Rutherford is putting it all together

Nick Lora scored three times for Rutherford, which improved to 3-0 with a 44-17 win over Lodi on Friday night.

RUTHERFORD – With standout quarterback Van Weber back for his senior season and Ryan Ward emerging as one of the top two-way stars in the NJIC, Rutherford came into the season with confidence. Along with several skill positions and lineman returning, there was no doubt that this team could build off last year’s success when they won the NJIC championship and advanced to the North 1, Group 2 final.

The only question mark was who would carry the load in the backfield and pick up the tough yards, especially around the goal line? Facing an upstart Lodi team, the Bulldogs found the answer to that question.

After scoring just two touchdowns over his first 13 varsity games, Nick Lora busted out with a career night. The bruising sophomore ran hard every time he touched the ball and was rewarded for his efforts. He hit paydirt three times as Rutherford cruised to a 44-17 victory on Friday night over Lodi at Tryon Field.

The Rutherford student body packed the house decked out in Hawaiian garb to make it a fun atmosphere. Rutherford fed off that energy and got the crowd going by saying ‘Aloha’ to the end zone on their first two drives. Weber showed off his arm with a perfect strike on an out route to Danny Carr for a 13-yard scoring strike.

“The thing we always preach around here is about having energy,” said Weber. “When you see the energy like we had in the student section tonight it definitely helped us out. We took advantage of our opportunities early and set the tone.”

Jordan Engram had Lodi's biggest play of the game, a 52-yard run on a double reverse.

Lodi quarterback Evan Kuhl completed four of his first five passes over the first two drives, but both of those drives stalled out. After sack by Rutherford’s Louis Morella, Lora showed a hard-nosed running style that is taylor-made for playoff football. He kept his legs churning and gained extra yards all night long. Lora bulled his way into the end zone from three yards out to make it 14-0.

The highlight for Lodi (2-2) came on the ensuing possession. A double reverse worked to perfection with Jordan Engram’s 52-yard jaunt all the way down to the Rutherford 3. Kuhl scored on the next play to cut the lead to 14-6.

It did not take long for the Bulldogs to respond. Weber threw one deep up the seam that Ward hauled in despite tight coverage from the Rams. It led to another TD run from three yards out by Lora as the Bulldogs regained control heading into halftime with a 21-6 lead.

“I’m just trusting my line and running as hard as I can every time I get the chance to,” said Lora. “You never know what happens on any given play. Every time I carry the ball, I know I have a chance to break out and make something happen. It’s all about improving and helping the team, that’s what I try to do every week.”

Any hopes for a Lodi comeback were quickly dashed. When given time, Weber can sling it all over the field. The O-line gave him time and he found his big target in Ward to put the game away. The Bulldogs took the ball to start the second half and marched right down the field with Ward catching a 5-yard TD pass from Weber. Then on the next series, He rolled out and hit Ward in the back of the end zone from 22 yards out. Lora then capped his breakout performance with his third rushing TD of the night.

Rutherford QB Van Weber had two TD passes to up his season total to 10 in just three games.

“Losing in the section final last year left a sour taste in all of our mouths,” added Weber. “We’ve set a goal of reaching past that and finishing it off. We’re a very hungry, very dangerous team. We’re happy but we’re not satisfied.”

Weber now has 10 TD passes on the season for Rutherford (3-0). With two more in this game, Ward has hauled in half of those TD tosses. Defensively, Matt Scheibe led the way with 11 tackles.

Rutherford will face Garfield next week before a showdown with Glen Rock and a berth in the NJIC playoffs on the line. The Bulldogs were basking in the glory of seeing the student body going crazy for them following the game, but as the crowd filed out, the mood changed as this team immediately shifted their focus on the big picture.

“This was a great night tonight, but we have a lot of stuff we have to clean up,” said Ward, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound junior who has recently attracted some attention from Power 5 schools Rutgers, where his brother Evan plays, and Boston College. “We did some good things tonight but we’re still making small mistakes that we must eliminate. It always feels good to get a ‘W’ but the job isn’t finished. We have a long way to go. We’ll get in the film room, clean some stuff up, and get ready for next week.”