Mountain Lakes football rolls into sectional final – Daily Record

The Mountain Lakes football might have won its first-round playoff game against Caldwell last week, but the Herd weren’t the least bit satisfied.

So they took it out on Ridgefield Park Friday night.

The defending section 2, Group II champions dominated from the outset and rolled to a 41-14 victory over their Bergen County visitors.

Mountain Lakes, winners of 23 straight games, will defend its title against the winner of today’s Madison-Lincoln game. The state championship game will be played at a site and date to be determined by the NJSIAA Sunday.

“Playing for a state championship has been our goal right from the beginning of the year,” senior standout Brian Olshanski said. “Obviously, we’re excited to take that next step.”

They sure played like it last night – a far cry from last week, when they trailed Caldwell by 14 points before storming back to win, 28-14.

“We talked about our last game on this field,” Olshanski said. “We wanted to shut the door on them early after our slow start last week.”

The Herd didn’t just shut the door on Ridgefield Park. They slammed it.

Whenever a big play was required in the first half Mountain Lakes came through with one.

Not a few big plays here and there. Almost every time.

And the visiting Scarlets didn’t know what hit them.

Mountain Lakes dominated on both sides of the ball right from the start with big plays on both offense and defense almost from the opening whistle.

Brad Landry broke off touchdown runs of 57 and 68 yards, quarterback Brad Smith added scoring runs of 12 and 15, and Jack Palazzi rushed for a 6-yard touchdown.

Defense? Mountain Lakes had big plays there, too.

Ridgefield Park took the opening kickoff and, on third-and-1, linebacker Sean Walsh hit Tayo Fatiregun behind the line for a 1-yard loss, forcing a punt.

On Mountain Lakes’ first play from scrimmage, Landry broke off a 57-yard touchdown on a sweep to the left side.

“We got off to that great start,” coach Darrell Fusco said. “Our kids came out flying. When we started out on that pace, we knew we were in for a big night. Thanks to coach Stanz (defensive coordinator Matt Stanzione) for that. Ridgefield Park had been moving the ball all year on people but our defense just stopped them.”

On Ridgefield Park’s next possession, Mountain Lakes’ Michael Aiello hit Fatiregun at the line for a 1-yard gain and the Scarlets soon punted.

A short time later, Lakes’ Ryan Decker and Anthony Smith set the tone for another Ridgefield Park three-and-out and the Herd took over on the visitors’ 37. Five plays later, Smith rolled left and sprinted to the pylon for a score, making it 14-0.

Later in the first quarter, Chiso Egbuchulam sacked QB Ryan Lamon for a 5-yard loss on third down and the Scarets then got off a 10-yard punt, putting the ball on the visitors 20. Five plays later, on the first play of the second quarter, Smith rolled left one more time and scored again.

Ridgefield Park’s best chance to score came late in the first half at the Mountain Lakes 5, but the Herd came up with four straight deflections on pass plays, including two by Davis Thompson and one each by Smith and one by Olshanski, who had caught a 42-yard pass later in the second half to set up Palazzi’s touchdown.

There was more of the same to begin the second half as Bobby Frawley of Mountain Lakes broke free for a 60-yard touchdown.

The return of Smith at quarterback from a midseason knee injury has given the offense a jolt. He played the entire second half of the Caldwell game and his two first-half touchdown runs were critical.

“He’s a difference maker,” Fusco said.

Ridgefield Park0 0 0 14 — 14

Mountain Lakes 14 20 7 0 — 41

M–Brad Landry 57 run (Zander Kotsen kick).

M–Brad Smith 12 run (Kotsen kick).

M–Smith 15 run (Kotsen kick).

M–Landry 68 run (Kotsen kick).

M–Jack Palazzi (kick failed).

M–Bobby Frawley 60 run (Kotsen kick).

R–Tayo Fatiregun 5 run (kick failed).

Dante Capurso 1 run (Elijah Carlos pass from Alex Pratissoli)

Team records — Mountain Lakes 11-0, Ridgefield Park 8-3.

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