BASKING RIDGE, NJ – Coming off of a tough one-point loss at Hillsborough, Bridgewater-Raritan traveled for a contest against a Ridge team playing in front of its packed home crowd for the first time in 2019.
The home team made a statement right out of the gate and never looked back.
Ridge (2-0) quickly struck first with a pair of touchdowns from Cameron Lloyd: one on the ground, and one in the air from Red Devils quarterback Brendan Bell. They scored 21 unanswered points in the first quarter, putting up touchdowns on each of their first three drives on the way to a 24-0 halftime lead.
Despite Bridgewater-Raritan (1-2) settling in after the first period, a pair of touchdowns from Panthers quarterback Alex Fromberg, and 181 total receiving yards and a score from receiver Miftar Hasanaj, Ridge’s big first quarter ended up being the difference.
After the Panthers’ first score late in the third period on a 2-yard run by Fromberg, Lloyd’s third and final touchdown reception of 56 yards from Bell for Ridge a short time later on the Red Devils’ ensuing drive game them the breathing room they needed in what ended up being a 31-14 victory over Bridgewater-Raritan.
Lloyd and Hasanaj of the Red Devils and Panthers, respectively, each combined for over 300 total yards of offense in what ended up being big nights for their teams.
But it was Ridge’s run game that set the tone early for the Red Devils in their home opener.
Panthers 0, Red Devils 21
Ridge received the game’s opening kickoff at their own 40, and got it done on the ground on their first drive. They got into the end zone 4:15 into the game after running the ball on all eight plays, including a 14-yard quarterback keeper by Bell and a 20-yard touchdown run by Cameron Lloyd on the final two plays of the drive.
And the Red Devils were not done.
Bridgewater-Raritan got a quick first down on a 7-yard pass by Fromberg and a 5-yard run by running back Peter Usewick, but was forced to punt shortly afterwards. However, the Panthers could not get the punt off, giving the Red Devils the ball back at the Panthers 23. On the very next play, Bell tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Lloyd, putting Ridge up 14-0 with 5:31 left in the opening quarter after Lloyd’s second touchdown in as many drives for the Red Devils.
The Panthers again punted on their ensuing drive, and Ridge continued what ended up being a dominating first quarter in their home opener. Bell completed a pair of first down passes for 19 yards and 14 yards to Lloyd and Nolan Murphy, respectively, putting the Red Devils back into the red zone four minutes after their last touchdown.
Ridge’s Christian Sweeney punched it in with a run from 2 yards out with 48 seconds left in the quarter, giving the Red Devils a 21-0 lead heading into the next period.
Panthers 0, Red Devils 24
While Bridgewater-Raritan allowed 21 points in the opening quarter, they settled in and would not go away.
The Panthers quickly got a pair of first downs on their ensuing drive after only getting one in their three prior drives, and advanced to Red Devils territory for the first time after a 16-yard run by Usewick. Fromberg then got a few key blocks by the Panthers offensive line, dodged a couple of Red Devils defenders and threw a 22-yard dart to Hasanaj to give the Panthers a first down at the Ridge 12.
However, after calling timeout, the Panthers ultimately came up empty when a 4th-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone with 6:54 left in the period, keeping Bridgewater-Raritan off of the scoreboard.
A pair of 12-yard runs by Ridge’s Jake Hoffman and Brendan Bell led to first downs for the Red Devils following the Panthers’ turnover on downs.
With 3:09 to go in the half, Bell completed a 33-yard pass for Ridge to Jack Perry to put the Red Devils at the Panthers 21. While Ridge advanced to the Panthers 8 and a fourth touchdown in as many drives appeared imminent, Bridgewater-Raritan’s defense ultimately kept the Red Devils out of the end zone and force a 24-yard goal by Jake Beckman with 1:10 left in the half.
Although the Panthers trailed 24-0 and came up empty on their final drive of the half, they appeared to build some momentum after stopping Ridge in the red zone, especially since they received the second half kickoff.
Panthers 6, Red Devils 31
Bridgewater-Raritan began at their own 24 out of the locker room. Not even a minute and a half into the period, Fromberg completed a first-down pass to Hasanaj that appeared to put the Panthers at midfield. A huge block by Tyler Tangolics opened up more running room for Hasanaj on the play, which resulted in a 46-yard reception after a touchdown-saving tackle by the final Red Devils defender.
This put the Panthers at the Red Devils 24, but they eventually turned the ball over on downs for the second time deep in the opposing territory on a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage by Ridge’s Christian Sweeney.
This ate up just over three minutes off of the clock, but Ridge punted for the first time of the night on its next drive. Bridgewater-Raritan’s Ryan McKinney returned the ball all the way to the Red Devils 35 with 6:59 left in the period, and eventually converted a 4th and 2 on the ground just over a minute later to make it back to Ridge’s 24.
The Panthers finally got on the board late in the period on a 2-yard quarterback run by Fromberg, cutting Ridge’s lead to 24-6 despite a failed extra-point attempt.
But just when the Panthers appeared to begin to take control in the second half, Ridge quickly answered with a 56-yard strike from Bell to Lloyd. After the extra point with 1:30 to go in the period put the Ridge up 31-6 over Bridgewater-Raritan, Lloyd reached 141 total yards and three touchdowns for the Red Devils, including 119 yards and two scores in the air.
Like Lloyd for the home team, Hasanaj also had a big receiving night for the visiting Panthers. He ended the quarter catching an 18-yard pass from Fromberg and 3rd and long, putting Bridgewater-Raritan back near midfield to begin the final period.
Panthers 14, Red Devils 31
Fromberg completeed a pair of first-down passes of 12 and 13 yards to Hasanaj to open the 4th quarter and put Bridgewater-Raritan on the Red Devils 29 with 10:20 to go. Just over two minutes later, a pass from Fromberg was tipped inside the 5-yard line, but in fitting fashion, Hasanaj dove in to make what ended up being a 20-yard touchdown reception in the middle of the end zone. This was his 13th catch for a game-high 181 receiving yards to go along with the aforementioned score.
A well-executed two-point conversion with Panthers tight end Bryce Myers completing a pass to Fromberg in the right corner of the end zone cut Ridge’s lead to 31-14 with 8:09 to play.
Although the Panthers seemed to find a rhythm in the second half, as they outscored Ridge 14-7 coming out of the locker room up to this point,
Ridge’s 21 unanswered first-quarter points ended up being the difference as stated earlier. The Red Devils ate up just over six minutes off the clock on their next drive before eventually punting near midfield with 2:01 to go.
Bridgewater-Raritan got the ball one more time, but Ridge recovered a late fumble to seal what ended up being its 31-14 victory over the Panthers.
Bridgewater-Raritan lost its second straight game to fall to 1-2 in 2019, and both of the Panthers’ losses have come on the road following their season-opening home victory over Colonia. While their 31 points allowed at Ridge were more than the 28 combined points they allowed in their first two games, the Panthers only allowed a field goal and a touchdown the rest of the way after the Red Devils’ 21-point first quarter.
The Panthers will look to bounce back in their third straight game away from Basilone Field at Franklin High School Sept. 27. Kickoff at the Warriors for Bridgewater-Raritan will be at 7 p.m.
Following their Week 4 contest at Franklin, however, four of the Panthers’ final five regular season games will be at home.
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