Stellar defense was the basis of Pascack Valley’s first win of the season in its opener on Friday night, holding Roxbury scoreless and stopping the Gaels from gaining any momentum en route to a 27-0 shutout. The Indians also forced two turnovers.
“I thought we tackled very well,” said head coach Len Cusumano. “The guys were sound as far as doing their jobs.”
The game was scoreless at the end of the first quarter, however, the Indians scored their first touchdown of the season on a screen pass to senior Andrew Martinez in the second quarter and didn’t look back.
“I knew that bubble [screen] was my play,” Martinez said. “I’m feeling pretty good about it. I cut back inside and had my boys blocking for me which is really good.”
Martinez would finish the game with five catches for 37 yards to go along with the touchdown.
After senior Jake Ciocca intercepted Roxbury quarterback Lucas Spitzer on the following possession, the Indians were back in the end zone just a few plays later on a 25-yard rush by senior Jake Williams, who finished with 70 rushing yards.
The Indians were able to hold off Roxbury’s offense on the following drive to keep the shutout intact at halftime.
A major aspect of the win was the performance of Stephen Begen. After manning an extremely run-heavy offense in his first two years under center, the senior signal caller attempted a career-high 21 passes Friday night, completing 15 of them for 110 yards and a touchdown.
After opening the second half with a 9-yard rushing touchdown, Begen’s night was cut short due to suffering an apparent injury in the third quarter that Cusumano later described as “general cramping.” He was replaced by junior Zach Traina and would not return.
Up 21-0, junior David Jones recovered a fumble late in the third quarter, serving as the second of Valley’s two takeaways and adding to an already dominant performance by the defense.
With the game out of reach, Valley was able to showcase the depth of their team, which Cusumano spoke highly of prior to the season. Led by junior running back Mike Solazzo, the Indians ran through Roxbury’s defense on their final offensive drive. With the team starting at its own 7-yard-line, Solazzo rushed for 93 yards on the drive and put the finishing touches on it with a 10-yard touchdown.
“[Solazzo] really secured the football and secured the win for us,” Cusumano said.
The Indians will look to build on this momentum next Friday night when they travel to Englewood to take on Dwight Morrow. Valley came out victorious last time the two teams met, routing the Maroon Raiders 47-6 in the 2018 season opener.