EAST RUTHERFORD - The look on Chris Olsen's face summed up what the entire Wayne Hills' sideline was feeling.
BRINGING IT HOME - Wayne Hills' Roberto Alvarez, left, and Peter Daibes, center, celebrate with teammates after the Patriots edged Old Tappan in last Saturday night's North I, Group III State championship game at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford. After leading the Golden Knights the entire game, including a 14-0 halftime lead, the Wayne Hills' defense allowed Old Tappan to score the go-ahead touchdown in what appeared to seal the Bergen-County based school's first State sectional title in 25 years. GAME CHANGER - Tailback Brian Dowling finished with 194 yards and two touchdowns in his final game in a Wayne Hills' uniform to deliver the Patriots to its first sectional title since the 2008 season. With only one chance left in the Patriots' tank to pull off a miracle finish and Old Tappan set to deliver what seemed to be the formal ensuing kickoff, fate stepped in and delivered the Patriots into State schoolboy football history. With all-purpose senior tailback Brian Dowling hanging deep in Wayne Hills' territory hoping for a chance Old Tappan would kick the ball somewhere in his direction, the Wayne Hills' sideline and all the faithful jammed in the stand s collectively held their breath and looked up to plead to a higher power to step in and deliver an early Christmas gift. In a shocking twist that left onlookers stunned, the Old Tappan kicker directed his kick toward Dowling, who fielded the ball on his own 13-yard line and was wrapped up almost immediately by Old Tappan defenders on the 24-yard line. In what is arguably the greatest State championship game ever played in New Jersey High School football history, the final play drew criticism with naysayers protesting the game-winning touchdown.


Dowling (30 carries, 194 yards) got the Patriots off to a good start with a pair of first-half touchdowns on runs of 3 and 6 yards, respectively to give Wayne Hills a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
In the second quarter, Fuller had closed the Golden Knights to within seven points when he dashed in from 15 yards out just moments after hitting wide receiver Jeff Pinelli on a 41-yard pass play. In the fourth quarter, the Golden Knights (11-1) got a pair of touchdowns in the final period, with the last coming when 6-foot-3 wide receiver Martinez dashed 15 yards to the end zone for Old Tappan's first lead of the night in what appeared to be the game-winning score.
Old Tappan pulled within three at 17-14 when fullback Keith Rodman capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive when he sprinted 17 yards for the Golden Knights' second touchdown of the game with 8:30 remaining. The Wayne Hills' veteran football coach stared in disbelief just seconds after Old Tappan took a 21-17 lead with just under 23 seconds to play in the North I, Group III State title game at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford. Just before falling, a calm and collective Dowling lateraled to teammate Troy Zaffino, who swept around the left side of the field virtually untouched and raced 87 yards down the sideline to give the Patriots an improbable, 24-21 victory in front of 7,500 stunned fans. Old Tappan head coach Brian Dunn and the rest of the Golden Knights' supporters argued that a referee close to the spot where Dowling fielded the ball blew a whistle stopping the clock believing that Dowling was ruled down or in the grasp.
Classmate Mike Driesse atoned for a pair of missed field goals that went wide by drilling a three pointer from 27 yards out just before the end of the half to send the Patriots into the intermission with a 17-7 lead.


It was the first touchdown the Wayne Hills' defense allowed in nearly 10 quarters of postseason play. The drive was kept alive when Martinez made a one-handed catch for a 17-yard gain and a critical first down.
The Patriots received key contributions from a host of defenders, including Nick Masi who had 11 combined tackles, Daibes (9 tackles) and James Hogan (8 tackles). The claims, however, fell on deaf ears as it appeared that no-one stopped action and no referee staked claim at blowing what now seems to be a phantom whistle. The Patriots controlled Fuller all night by limiting him to only 86 yards on 25 rushes, well below his season average.
A total of five Patriots got to Fuller to record sacks as Hogan, Daibes, Roberto Alvarez and Matt Greenfield had two sacks each.



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