SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit varsity football team faced several challenges when they traveled to Warren Hills Friday night, putting their undefeated record on the line. There was a long bus ride through I-78 traffic and kickoff was at 7 p.m., which meant a fair amount of downtime, and a long day for the team.
Their last game, while a victory, was far from a Picasso performance, and they needed to get their mojo back. Summit has also recently been hit with injuries to key players, testing their depth. Oh, and they were playing against the state's leading rusher in Justin Iaione, who had gained more than 1,200 yards heading into the game.
As it is becoming more and more evident, however, this is a tough, resilient bunch of Hilltoppers, who seem to play their absolute best when challenged. That was indeed the case against the Blue Streaks, as Summit's offense scored virtually every time they had the ball, and the defense stiffened in the second half as Summit improved to 7-0 and beat Warren Hills, 49-28.
Another trait of the Summit squad is that -- unlike Warren Hills -- it is not a one-man dominated team. There were a host of big performances in the win, including their first touchdown coming from the Hilltoppers special teams unit. Mac Wiesner broke through, blocked a Warren Hills punt, retrieved the ball and rumbled 6 yards into the end zone to give Summit the early lead. After the Blue Streaks scored to even the game, the Hilltopper offense marched down the field and Colm Dougherty scored his 14th touchdown of the season, blasting through the Blue Streaks defense 29 yards for a touchdown.
After Warren Hills scored again, this time taking advantage of a Summit fumble deep in Hilltopper territory, the game was beginning to feel like a heavyweight fight, with the teams trading punches. Facing a real challenge, Summit responded, led by quarterback Charlie Terry, who threw second quarter touchdowns to Andrew Masterfano and Dan Childers of 21 and 36 yards, respectively, and Masterfano ran 15 yards for another score. Warren Hills had a touchdown sandwiched in between, but the Hilltoppers were now easing ahead in the "punch count", and led at the half, 34-21.
The second half started with Warren Hills grinding down the field behind Iaione who, at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, is a load to bring down. On the night, he gained 201 yards on 37 carries, and his third-quarter touchdown, an 8-yard run, again made the game interesting at 34-28. Summit had actually stopped the Blue Streaks on fourth down, but a roughing the passer call gave Warren Hills a first down, and Iaione scored on the next play. Again tested, Summit reeled off the game's final 15 points as the defense made key stops, Terry hit Masterfano on a 20-yard TD, and Chris Zanelli ripped off some big runs and got into the end zone with a 7-yard run.
One true blemish on the evening was a leg injury suffered by sophomore Jon Ramirez, which stopped the game for more than 10 minutes as he received medical attention. Summit head coach Kevin Kostibos said of his team, "Our intensity level was up tonight, and it went up a notch when they saw one of their brothers go down." On Summit's quick-strike offense, he added, "The only time they stopped us is when we stopped ourselves." While Iaione got his yards, the defense raised its game in the second half, with Kostibos noting, "We made some adjustments, went back to our base set defense."
Next up for Summit, a tough home game against Delaware Valley (4-2) Nov. 2 at Investor's Bank Field. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.