BRIDGEWATER, NJ - As Ridge's Wing-T offense inexorably consumed chunks of yardage marching downfield in the closing minutes of a tie game, Jake Beckman kept running through the endgame scenario in his mind on the sidelines.
"I'm imagining taking my steps, lining it up and seeing the ball go through the uprights," Beckman said of his visualization from the Ridge sideline.
When his chance came, Beckman kicked a 20-yard field goal as time ran out to give Ridge a 24-21 victory over Bridgewater-Raritan Friday night at Basilone Field.
Beckman's kick capped a 10-play drive that began at the Ridge 29-yard line with 2:56 left. Christian Sweeney gained 33 yards on six carries in the drive, the last a 4-yard gain up the middle to the 2-yard line with five seconds left, at which point Ridge called a timeout, Bridgewater-Raritan countered with an "ice the kicker" timeout but Beckman wasn't "iced" at all, and nailed the kick straight through the uprights to break the 21-21 tie.
"I was so nervous going out there," Beckman said. "I had butterflies, the whole bit."
Last week, Beckman made his varsity debut with three field goals and two extra-point kicks in Ridge's 23-14 opening night victory over Hunterdon Central.
Three times in Friday night's game, Bridgewater-Raritan (0-3) fell behind by seven points, and all three times the Panthers rallied back to tie the score. The last of those instances came when quarterback Alex Fromberg scored on a 5-yard keeper and Nick Balliro kicked the extra point with 3:02 left in the fourth quarter to forge a 21-21 tie.
The Panthers were playing without senior halfback Anthony Goffe and starting receiver Greg Verano, but despite those absences, BRHS performed solidly on offense with Fromberg attacking Ridge with both his arm and his quick feet. In the second half, Fromberg completed 10 of 15 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown and carried seven times for 27 yards and another TD. He was 19-for-30 for 193 yards passing overall.
Christian Sweeney gave Ridge (2-0) an early lead with an 18-yard TD run to cap a seven-play, 76-yard drive after the opening kickoff, and Beckman kicked the PAT. Bridgewater tied the game in the second quarter on Brett MacMath's 7-yard TD run and Balliro's PAT.
But that second-quarter momentum was short-lived for the Panthers, as Cameron Lloyd brought the ensuing kickoff back 95 yards for a Ridge TD and a 14-7 Red Devils lead, which carried into halftime.
Bridgewater-Raritan came back to tie it, 14-14, with a four-play, 60-yard drive off the second-half kickoff. Fromberg completed a 49-yard TD pass to Kyle Nickel on a deep throw on a post pattern.
But Lloyd flashed more game-breaking ability later in the third quarter, covering 43 yards on a pass from QB Wes Hudkins to move the Red Devils into Bridgewater territory and highlight an 80-yard, six-play drive capped by Christian Sweeney's 7-yard TD run with 25 seconds left for a 21-14 Red Devil lead. Sweeney's TD was set up by a 28-yard completion from Hudkins to Brandon Bell on third-and-18 to the 7-yard line.
Lloyd capped his versatile and sometimes spectacular evening with an interception of Fromberg early in the fourth quarter. Lloyd exhibited some nifty broken-field running to return the pick 50 yards for an apparent TD, but the score was nullified by a block on the back. Nonetheless, his kickoff return, long pass reception and interception return signaled that Lloyd is now another weapon in the arsenal for Ridge opponents to concern themselves with.
"He is a great kid who has worked hard to be a varsity kid," Ridge coach Bill Tracy said of Lloyd. "He began the summer as a second-team kid who had to work a few things out, but we worked hard all summer and by the end of the summer he had cracked the starting lineup."
RIDGE 7 7 7 3 -- 24
BRHS 0 7 7 7 -- 21
R-C. Sweeney 18 run (Beckman kick)
B-MacMath 7 run (Balliro kick)
R-Lloyd 95 kickoff return (Beckman kick)
B-Nickel 49 pass from Fromberg (Balliro kick)
R-C. Sweeney 7 run (Beckman kick)
B-Fromberg 5 run (Balliro kick)
R-FG Beckman 19