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2001: Parsons, Pellegrino lead Easton rout
The Easton Red Rovers went from winning red ribbons seven days ago as District 11 Class 4A runner ups to routing their crossbridge rival Phillipsburg 28-7 on Thanksgiving Day.
Tears were shed after both games, especially by Easton senior two-way star Jesse Pellegrino.
Red Rovers senior quarterback Todd Parsons joined him, both breaking down emotionally for reasons that only people close to them could understand.
Most of those people were Easton teammates and coaches, who could only marvel at the stupendous afternoon the seniors had in helping Easton (11-1) coast from a scoreless first quarter to a 14-0 halftime advantage on 50- and 3-yard Parsons-to-Pellegrino touchdown hookups.
"You couldn't have written the last chapter of the book any better than this," said Parsons, who completed 8-of-15 passes for 163 yards, with Pellegrino accounting for 124 of those yards on four receptions.
But Pellegrino was more than just an offensive horse in living up to his "Ironman" nickname. He was also everything that Phillipsburg (8-3) didn't need in the biggest game of the season for both teams before a crowd of 14,500 at Lafayette College's Fisher Field.
In addition to posting his ninth and 10th TD receptions this season, Pellegrino also excelled on defense, with two sacks and an interception. He joined fellow-linemen Joey Fernandez and Chris Graziano on a stingy Red Rovers defensive front that held Phillipsburg without a score until gifted junior tailback Leonard Brice (24 carries, 131 yards) used two sweet cut moves to free himself for a 20-yard TD run 11 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Brice's run trimmed a 28-point deficit to a three-touchdown disadvantage. But the next time P'burg had possession, Pellegrino hounded them again, sacking Nick Ferretti on a fourth-and-11.
"What more could you ask for," Pellegrino said. "The last game, blowing them out, especially in a game like this, which means more to Easton-P'burg folks than any other game. And I'm fortunate to get lucky to have a game like I had. "
But it wasn't just luck. Pellegrino was there too much, pulling in receptions that covered 50, 43, 28 and three yards. Parsons was there too, side-stepping away from blitzes to connect with the Red Rovers' leading receiver.
They were a potent one-two combination that helped Easton win its fourth straight in the series and take a 53-37-5 advantage. Both received Most Valuable Player trophies, Parsons on offense, Pellegrino on defense, and Graziano was named winner of the Phillipsburg Rotary Club lineman of the game.
"It's great to see them hold onto the tradition of this game and the importance of it," said Easton coach Steve Shiffert. "The way they played today, they put extra meaning into it.
"Todd has had a heck of a season, a very quiet, but an outstanding season. And what can you say about Jesse Pellegrino. He earned his nickname. He is the ironman. "
But Pellegrino's career is over. He shed tears Wednesday night in the team-members-only meeting where former players came back to speak, and seniors spilled out their emotions.
He didn't want to leave Fisher Field too quickly Thursday, because he knew that he would not be putting on the Red Rovers uniform again.
"That's very disappointing," Pellegrino said. "You have to move on, but sometimes you really don't want to. I have great memories here and I will cherish them. "
That's probably true for most who are involved with the Easton-Phillipsburg game.
Through the first quarter, neither team was able to establish control.
Easton began drives at the Stateliners 49, 38 and 48-yard lines, but failed to score. Phillipsburg had to start drives from its 30, 15, 12 and 7, and none of them amounted to anything.
In the second quarter, Easton started taking control, more through the air than with their traditionally strong ground game.
But in the second half, Easton went more with the power game than with the air attack that had baffled the Stateliners' secondary, and senior tailback Sean Burgio ended up gaining the majority of his 104 yards on 24 carries.
With the help of nifty running by Brice, Phillipsburg prevented Easton from posting a shutout.
The Stateliners just couldn't stop Pellegrino from making more big plays in the final quarter of his scholastic career.
"To tell you the truth, in some of the prior games I was a little weak in the knees towards the end of the games," Pellegrino said. "But today I didn't feel it one bit. Everything just worked out great.
"I could keep playing. "
First downs 12 12
Rushes-yards 35-132 32-131
Passing 115 163
Att-comp-int 7-24-1 8-15-2
Punts 6-27.0 4-31.0
Penalties 2-14 2-20
Fumbles-lost 1-2 1-0
HOW THEY SCORED: EASTON 28, PHILLIPSBURG 7
Easton 7, Phillipsburg 0 (8:50)
The play: TE Jesse Pellegrino 50-yard pass from QB Todd Parsons (Kristopher Bisci kick).
The drive: Four plays, 70 yards, highlighted early by a 16-yard run by RB Steve Bakros off a lateral, then capped off with Parsons connecting with Pellegrino on a fly pattern. Pellegrino was untouched in sprint to end zone.
Easton 14, Phillisburg 0 (3:54)
The play: Pellegrino 3-yard pass from Parsons (Bisci kick).
The drive: Nine plays, 50 yards, helped by a 23-yard pass reception by Bakros and finished off with Parsons finding Pellegrino open off a play action pass.
Easton 21, Phillipsburg 0 (6:03)
The play: RB Sean Burgio 2-yard run (Mike Matthews kick).
The drive: Four plays, 52 yards, set up by a 43-yard pass the middle from Parsons to Pellegrino, who carried two defenders to the 2. Burgio plowed up middle for 17th TD this season.
Easton 28, Phillipsburg 0 (4:53)
The play: DL Chris Graziano recovers high snap on fourth down in end zone (Matthews kick).
Easton 28, Phillipsburg 7 (11:49)
The play: RB Leonard Brice 20-yard run (Kevin Papics kick).
The drive: 11 plays, 75 yards with Brice carrying the ball nine times, capped off by two cuts that enabled him to break loose for score.