CLARK, NJ- The Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders varsity football team took to the field coming out of a bye week, looking to add to their impressive start to the 2017 season, but despite their intentions, they fell to the Somerville High School Pioneers by a final score of 33-7 Friday night in Clark.
The Pioneers got the ball and immediately went to work on a quick first drive, as senior quarterback Ryan Kovacs found junior Joe Ciempola for a 51-yard pass inside Crusaders territory.
Junior Robbie Fiorentino finished off the drive with a 23-yard rushing touchdown and after the two-point conversion attempt was no good, Somerville took a 6-0 lead.
For Somerville, the major story on the field was their defense at various parts of the game and they showed it on the Crusaders first drive on offense. As the Crusaders were driving deep into Pioneers territory, the football came loose and Somerville recovered it, giving them the ball back.
Somerville wasted no time going back to work on offense, charging right into Crusaders territory and into the red zone. Junior Jalahn Dabney finished the drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown and following a successful two-point conversion, Somerville led Johnson by a score of 14-0.
Johnson got some movement on their next drive, but the drive ended with senior quarterback Mike Bruno being intercepted by Kovacs, the first of three interceptions on the night for the Somerville defense.
“The good part about tonight was that we were playing against an option team, a triple-option team that we only really see once a year. So, the kids had to learn it real quick,” Somerville head coach Jeff Vanderbeek said. “A key to an option team is that everybody has to do their job, especially against a team like A.L. [Johnson]. They run it all the time and they run it well.”
Senior Marcus Burnside and sophomore Kyree Hinton recorded an interception each in the fourth quarter.
“Our kids really took the responsibility, did what they were supposed to do and played a tremendous game on defense,” Vanderbeek added.
Somerville led Johnson by a score of 14-0 after the first quarter.
Following a stop on defense, the Pioneers started the next drive following a Crusaders punt at the Johnson 40-yard line. Kovacs threw his second touchdown of the game, a 14-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Kyree Hinton to extend Somerville’s lead to 20-0, the score at halftime.
Johnson got the ball to start the second half and capitalized with a 40-yard rushing touchdown from senior Brandon Rapp. Following the extra point from senior kicker Mike Casalino, Johnson cut the Somerville lead down to 20-7.
As the third quarter went along, both teams traded drives that ended with punts. Somerville received the ball late in the third quarter and in a short drive, found the end zone with a two-yard rushing touchdown by Dabney.
Somerville led Johnson 26-7 after the third quarter. They would add another touchdown in the fourth quarter, when Dabney threw to the end zone, a nine-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Ethan Hilliman to make the score 33-7 Somerville, the final one on the night.
“We’ve got to learn from it and get better as a football team and collectively as a whole. It’s not players getting better, it’s us together as a whole,” Johnson head coach Anthony DelConte said. “We need to learn from the mistakes and we need to be better and that starts with me.”
After sustaining their first loss of the season, the Crusaders are focused on the schedule ahead for the rest of the season.
“We just have to come back to practice, work harder than we did last week, listen to our coaches and keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll be fine,” Bruno said.
“Everyone in that locker room knows we are much better than what the scoreboard showed,” Johnson senior Eddie Weingartner said. “Now, we have to be determined to bounce back and play like the team we know we truly are.”
The Johnson Crusaders (5-1) will head out on the road to play at North Plainfield HS on Friday, October 27 at 7:00 p.m.
The Somerville Pioneers (6-1) head back out on the road to play at Scotch Plains-Fanwood HS on Saturday, October 28 at 2:00 p.m.