After a brief period of nail-biting, the town of Wayne belongs to Valley.
Wayne Valley had spent the last two decades outside the spotlight, while being looked upon as the little brother in its cross-town football rivalry. The team had not beaten powerhouse Wayne Hills since 1991 and entered Friday night’s contest as the underdog once again.
Only this time, things finally went the Indians’ way. Senior quarterback Luke Primerano anchored a strong offensive attack and receiver Anthony Biondi hauled in a game-changing touchdown late in the second quarter as Wayne Valley got off to a hot start and eventually escaped with a stunning, 23-17 triumph.
One week after Wayne Hills star Kevin Olsen -- a Miami commit who is one of the top signal-callers in America -- suffered a season-ending broken foot, the Patriots were stymied by a swarming Wayne Valley defense for the better part of three quarters and likely coughed up their No. 6 spot in the MSG Varsity Tri-State Top 25 poll despite an inspiring comeback.
"We came out like we had something to play for," Wayne Valley running back Anthony Landberg said. "We ran the ball well and we just came to play. That's it. We did it for Wayne Valley. We are here."
Olsen suffered the devastating injury in the third quarter of last Friday night's 56-7 victory over Northern Highlands on a running play. He threw for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
The subject of the MSG Varsity original documentary "New Jersey's Last Patriot", the 6-foot-3 star finished with 1,686 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, so it's little wonder Wayne Hills was scrambling for answers at practice this week. And it is left doing the same after absorbing a Week 2 drubbing.
Scheduled to be sidelined at least 6-8 weeks, Olsen is uncertain whether he'll return in time if the Patriots -- who have won seven of the last eight sectional titles -- qualify for the North 1 Group 4 playoffs.
Anybody familiar with high school football in New Jersey would safely assume the complexion of Wayne Hills' offense would look different without Olsen. But on a night the Pats were held to -2 rushing yards and 11 total yards in the first half, we found out how different.
Wayne Valley took advantage of its shorthanded opponent and captured the momentum early on. Junior Justin DeGroat was never comfortable in his first start under center, and strong play in the trenches paved the way for Valley to scoop up a fumble on the 1-yardline on Wayne Hills’ first possession. Landberg took the ensuing hand-off and punched it in for a 6-0 lead with 7:32 left in the first.
Primerano inflated the cushion to 13-0 when he scrambled for a 6-yard touchdown run.
After a 30-yard field goal gave the Indians a 16-0 advantage early in the second, they continued to pour it on. Primerano connected with Biondi on a 38-yard scoring strike with 5:14 left before the half, and Valley took a 23-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
"That felt amazing," said Biondi, who suffered a minor knee injury last week, but was cleared to play on Wednesday. "It felt so good."
Cristian Rodriguez finally got the Patriots on the board when he notched a 2-yard touchdown midway through the third. A 31-yard field goal in the fourth handed Wayne Hills some momentum and Robbie Schiller's 19-yard touchdown brought his team within six points with 3:05 left, but Wayne Valley held on for the highly magnified win.
If the Patriots plan on suiting up for meaningful games in November and early December, they will need to rattle off wins during an upcoming stretch that includes tilts against Tenafly, St. Joseph Regional, Teaneck, Pascack Valley and Passaic Valley.
On the other side, however, things are looking up for Wayne Valley. One week after cruising past West Milford, 24-12, the Indians took another step toward erasing the bitter memories of last campaign’s 3-7 record.
Even sweeter, they captured the town's bragging rights along the way.
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter