Blue Knights Beat Millburn Millers
The loss to Livingston drops the team's record to 2-4. Here's a recap from Fifth Quarter Club Board Member Dave Abrams.
In arguably their best-played game of the season, the Millburn Millers dropped a heartbreaker to the visiting Irvington Blue Knights by a score of 12-7 on Saturday October 20 at Neigel Field in Millburn. The loss drops the Millers’ record to 2-4.
It was a game they could have won. If not for one strange sequence and several questionable penalty calls the score could easily have been reversed.
The Millers’ next game is away vs. Caldwell on Saturday Oct. 27. Gametime is scheduled for 1 p.m. Read more below.
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Irvington received the opening kickoff and made clear their intention to establish a ground attack, rushing on their first 7 plays from scrimmage, The Millburn defense forced the Blue Knights to punt from their own 49 yard line, but, in what was to be a theme for the day, the Millers were penalized, this time for an illegal block of the long snapper, an infraction called infrequently at best by most officials, and Irvington retained possession. A tough defensive stand led by Linemen Joe Weiner and Mac Novich, Linebackers Dan Grinshpun and Sam Brody, and newly inserted Defensive Back Milo Freeman halted the Irvington attack at the Miller 11, keeping the game scoreless. The first quarter ended with no blood drawn, tied at 0-0.
Millburn’s lone scoring play came midway through the second quarter. Following another tough defensive stand the Millers took over possession at their own 38. On their first play QB Freeman handed the ball off on a sweep to WR Jared Harris, who promptly pitched it to RB Alex Schoen on a reverse for a gain of 18 yards. But again Millburn was flagged for a penalty, this time for holding, and the run was negated, putting the ball back on the Miller 18, with 24 yards to go for a first down.
Two plays later, however, on 3rd and 21, Freeman faked a handoff to RB Steven Montuoro and, through a mammoth hole opened by Linemen Steven Stimmler and Sam Brody, raced 20 yards up the middle to set up a 4th and 1, which the Millers were able to pick up to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, Freeman, with pressure in his face, launched a 26 yard pass down the left sideline that WR Evan Steinfeld literally stole out the hands of the Irvington defender, and the Millers were in business at the Blue Knights’ 16. Another highly questionable penalty call on Millburn for a “chop-block” on the ensuing play set the Millers back 10 yards making it 1st and 20 from the Irvington 26.
On the next play Freeman noticed an uncovered Jared Harris, who had lined up slot right, and called an audible designed to take advantage. As he dropped back to pass, however, he was bumped by one of his teammates and, forced to pull the ball down, began to run up the middle, sprinting past a confused Irvington defense all the way into the end zone for a touchdown. Gabe Greenberg added the extra point and Millburn had a 7-0 lead with 6:04 remaining in the first half.
On Irvington’s next set of downs the Miller had backed the Blue Knights into a 3rd and 19 situation from their own 26 yard line. In a fluke play that was indeed the turning point of the game, DB Alex Schoen intercepted QB Rafael Nunez pass way back at the Miller 40, and returned the ball 20 yards back into Irvington territory, but Schoen was ruled to have fumbled before his knee hit the ground, and the Blue Knights not only got the ball back, but because of change of possession rule they got a fresh set of downs.
Eight plays later the Millers were hit with a disputed pass interference penalty, a clear gift to the Blue Knights, and four plays later with just 0:22 left in the half Nunez hit RB Devon Davis for an 8 yard scoring pass. The PAT attempt sailed wide left, and at intermission the Millers clung to a 7-6 advantage.
Millburn took the second half kickoff at midfield, but could advance no further than the Irvington 39. The Miller defense got the ball back almost immediately. Following a jarring tackle by Linebacker Brent Abrams on a 2nd and 4, Irvington was forced into a 3rd down passing situation. Left Outside Linebacker Evan Steinfeld blitzed and hit QB Nunez before he could get rid of the ball, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Mac Novich, and giving the Millers excellent field position at the Blue Knights’ 34. Unfortunately, the offense could advance no further.
Following an Irvington punt Millburn started with the ball on their own 45 yard line, but gained only 2 yards in 3 plays. On 4th down Gabe Greenberg dropped back to punt, and in a remarkable display of athleticism leapt to snag a high snap from center and booted the ball 35 yards downfield, while also drawing a penalty on Irvington for roughing the kicker.
So the Millers kept possession and now had the ball on the visitors’ 35 yard line with time running down in the third quarter. On 2nd and 15 (following a Millburn false-start penalty) from the 40, Freeman rolled to his left and threw a strike over the middle to Tight End Brent Abrams, who rumbled down to the Irvington 13, but in yet another clearly errant call Freeman was flagged for having crossed the line of scrimmage before throwing the ball, costing the Millers both a loss of down and distance. Replays showed that Freeman was completely behind the line when he delivered the pass, but unfortunately for Millburn there is no instant replay in High School football, so the penalty stood as called on the field. On the next play Freeman hit Jared Harris for 9 yards, and Harris was knocked (temporarily) out of the game by a vicious unpenalized helmet-to helmet hit from the Irvington defensive back. On 4th and 11 Freeman, under pressure again, threw to Abrams who made a diving catch, but it was 1 yard short of the first down, and Irvington took over on downs. All in all it was a wild third quarter.
Irvington’s winning drive was also marred by Miller penalties. A late hit call on the Millers’ defense put the Blue Knights at the Millburn 40 yard line, and on the ensuing play the referees inexplicably flagged the same defender for unnecessary roughness for knocking down an Irvington player as the Miller was on his way to tackle the ball carrier. This put the ball on the Miller 23, and 6 plays later Irvington RB Devon Davis ran in from 9 yards for his second TD of the afternoon. The 2-point conversion failed. With 4:29 remaining in the contest the Millers trailed 12-7.
Millburn took their final possession at their 30 yard line, and quickly moved the ball to the Irvington 39, courtesy of a 29 yard strike from Freeman to WR Gabe Greenberg. But the Millers shot themselves in the foot two plays later with a holding penalty that negated a Freeman first down run. It was a hole from which they could not recover.