SUMMIT, NJ - What a difference a year makes.
One week shy of 12 months ago, Summit was licking its wounds after a thorough whuppin' at the hands of Cranford in the traditional 'Friday Night Lights' game at Investors Bank Field.
On many levels, the 2016 game against the Cougars was a night to forget. Summit fell behind 20-0 at the first half, looked essentially overmatched on the evening, saw several key players go down to injury, and pretty much harshed everyone's mellow who is an aficionado of the Maroon and White.
Heck, even one of the portable lights brought in to illuminate the field didn't work.
From there, flash forward to the present day and this year's primetime home match-up versus Governor Livingston (GL), which saw the Hilltoppers deliver a yang to last year's funky yin.
Summit bolted out to a massive 28-0 first-quarter lead, made the Highlanders look more-than-essentially overmatched on the evening, enjoyed the luxury of resting starters for the high-majority of the second half, and gave their fans a heapin' helpin' of happy.
To top it off, all of the lights worked.
So -- the first 12 minutes of the affair aside -- while it may not have been the most exciting three quarters of football since the Rockne era, the result was like the night -- near perfect -- as the Hilltoppers waxed GL, 35-8.
Summit scored really early, early, and often to build a 35-0 first-half lead, which took all of the contest out of the contest but did allow the boys in black and their jam-packed-bleachers side of the field to sit back and enjoy the ride through the final 36 minutes of game-clock 'action'.
Junior Max Jackson rushed for two touchdowns, classmates Jackson Tyler and Skyler Schluter each found paydirt on the ground as well, while Schluter also connected with senior captain Stephen Sajer for a touchdown pass to generate Summit's scoring.
The Hilltopper defense was stout all night long, with GL not getting a first down until 1:16 was left in the opening quarter.
Summit won the toss, elected to receive and, after a big kick-off return by junior Jack Kelly, they immediately went to work. A series of runs got the ball inside the Highlander five-yard-line, and Jackson crashed over just over two minutes into the game. Will Goldy saw his PAT attempt bounce high off the left upright, and the home team led 6-0.
Three plays later the Hilltoppers had the ball back again deep in GL territory. Kelly got the pick and, on the very next play after that, Schluter found Sajer alone on the left sideline for six points. Lining up to kick the extra point, Summit executed some trickery when Schluter -- as the holder -- took the snap and flipped to to senior captain Andrew Miller who scooted to the right pylon for the 2-point PAT and a 14-0 lead.
Exactly four minutes later, at the 5:26 mark, it was 21-0 when Tyler found the end zone from five-yards out and Goldy thumped the PAT. The score coming after a rushing-only drive that saw Summit zip through GL like a very warm instrument through butter.
The Highlanders continued in self-destruct mode on the ensuing kick-off, their return man getting hit by two Hilltoppers at once and stripped of the ball. Summit recovered and, at the 3:59 mark, Jackson blasted over from close range and it was 28-0 after Goldy's PAT.
Just less than halfway through the second quarter it was 35-0 when Schluter snuck over from the 8-inch-line. The score set up by a long heave by Schluter to Max Hayford down the left sideline, a play in which the senior made a sweet adjustment to haul in the throw over his outside shoulder.
The five-touchdown lead, after Goldy's PAT, activated the running clock that, when combined with the fact the outcome was basically decided, took a lot of the fizz out of the game.
After the first series of the second half, Summit Head Coach Kevin Kostibos went to his bench liberally and, despite giving up a late score to spoil the shutout, nothing could spoil the vibe for Summit fans on this night.
Post-game, Kostibos acknowledged how much the 'Friday Night Lights' game means to the home team and its fans by saying, "It is incredibly important - this is a huge event for the school, the community and, obviously, our program."
Noting that his squad "came out and took care of business," Kostibos added that he was equally impressed that his boys appeared to learn their lesson from the previous week's encounter with Scotch Plains-Fanwood, where they allowed the Raiders to climb back into things with a 20-points-unanswered third quarter. "We talked about bringing the same intensity into the second-half as we did in the first-half and we did that, even when we played a lot of our younger kids."
Next up for Summit, now 3-2 on the season, is a tough trip to Cranford. Kick-off for the Friday the 13th game is set for 7 p.m.