LIVINGSTON, NJ -- The Livingston football team won the time of possession battle on opening night, but the Lancers lost the war.
Jimmy Pepe scored all three of his team's touchdowns as Randolph dealt Livingston a 20-6 loss Friday night in a game that the Lancers actually dominated much of the way. But, while Livingston ran many more scrimmage plays than Randolph, the Rams made more big plays.
The game, however, was much closer than the final margin of victory would suggest. Randoph's final touchdown came with 1:15 left in the game, when the Rams were running out the clock and Pepe broke an 89-yard run. But, from the time that Pepe caught a 67-yard TD pass from quarterback Matt Kleiven with 5:13 left in the second quater, until Pepe's nail-in-the-coffin TD run with 1:15 left, the Livingston defense held Randolph without a first down on four consecutive three-and-out possessions.
"We made a couple of defensive adjustments at halftime," Livingston head coach Bob Breschard said. "It's the fourth year in a row we've played Randolph that it's come down to the last minute. It's always one play here or there against this team. Defensively, we knew what they wanted to do. Our kids played very well on defense. We had one opportunity for an interception against them that could have been a 'pick six'."
Both teams had senior quarterbacks making their first varsity starts, and both turned in strong performances Friday night. Will Egner, shifting from wide receiver to QB this season, guided the Lancer offense with poise and toughness, completing 13 of 24 passes for 154 yards without an interception. Egner's 6-yard TD pass to Luke Nardone on fourth down and goal on a fade pattern with 6:53 left in the second quarter brought Livingston to within 7-6, but the Lancers missed the extra point. Three plays later, Kleiven connected with Pepe on the long TD pass for a 13-6 Randolph lead, and the score stayed that way until late in the fourth quarter.
"Will did a lot of nice things tonight," Breschard said. "He had some reads that were open early in the game that (Randolph) took away later, and those things are part of becoming a quarterback and learning. We'll look at the film and see. But Will did a nice job for us and put us in position to score several times."
Livingston moved the ball consistently well between the 20s, but its forays deep into Randolph territory came up empty. Three drives in the second half stand out as lost Livingston opportunities. With five minutes left in the third quarter, on first down from the Randolph 41-yard line, Egner threw a deep post pattern pass that receiver Andrew Mazzella was in position to catch until Randolph defensive back Aiden Koenigsburg came over, leaped and knocked the ball away just before it reached Mazzella's arms.
"The Randolph kid on that pass made as textbook a defensive play as you could possibly make there," Breschard said.
Livingston's defense, with linebackers Samuel Danchak, Michael Lillo, Brian Russo and Egner, and Nardone at safety, did its job of keeping Randolph from moving the chains, and twice in the final quarter, Livingston mounted long drives deep inside the Randolph red zone. But on both occasions, the Randolph defense stiffened and stopped Livingston on downs at the 9-yard line, first with 7:27 left and then with 1:51 left in the game.
Livingston had 62 snaps from scrimmage. Randolph ran only 35 scrimmage plays,
While Nardone had a solid defensive game, he really shined at wideout for Livingston. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound senior caught nine passes for 121 yards, gashing the Randolph defense with both deep patterns and shorter stuff over the middle.
"Nardone is a big-time player," Breschard said. "Last year, he really came into his own, then he put in a lot of work in the off-season in the weight room and had a great game tonight