HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Seven days after a thrilling 16-15 home win over Colonia in a classic at Basilone Field to open up 2019 – which was capped by the go-ahead game-winning field goal with 28 seconds remaining in regulation – Bridgewater-Raritan again found itself trailing in the 4th quarter with a chance to take the lead deep in the opposition’s territory.
Unfortunately, the Panthers came up just short on the road this time around.
After falling behind 7-0 at Hillsborough halfway into the 2nd quarter, Bridgewater-Raritan (1-1) scored 12 unanswered points on a pair of touchdowns by Panthers quarterback Alex Fromberg, with his second giving the Panthers its first lead of the game with 3:27 left in the 3rd quarter.
On the ensuing drive for Hillsborough (2-0), Thomas Amankwaa caught a 48-yard touchdown reception to give the Raiders a one-point lead not even a minute later. With Bridgewater-Raritan marching down the field right afterwards and beginning the 4th quarter at the Raiders 8, Hillsborough’s T.J. Schultz intercepted a tipped third-down pass to deny the Panthers a trip to the end zone. The Raiders hung on the rest of the way for a 13-12 victory over the Panthers.
But while it was a second low-scoring affair in as many weeks for Bridgewater-Raritan, the offenses, defenses and special teams of both squads each had key plays that made this another thrilling game from start to finish.
Panthers 0, Raiders 0
Hillsborough received the game’s opening kickoff at its own 29, keeping the ball on the ground in the hands of running back Sean Levonaitis. After advancing to the Panthers 41 right out of the gate in five plays, Bridgewater-Raritan’s Jake Horowitz secured an interception, returning it to the 49-yard line and keeping the Raiders off the board.
Halfway into the opening quarter, Bridgewater-Raritan converted a 4th and 1 in the red zone, and was faced with another 4th down inside the Raiders 10-yard line. Hillsborough forced a fumble near the goal line on this play and recovered the ball at its own 6-yard line, keeping both teams off the scoreboard despite advancing into each opposing teams’ territories.
After a sack by Bridgewater-Raritan’s Gerard Redden to force 2nd and 18 for the Raiders, Hillsborough again came up empty as a scoreless first quarter came to an end soon afterwards.
Panthers 6, Raiders 7
Bridgewater-Raritan converted on a 3rd and 1 at its own 42 to open the 2nd quarter, and advanced to the Raiders 39 after a first down run by running back Peter Usewick and a personal foul by Hillsborough. However, Hillsborough got its second 4th down stop of the first half, taking over at its own 29 with 9:19 left in the 2nd quarter. The Raiders capitalized on this turnover on downs, as Levonaitis opened the game’s scoring three and a half minutes later with a 23-yard touchdown run for the Raiders immediately after a 13-yard run.
This gave Hillsborough a 7-0 lead with 5:44 left in the half, but Bridgewater-Raritan answered two-and-a-half minutes later on its ensuing drive.
A 31-yard pass from Fromberg to wide receiver Miftar Hasanaj, followed by a 13-yard reception by Usewick, put Bridgewater-Raritan into the red zone. This eventually led to a 3-yard touchdown run by Fromberg with 3:15 left in the half to cut Hillsborough’s lead to 7-6 after the extra point attempt was blocked. While the Raiders got a good kickoff return past midfield, Bridgewater-Raritan kept them off the scoreboard, keeping the score 7-6 at the break in favor of Hillsborough.
Panthers 12, Raiders 13
Bridgewater-Raritan received the opening kickoff of the second half, and returned it just past midfield to the Raiders 49. The Panthers advanced to the Raiders 31 before a personal foul penalty pushed them back, eventually resulting in a punt. Hillsborough was pinned at its own 9, while Bridgewater-Raritan forced a three and out and begin its ensuing drive in the red zone halfway into the 3rd quarter.
This good position paid off for the Panthers, and even while they faced 4th down in the process, a 15-yard pass from Fromberg to wide receiver Tyler Tangolics resulted in 1st and goal from the Raiders 3. Three plays later, Fromberg threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bryce Myers. As a result, with 3:27 left in the 3rd quarter and despite a failed two-point attempt, Bridgewater-Raritan took its first lead of the night with the score now 12-7.
However, the Raiders immediately answered back.
After beginning its next drive near midfield, Hillsborough quarterback Tom Ramsey completed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Amankwaa not even a minute after Myers’ touchdown reception for the Panthers. Hillsborough also failed on its two-point try, but took a 13-12 lead over Bridgewater-Raritan with 2:43 left in the 3rd quarter.
The Panthers continued to fight back, with running back Brett MacMath ripping off a pair of runs of 36 and 16 yards to put them back in the red zone. Still trailing by one at the end of the 3rd quarter, Bridgewater-Raritan began the 4th quarter with a 3rd and 5 from the Raiders 8, and it appeared that the magic present late in week one was about to again unfold in the final period.
Panthers 12, Raiders 13
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Hillsborough had other ideas.
On the first play of the 4th quarter, linebacker T.J. Schultz came up with a critical interception for Hillsborough inside the 10-yard line on a tipped pass. Still leading 13-12, it appeared Hillsborough had all of the momentum after a 30-yard run by Levonaitis eventually put the Raiders into Panthers territory with under 10 minutes to play. However, a combined sack by Bridgewater-Raritan’s Hasanaj and Mike Maciolek for a big loss put the Raiders out of field goal range and forced a punt by Hillsborough into the end zone halfway into the 4th quarter.
Taking over at its own 20, the Panthers quickly got a first down on a 12-yard pass from Fromberg to Hasanaj, but Hillsborough took over on downs with 3:28 to go at the Panthers 36. From there, the Raiders got the two first downs they needed to run out the clock, ending the game with Hillsborough victorious by a score of 13-12.
Bridgewater-Raritan fell to 1-1 as a result of its heartbreaking loss, with both of its games so far in 2019 being decided by one point each. The Panthers will continue its road trip with the second of three straight games away from Basilone Field at Ridge Sept. 20.
Kickoff at the Red Devils for Bridgewater-Raritan will be at 7 p.m.
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