BASKING RIDGE, NJ -- When they were both juniors last season, Brendan Bell and Cameron Lloyd both had moments of brilliance as receivers for the Ridge football team.
But this season, one of them is catching passes from the other.
Lloyd scored three TDs--two on passes from Bell--and Ridge built a 24-point halftime lead en route to a 31-14 victory over Bridgewater-Raritan Friday night in the Red Devils’ home opener before a huge crowd at Lee Field.
Bell’s second game as Ridge’s starting quarterback after a spectacular junior season at split end went as well as his first did. Last week, he guided the Red Devils to a 29-13 road victory over Hunterdon Central. Against BRHS, Bell completed nine of 11 passes for 159 yards and Lloyd, whose pass-catching responsibilities are enhanced now with Bell at QB, finished with six receptions for 123 yards.
Lloyd’s first TD, though, came not on a pass play, but on a deftly executed reverse run out of Ridge’s Wing-T offense. On the opening drive of the game, on first down from the Panthers’ 21-yard line, Lloyd took a double handoff and scooted around left end and past the Bridgewater secondary for a TD with 7:15 left in the first quarter. Jake Beckman followed with the first of his four extra point kicks for a 7-0 lead.
“Our coaches looked at the defense they were in and knew that they would over-pursue on the reverse,” Lloyd said. “Once I got outside, there was just a green field in front of me and it was just me and (offensive lineman) Collin Young downfield.”
Ridge capitalized on a Panther mistake to score its second TD less than two minutes later. Bridgewater-Raritan set up to punt, but the snap was high over the punter’s head, and by the time he tracked it down all he could do was scramble, rather than get a kick away. Ridge took over on the BRHS 23-yard line and went for the kill right away.
“They made a mistake, so right after that we went for the big play,” Bell said.
Bell dropped back and threw deep to Lloyd, running a fade pattern to the right corner of the end zone. The pass was right on the money and Lloyd caught it at the flag in the back of the end zone with 5:39 left.
“It was a streak pattern,” Bell said. “Cam made a fantastic catch.”
The toughest of Lloyd’s six catches may have actually occurred on Ridge’s next drive, a leaping 14-yard reception at the BRHS 26-yard line for a first down to move the chains en route to a 2-yard TD run by Christian Sweeney to close out a 56-yard, eight-play drive in the final minute of the first quarter. Ridge had a 21-0 lead before the second quarter had even begun.
“Brendan’s performance at quarterback so far has been an A-plus,” Ridge head coach Bill Tracy said. “Nothing fazes him. There’s no mountain too big for him to climb. He’s a fierce competitor.”
Of Lloyd’s development as a receiver, Tracy said the swift, chiseled senior keeps improving.
“Cam has really worked hard at it,” Tracy said. “Before his junior season we challenged him to improve as a blocker, and he did that. This year he’s improved even more. He is an excellent player who, in addition to his great speed, runs good routes and has excellent hands.”
Bridgewater did march deep into Ridge territory midway through the second quarter as QB Alex Fromberg (17 for 31 passing) moved the Panthers from their own 21 to the Ridge 11 before BRHS surrendered the ball on downs as the Ridge defense held with some strong coverage in the secondary. Ridge took the ball from its own 11 and into range for Beckman to kick a 24-yard field goal with 1:10 left in the first half for a 24-0 lead.
Fromberg sneaked in from the 2 out of a shotgun formation with 3:40 left in the third quarter for Bridgewater’s first TD to cut the Ridge lead to 24-6. But, after that, it took Ridge just four scrimmage plays to answer back, with Bell hitting Lloyd on a fly pattern down the left hash marks for a 56-yard bomb and a 31-6 lead with 1:28 left in the third quarter.
“Cameron’s as quick as hell,” Bell said. “We set them up with a couple of quick curls so that when we went deep to him there he got separation.”
“Brendan was throwing beautiful passes tonight,” Lloyd said.
Bridgewater-Raritan scored the game’s final TD with 8:09 left on a highlight-clip play. Bromberg threw over the middle from the Ridge 20-yard line, but his pass to intended receiver Tyler Tangolics was deflected at the goal line by Ridge safety Jack Perry. The deflection, though, went so high that it gave another BRHS receiver, Miftar Hasanaj, time to swoop in, dive and snag the ball out of the air in the end zone for a touchdown.