Old Tappan NJ Football stops West Morris from advancing to title game


FRANKLIN (Somerset) – Jack Diggins gave Old Tappan a chance to compete in the first true state public school championships.

Plus the right to play Christmas music in the dressing room this year.

The senior linebacker came on with a crucial fourth stop with less than two minutes remaining to send the Golden Knights 21-6 past undefeated West Morris in a cool NJSIAA Group 3 Football semifinals at Franklin High School on Sunday.

Any doubt about the Golden Knights’ fate was dispelled one play later when running back Aidan Heaney blew up an 84-yard touchdown run.

One of the biggest ovations came after the game when coach Brian Dunn reminded his players that they could get in the Christmas spirit ahead of their Rutgers State Championship match against Delsea on December 3 or 4.

“They love being together,” Dunn said. “It’s evident every day. Our goal is always that we want to play Christmas music at the end of the season. That means we made it past Thanksgiving.”

Heaney scored two touchdowns for the Golden Knights (11-1) and quarterback Tommy Caracciolo got one against a goaltender to hole their ticket to SHI Stadium.

The real X-Factor, however, was the Golden Knights’ ability to contain the run against Brown-commit Stefano Montella and his team’s high-scoring Wing-T attack. While Montella churned out 38 carries for 206 yards and one touchdown (5.42 per attempt), the Old Tappan defense rarely let him get to the second level. It helped Old Tappan keep West Morris off the board in the first half and take a total of six points to a season low.

“Our defense has been outstanding all year,” said Diggins. “And we really showed our true colors there.”

What it means

Old Tappan (11-1) takes on Delsea (12-0) for the first time in school history after defeating the region’s defending champions. It’s a big step forward for the Golden Knights after being shut out by West Morris in last year’s semi-finals.

Losing in 2021 was added motivation for Heaney, who dropped out after missing about seven weeks last year with a knee injury. Heaney (19 carries for 205 yards) put the Golden Knights up two points in the second quarter with a four-yard run down the middle.

“[Montella] is the leading rusher in the state of New Jersey right now, so I guess for me I had a little personal thing,” Heaney said. “I want people to know that I’m a good running back too. I wanted my name out there make.”

take a stand

Old Tappan came fourth with three stands, and the last came with 1:22 to go to end a 15-play drive for West Morris (12-1).

Diggins closed Montella near the line of scrimmage with a 4th and 2 at Old Tappan 17 to maintain his team’s 14-6 lead.

“We knew it was going to come in the middle,” Diggins said. “We called the blitz and I went through there and made the game. I’m glad we were able to come out of here and get the win.”

“I can’t say enough about Jack Diggins,” Heaney said. “I think he’s the most underrated guy in the state of New Jersey. I think he’s the best football player on the team.”

last words

“I pulled a hamstring on the touchline [after the last Heaney touchdown]’ said Dunn. I definitely did. I adjusted it a bit with the cold weather.”