Indians fall to rival for first loss of season


Matt Austin

Senior quarterback Stephen Begen rolls out of the pocket while looking to pass. He finished with 151 passing yards, two total touchdowns and two interceptions in Valley's 21-12 loss to Old Tappan on Friday night.

Spencer Goldstein, Sports Editor

Missed opportunities were a key component of Valley’s first loss of the season on Friday night, in which the Indians fell to rival Old Tappan 21-12 at home.

While Valley’s defense got off to a rough start– allowing a 65-yard screen on the second play of the game to set up a five-yard Old Tappan rushing touchdown and a 63-yard touchdown pass on the Golden Knights’ third offensive drive– the Indians seemed poised to match Old Tappan’s early offensive success. After going 6/6 for 47 yards and a touchdown on Valley’s first drive, senior quarterback Stephen Begen had the Indians at Old Tappan’s 27-yard line, threatening to shorten or eliminate Valley’s 14-6 second quarter deficit. However, his next pass would be tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted, cutting the drive short and serving as Valley’s first missed opportunity of the night. It also proved to be a momentum killer for an offense that wouldn’t score again until late in the fourth quarter with the game all but out of reach.

“Penalties and turnovers are huge momentum shifters,” head coach Len Cusumano said. “Obviously it worked in Old Tappan’s favor there.”

With a turnover already making its impact on the game, penalties would later prove to be a crucial aspect of the loss as well.

Still leading 14-6 in the third quarter, the Golden Knights faced a 3rd & 6 in Indians territory. Forcing a defensive stop would keep Valley’s deficit at one possession and give the offense another chance to potentially tie the game, and it appeared that would be the case after Old Tappan quarterback Niko Orecchio fired an incomplete pass over the middle. However, the refs flagged junior Sean Cuffe on a pass interference penalty that many considered to be questionable. One play later, Orecchio connected with receiver Jake Piccinich for a 22-yard touchdown, and Old Tappan never looked back.

“Sometimes calls happen like that and you’ve got to respond,” Cusumano said. “I thought the defense in the second half did a great job executing. Offensively, we just couldn’t get any rhythm.”

It was an eerily quiet game for senior workhorse Jake Williams, who was limited to 56 yards on 11 carries as a result of Old Tappan’s dominance at the line of scrimmage.

“They just out-executed us on defense,” Cusumano said. “We didn’t get enough push to give [Williams] some room.”

The score remained 21-6 until Begen ran up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown with under two minutes remaining in the game, although it was too little too late as the Golden Knights were able to kneel out the clock after recovering Valley’s ensuing onside kick attempt.

It was a tale of two halves for Begen, as he went 11/15 with 90 yards as well as a touchdown and an interception in the first half, but was held to just 5/19 passing for 61 yards and an interception in the second half.

“I give credit to Old Tappan,” Cusumano said. “They took it to us upfront, were able to stunt move a couple guys around and come up with some pressure, and we just didn’t execute effectively.”

Despite the loss, the Indians still boast an impressive 4-1 record and will look to get back on track next Friday night in Ridgefield Park against the Scarlets, whom Valley thrashed 42-12 last year.

“Everything is still ahead of us,” Cusumano said. “All our goals are still attainable. [We just have to] take a look at the film and show resilience.”