SOMERVILLE, NJ — As Somerville begins the defense of its 2017 sectional title, the Pioneers took the first steps towards repeating as North 2, Group 4 champs Friday night.
The soaking wet night belonged to senior quarterback Jalahn Dabney, who turned in a performance for the ages. Dabney rushed for a staggering 317 yards and rushed for four touchdowns, accounting for 24 of No. 1-seeded Somerville’s 35 points in a 35-14 victory over No. 8 Raritan Friday night in rainy Somerville. The Pioneers put up 14 points in both the second and third quarters to pull away from a 7-7 deadlock in a game moved up an hour to avoid the heaviest rain.
Somerville advances to host No. 4 Holmdel — 42-0 winners over No. 5 Nottingham — next Friday night with a trip to the sectional final on the line.
Raritan actually jumped out to a brief lead in the first quarter when Dan Fiore blocked a punt and returned it eight yards to the end zone. But Somerville then scored 35 straight points to thwart any scare of a possible upset.
After Somerville came back to get even on Duke McDuffie’s four-yard run later in the opening quarter, Dabney then took over to send the Pioneers ahead.
McDuffie had 51 all-purpose yards.
Dabney, who just this week received Division I offers from from Lehigh and the University at Albany, put Somerville ahead by a score when he broke free for a 75-yard TD in the second quarter.
And that’s when, on a night of torrential rain, the floodgates opened.
After his 75-yarder, Dabney put the game on ice with thee other rushing TDs of three, one, and eight yards, respectively. That allowed Somerville to hold a 35-7 lead entering the fourth quarter, though Raritan would get seven points back on PJ Buccine’s four-yard run during the final 12 minutes.
Dabney has now accounted for 48 TDs with 1,561 rushing yards and 1,379 passing yards on the season.
Bobby Wortman was a perfect 5-for-5 on PATs for the Pioneers.
Though Somerville allowed the first points of the game, it was not a result of the defense, which turned in a stellar effort all night. Markus Lauber and AJ Pena led the team with 13 tackles each, as Somerville’s D took a shutout into the fourth quarter against a Raritan unit that averaged nearly four touchdowns per-game entering Friday’s showdown.
Up next for Somerville is Holmdel, which is a very dangerous opponent. Holmdel (8-1) crushed Raritan, 31-0, in the final week of the regular season, and since Oct. 12, has allowed exactly three points — a field goal against Pt. Pleasant Beach. Since Sept. 22, the Hornets have given up a combined total of just 14 points and only one total touchdown.
But Holmdel will have to stop Jalahn Dabney, which, as is this first round win showed, is nearly impossible to do.