HACKENSACK, NJ -- Not every high school football game is compelling. In fact, a lot of them can end up being one-sided affairs. But, Hackensack’s Friday night home opener against Passaic Tech was not one of those games, with a more wild and chaotic game played than the score appears.
The madness reached its peak in the middle of the fourth quarter. To set the scene, Hackensack had just gotten a 37-yard rushing touchdown by Jayden Robertson to put them up 28-14 with 6:52 to go in the fourth quarter. But, just when the Comets and their fans were getting ready to relax and celebrate a win, Passaic Tech’s Ravaughn Clark broke through several tackles on the kickoff return and took it 80 yards for a touchdown, once again making it a one-possession game at 28-21.
Then, just when the Comets crowd was sitting in stunned silence, Tymere Robinson answered with a 76-yard return that put Hackensack on Passaic Tech’s 14-yard line. A facemask penalty by the Bulldogs on that return moved them up half the distance to the 7-yard line.
“I knew I had to come out strong and make a play,” said Robinson.
Just when a crisis looks to be averted for Hackensack, quarterback Zion Frazier tried to run with the ball on the first play but was stripped, with Passaic Tech recovering the ball. Luckily for the Comets, the Bulldogs then had a fumble of their own, with Thomas Samuels recovering it for Hackensack. That eventually led to a 10-yard rushing touchdown by Robinson that sealed the Comets’ second straight win to open the season.
“It was all types of craziness,” said Hackensack Head Coach Benjie Wimberly.
The beginning of the game started off a bit slower, with the first half having less total points scored than the fourth quarter. Frazier had a 23-yard touchdown pass to Robertson late in the first quarter to put Hackensack up 6-0 after a missed extra point due to a low snap. But Passaic Tech responded before the first quarter expired after starting that possession at midfield and completing a 14-yard pass, followed up by a 36-yard touchdown pass to Clark.
Robinson had two other touchdowns, making it three for the game and eight total for the season. The first was a 10-yard rushing touchdown to seal an early second quarter drive with the second occurring on the first possession of the second half. The star Junior running back dominated that drive, with a 31-yard rush to put Hackensack deep in Passaic Tech territory, followed by a 10-yard run and the 15-yard rushing touchdown.
“I work hard,” said Robinson. “It’s hard being good.”
Robinson’s second half dominance was partially the result of a change in strategy by Coach Wimberly. The Comets went towards a more ground-and-pound style coming out in the second half, limiting pass plays versus the first half where they spread the ball out more. Wimberly noted that they had changed centers in the second half due to several miss-targeted snaps in the first half, including one that cost them an extra point and forced a lost fumble by Frazier.
Not only did they lose snaps, Hackensack also got lucky twice when Passaic Tech had receivers wide open in the end zone with deep passes targeted at them that were either dropped or just overthrown. But, Hackensack was able to escape and come up with the 36-21 win.
In the post-game huddle, Coach Wimberly could be heard telling his players to “finish the drill”. It was later discovered that that was the saying of coach Darrell Smith, who suddenly passed away last week due to an unforeseen illness with his funeral being this past Wednesday.
“That will be our motto forever,” said Wimberly. “We’ve coached together since 1989. It made the game a little more emotional.”
Working through the emotional parts, Coach Wimberly seemed happy for the win, noting that in past games against Passaic Tech, they blew some leads late in the game. Because of that, he told his players to “enjoy the win with class”, citing that they would likely see the Bulldogs again in the playoffs.
“They’re a playoff team,” he said. “We’ll see them again in the playoffs, no doubt.”
Hackensack plays their next game on the road at 7 p.m. Friday against Paramus Catholic.