I feel like being a university rookie in the second year that I had to do this kind of thing to be able to enter the field. So being a senior now really means being a complete player and giving my all in every game. ”

Carfello said Kowalski’s return from injury has also been inspiring.

“John went through hell and came back from it,” Carfello said. “I have been playing football with him since I was little. You cannot deny the child. We can’t deny him football, it’s crazy to see him play. I think … his hard work really rubs off on everyone.

Kittatinny used a rigged game to score in the first play of the second quarter. Cerbo threw left at running back Ryan Connelly, who threw the sideline at Trent Molfetto for 65 yards. It tied the game up to six apiece before Vernon spent most of the rest of the quarter on offense.

“Like I told them after the game, (this loss) doesn’t define us as a football team,” Coltelli said. “The way we react from now on is going to define us as a football team in the future. Obviously, we are all disappointed. We thought we would have played better. But you know, we have some things we can learn from and take from that to help us in the process. But probably the most physical team we’ve played so far and I don’t know how well we reacted early in the game.

Vernon plays West Milford next Friday. Kittatinny will be in Newton the same day.

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