Four Touchdowns by Harbison and Stifling Defense Lift Nutley to Upset Victory on Opening Day | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools

NEWARK, NJ  – Perhaps the first huge upset of the 2020 high school football season came courtesy of the Nutley Maroon Raiders.

Led by a balanced attack, including four total touchdowns by junior Matthew Harbison, Nutley posted a convincing 31-18 road victory over West Side on Saturday afternoon at Untermann Field in Newark.

West Side, which had defeated Nutley, 52-0,a year ago, entered the game ranked 18th in the state.

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“This win means everything,” said Nutley head coach Steve DiGregorio. “We just started practice in September meaning we had to coach fast and the players had to learn fast. But they did a heck of a job (Saturday).”

The season, already pushed back over a month due to the ongoing corona virus pandemic, has been shortened to just a six-game regular season schedule for most teams, including Nutley.

“Its been a rough, crazy year but we’ve been powering through,” said DiGregorio, who is now in his 13th season of the helm of the Raiders. “Being able to finally get these players on the field and compete was a time to cherish.”

And Nutley took full advantage of that competitive edge, scoring on its very first drive of the game.

Sophomore Brandon Lucia, making his first start, provided the first points of the season when he hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Harbison. West Side (0-1) answered on its ensuing possession to knot the score, 6-6.

Nutley (1-0) then wrested control in the second period, scoring 13 points to take a 19-6 lead into halftime.

Senior running back John Coppola ran in for one score for Nutley before Harbison scored his lone rushing touchdown on a 1-yard plunge.

Harbison, who was efficient in completing 6-of-8 passes for an even 100 yards, then tossed touchdown passes to  Mitchell Iccarino and Lucia in the third quarter as the Maroon Raiders took a 31-12 lead into the fourth quarter.

Nutley amassed 146 yards on the ground led by Coppola (52 yards on 19 carries), Harbison (48 yards on 13 carries), Gennaro Longobardi (33 yards on 14 carries) and Mitchell Iaccarino (13 yards on two carries).

“Our plan was to run the ball and keep control while also keeping them in check,” said DiGregorio. “And we did a great job of that with lots of guys getting touches. They’re a very good team and we were able to hold them to under 200 yards.

“We trusted our plan and were able to keep them in check,” added DiGregorio, who singled out Mike LaTorre, Alex French, Nick Polewka, Jordan DeFalco,  Bill Mielnicki and Nicholas Della Luna as stalwarts on defense. “Our defensive front played so well; just a great effort.

Nutley will now turn its attention to next Saturday, Oct. 10 when it will christen its refurbished Tangorra Field at the Park Oval when it hosts West Essex (1-0) at 1 p.m.

The Maroon Raiders were 5-5 a year ago, but won three of their final four games with its only loss in that span coming in the first round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament.

And while this season has been a challenge to all participating teams, Nutley is following all protocols set forth.

“You can only control so much but we’re following all of the rules,” said DiGregorio. “And what we’re working toward as a program is worth following those rules. The reality of the situation is that in a 24 hour day you can only monitor the kids for a couple hours. You hope they’re smart and keep things in check. That’s all you can do.”

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