BRIDGEWATER, NJ – Coming off of a critical 17-6 win over Westfield in a defensive slugfest, with three wins in their last four games, Bridgewater-Raritan rode a wave of momentum into Homecoming Week over 7-0 Union.

It was offense that ruled the night in week eight at John Basilone Field, with the visitors pulling away in the second half and holding off the Panthers to remain undefeated.

With Union (8-0) receiving the game’s opening kickoff and scoring just over three minutes into the contest on a 28-yard touchdown pass by Farmers quarterback Andrew Sanborn to receiver Desmond Igbinosun, this immediately set the tone for what ended up being a shootout the entire night. Bridgewater-Raritan (4-4) quickly answered with a touchdown of its own just under three minutes later on its opening drive before both teams traded trips to the end zone for the entire first half.

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With both teams eventually scoring touchdowns on what ended up each of their first four drives, including three straight first-half touchdowns by Panthers quarterback Alex Fromberg to tie the game at 28-28 with 1:20 left in the 2nd quarter, a 23-yard field goal by Farmers kicker Ricardo Casas as time expired in the half began a burst of 17 unanswered points for the visitors that extended into the third quarter.

While Fromberg finished with four touchdowns (two rushing) on the night, including on passes to Miftar Hasanaj and Bryce Myers, Union ultimately prevailed by a score of 51-35.

The 51 points allowed by the Panthers defense, who allowed 46 combined points in their last three games and an average of 17 points per game overall heading into its contest against Union, was their most allowed in a game in 2019.

Despite a tough night for the Panthers defense, Bridgewater-Raritan can certainly build on what ended up being a strong offensive performance with one regular season game remaining and with the playoff picture heading into Week 9 still to be determined.

Farmers 14, Panthers 14

One week after a combined 23 points were scored at John Basilone Field, both teams exceeded that number before the first period even ended.

Union received the game’s opening kickoff, and quarterback Andrew Sanborn put on a show for the visitors right out of the gate. A pair of long passes of 16 and 15 yards to receivers Desmond Igbinosun and Kayir McBride, respectively, set the tone, and then a 28-yard touchdown reception by Igbinosun from Sanborn opened the game’s scoring with 8:54 left in the period.

Bridgewater-Raritan’s Alex Fromberg quickly marched the Panthers down the field, as the Panthers senior quarterback tossed passes of 23 and 12 yards to Mike Maciolek and Tyler Tangolics, respectively, to quickly put the Panthers in Farmers territory. A 16-yard carry by running back Brett MacMath put the Panthers in the red zone, and MacMath scored from 10 yards out to tie the game at 7-7 just about halfway into the quarter.

A kickoff return to midfield by Union and a 23-yard catch by Igbinosun from Sanborn immediately put the Farmers back into Panthers territory, and a 16-yard touchdown catch by Igbinosun, which was his second scoring catch of the night, put Union back in front with 3:05 left in the opening period. Fromberg picked up right where he left off for Bridgewater-Raritan, however, carrying it 22 yards on the Panthers’ first play of their ensuing drive, and completing a 15-yard pass to running back Ryan McKinney to move the chains again.

McKinney then managed another big play on the ground to set up an 8-yard catch by Tangolics to put Bridgewater-Raritan back into the red zone with under a minute remaining in the period. With five seconds remaining in the quarter, Fromberg scored his first of four touchdowns on the night on a six-yard run to tie the game at 14-14, and Union returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 39 to end a high-scoring first period.

Farmers 31, Panthers 28

With Sanborn and Igbinosun back on the field and leading the way for Union, the Farmers quickly responded.

Igbinosun caught what appeared to be a short first-down pass from Sanborn, but the Farmers receiver broke a couple of tackles and ran up the opposite sideline for what ended up being a 40-yard reception. This eventually set up Sanborn’s third touchdown of the night on an 8-yard quarterback keeper with 10:49 left in the half.

And then it was Fromberg’s turn.

The Panthers quarterback immediately tossed a strike to Myers, who ran up the home team’s sideline for a 60-yard reception before being tackled just short of the end zone. After a pass interference penalty on Union, Fromberg then tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to receiver Miftar Hasanaj to tie the game at 21-21 just two minutes after Union’s last touchdown drive.

But both teams still were not done from there.

With Union beginning its next drive at its own 38 and eventually facing a 3rd and 2, Bridgewater-Raritan called its first timeout on defense. Looking for their first stop of the night, Union’s Diante Wilson rushed for the two yards he needed to move the chains. Sanborn and Igbinosun again further silenced the packed Bridgewater-Raritan Homecoming crowd with a 41-yard connection before a two-yard touchdown run put Union back in front by a score of 28-21 with 5:44 left in the quarter.

While Union’s JaQuan Robinson sacked Fromberg for the first negative play by either offense on the night just over two minutes before halftime, a roughing the passer penalty on the Farmers moved Bridgewater-Raritan back into the red zone. The Panthers cashed in on a 13-yard touchdown reception by Myers from Fromberg with 1:20 left in the half to tie the game at 28-28.

This ended up being plenty of time for the visitors.

A 53-yard pass from Sanborn to Farmers receiver Ahmirr Robinson immediately resulted in a 1st and goal from the Panthers 10 for Union with 0:50 left in the period, but Bridgewater-Raritan ultimately kept the Farmers out of the end zone from there.

While Union took the lead on a 23-yard field goal by Ricardo Casas as time expired in the half, the Panthers certainly had to feel good going into the locker room halting a streak of eight combined touchdowns by both teams to open the game, especially with Bridgewater-Raritan electing to receive the second half kickoff.

Farmers 45, Panthers 28

But coming out of the locker room, it was the Farmers’ defense that finally answered the Panthers’ big stop.

Despite advancing into Farmers territory in the second half’s first drive, the Panthers were stopped two yards short on a 4th and 7 run. Union took over at the Panthers 36 with 8:45 left in the period and the game still tied at 28-28, but the Farmers ended up riding this momentum to put the Panthers in a deep hole.

Sanborn quickly marched the Farmers down the field, and with his team facing a 2nd and 24 after a penalty, Union’s Christian Murrell broke a tackle for a 28-yard run to put the Farmers back into the red zone. This eventually led to a nine-yard touchdown run by Wilson with 5:38 left in the quarter to make it a two-possession game in favor of the visitors, as the Panthers trailed 38-28 at this point.

Bridgewater-Raritan ultimately punted on its next drive, and this boot with 3:24 left in the quarter was remarkably the first punt by either team on the night. Unfortunately, the Farmers capitalized on its second stop in as many drives, as Sanborn and Murrell each rushed for 17 yards to quickly go back into Panthers territory. A penalty moved the Farmers back into the red zone, and on 4th and 6, Union extended its lead to 45-28 with 0:45 left in the quarter on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Sanborn to McBride.

A pair of personal fouls against Union on the ensuing kickoff put Bridgewater-Raritan at the Farmers 43 and in good field position to end the 3rd quarter despite a 17-point deficit at that point.

Farmers 51, Panthers 35

Another personal foul on Union pushed Bridgewater-Raritan into the red zone, eventually leading to a one-yard touchdown run by Fromberg to cut Union’s lead to 45-35 with 10:16 to go and plenty of time. But while Bridgewater-Raritan’s onside kick attempt rolled the 10+ yards it needed to roll, the ball unfortunately veered out of bounds to give Union good field position at the Panthers 49.

With a short field, Union’s Diante Wilson found the end zone untouched on a 25-yard touchdown run up the middle immediately following a run of 14 yards, and the Farmers extended their lead to 51-35 with 8:03 to go after a missed extra point.

While the missed extra point kept it a two-possession game at John Basilone Field, that was the final scoring play of the contest.

Bridgewater-Raritan did not go away, however, and perhaps the highlight of the night came on 4th and 11 with 4:40 to go with the Panthers still trailing by 16. At his own 45, Fromberg looked like he was going to be sacked, but just as the Panthers quarterback was being tackled onto the turf, he managed to get a short pass off to MacMath. Even more, it looked like MacMath was going to be brought down a few yards short of the marker to result in a turnover on downs, but the senior Panthers running back broke tackles from three defenders, and instead ran 55 yards before being tackled at the Farmers 3 to keep Bridgewater-Raritan alive.

But the Panthers were ultimately kept out of the end zone from there despite that unbelievable play, as a goal line stand by Union’s defense on 4th and goal from the Farmers 1 with 2:45 to go sealed the deal for the visitors.

Union ran out the clock from there, and remain undefeated with a 51-35 victory over Bridgewater-Raritan.

The Panthers (4-4), who entered week eight ranked ninth out of 16 teams in the North 2 Group 5 playoff picture, will get another chance against an undefeated foe in its regular season finale on Senior Night. After rallying for a 21-20 victory at home over New Brunswick, Woodbridge (7-0) will travel to John Basilone Field in a game that will have big playoff implications for Bridgewater-Raritan.

The Panthers have defeated Colonia, Franklin, Hunderton Central and Westfield in 2019 through so far in the 2019 regular season. Colonia and Westfield both picked up wins in week eight, with Westfield knocking off previously undefeated Phillipsburg in overtime, which is good news for the Panthers. Franklin and Hunderton Central both lost in Week 8.

Kickoff against the undefeated Barrons will be at 7:00pm on Friday November 1st, 2019.

Follow James Olivola on Twitter (@MrOlivola) for live updates during game days and all things related to Bridgewater-Raritan Panther Athletics. Like The BReeze on Facebook and follow The BReeze on Twitter (@TheBReezeTAP).