Old Bridge rallies to beat Monroe in exciting season opener

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Old Bridge High School quarterback Owen Haughney takes the snap out of the pistol formation during the team's game against Monroe on October 2. Haughney rushed for two touchdowns in Old Bridge's 21-14 victory over Monroe.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monroe Township High School quarterback Aidan McLaughlin tosses a 60-yard pass to wide receiver Zephaniah Grant during the team's game against Old Bridge on October 2. McLaughlin threw for 190 yards in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Old Bridge High School player Josh Ntim punts the ball away during the team's game against Monroe on October 2. Old Bridge defeated Monroe 21-14.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monroe Township High School running back Tyler Scott dives ahead for a first down during the team's game against Old Bridge on October 2. Scott had two rushing touchdowns in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Old Bridge High School quarterback Owen Haughney takes the snap out of the pistol formation during the team's game against Monroe on October 2. Haughney rushed for two touchdowns in Old Bridge's 21-14 victory over Monroe.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monroe Township High School quarterback Aidan McLaughlin tosses a 60-yard pass to wide receiver Zephaniah Grant during the team's game against Old Bridge on October 2. McLaughlin threw for 190 yards in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Old Bridge High School player Josh Ntim punts the ball away during the team's game against Monroe on October 2. Old Bridge defeated Monroe 21-14.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monroe Township High School running back Tyler Scott dives ahead for a first down during the team's game against Old Bridge on October 2. Scott had two rushing touchdowns in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

MONROE – The opening night contest between the Old Bridge High School and Monroe Township High School football teams detailed the thrills and excitement of having high school football back in action.

Under the lights at Hugh P. Walsh Field on Oct. 2, Old Bridge and Monroe duked it out in a game that brought excitement, a thrilling comeback and a nail biting finish.

When the clock hit zero, it was the Knights coming away with a 21-14 victory over Monroe, rallying back from down seven in the fourth quarter to win their season opener.

The game was something Old Bridge Coach Anthony Lanzafama thought might not be in the cards back in June because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you asked me back in March, April, May or June, I would have said no shot,” Lanzafama said.

“The way things worked out in the summertime and getting in some workouts, you thought maybe there’s a chance you could play. I’m just fortunate we got a chance to compete. I’m happy for the guys. They waited so long to play.”

It was just last week when Old Bridge had issues getting back its COVID-19 test results, costing them their one and only scrimmage leading up to Monroe.

Lanzafama admits it was in the back of everyone’s minds that the season opener could be in jeopardy and why you have to be thankful for every day and every opportunity you have to compete.

That has been the message Lanzafama has instilled into this team this season and the coach saw his club make the most of that opportunity against Monroe by coming back to win the game.

Trailing by 14-7 with a little over eight minutes left to play, a fumble recovery by Giancarlo Cangro got Old Bridge the ball back at its own 14 yard-line.

Junior quarterback Owen Haughney then hooked up with his wide receiver Jake McAleavey for two completions that totaled 87 yards and helped set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Lawrence Hunter that cut the Old Bridge deficit to 14-13.

On defense, McAleavey had one of the three Old Bridge interceptions in the contest.

Haughney put the finishing touches on the comeback by scoring the go-ahead touchdown with a minute to play on a 3-yard quarterback sneak for his second score of the game.

After working hard all offseason with the unknown of what would transpire this fall, Haughney was just happy to be back playing the game he loves under the lights.

“It was great to be under lights and I’m so happy that we were able to get out on the field and play,” Haughney said. “We never gave up on the game and kept our heads up. We just went out there and executed.”

Opening night was a special night for Monroe as the team honored all 22 of its senior players before the game with Senior Night festivities.

One of the largest senior classes the team has had in recent years, Coach Dan Lee was happy that the team and the school were able to have the chance to honor the seniors during these uncertain times.

Lee said his team is fortunate not to have had any coronavirus related issues and that the athletes are following the protocols very well.

Monroe saw its junior tailback Tyler Scott have a great game out of the backfield, scoring a pair of rushing touchdowns in the season opening loss.

Senior quarterback Aidan McLaughlin had a nice game through the air for the Falcons, throwing for 190 yards in the contest. His longest completion came on a 60-yard pass to classmate Zephaniah Grant that set up Scott’s first touchdown in the second quarter.

Senior Jagger Agnew had eight catches for 109 yards in the game for Monroe.

Like every football coach in the state during the pandemic, Lee understands that no one knows what tomorrow will hold and that having the chance to prepare and play a football game is something he and his players are thankful for.

“It was such a blessing to be on the field during these crazy times,” Lee said. “We weren’t sure if we were going to get there, so we’re very thrilled that we got there and the kids were able to play and that’s what we’re thankful for.”