East Rutherford alums win the ‘Battle of the Cavaliers’
It wasn’t exactly Friday night lights. There weren’t any cheerleaders. There weren’t any bands. There weren’t any conference titles on the line. But for 33 former East Rutherford Cavalier football players, this game was as real as it gets.
Saturday afternoon the East Rutherford alumni football team played 48 minutes of smash-mouth football and needed just seven points to defeat the East Burke team 7-0.
“High school and college was a blast, but I think this game was more fun than any game I remember playing,” East Rutherfords Rayford Johnson said on the field after the game. “I just loving being with the guys and being able to get on the field and have a good time. It’s an incredible feeling.”
The first quarter was eaten up by each team running the ball. East Burke was forced to punt on their only possession and East Rutherford took their first offensive try into the second quarter.
Paige Jones III and Michael Milam carried the load for East Rutherford early but the drive stalled as a fourth-and 5 pass to the endzone fell incomplete.
East Burke couldn’t move the ball and punted back to East Rutherford who failed on another fourth down try to the endzone.
The teams went into the half all knotted-up at 0-0.
“We had the ball down close the whole half but just couldn’t get it in,” East Rutherford coach Brad Causby said as he headed to the locker room. “These guys are playing hard. I saved some formations for the second half to utilize our size.”
East Rutherford had the ball to start the half and Rocky Williams led the charge with two runs that went for over 10 yards.
Johnson followed with a catch and run down the near sideline to put East Rutherford at the East Burke 30. As Johnson was hit heading to the sideline he stayed down rolling in pain.
“I’m old,” Johnson said when asked about the injury. “I caught the pass and saw a lane I couldn’t get to so I made a cut, caught a cramp, twisted my ankle and everything else.”
The drive ended on a East Rutherford fumble that East Burke swallowed-up to gain possession inside their own 20.
The East Rutherford defense held and forced East Burke to punt.
East Rutherford took over but handed it right back as Jordan Mabe threw an interception.
East Burke’s offense continued to struggle and the third quarter ended with no score.
With seven minutes left the East Rutherford Cavaliers finally started to make things happen.
Brett Walker picked-off his first pass of the game on a third-and-20 pass into the middle of the field and returned it to the East Burke 35.
It looked as if the East Rutherford offense squandered more great field position until Mabe connected with Phillip Duncan down the near sideline for a 20-yard gain on fourth-and-15 to set the Cavaliers up with first-and-goal at the East Burke 7.
“We threw that pass down the other sideline earlier in the game but it got knocked away. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to pull it off again but Jordan put it out there perfectly and Phillip made a great catch,” Causby be said of the play. “I was really excited for them because they didn’t want to go into overtime.”
“I knew it was coming down to the last minute of the game and something big had to happen,” Duncan added. “I faked the block and went deep and caught it right down the sideline.”
Paige Jones III took the first-down carry to the 2 where Mabe sneaked it in across the goal-line to put East Rutherford up 6-0 with 2:40 left in the game. Marco Ireta knocked through the extra point to make it 7-0.
East Burke took over but Ben Collins and Chavis Smith combined for a sack on the opening play of the drive. Walker broke up the next pass with a huge hit over the middle and picked of the third down pass to seal the 7-0 victory for the visiting Cavaliers.
East Rutherford celebrated and mingled with the East burke alums before being presented with the game trophy. Family and friends flocked the field to share the moment with the players.
“My family was here and my nieces were here so that’s what makes it special,” Duncan said after the game.
“It was a dream. I really enjoyed coming back out and playing again,” East Rutherford’s Lamont Colbert said after the game. “It’s great that God would let me get another chance to play alongside some of the guys I went to high school with. It was just a magnificent night.”
Collins was named the East Rutherford MVP by his coach.
“I’ve really enjoyed spending time with all of them and Ben Collins really deserves all the credit in the world,” Causby said.
“I didn’t want to come out here and embarrass myself but I did a little better than I thought I would,” Collins said. “I’m a little more tired than I thought I would be too but it’s well worth it.”