BASKING RIDGE, NJ -- The Bridgewater-Raritan football team found itself in a deep early hole in hostile territory Friday night, and while the Panthers weren't able to dig themselves all the way out, they aquitted themselves well after those early knockdowns.
Ridge defeated Bridgewater-Raritan, 31-14, but the Panthers moved the ball well and showed some real flashes of promise in the second half after trailing, 24-0, at intermission.
Senior quarterback Alex Fromberg completed 17 of 31 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a TD. Junior receiver Miftar Hasanaj caught 12 passes for 178 yards and a TD.
"No. 1 is an excellent player," Ridge head coach Bill Tracy said of Hasanaj, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound wideout who confounded the Red Devils' defense several times with slant patterns and crossing patterns over the middle. "When we played them last year, we noticed he was very aggressive and active on defense. He is even bigger now, and he has obviously come into his own as a receiver now."
Ridge receiver Cameron Lloyd scored three TDs – two on passes from QB Brendan Bell. Against BRHS, Bell completed nine of 11 passes for 159 yards and Lloyd 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.
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.
Bridgewater did march deep into Ridge territory midway through the second quarter as Fromberg 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 hashmark for a 56-yard bomb and a 31-6 lead with 1:28 left in the third quarter.
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, Hasanaj, time to swoop in, dive and snag the ball out of the air in the end zone for a touchdown.
Check back tomorrow for a full play-by-play recap of the game!