The win enabled the Red Wings (9-3) to successfully defend the North 2, Group I title they won a year ago, giving the school consecutive state championships for the third time in the school’s history.
The state title was the ninth in the school’s history, extending Hoboken’s own county record. The school previously won state titles in 1980, 1994 through 1996, then 1998 and 1999, 2005, last year and this one.
Hoboken scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery in the second quarter, when Jarius Mills alertly scooped up a bad snap on a punt attempt and ran it in for the score.
The game remained tied at 7-7 for most of the game and for all intents and purposes, it appeared as if the game was headed into overtime.
“I said to my assistant (John Peluso) that in nine years of being a head coach, I’d never been in an overtime game,” said Hoboken head coach Lou Taglieri, who secured his third state title as a head coach with the win. “He said, `Well, it looks like this one is going to be your first.’”
But with less than a minute to play, Hoboken quarterback Donte Bass, who was knocked out of action earlier in the game with an ankle injury, connected on a clutch pass to DeShawn Reed for 68 yards down to the Shabazz 12-yard-line with just 33 seconds remaining.
On the first play, Mercado broke loose, but fumbled the ball at the 2-yard line. He was fortunate enough to fall on the fumble, giving the Red Wings hope.
Mercado then took it in untouched from the 1-yard line for the game-winning score.
The win caps an incredible season for the Red Wings, who had to overcome a series of injuries and illnesses, including major gall bladder surgery for the head coach.
“You don’t expect it, but this team had the will to win,” Taglieri said. “They knew they were going there to win the state championship. It’s almost surreal.” Jim Hague
You can read a more in-depth view of the Hoboken state championship victory in next Sunday’s editions of the Hudson Reporter. –Jim Hague