For the Glen Rock High School football team, the matchup against winless Palisades Park-Leonia Friday at Alan Deaett Field was the very definition of a “trap game.’’ Not only were the Tigers 0-9 last season and 0-1 this season coming in, but undefeated rival Rutherford loomed next week, so it would have been totally understandable if some Panthers players might have mentally skipped ahead to next week’s showdown.
Except they hadn’t. Senior captain Ashton Dalessio returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown to get things started and Glen Rock never looked back, rolling to a 42-6 victory that improved the Panthers to 3-0 on the season, a reversal of last year’s 0-3 start.
The jumpstart by Dalessio, who had three touchdowns in last week’s 28-14 victory over Garfield, helped focus the Panthers right away, and Glen Rock coach Jim Kurz was happy to have it.
“That’s always a good way to start, when you have 7 points on the board a couple seconds into the game,’’ Kurz said. “We were looking for that spark. We’re happy that we got going and it continued throughout the rest of the game.’’
Dalessio actually scored the Panthers’ first two touchdowns in the game – he added a 38-yard rushing touchdown that made it 14-0, and the Panthers got an interception return touchdown from Greg Schlett and a rushing touchdown from senior running back Seve Bilbao as they took a 28-0 lead in the first quarter.
The big early lead allowed Kurz to rest some key players nursing minor injuries – kicker/wide receiver/cornerback Justin Douenias sat out the game and senior captain Pierce Tuttle played only a few plays – while getting many backups and younger players some valuable varsity game action. Schlett, the quarterback, played just one quarter, as Kurz turned to backups Owen Stephenson and Ty Scherer the rest of the way. Each scored a rushing touchdown in the game.
“We got a lot of young guys in, which is really awesome,’’ Kurz said. “A lot of guys got to play, and a lot of guys got to contribute.’’
One player who contributed in a big way was junior kicker Matt Theuerkauf, who hit six extra points in six tries (he actually hit seven, as a Glen Rock penalty forced one PAT to be retaken) and sent all his kickoffs deep throughout the game, consistently pinning Palisades Park-Leonia deep in their own end.
“We don’t just have one kicker,’’ Kurz said. “We don’t just have one quarterback. We try to create depth, and Justin (Douenias) needed a little bit of a break and we were very, very confident in Matt Theuerkauf jumping in there and doing what he did. And that was nice to see. He deserves it, because he works really hard, and obviously Justin’s really good, but I think everyone saw today that Matt’s pretty good – or more than pretty good. And it’s a nice thing we got going, to know that we have two weapons like that as kickers.’’