HILLSBOROUGH, NJ -- Jack Perry doesn't mind his role as a complementary player on the Ridge football team, but on nights like Friday, he's not about to eschew the spotlight if it shines on him.
Perry, a senior halfback/safety, scored a touchdown on both offense and defense and came up with two big turnovers to help the Red Devils knocks Hillsborough from the ranks of the undefeated with a 32-13 victory before a huge Homecoming crowd in Hillsborough.
Perry caught a 12-yard TD pass from Brendan Bell to cap Ridge's opening drive of the game, intercepted a pass with a minute left in the first half to thwart a threatening Hillsborough drive, and returned a fumble 40 yards for a touchdown two minutes into the third quarter to extend Ridge's lead to 20-6.
The second turnover that ended up in Perry's hands wasn't so much a fumble as it was an out-and-out theft. Hillsborough's Tom Amankwaa took the ball toward his right sideline on an end-around play, but before he reached the sideline, Perry reached in and pilfered the ball away (it never hit the ground) and, without breaking strike, sped down the sideline the opposite way for a touchdown.
"We were in a 'Cover 3' (defense) there, and I saw him motion coming to my side," Perry explained of the steal/TD return. "When he came my way, I saw an opening and I went for the steal."
Hillsborough (4-1) had been moving the ball well at the end of the first half before Perry's end-zone interception, and the Raiders were on the march again early in the second half when Perry's swipe-&-score gave Ridge (3-1) a huge momentum boost with a 14-point lead. His second-quarter interception came after Hillsborough had driven from its own 24-yard line to the Ridge 15, where it faced fourth-down-and-seven. Quarterback Tom Ramsey's pass ended up in Perry's arms after the safety leaped to keep it away from the intended receiver.
"I was up against the line, 2 yards off," Perry said of how the play developed. "When (the receiver) went into his pattern, I read his hips and I beat him to the ball. They had a lot of momentum as they got down near the goal line.
"We have stars on this team like Christian Sweeney, Brendan Bell and Cameron Lloyd, so I never want to be in the spotlight," Perry said.
But last night, he certainly ended up there.
"Jack is a great athlete," Ridge head coach Bill Tracy said. "He is a lacrosse star, too, and we love to have multi-sport athletes. He weighs about 170, but he plays like he's 220. His pick was huge at the end of the first half."
In the first half, after Bell's 12-yard TD pass to Perry opened the scoring, Ridge extended to a 13-0 lead with a 15-play, 89-yard drive that featured several players and all the twists, turns and misdirections of a classic Wing-T offense. Senior end Cameron Lloyd closed the drive with an 18-yard run to the left corner of the end zone on reverse around end on second-and-one with 8:28 left in the half. Jake Beckman's extra point gave Ridge a 13-0 lead.
Hillsborough cut the Ridge lead to 13-6 with 6:24 left in the second quarter on a 40-yard bomb down the left sideline from Ramsey to Amankwaa.
Ridge never let Hillsborough sustain any momentum. After the Raiders answered Perry's fumble return with a 76-yard drive and a 4-yard TD run by Ramsey to close to within 20-13, Ridge deflated the home team again with a 14-play, 76-yard drive capped by Christian Sweeney's 2-yard run off right tackle punctuated with a headlong vault across the goal line with 11:31 left in the fourth quarter.
Sweeney rushed for 138 yards on 22 carries in the game. Bell completed six of 11 passes for 68 yards and a TD. The offensive line of left tackle Andrew Taddeo, left guard Colin Scherzer, center Mark Minsch, right guard Collin Young and right tackle Michael Duncan helped the Ridge Wing-T churn out 310 total yards from scrimmage.
Ridge's final TD came on a 17-yard counter run by Jake Hoffman with 4:40 left in the game.
All in all, it was an impressive bounce-back for a Ridge team playing an undefeated opponent on the road for the second Friday night in a row. Last week, the Red Devils lost a double-overtime thriller to unbeaten Phillipsburg, 34-28, in Warren County. But Tracy never wavered in his belief that the loss to P-burg wasn't one that was going to demoralize his team.
"We had confidence going into that game (at Phillipsburg), and we had just as much confidence at 10:00 last Friday night after the loss," Tracy said. "The way that game went made us feel better about ourselves, even though we lost. When we saw how hungry this team was, we said, 'We might have something special here'."
Perry echoes the sentiment that this Ridge team is as cohesive as it is physically talented.
"Last year's team had good chemistry, and we set out to recreate that chemistry this year," Perry said. "This team has the best chemistry of any football team in the entire state. That makes it so much more fun to play."
RIDGE (3-1) 6 7 7 12 -- 32
HILLSBOROUGH (4-1) 0 6 7 0 -- 13