SPARTA — It was a night to make history and a big statement for the Sussex Tech football program.
Never in the history of Sussex Tech had it ever beaten Wallkill Valley. The Mustangs did beat the now extinct Franklin High School once in 1975, which became Wallkill Valley in 1982. Overall against both schools, it was a record of 1-11.
If there was ever an opportunity for the “War on 94” to go to the school on North Church Road, this one setup perfectly for Sussex Tech. Wallkill Valley came in about as injured a football team as you will find, and Sussex Tech may just have its most talented team in program history.
From start to finish it was all Sussex Tech, as the Mustangs dominated in a 47-0 rout of Wallkill Valley under the rented lights on Friday night. This rivalry brought out a standing-room only crowd, and the Sussex Tech crowd got to witness a coming of age for a program that had been a cellar-dweller for so long.
“It meant a ton to these kids because they played with these players at Wallkill since they were kids and it’s a little personal on both sides,” Sussex Tech head coach Brian Stellingwerf said. “Wallkill is a banged up team, but they didn’t quit. Our guys did have something to prove today.”
“This rivalry means so much,” senior Bo Maroney said. “We’re playing for our buddy Tommy Bock. We’re both on the same road. The rivalry is crazy. As you can see, the stands proved it. I love this feeling. I’ve never felt it before.”
This was also a night to celebrate the memory of Sussex Tech student Tommy Bock, who passed away at the age of 15 in 2017. He played football for the Mustangs and wrestled for Wallkill Valley.
At the conclusion of the game, both teams knelt at midfield in his memory. The Tommy Bock Spirit Award was presented to Krystian Kipp of Sussex Tech and Jake Vanderwiele of Wallkill Valley.
“Both teams have been playing each other for four years now,” senior Austin Durham said. “This game is more about Tommy and remembering him.”
With Alex Mastroianni out for the season at quarterback for Wallkill Valley, Tommy Testino got the first start of his career. After a couple of first downs on the ground in the opening series, a bad exchange on a handoff resulted in a fumble recovery for the Mustangs.
It only took two plays for Maroney to run for a 35-yard touchdown to begin the scoring for Sussex Tech. A second straight fumble for the Rangers was caused by Joe Martinez and recovered by Chris Conyers.
After a poor defensive showing last week, Sussex Tech was flying to the ball like its been accustomed to this year.
“It was nice,” Maroney said. ” Obviously, they didn’t score. It felt good to fly around again. The team was hyped up. We started off early and that’s what kicked our defense off.
The ball was returned to the Wallkill Valley 6 and Brendan Hall took it in from the 1-yard line as the Mustangs took a 14-0 lead. For a slight moment, it seemed as if Wallkill Valley was about to get back in the football game.
After recovering a Sussex Tech fumble at the 8-yard line as it was about to take a 21-0 lead, Wallkill Valley went on a nice 14-play drive, but just shot itself in the foot a few many times.
Testino looked sharp in hanging in on a blitz to hit Ben Mizeski for a 9-yard pass on a 3rd-and-5 from the Wallkill 25 to keep the drive going. He followed that up with a 16-yard slant to Ivan Hicks.
Unfortunately, the next play resulted in the second drop of the game for the Rangers, and that would not be the last time the Rangers’ receivers let Testino down.
Wallkill Valley advanced the ball to the Sussex Tech 15 looking to make it a one-score game when Testino made a great throw down the seam for what would have been a touchdown if not for another drop.
On the next play, Testino scrambled around before finding a wide open receiver in the back of the end zone, but neither foot was able to come down in bounds despite the lack of defense on the play.
Finally, Testino completed a pass on third down in the flat, but a jarring hit by Ryan Kinkead forced the third fumble of the first half, and Frank Cuhna jumped on it for Sussex Tech.
Right before halftime, Sussex Tech went on a nine-play, 94-yard drive to make it a 21-0 score at the break. After having one 30-yard run called back a few plays prior, Durham was off to the races again on a 53-yard run in which he reversed field on a toss and used a stiff arm at the end of it down to the Wallkill Valley 7-yard line.
Hall cleaned things up again with a 2-yard score with 1:30 left on the second-quarter clock. Just after he had a really good series, Testino came out of halftime on crutches and Wallkill Valley was forced to go to third-string quarterback Antonio Ciasullo. That’s been the unfortunate story of the season for the Rangers.
To start off the third quarter. Durham got loose again on an outside toss and made the same cut as on the previous long run to reverse field for a 21-yard run down to the Wallkill Valley 9. In the open field, Durham was playing at a different speed and has legit athleticism.
“I’m always looking for that cut because my blockers always give me an option to go back inside,” Durham said. “Without them, I probably would not have been able to do that.”
Maroney then went up the middle and broke a few tackles for a 11-yard touchdown that was Sussex Tech’s fourth score of the game. The Durham show kept up as he scored the next two touchdowns — one on a 11-yard run and another on a 30-yard scamper that was perhaps his most impressive of the night when he forced a multitude of Wallkill Valley defenders to whiff on tackles.
“He’s progressed,” Stellingwerf said. “Every single week he’s getting better. You’re looking at stopping Hall and Maroney, and Durham runs the way he does. It’s pretty special to watch them together. Tonight was just an unbelievable game for Austin.”
With the win, Sussex Tech moved to 4-1 on the year as it looks to make that run to the state tournament. The Mustangs proved to Sussex County what they are all about, and will get another chance to do so against Hopatcong next week.
“I’ve always wanted to prove we’re not a joke of a team,” Maroney said. “We can compete with county teams and we showed that tonight. We want to do it again next week.”