HACKENSACK, NJ -- On Friday night, Hackensack was hoping to bounce back on their home field against Clifton after losing on the road last week to Paramus Catholic. Instead, they saw their frustrations grow as they lost at home in a tight contest to Clifton 28-20, losing their second straight game.
“We could be a better team than what we performed today, that’s what bothers me,” said Hackensack Head Coach Benjie Wimberly.
Late in the third quarter, the Comets were looking good to win the game. Quarterback Zion Frazier had a quarterback sneak for a 1-yard rushing touchdown that put them up 20-14, with Hackensack missing the extra point attempt. But, on the next kickoff, the Mustangs went from nearly having a lost fumble on their own 15-yard line to returning it all the way to Hackensack’s 25-yard line. This led to a 4-yard rushing touchdown by David Martinez to begin the fourth quarter and it put Clifton up 21-20.
Clifton had a chance to put the game on ice when they drove down the field again with under eight minutes left in the game. But, a fumble by the Mustangs was recovered by the Comets, and they took over on their own 6-yard line, facing the task of driving down the field for the game-winning score.
The drive started slow and was in danger of ending in a three-and-out. Hackensack faced 4th and 6 on their own 10-yard line, with Coach Wimberly deciding to call a fake punt play to convert the first down. Tymere Robinson then had a 20-yard catch, which was advanced an additional 15 yards thanks to a Clifton facemask penalty. The Comets got it to the Mustangs’ 42-yard line, but a holding penalty moved them back, eventually forcing them into a 4th and 16 from their own 47-yard line. This time, Hackensack failed to convert.
“We’re not going to leave anything and we are going to try everything,” said Wimberly.
After the turnover on downs, Clifton drove down the field and capped the drive off with a second Martinez rushing touchdown, this one 10 yards, with under two minutes left in the game. With one last chance to drive down the field and tie the game, Frazier threw an interception on the first play of the drive, and Clifton knelt with the ball from there, wrapping up a big 28-20 road win to keep their undefeated season intact.
Earlier in the game, history was made. With 7:58 to go in the second quarter, Hackensack wide receiver M.J. Ramirez attempted to catch a 17-yard pass in the end zone. But, he was originally ruled out of bounds, tempting Coach Wimberly to challenge the call. He did, and the call ended up being overturned for a touchdown. It was the first time in North Jersey history that a scoring play was overturned via instant replay, with the referees using iPads set up on Hackensack’s bench to look at the replay.
Now, Hackensack hopes to end their losing streak next Saturday when they face Hudson Catholic at home at 1 p.m. Coach Wimberly hopes that Friday’s loss against Clifton will wake the team up.
“Hopefully this is a wakeup call,” he noted. “Thinking you’re going to handle somebody but lose… it’s humbling. Humility will help you mature quickly.”