John Essex wins in overtime

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 3, 2005

In an instant classic filled with tremendous guts, big momentum swings, and huge plays on both sides, John Essex made one final play to top archrival Linden 22-20 in overtime.

After regulation play finished with the teams deadlocked at 14, Essex took first possession and capitalized in overtime. Darnell Edwards found a crease on the right side of the line and scored standing up from six yards out. Chris Jones bulled his way in for the two-point conversion and the Hornets led 22-14.

Linden faced a do-or-die fourth-and-five after a second-down incomplete pass was sandwiched by short runs by Marvin Richardson and replacement quarterback Jared Jackson on first and third downs. But after a timeout starting QB Darnell Richardson came off the bench to sweep right and stretch the ball just inside the pylon to bring Linden within two.

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The Patriot coaches called the same play for the two-point conversion, but with Richardson sweeping left instead. This time he was met by two Essex defenders at the 1 and fell just short of the goal line, preserving Essex’s two-point victory and sparking a raucous celebration from the Essex supporters in attendance.

The game’s conclusion spoiled a tremendous fourth-quarter rally by the Patriots. Linden looked finished after being stopped on downs in Essex territory with less than eight minute to play in the game, thanks to a sack of Jackson by Demetrius Branch. But Linden scored two quick touchdowns to tie the score with 4:47 left.

After the Linden D forced a Hornet 3-and-out, Jackson completed a 32-yard pass to Christopher Martin to set the Patriots up on the Essex 16. Two plays later Jackson lofted a pass into the end zone that two Linden receivers, Marcus Catlin and Sean Richardson, made a play for. One of them came down with the ball and despite the missed two-point conversion Linden was back in the game.

After kickoff the Hornets faced a third-and-12. Desperate for a first down to keep the clock moving, the Hornets sent QB Keniote Phillips back to pass. But his throw was picked off by Martin, who returned the interception 28 yards untouched to cut the margin to 14-12. Jackson hit Maurice Tate out of the backfield with a short pass for the conversion and a tie ball game with less than five minutes to play.

After another Essex punt, Linden had a chance to win the game in regulation. A 39-yard bomb from Jackson to Sean Richardson brought the Patriots to the Essex 27 and a short Jackson run gave Linden a first-down on the 16. But just as it seemed the Hornets would run out of gas they forced three straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs with less than 30 seconds remaining, taking the teams to overtime.

The Hornets had built their lead largely on the outstanding performance of running back Chris Jones. Linden began the second half down 6-0 but used several big runs by Marvin Richardson to reach the Essex 34 before Jones recovered a fumble to regain possession. Jones then ran three consecutive times for a first down and after a penalty left Essex in a second-and-20 hole, the junior burst up the middle after a quick count for a 68-yard touchdown. He then capped the series by shaking off several tacklers to plow in for the two-point conversion and a 14-0 lead.

The first half was dominated by defense with neither team getting much going offensively, in large part to several tackles for loss and sacks by Jones and Linden defensive end Marcus Catlin. Essex did capitalize on excellent field position late in the first quarter after turning Linden over on downs at their own 48. Edwards raced 22 yards to set Essex up at the Patriot 20 and three plays later Phillips snuck in from the 3 for the opening score.

Linden will look to rebound next week against Akron while Essex will face Sunshine.