BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Although Gov. Livingston played a more mistake-free brand of football in the opening half of the season on Thursday, Scotch Plains-Fanwood exhibited more speed and endurance to come back and then pull away in the second half for a 20-14 victory in a game completed on Friday after lightning caused it to be suspended with six minutes to go the night before.
Scotch Plains broke three touchdown plays that each covered more than 40 yards in rallying from a 7-0 halftime deficit. And, while the Raiders’ speedy backs were running away with the game, the Highlanders players spent much of the second half limping off the field.
The Thursday portion of the contest was played in heat and humidity that are not only uncommon for football, but probably more so this season, since the traditionally stifling weather teams would usually endure during late-summer training sessions was largely absent this unseasonably cool August. Gov. Livingston’s players were cramping up and requiring hydration at a much greater rate in the second half.
“One of our top commitments is conditioning during the summer,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Jon Stack. “We condition the heck out of these boys and we preach hydration. We had several second-half comebacks last season. Our guys always show up in the third and fourth quarter; it’s just the first and second quarter we still have to (work on).”
Senior back Ryan Jennings was treated several times during the game for various injuries, but he played valiantly enough to finish with 93 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Jennings—a 1,000-yard rusher for GL last fall--gave the Highlanders a lead less than six minutes into the game with a 2-yard touchdown run to cap a five-play, 27-yard drive after Gov. Livingston took possession following a bad snap on a punt attempt by Scotch Plains. Jennings carried the ball on each of the drive’s five plays, and Patrick Mahoney’s extra point gave GL a 7-0 lead.
Gov. Livingston avoided mistakes during a sound first half of play, while Scotch Plains twice botched the long snap on punt attempts.
But it was an explosive play on the receiving end of a punt in the third quarter which turned the momentum in the Raiders’ favor. After GL was pinned deep in its own territory by an impressive Scotch Plains defense, Jordan Jones of Scotch Plains fielded a punt on the Highlanders’ 42-yard line, found a wall of blockers and made his way to the right sideline, breaking away for a TD with 3:35 left in the third quarter. Andy Ciccarone’s extra point tied the game, 7-7.
After holding the Highlanders to a three-and-out on their next possession, as well, Scotch Plains got the ball back with 1:52 left in the third quarter and, one play later, Kobe White took off on a sweep around the right end and broke away for a 65-yard touchdown and a 13-7 Raider lead with a minute left in the third. White finished with 155 yards on 21 carries.
“It was a stretch play,” White said of his 65-yard run. “Kevin Maxwell picked up a block on their outside linebacker, and the safety came up and I gave him a stiff-arm.”
Quarterback Marquel Taylor’s 45-yard touchdown run after taking a shotgun snap out of a spread formation with 7:51 to go in the game extended Scotch Plains’ lead to 20-7. A couple of minutes later, the heavens intervened, bringing lightning and a heavy downpour that forced the contest to be completed Friday afternoon.
When it was, Gov. Livingston came out with renewed vigor and closed to within a touchdown on John Wills’ 20-yard TD pass to Jensen Butler with 4:08 to go.
But Taylor picked up a big first down on a 13-yard run with 2:18 left, enabling the Raiders to retain possession until the final seconds, when Jordan Jones turned Scotch Plains’ third botched punt snap of the contest into a possible game-saving play by running around while time wound down and then getting off a desperation, line-drive punt into GL territory that left the Highlanders with just two seconds on the clock.
SPF 0 0 13 7 – 20
GL 7 0 0 7 – 14
GL-Jennings 2 run (Mahoney kick)
SPF-J. Jones 42 punt return (Ciccarino kick)
SPF-K. White 65 run (conversion failed)
SPF-Taylor 45 run (Ciccarino kick)
GL-Butler 20 pass from Wills (Doug Anderson kick)