BASKING RIDGE, NJ — Colin Scherzer didn't know for certain that he'd be moving from the offensive line into the Ridge backfield until the day before the game.
In fact, the Ridge football team didn't even know there would be a final game added to its schedule until the day before the game.
Given a second chance at ending their season properly, the Red Devils embraced the opportunity for closure Wednesday night with a 44-21 home victory over Livingston in a game just added to the schedule Tuesday morning.
Ridge had a final home game scheduled against South Brunswick last Friday, but the game was canceled less than five hours before kickoff because South Brunswick had COVID cases.
"We lost that scheduled game at 2:30 on Friday, and it was crushing," Ridge's first-year head coach Andy West said. "We were embracing everything about getting ready for that final week. We wanted any chance for the guys to get them out here one more time. We found out at 8:30 yesterday morning that we would have another game. Our athletic director Rich Shello has done such a great job, and this team has made such sacrifices for this season."
And West's season turned out to be an unqualified success, as the Red Devils finished 6-2 and undefeated in four home games.
Scherzer, a senior playing his last game, went back to his roots in this one. Normally a guard on offense and a linebacker on defense, Scherzer had played fullback on the freshman team three years ago, and he was pressed back into action as a ball carrier Wednesday night after starting fullback Lucas Hudkins was ruled out for the game with an injury.
Scherzer scored two of Ridge's first three touchdowns as the Red Devils jumped out to a 21-0 lead less than 13 minutes into the game. Junior quarterback Michael Olivo's touchdown pass to Quinn Bunsa on the second play of the game got Ridge out to a fast start. Olivo ran 33 yards with a keeper to open the game, then connected with Bunsa on a 30-yard TD pass off a play-action fake.
Scherzer's 13-yard TD run and Jake Beckman's extra point made it 14-0 with 4:14 to go in the first quarter. Scherzer barreled through a hole at left guard and then bowled over a Livingston defender at the 1-yard line to finish off the touchdown.
In the waning minutes of the opening quarter, Ridge drove 71 yards in six plays to extend its lead to 21-0. On second-and-four from the Livingston 16-yard line, Scherzer took a handoff up the middle and carried a half-dozen Livingston defenders the last seven yards on his back before finally being tackled at the 1. He took the ball into the end zone on the next play to open the second quarter.
"I got some reps at fullback in practice yesterday after Lucas couldn't go, and I practiced some there last week, too," Scherzer said. "On Monday, we thought that we were done, and we were just gonna play a flag football game. We woke up Tuesday and found out we had a game.
"I was so happy to be out there on that field with my friends. I was so thankful. It was such a fun time. This was my last game, but I am not sad. It was all worth it. I have no regrets."
After Livingston (1-4) scored with 8:18 to go in the first half, Ridge hit the Lancers with a big play. With 6:35 showing, Olivo sold a play-action fake and threw downfield to Luke Roberts running a slant pattern. Roberts caught the ball in stride and finished off a 66-yard TD play as the Red Devils went up, 28-7.
A 25-yard field goal by Beckman midway through the third quarter, a 63-yard TD run by Olivo untouched up the middle with 2:37 left in the third quarter, and a 91-yard catch-and-run from Jack Santonastasso to Christian Edwards with 3:47 left in the game accounted for the other Ridge TDs.
Road losses to a pair of quality teams on the road, Cranford and Phillipsburg, were the only blemishes on Ridge's schedule.
"I don't think there's a team we couldn't beat on our best days," said Scherzer (5-11, 200), who also had one of Ridge's three sacks on defense. "We were the smaller team every week. Every single time I lined up on the field, I was smaller than the guy across from me. This is such a great group of guys."
Former head coach Bill Tracy, who stepped down after back-to-back 8-2 seasons last November, used to talk about the rare chemistry those teams had, and West, formerly an assistant at Ridge, claims that he was fortunate that his first team maintained that close-knit tradition this summer and fall.
"This team is very close, I do believe that," West said. "They always gave for each other and made a lot of sacrifices. There was a special cohesiveness that led to a special season. The bond they had was unique. Look over there, it's 15 minutes after the game and they're all still there. They don't want to leave the field."