HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The Hillsborough High Sschool football team couldn’t have played more completely different halves Friday night. But unfortunately for the Raiders, their electric second half still wasn’t enough to overcome a stale and lackluster first.
Twice in the final 13 minutes, Hillsborough claimed the lead on touchdown passes from Tommy Ramsey, but both times, Hunterdon Central recovered on TD runs from Will Ezema, who rushed for 175 yards and three TDs -- the final of which gave the Red Devils the decisive points in a 27-24 victory over Hillsborough Friday. The loss is Hillsborough’s first of the season (3-1).
“A lot of elements that we did today I’m happy with, but while I think they’re [Hunterdon Central} a good team, I’m not happy with the way we finished,” Hillsborough head coach Kevin Carty Jr. told TAPinto Hillsborough. “We need to do a better job finishing it off. We had some chances too, and we just didn’t come through.”
Quarterback Ramsey and Hillsborough could get nothing going and looked dead to rights after the first 24 minutes, but that changed quickly. Ramsey threw for 190 yards and three touchdown passes in the second half — the first two to Will Boczon, who hauled in 140 total receiving yards, and the third to Tawe Tawe — though Hunterdon Central had quick answers answer for the final two.
Ramsey’s 64-yard hookup to Tawe down the left sideline with 4:26 left gave Hillsborough a 24-20 lead after the PAT, and came just two minutes after Hunterdon Central had jumped out to a 20-17 advantage. But on the ensuing drive, the Red Devils marched 77 yards downfield on just five plays to jump ahead for good. Ezema ran for the game-winning 20-yard TD five plays after starting the series on a 37-yard breakaway.
There was still over a minute for Hillsborough to make something happen, but a banged-up Ramsey threw a pick to Micah Dumornay with 1:02 left that sealed the deal.
“We won the first game at the last second, so we’ve been though this,” Carty Jr. said. “Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t. It was disappointing the way that worked out.”
Hillsborough entered the wild second half trailing, 13-3, after a quiet first 24 minutes, but flipped the script fast.
Ramsey connected with Dylan Boczon on touchdown passes to complete Hillsborough’s second and third drives of the new half. The first TD came on a 10-yard fade route to complete a six-play, 95-yard drive in which Ramsey also hit with Boczon on a 76-yard bomb to put Hillsborough at the 15. After the Raiders’ defense forced a three-and-out on Hunterdon Central’s responding drive, Ramsey again found Boczon for and 18-yard TD to give Hillsborough a 17-13 lead with 11:04 left in the fourth quarter.
The latter of those TDs concluded a 12-play drive that started way back at the Hillsborough 16, but Ramsey had keeper runs of 20 and 18 yards to give it a boost. Ramsey rushed for a total of xx yards on the night.
“Tommy’s so tough,” Carty Jr. said. “His back is to the wall, and makes plays. He just makes plays with his toughness and competitiveness; he’s a great leader and a guy that you can’t count him out.”
Hunterdon Central would quickly regain the lead on the ensuing drive after Ramsey’s second TD. Ezema took a five-yard carry into the end zone to complete an eight-play, 60-yard series that gave the Red Devils a 20-17 lead with 6:11 remaining in the game.
Ezema also rushed for a one-yard TD 2:40 into game to finish off a three-play opening drive fueled by Clayton Lancaster’s 50-yard pass down right sideline that brought it to the one. Logan Matthews then booted 22 and 73-yard field goals, respectively, on Hunterdon Central’s next two drives as the Red Devils jumped out to 13-0 lead with 9:52 left in second quarter.
After Hillsborough collected under 50 net yards and only two first downs in its fruitless first four drives of game, it finally made something happen on fifth. Starting at the 50, Sean Levonaitis picked up 23 yards on a break way run to the 37, then ran for 21 more two plays later to place the Raiders in the red zone for first time all night.
But Hillsborough couldn’t cross the goal line as Ramsey overthrew Boczon and Tawe on consecutive passes into the end zone after Levonaitis lost two yards on a 1st-and-10 rush attempt. Hillsborough settled for a 27-yard field goal from Franklin Wasserman with :24 and entered halftime trailing, 13-3.
Levonaitis finished the game with 74 rushing yards -- the majority of which came in the first half, as Hillsborough almost exclusively switched to an aerial assault in the final two quarters.