Wall foiled by Woodrow Wilson in South Group 3 Regional Championship
PISCATAWAY – A historic season for Wall ended one win short of perfection.
A 1-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Devin Kargman with 7:41 left in regulation held up as the winning score as Woodrow Wilson defeated Wall, 12-7, in the NJSIAA South Group 3 Regional Championship game on Sunday at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium.
Wall entered the game as the only team in school history to win 12 games and was trying to become the first team in Shore Conference history to go 13-0.
The Crimson Knights defense was outstanding against a Woodrow Wilson team that entered the game averaging 46.7 points per game thanks to three FBS recruits and a 3,300-yard passer in Kargman. Wall held the Tigers to 265 yards of offense, and while Kargman threw for 221 yards and a score he was intercepted three times by an active Wall secondary.
The problem for Wall was on the offensive side where they mustered just 193 yards, 106 of which came on the ground but just 44 were gained in the second half. The Crimson Knights played without standout junior running back/defensive back Casey Larkin, who suffered an injury during Wall’s Thanksgiving Day game versus Manasquan. While the Crimson Knights rallied nicely on the defensive side without him, Wall sorely missed his playmaking ability on the ground and through the air. Larkin accounted for 1,471 yards and 15 touchdowns from scrimmage in 12 games this season.
“Missing Casey, he’s a special player and he would have given them a lot of problems,” said junior quarterback Logan Peters, who threw a 31-yard touchdown to sophomore Matt Dollive for Wall’s only touchdown. “He’s really fast, he gets into his routes quicker than a lot of people. If we had him it would have been a big help but it’s football and injuries happen. We still felt we could win with the group of guys we have; we just fell short.”
“It is next man up, but Casey is a special player,” said Wall head coach Tony Grandinetti. “I’m not going to lie; he definitely would have helped us a lot.”
Aside from its opening scoring drive, Wall was behind the sticks most of the game. The Knights faced at least third down and seven or more yards to gain eight times. Wall had nine third-down plays and averaged 10 yards to gain on those. Facing constant third and long plays allowed Woodrow Wilson to send multiple blitzers at Peters, sacking him six times.
“They come hard and they come fast, and they make your receivers get into their routes quick,” Peters said. “Our line picked up the guys they needed to but there’s going to be some guys who are going to be unmarked and I have to be able to make a play.”
“We knew they were going to blitz a lot on third down and they did,” Grandinetti said. “In the second half the biggest thing was we would start driving and then get two or three penalties. It doesn’t matter how well we can run the ball, when we’re first-and-15 or first-and-20 – I think at one point we were second-and-30 – there’s nothing we can call. To play behind the sticks like that hurts our game. We want to run the ball but we’re not going to run it at 15 yards a clip.”
Wilson also used run blitzes to thwart Wall’s inside running game.
“They fly and they’re not so much reading as wherever they think the ball is they’re flying there,” Peters said. “On our ‘A’ gap runs they filled well. We bounced them sometimes creating big runs but we did everything we could up front. Those guys have been doing it all year and they played phenomenal.”
Despite its offensive struggles, Wall led most of the game thanks to its defense. Kargman entered the game with 3,356 yards passing and 43 touchdowns. Texas A&M recruit and Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year Fadil Diggs had 1,004 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, while Harvey, who is committed to Northern Illinois, had 1,012 yards and 11 touchdowns and Temple-bound running back Muheem McCargo had 1,509 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns. Wall, which entered the game allowing 9.3 points per game, was up to the challenge.
Senior cornerback Dale McNally had two interceptions and senior linebacker Jaden Carasquillo had another. Wall sacked Kargman only once but had him under duress for much of the game. The Knights also did a great job keeping the ball in front of them. Woodrow Wilson had just two plays of 17 yards or more: a 27-yard pass to McCargo on the final play of the first half and a 38-yard gain by McCargo on a screen pass that set up the go-ahead touchdown.
“They (Woodrow Wilson) have playmakers and a gunslinger who can really throw the ball around,” Grandinetti said. “To pick him off three times and another on the 2-point conversion, to be able to do that against that kid says something about our defense and our defensive backs.”
“At the half (leading 7-6) we were happy,” Peters said. “We feel we’re a second-half team so being up by one we were real confident. We were battling in the second half and they just stepped up and found a way to make a big play. Holding them to 12 points is good in our eyes but we just didn't get the job done on the offensive side.”
Wall received the opening kickoff and drove to the Woodrow Wilson 36-yard line before turning it over on downs. Starting from its own 46, Wilson went 54 yards in eight plays to take a 6-0 lead. An offsides penalty on Wall on fourth-and-two gave Wilson a first down at the 16 and on the next play, Harvey made a great one-handed catch for a 16-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion pass failed when McNally broke up the pass.
Wall answered with a drive late in the first quarter that culminated with a touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter. McNally intercepted Kargman at the Wall 25 and returned it 27 yards to the Woodrow Wilson 48-yard line. Peters gained 18 yards on first down with a quarterback keeper and three plays later on third-and-11, Peters scrambled and found Dollive for a 31-yard touchdown. Max Oakley’s extra point gave Wall a 7-6 lead.
It would stay like that until Wilson scored midway through the fourth quarter. Wall forced a punt to get the ball back at its own 21-yard line with 2:12 left in the game. A pass interference call on Wilson on fourth-and-10 kept Wall alive, but on the next play, Harvey made a great play to take the ball away from a Wall receiver for a fumble recovery that clinched the win.
“I really can’t say enough about this team,” Peters said. “This group of guys means a lot to me. It’s an energy we bring. We’re going to come out every game and compete.”
The loss Sunday does not detract from Wall’s season in any way. The Crimson Knights went 12-1, won the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title, claimed the Shore Conference Colonial Division crown and will finish the year as the No. 1 team in the Shore. They will miss senior starters Ian Ackerman, Matt DeSarno, Dale McNally, Dean Terry, Will Terry, Jaden Carasquillo, Gus Setteducato, Mike Galos and Jack Wolter but will bring back a great group of juniors and sophomores led by Peters, Larkin, linebackers Charlie Sasso and Colin Riley, Dollive, linemen Grant Puharic and Brian Byrne and tight end/defensive end Blake Rezk. They want to win everything, and that will be the goal in 2020.
“This feeling right now, that’s going to push me,” Peters said. “Casey didn’t even play so he’s gotta be urging to get on this field and play a game. Charlie, Colin, Blake, Brian, all of us, we’ll definitely keep this feeling in the back of our minds all offseason.”
Woodrow Wilson 12, Wall 7
|Woodrow Wilson (10-2)||6||0||0||6||12|
WW – Malik Harvey 16-yard pass from Devin Kargman (pass failed)
W – Matt Dollive 31-yard pass from Logan Peters (Max Oakley kick)
WW – Devin Kargman 1-yard run (pass intercepted)
RUSHING – W: Matt DeSarno 16-67, Matt Dollive 3-20, Logan Peters 18-19, Dale McNally 1-0; WW: Muheem McCargo 18-56, Naziq Murry 1-6, Team 1-(-4), Malik Harvey 1-(-5), Devin Kargman 2-(-9).
PASSING – W: Logan Peters 6-10-0 87; WW: Devin Kargman 22-32-3 221.
RECEIVING – W: Mike Galos 2-25, Matt Dollive 1-31, Dale McNally 1-24, Gus Setteducato 1-11, Charlie Sasso 1-(-5); WW: Malik Harvey 8-71, Muheem McCargo 5-86, Fadil Diggs 3-27, Amari Clark 2-15, Christian Thomas 2-12, Elijah Lopez 1-9, Naziq Murray 1-1.
INTERCEPTOINS – W: Dale McNally 2-26, Jaden Carasquillo 1-6.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.