Indians set to host Garfield in sectional semifinals

Winner will advance to North 1, Group 3 championship


Ariela Alfonso

Senior quarterback Stephen Begen unleashes a pass downfield. He finished with 75 passing yards and a touchdown in last week's win over Demarest.

Spencer Goldstein, Sports Editor

Pascack Valley vs Garfield

When: Friday Nov. 15, 6 p.m.

Where: Pascack Valley High School

Regular Season Records:

Pascack Valley: 6-2

Garfield: 6-2

After blowing out Demarest 41-0 last week in round one, the Indians are set to host Garfield in the North 1, Group 3 sectional semifinals on Friday night with a N1, G3 championship berth on the line. The winner will advance to play whoever emerges from Friday night’s Ramapo–West Side (Newark) matchup with a trip to MetLife Stadium to take on the N2, G3 champion at stake. This week will also mark the first ever meeting between Valley and Garfield.

Coming in as the seventh seed, Garfield stunned second seeded Rahway 18-7 last week, a result that sent the Pascack Valley locker room into a frenzy following the team’s win over Demarest.  Because the Indians are the third seed, last week would have been their final home game of the season had Rahway overcame the Boilermakers as most expected; however, Valley earned the right to at least one more with Garfield’s victory.

“We’re excited to have another home game,” head coach Len Cusumano said. “It wasn’t really guaranteed, [and] any time you can play at home [it is] another opportunity to showcase in front of your community so we’re excited.”

Despite Garfield being ranked as a much lower seed than Valley, the Indians understand how crucial it is not to overlook the Boilermakers, especially after they pulled off the upset last week.

“You never want to look past anybody,” Cusumano said. “They do have some talented kids that can cause problems. Field position is going to be a big deal for us, [as well as] maintaining time of possession.”

Garfield’s offense runs through senior running back Josue Matias, who totalled 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries last week against Rahway. He has rushed for over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns throughout the season as the focal point of an offensive unit that has averaged 23.5 points per game so far, and stopping him will be key for Valley’s defense.

Meanwhile, the Indians feature a workhorse of their own in senior Jake Williams, who led the way last week with 106 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The offense as a whole showed out in the win, scoring three touchdowns in its first four possessions to take a commanding lead that the team would hold for good. Senior quarterback Stephen Begen was effective as well, throwing for 75 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, Valley is coming off one of its best performances of the year. Demarest failed to get more than one yard into Valley territory last week, resulting in the second shutout of the season for an Indians defense that also came away with two interceptions in the rout.

Simply put, Garfield’s defense has been stellar in wins… and bad in losses. The unit has allowed a stingy average of just 12 points per game in the team’s seven victories, including just seven points last week; however, it also gave up 37 and 36 points in the team’s two losses to Waldwick and Pompton Lakes, respectively. Cusumano preached the importance of the Indians not getting ahead of themselves and focusing on one play at a time in order to put up points on a Boilermakers defense led by seniors Kenny Richardson (60 tackles) and Elias Cherry (6.5 sacks).

“[It’s essential that every player is] focusing on [each] particular play and what his job is, and doing it to the best of his ability,” Cusumano said. “All the guys have been doing a great job of that every game. We can’t think too much about last week because last week is in the past; it’s history. It’s about what we do this week that’s most important.”

As each game becomes more important than the last, the Indians continue to stick to the same preparation tactics that got them to this point.

“We’re just going back to fundamentals in practice [and] making sure we’re fine-tuning things,” Cusumano said. “We know we have to earn everything; nobody is going to give us anything. Just like every team in New Jersey, [we’re going] out there to earn that right to play the following week.