Matt Dollive Runs Wild as Wall Steamrolls Hopewell Valley to Open NJSIAA Playoff Run
WALL TOWNSHIP – If Matt Dollive would have played the entire game on Friday night it could have been an epic, record-breaking performance. But he was good with settling for a career-best game and a dominant team victory in the first round of the state playoffs.
Wall’s running game was unstoppable on Friday and Dollive led the way with a career-high 273 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 13 carries – all of it coming in the first half – as the Crimson Knights destroyed visiting Hopewell Valley, 42-7, in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals.
Dollive had 170 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone when Wall ran for 200 yards as a team. He added a 50-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and ended his night with a 5-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the first half. Senior quarterback Jake Davis ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns on five carries as the Crimson Knights ran for 349 yards and six touchdowns in the first half to lead 42-0 at the break.
Wall will host third-seeded and undefeated Delsea (10-0) next Friday night in the semifinals.
“Props to the linemen,” Dollive said. “I know I got the stats but they deserve it as much as I do. The holes were the size of a truck. I barely got touched.”
“He runs with an attitude and it’s clear everything he gets the ball; he runs so hard and so tough,” said Wall head coach Tony Grandinetti. “Since his sophomore year he’s always been a wide receiver/defensive back so to see the success he’s having at running back, to adapt to a new position, I’m very proud of him.”
Dollive is now up to 1,004 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on the season.
Nearly all of Wall’s starters gave way to the backups and junior varsity players in the second half and that’s when Hopewell scored its only touchdown, which came in the final minute.
“Everybody feeds off that, the sideline, the crowd, the coaches,” said senior linebacker Charlie Sasso of Wall’s big-play runs. “We always say to lean on (the other team) and we kept the hammer going tonight.”
Wall’s defense held Hopewell Valley’s pass-first offense to just 76 yards in the first half, 41 of which came on the Bulldogs’ opening drive of the game when they reached the Wall 38-yard line. That was as close as they would get to the end zone against the Crimson Knights’ starting defense. Senior defensive end Blake Rezk had two sacks and a tackle for loss, Davis had an interception, and senior Jake Lowe blocked a punt and intercepted a pass in the second half.
Wall opened the game with a six-play, 65-yard scoring drive that ended with Davis rumbling in on a 10-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead. After Wall forced Hopewell to punt from the 38-yard line, the Crimson Knights went 80 yards in five plays to go up 14-0 on Dollive’s 35-yard touchdown run. A tackle for loss and a sack by Rezk on the next drive by the Bulldogs forced a punt, and on the first play of the next series, Dollive broke free for a 76-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds left in the half. In 12 minutes, Wall had rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns with Dollive accounting for 170 and two scores on just seven carries.
It was more of the same from there. Rezk’s second sack nuked Hopewell’s drive early in the second quarter and Wall took over at its own 40-yard line. Three plays later, Dollive was in the end zone on a 50-yard touchdown run for a 28-0 lead.
Later in the quarter, Davis ripped off a tremendous 51-yard touchdown run down the home sideline for a 35-0 lead. He then intercepted Hopewell quarterback Timothy McKeown to give Wall a short field at the 37-yard line. A 22-yard run by Dollive put the ball at the 15-yard line and three plays later he scored from five yards out to make it 42-0.
“It felt good,” Dollive said. “Our success as a program has come at this time of year, in the playoffs, so we go into these games knowing it’s do-or-die. We come out here like it could be our last game so we leave it all on the field.”
Coming into this season, Wall had gone 19-1 over the past two years with an NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 3 title, an unofficial Shore Conference championship, and the No. 1 ranking in New Jersey last season. The Crimson Knights garnered a ton of headlines during that stretch, but since the early part of the season they have flown under the radar. They stumbled out of the gates with losses to Rumson-Fair Haven (35-0) and Red Bank Catholic (20-16) to fall to 0-2. They also lost to Donovan Catholic (36-19) in Week 6. But along the way, Wall has gotten healthy and gotten better and looks to be peaking at the best moment.
“We played some really good teams at the beginning of the season and they got us, but we know who we are and we worked every week to get the results we wanted,” Dollive said. “We’re back on track now and ready to go win another state championship.”
“I honestly think it bonded us even closer,” Sasso said of the early-season struggles. “It gave us a lot of confidence in ourselves, as strange as that sounds. It gave younger kids opportunities to step up in sorts that older guys were missing and it made everybody appreciate everybody a little more.”
“We had a slow start but part of the program’s culture here – we always say Pride, Poise, Team, and that word, poise -- when we started 0-2 nobody was pointing fingers or putting their head down,” Grandinetti said. “We got healthy, which was the main thing, and we just did what we do. We got after it running the football, tightened up the defense, and right now we’re clicking on both sides of the ball.”
“It was a wake-up call. Yeah, we’d only lost one game the last two years but we still had to come out and play football. I really made the focus on what’s ahead of us. Right now, we’re attacking everything that’s in front of us and we can accomplish everything we’ve wanted to. We’re right where we want to be. Hats off to the guys to have that mental toughness to battle back from that adversity.”
With Sasso healthy and playing at his normal Defensive-Player-of-the-Year-type-level and senior All-Shore linebacker Colin Riley also back after missing most of the season, Wall is at full strength at the most important time of the season.
“Everything is falling into place,” Dollive said. “Charlie is back, Colin Riley is back, the offensive line is playing great, me and Jake are healthy, Jackson Coan is playing tremendous.”
With players like Sasso, Riley and senor lineman Brian Byrne, all of whom are four-year starters, plus players like Rezk, Dollive, Davis, Coan, senior linebacker Lou Pilla, senior lineman/kicker/punter Max Oakley, and senior lineman Joe Sommers, Wall has players who know what it takes to win in November and December.
“There’s a lot of guys on this field with a lot of experience in big games,” Sasso said. “We throve when the weather starts to get cold. This is our time.”