The drama wasn’t as thick as last season’s championship thriller, but Wayne Hills will take it.
One year after pulling off a remarkable comeback in the waning seconds of the North 1 Group 3 title game, the Patriots rallied once again against the same foe and came out on top of a 15-12 nail-biter over Old Tappan Saturday night at MetLife Stadium.
Jeff Gignac scored two touchdowns – including the game-winning catch with 3:05 left in the fourth quarter – to help the Patriots erase a 12-point halftime deficit and clinch their seventh state crown in eight years.
“Knowing I could contribute, it’s awesome,” Gignac said. “I just jumped up for (the winning grab) and I knew I had to get it.”
In the 2010 edition of championship weekend’s finale, Wayne Hills trailed Old Tappan in the last seconds, but was lifted to victory when running back Brian Dowling was wrapped up in a kick-return attempt and shoveled the ball to Troy Zaffino, who raced the length of the field and pulled off the New Meadowlands Miracle.
Such fireworks weren’t needed this time, but the Patriots still were faced with adversity in the last quarter. Trailing 12-7 late, quarterback Kevin Olsen found Gignac for a 25-yard scoring strike and connected with Mike Guarino for the two-point conversion to put his team up for good.
“(Gignac) has been around all year,” Olsen said of the role-player receiver. “I guess he just waited for the biggest game to make the biggest play.”
Before those heroics, Wayne Hills had very little going in its favor. Opposing quarterback Devin Fuller, one of the most electric playmakers to ever grace a Garden State high school field, scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in the first half to hand his seventh-seeded Golden Knights a 12-0 advantage.
Gignac finally put the Patriots on the board with five minutes left in the third, when he scampered into the end zone from four yards out. The defense took care of the rest, ultimately forcing Fuller to fumble twice and throw two interceptions.
“I’m so proud of these guys for staying focused on the task at hand,” coach Chris Olsen said. “Old Tappan is a great football team and it was a privilege to play them.”
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter