Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Highlands Finishes Job

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Highlands Finishes Job

Article excerpt

WAYNE - Northern Highlands played like a team that had waited a long time for the moment.

Taking the field in a playoff game for the first time since 2000, the Highlanders defeated Wayne Hills, 17-14, on Friday night, holding off a late charge by the Patriots that would have doomed Highlander teams in the past.

"That's the old Highlands, that's the Highlands that can't finish," Highlanders quarterback Bobby Brown said. "Those guys had a chance, but we left it all out here. I won't have any regrets when I wake up this morning."

Northern Highlands had five interceptions, but the game wasn't over until Jack Castiglia and Rob Hinchen cradled a Wayne Hills onside kick with 19 seconds left to seal the North 1, Group 4 opening-round victory.

"We practice the heck out of [the] hands team like every other program does, and we did a great job of securing the football," Highlanders coach Chris Locurto said. "My hats are off to [Hills coach] Wayne [Demikoff] and his players, they are a very physical team."

The Patriots were also a team that struggled offensively until the final few minutes.

The Highlanders' defense was fierce and had a goal-line stand with 9:40 left in the fourth quarter that, in hindsight, may have been the difference, as Hinchen batted down a fourth-down pass from the Highlanders' 3-yard line.

"Our defense has performed at levels I have never seen them play," Brown said. "That was just ... I'm speechless."

"We played great," Locurto said. "Our defense has been our mainstay, our offense, the way they produce so many yards and points, I think our defense doesn't get enough credit. We've done that all year long."

Even after that goal-line stand, the Patriots wouldn't back down. Wayne Hills quarterback Justin DeGroat hit Erik Martinez for a 20- yard touchdown pass to make it 17-7 with 6:40 left. Highlands got one first down, but then had to punt. The next Patriots drive ended in an interception.

Northern Highlands got the ball back with 2:27 left, but couldn't make a first down and had to punt again. …

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