Piotr Partyla, the state's leading rusher, led the way with 22 carries for 175 yards as Lyndhurst reached the section final for the second straight year with a 28-14 win over Mahwah in the North 1, Group 2 semifinals.
LYNDHURST – Game on the line, ball thrown his way, it was right where Lyndhurst’s Daizae Tucker wanted to be. With Mahwah threatening to tie the game inside the final minute in the North 1, Group 2 state sectional semifinal, the senior cornerback knew it was his time to step and make a play.
Tucker picked off a pass at the nine-yard line then ran it all the way back 91 yards for a touchdown as time expired to send top-seeded Lyndhurst back to the section final with a 28-14 win over fourth-seeded Mahwah on Friday night at Lyndhurst High School.
“I sat on the sticks and just read the quarterback's eyes when he dropped back,” said Tucker. “He had a really good arm but didn't look off of his receivers. So wherever he was looking that's where he was going. I jumped the route and pulled the ball in. Once I saw green in front of me, I had to go until there wasn't any green left.”
Lyndhurst’s Piotr Partyla has received plenty of attention from opposing defenses this season. Mahwah stacked the box throughout the night and forced the Golden Bears into a third-and-11 from midfield on their first drive. With a physical, fast runner like Partyla, however, it takes just one play to set the tone of a game. He used a block from James Blake to go through a huge hole up the middle for a 50-yard TD with Michael Failace booting the PAT to give Lyndhurst a 7-0 lead.
Mahwah answered back early in the second quarter by taking advantage of good field position. Kyle Teel hit Ryan Cabrera for an 11-yard gain on a third-and-nine. Two plays later, he lofted a pass that Cabrera somehow came down with in traffic for a 14-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7.
Quarterback Kyle Teel had 180 yards of total offense for Mahwah, which finished its season with a 7-3 record.
It looked the score would remain that way going into halftime until an Ismail Ay picked off a Teel pass and returned it to the Mahwah 30-yard line. The Golden Bears struck just three plays later with Partyla going in from five yards out to make it 14-7 Lyndhurst heading into the second half.
The Golden Bears got the ball to start the second half and once again set the tone. Partyla got the corner around the left side and went up the sideline for a 51-yard score on the very first play of the third quarter before tossing a two-point conversion to John Rodriguez for a 22-7 lead.
But on the Golden Bears' next series, the do-everything Partyla came off the field with an ankle injury and the Thunderbirds sensed a chance to get back in the game. Following a Lyndhurst fumble, they struck quickly. Nick Petelkian's hard-nosed 10-yard run found paydirt to make it a one-possession game, 22-14, late in the third quarter.
Partyla returned to the game in the fourth quarter, but only on the offense. Mahwah got the ball back with 6:04 to play at its own 20-yard line and put together an impressive, albeit time-consuming drive. Teel used his big arm in the pocket to pick up a pair of fourth-down conversions that kept the drive alive. But as the clock ticked inside the final minute, the T-Birds still needed 27 yards to reach the end zone. They nearly got it all on one play. On third-and-10, Antonio Simone had a step on Tucker on a backside post but the throw was just off-line to bring up fourth down.
Tucker knew he had to make up for it and did so on the biggest play of the game. Simone tried a post-corner with Teel lofted up towards the pilon. Tucker did not bite on the double move and was in perfect position as the ball came his way. Not only did he leap up to pick off the pass, he went all the way across the field and up the sideline, crossing the goal line as time expired with his teammates mobbing him as Lyndhurst headed back to the section final for the second year in a row.
Partyla, who leads the state in rushing yards with over 2,000 on the season, led the way with 22 carries for 175 yards for Lyndhurst (10-0). Rodriguez picked it up off defensively with five tackles and two interceptions.
“Ever since we lost to Rutherford in the section final last year, our focus has been on getting back to the final and winning it,” said Partyla. “We've been motivated from the day after we lost that game up until right now. We all pick each other up and that's what this team is about.”
Teel had 180 yards of total offense and Petelkian finished with 90 yards rushing for Mahwah (7-3).
The Golden Bears will get one last game on their home field next Friday in the North 1, Group 2 final where they will face off against second-seeded Parsippany in a game that has been on the minds of the players and coaching staff all season long.
“We have created a culture here with the coaching staff and these kids have busted their butts to get back to this point,” said Lyndhurst head coach Rich Tuero. “But now we've worked to the point where we expect to be here. This is a program that wants to win championships year in and year out. We're really happy we came out with a 'W' over a good team, but we don't have time to celebrate just yet. I'm going to watch film right now and we're practicing in the morning. This is the time of year we live for here in Lyndhurst.”
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