When Glen Rock High School football coach Jim Kurz gathered his team on Monday, after its humbling loss to unbeaten Rutherford over the weekend, his message was simple.
Don’t panic, Kurz told his players.
It was just one loss, Kurz said. It wasn’t the end of the world. The important thing would be how the players would respond in the next game, against Manchester.
Aedan Clark responded in the biggest way possible.
Clark, a senior wide receiver, approached Kurz and told him how disappointed he had been in his own play, and he promised he would work harder and be better. Then Clark went out on Homecoming Day and caught three touchdown passes, helping Glen Rock to rebound from the Rutherford loss with a 40-14 victory over Manchester on Saturday at Alan Deaett Field.
“Up until (Saturday) he had (three) catches in the first four games,’’ Kurz said of the 6-foot-5 Clark. “He said he would work a little bit harder. It’s one thing to say it, but he went out and did it.’’
Clark had seven catches on the day, for 115 yards, as the favorite target of quarterback Greg Schlett, who threw for 313 yards and five TDs in his return to the starting lineup. Schlett had missed almost the entire week of practice leading up to the Rutherford game and couldn’t start that game. But he was healthy last week and practiced fully all week, which was a boost for the Panthers.
Glen Rock (4-1) needed a fast start to rebuild its confidence against the visiting Falcons (0-4), who the Panthers knew were a better team than their record suggested. Manchester had lost its previous game by two points, lost the game before that on a late field goal, and had lost its first game to Rutherford. So when the Panthers scored on their opening possession – on an eight-yard pass from Schlett to Clark – it was just what the doctor ordered for the Panthers.
“After a loss, you’re feeling pressure, and that (early score) took some pressure off,’’ Kurz said.
The extra point try failed, though, and Manchester answered that touchdown with one of their own that put them in front, 7-6. Glen Rock responded with another touchdown pass from Schlett, this one to Ashton Dalessio, and then, on Manchester’s next possession, junior defensive back Owen Stephenson intercepted a pass to give the Panthers the ball back. Schlett then hit Clark on a 64-yard catch-and-run touchdown to put Glen Rock up, 20-7 before the end of the first quarter. The Panthers would cruise from there.
Anthony Scotto, on a 66-yard reception, and Seve Bilbao, on an 18-yard run, scored the next two touchdowns for Glen Rock. After Manchester scored its second touchdown late in the third quarter, to pull within 33-14, Clark’s third touchdown, on a 5-yard reception, put the game away.
Kurz made a point to say that while Schlett and Clark would get most of the headlines, many other players made major contributions. Senior Pierce Tuttle had 12 tackles and a sack, and fellow senior Sam Pintel had 10 tackles. Stephenson had nine, and two interceptions. Kurz called it a total team win.
“That’s exactly what you want to see after a loss,’’ he said.
The Panthers are off this weekend and return to action Oct. 13 at Lodi.