Woodbury Dominates Second Half En Route To Group 1 Championship

Photo: Anthony Ferrara (@af.visualsss)

The Group 1 Championship was a story of night and day. The Mountain Lakes Herd and Woodbury Herd would meet at Rutgers’ SHI Stadium in Piscataway to start the first day of games. The winner would not only decide North Jersey vs South Jersey and who truly owned the Herd name, but the first-ever Group 1 champion. It was a defensive struggle, until it wasn’t and Woodbury took over to dominate the second half. The game was full of big hits, highlight plays, and great moments. 

    Both teams are full of fast, athletic players with a good grasp on their respective systems. The first quarter started how every person familiar with the teams figured it would. Mountain Lakes received the opening kickoff, and their run game was stopped in its tracks. Woodbury’s Duquesne-bound linebacker Derron Moore made his presence known from the first snap, breaking double teams to stop each run behind the line. Woodbury was having similar issues, with Mountain Lakes’ defensive pressure collapsing the pocket and forcing quarterback Bryan Johnson into fast decisions. 

    This stalemate continued into the second quarter. Woodbury’s closing speed on the ball carrier was subduing the Mountain Lakes Wing-T offense. Moore, Jayden Johnson, Angel Arocho, and Dominic Abbatelli were holding down the second level and making life hard for anyone breaking the line. The defensive line of Avari Morton, Nyrell Redrow, Marcellis Johnson, and Jasuan Solomon was just as dominant. Midway through the second quarter, the rushing attack from Mountain Lakes was able to break them down for a drive. Lakes quarterback Ben Miniter engineered a drive to perfection with running backs Jimmy Elliott and Nico Dunn, resulting in a 17-yard bullrush up the middle from Dunn for the score. The Mountain Lakes defense was coming up big in this first half, led by Marco Dzamba. Dzamba had the half of his lifetime, forcing a fumble, getting a sack, and collecting a slew of tackles. Unsung hero of the half was their punter Justin Brennfleck. His placement was pristine all day despite the high wind speed in the stadium. Mountain Lakes would hold their 7-0 lead into halftime.

    Coming out of the break, Woodbury would receive the ball. Once that ball was in their possession, they never looked back. Marching down the field, Anthony Reagon Jr. broke off a 41-yard run down the sideline to set up shop inside the red zone. They wouldn’t need much more, as Bryan Johnson delivered a 17-yard strike to Ibn Muhammad. A delay of game on the PAT would push it back five yards and force a miss along with a Mountain Lakes player’s finger. 

    A few drives later, Woodbury would break through and score again. JaBron Solomon would corral a pass and take it 33 yards down the field. Reagan Jr. would follow that up with a 22-yard scramble of his own then walk eight yards down the middle for an easy touchdown. The two-point conversion would fail but the lead was Woodbury’s at 12-7.

The turnover game would dominate the next five minutes. Mountain Lakes would get the ball back and get some forward progress down the field. That would be nullified when Jayden Johnson stepped in front of a Miniter desperation throw, giving Woodbury control once again. The Mountain Lakes secondary would respond with Giacomo Bevacqua nabbing a pass right over the middle of field and returning it to the opposing 45. A sideline inference would move them back to the 37, but they would go nowhere from there. Derron Moore would put his fingers all over the game, coming crashing down like a semi-truck on Miniter and taking the ball back. Anthony Reagan Jr. went back to work and rushed down the field for another score. With an 18-7 lead, Woodbury would extend it on the ensuing drive. Wilson Torres picked off a Miniter pass near the sideline and returned it 33 yards for the house call. With the lead at 24-7, Woodbury would just need a stop to ice the game. They would do just that, and add more insurance in the form of Moore taking the ball on the one yard line and falling forward into the endzone. 

Woodbury absolutely dominated the second half of this game. Their performances in the first and second half would look like night and day if compared side-by-side. Anthony Reagan Jr. finished his night with 214 yards rushing, 16 receiving, and 2 rushing touchdowns. Bryan Johnson would throw for 146 yards on nine completions with a touchdown. Derron Moore paced the defense with 11 total tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. He applied constant backfield pressure and even broke up a few passes. It was a complete effort to deliver a state championship to Woodbury, and the dominance they displayed in the back-end of the game was outstanding. Congratulations to the first-ever Group 1 State Champions (and true bearer of the Herd name) the Woodbury Herd!