WEST MILFORD – It was a new trophy, but an old feeling for Lakeland.
The Lancers celebrated with a shiny new silver cup, the Suburban Trends Cup, after downing rival West Milford 14-6 on a crisp Friday night among the trees.
It is the Lancers third straight win in the series which is North Jersey’s version of the Backyard Brawl pitting the two neighboring schools. Each of the previous four games had been decided by seven points or less.
“We knew this was the game we wanted,” said Lakeland senior lineman Vinny Anderson. “This would be our turnaround game and I am happy. We are looking to celebrate this one.”
Lakeland coach Joe Purcella said a new trophy was made after the old one which dated back to 1997 was damaged, accidentally on purpose.
“The rumor is it fell in a fire pit…a few times,” said a smiling Purcella. “At least that’s the rumor.”
What It Means
For Lakeland it’s a chance for a new start. Lakeland is 1-3 after losing to Sparta, Ramsey and Passaic Valley. It will take some doing, but the Lancers aren’t out of the playoff hunt.
“We have a long road ahead of us, but we’re coming back,” said Anderson. “It’s a good feeling beating these guys.”
West Milford fell to 0-4, but played hard from start to finish. The Highlanders used three different quarterbacks Friday including freshman Aydin Deane, who recently moved from Idaho. Deane showed good poise in the pocket and threw a 41-yard TD pass to Marcus Morgan in the fourth quarter.
The Turning Point
Lakeland’s offense drove the ball between the 30s for most of the night, but kept getting stoned by mistakes – either a dropped pass or a penalty – or the Highlanders defense.
So when Morgan hauled in the TD pass with 7:01 left to pull West Milford to 7-6 (the PAT was no good) the outcome was in doubt.
Lakeland pushed through though, going on a seven-play 54-yard drive, with senior Caleb Paduani scoring from three yards out. West Milford would get the ball with a chance to tie twice, but turn it over on downs, and Deane would throw an interception with 44 seconds left allowing Lakeland to clinch it.
“Our defense did what they needed to do,” said Purcella. “They got a lot of stops and gave our offense a lot of opportunities and we know in games like this, its always a one-score game. We moved the ball, but we couldn’t get past a mistake. That’s something a young team would do.”
Paduani finished with 103 yards on 22 carries all in the second half.
“He was our spark,” Purcella said. “He ran really really hard. That’s what we wanted to see from him this week.”
In addition to his touchdown reception, Morgan had an interception for the Highlanders at the end of the first half and ran it back 35 yards to the Lakeland 28. West Milford would miss a field goal at the end of the half.
Lakeland sophomore quarterback Colin Sabric completed eight passes for 103 yards and also ran for 21 yards.
The Lancers had three sacks, one each from Anderson, Cooper Struble and Jake Spear. The Spear one was particularly important because it pushed West Milford back from the Lancers 13 to the 20 and the Highlanders missed a subsequent field goal.
Lakeland is on the road against Vernon, while West Milford travels to face undefeated Wayne Valley.