Football team beats Sparta, earns spot in championship at MetLife Stadium


Courtesy of Ed Piehler

Football team celebrates after its win against Sparta. They will play River Dell at MetLife Stadium Friday, December 3rd.

The journey began in March with offseason training started. That journey consisted of many obstacles along the way, however, the NVOT football team has finally reached its destination: MetLife Stadium.

Last Saturday afternoon, the Golden Knights defeated Sparta 34-30 in the North 1, Group 3 semifinals. The game was a back and forth thriller that began with NVOT jumping out to a quick 19-0 lead in the early second quarter due to two touchdown passes from senior quarterback Jack Bilali to junior wide receiver Sal DeBendetto of 65 and 56 yards, in addition to a two yard touchdown run by senior Erik Slater.

Bilali said, “We got off to a great start. We were confident and felt good early in the game.”

However, the lead did not last long. The high-powered Sparta offense, which had averaged 45 points a game, began to take over. The Spartans scored three consecutive touchdowns to take a 20-19 lead into halftime. Their momentum continued early in the second half as Sparta recorded a field goal and a touchdown to take a 30-19 lead as they had scored 30 straight points.

Facing great adversity, the Golden Knights needed to turn it around. Bilali said, “We were playing to keep our season going so we had to give everything to come back.”

Late in the third quarter, Bilali found senior wide receiver Chris Passante who made a shoestring catch and dove into the end zone to cap off the drive with a 10-yard score. After getting the two point conversion, the score was 30-27 going into the fourth quarter.

The momentum was shifting towards NVOT as they now had a bounce in their step. After recording a stop against the Sparta offense, the Golden Knights had a chance to take the lead, and they did just that. Bilali found an open Passante streaking down the right sideline who took it all the way for the 46 yard touchdown giving NVOT the 34-30 lead.

Passante, who finished with 80 yards receiving and two touchdowns said, “[Sparta’s players] were double teaming Sal [DeBendetto] so I was able to get single coverage and make some plays.”

From there, the Golden Knights needed one more stop to secure the win. After Sparta drove to the 20-yard line, Slater and senior linebacker James Kelly made  sacks putting the Spartans in a 4th and 18 situation where they were unable to convert.

The win puts NVOT in the North 1, Group 3 championship game against River Dell. The team will try and make it back-to-back titles as they play under the lights at MetLife Stadium on Saturday December 3rd at 7pm.

Passante said, “This is the place we’ve been trying to get to all season. Now we’ve got to go finish the job.”