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Glen Rock rallies in final minute to beat Lodi, 23-20, on Homecoming Day

Sapoff's TD run with 25.1 seconds remaining helps Panthers earn their third straight win

Glen Rock High School senior running back Matt Sapoff leaps in celebration after scoring the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of Glen Rock's 23-20 victory over Lodi in the 2017 Homecoming football game at Alan Deaett Field. Photo by Simon Toffell.

Homecoming Day games aren’t usually supposed to be this close, but Glen Rock fans didn’t seem to mind after the Panthers pulled out a thrilling, come-from-behind victory Saturday, scoring the winning touchdown in the final minute of the game to pull out a 23-20 win over Lodi at Alan Deaett Field.

Senior running back and team captain Matt Sapoff swept around the left corner for a three-yard scoring run with 25.1 seconds remaining to lift Glen Rock to its third consecutive victory and a .500 record on the season (3-3). It was Sapoff’s second touchdown of the game, and came after Lodi (1-5) had taken the lead on a long touchdown pass with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter.

After falling behind for the first time in the game, the Panthers went right to work. Junior Ashton Dalessio returned the ensuing kickoff to the Panthers’ 38-yard line, giving Glen Rock good field position, and senior quarterback Dom Patania, also a team captain, calmly started leading the team on the winning 15-play drive.

“That drive, and really, the entire game, was all about heart and being patient,’’ Glen Rock coach Jim Kurz told Glen Rock News Today. “We have been stressing all year that unity prevails – if you stick together, good things will happen. Kudos to our boys for sticking together and not panicking. This was a good ‘team’ win, and a character-building win as well. Things are not always going to be easy. Sometimes you will need to fight through adversity to get what you want.’’

After starting the season 0-3, the playoffs remain a real longshot for Glen Rock. But they have turned things around and are rolling in the right direction. They will try to extend their win streak in their next game on Friday, Oct. 27, away at Lyndhurst (3-3).

After runaway wins against Garfield and Palisades Park the last two weeks, Glen Rock took a 14-0 lead into halftime Saturday, thanks to short touchdown runs by Patania and Sapoff in the second quarter. But Lodi fought back and tied the score on a 66-yard touchdown pass and an 8-yard run in the third quarter. Glen Rock re-took the lead on a safety when senior defensive lineman Jimmy Gilmartin tackled the Lodi running back in the end zone, putting the Panthers up, 16-14 with 8:09 left in the game.

The lead did not hold up, but on Homecoming Day, the Panthers would not be denied. Kurz credited his senior captains – Patania, Sapoff, Gilmartin and receiver Drew Famularo – for allowing it to happen.

“Our four captains are who have kept us together,’’ Kurz said. “It’s because of them that we have the type of unity that we have.

“I’m pretty sure we would not have been able to climb out of that early hole we were in if not for the leadership of these four captains,’’ he said. “They have kept everyone together and made sure no one gave up after a rough September.’’

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