Rutherford grabs the last NJIC playoff spot

Lawson Fischer had two sacks and the Rutherford defense was stout in a 28-0 win over Manchester that gave the Bulldogs the last spot in the NJIC playoffs.

RUTHERFORD – Two undefeated teams stepped foot on the turf at Tryon Field on Saturday, but only one could leave as the NJIC Colonial division and earn the spot in the NJIC playoffs that came with the title. With everything on the line, Rutherford made the most efficient of games. The Bulldogs scored one touchdown in each quarter and allowed not even one on the way to a 28-0 victory. Rutherford will play at New Milford in the semifinals next Friday night.

The Rutherford defense controlled the game from start to finish and shutout a Manchester team that had scored 211 points on the season, an average of 35 points per game. Rutherford junior defensive end Lawson Fisher and senior defensive tackle Ricky Mehta each had two sacks in the first half and the speedy Falcons barely crossed into Rutherford territory all game. Manchester senior running back Osman Kanu, who was averaging 89 yards per game coming in, did not break any long runs and could not get outside the Bulldog defensive ends.

“We played lights out the whole game. We came prepared. We had the bye week last week, we really got ready,” said Lawson Fisher, who spent large portions of the game in the offensive backfield. “We knew every play they were running. I just did what my coaches tell me to do; I just fight off the ball.”

“Lawson he is the man,” said Rutherford head coach Andy Howell. “When we play a Wing T offense, we move him in to defensive tackle. He trails those guards, he is in the back field, he is blowing up the play, he is a great athlete and a great football player.”

Rich Marques scored three of Rutherford;s four touchdowns.

Offensively, the Bulldogs’ two duel threat quarterbacks dominated. Kyle Russell, the starter, had two touchdown passes, a 13-yard strike to Rich Marques in the second quarter and a four-yard pass to Regan Landrigan midway through the fourth for the final points of the game.

Marques, who also takes snaps from behind center mostly out of the Wildcat formation, had two touchdowns rushing and one receiving. He opened the scoring on a four-yard run at 4:03 of the opening quarter and, just prior to finishing the drive, Marques caught a pass from Russell that went for 16 yards and converting a fourth-and-15 from the Manchester 20. Marques had two-yard score with 5:40 left in the third to stretch the lead to 21-0.

“We have two quarterbacks,” said Howell. “We can run our whole offense with both, they both have skills that can help the team in different ways and they are getting better every week. It’s a good problem to have having two quarterbacks, 

With the Bulldogs’ 28 points scored, they scored more points on Saturday than the 20 that the Falcons had given up all season in six games.

“We pretty much dominated in every aspect of the game, which was shocking”, said Howell, “They are a great team. We know that Manchester had athletes all over the field, it’s just a credit to our kids. They came out and executed.”

Kyle Russell and Rutherford will head to New Milford on Friday night for the NJIC semifinals.

The win gives the Bulldogs a ‘power point’ bonanza, 20-plus points that puts them in the top four in the North 2, Group 2 state sectional playoff bracket, which means a home playoff game and potential to secure another bonanza next week too, against another undefeated team.

Rutherford will meet New Milford, champion of the NJIC Liberty Division, on Friday night. Manchester will play one-loss Pompton Lakes on Saturday with the potential for decent power points with a win.

In the other NJIC semifinal game, undefeated Hasbrouck Heights, winner of the Meadowlands Division and the winner of the inaugural NJIC playoff tournament last year, will travel to meet undefeated Wallington, the winner of the Patriot Division.

“We know New Milford very well. Coach Billy Wilde has got them going. He is a great coach, they are all Rutherford guys, we are pretty familiar with them,” said Howell. “We scrimmaged them, they have some dudes over there and they are going to be our best test of the season.”