RANDOLPH, NJ- It may not have been the prettiest of wins, but career victory number one for Randolph Coach Mike Lyons was worth every ounce of sweat from his players, who scratched, clawed, and fought to the finish of an 18-15 victory.
“Coach Lyons has always been the guy who loves us the most, and he told us no matter what happens, he will always be here for us,” said linebacker and team leader Tony Fodali. “To get that first career win for him, and see the smile on his face when holding the game ball, was worth everything we worked so hard for all August long.”
The Rams offense was a bit sluggish on the night, but was opportunistic and made plays when needed. A dominating defensive performance however, kept Livingston in check, as the only points the Lancers could muster came as a result of their special teams.
Lyons certainly knew where credit was due for this win.
“This was a great first victory for me, in a very exciting game,” said Lyons. “It was a great effort by our defense and by all our defensive coaches, they are the ones that allowed us to be where we are right now, at 1-0. That’s a very complicated defense we have, one that when it is run right, can be devastating, and tonight it was.”
After the teams traded three and outs, a Randolph punt was returned 73 yards for a touchdown to spot Livingston to a 6-0 lead. ( extra point was no good )
Two possessions later the Rams knotted it up. Lineman Ryan Cimbol picked up a big third down sack, forcing a Lancers punt. Randolph’s Matt Kuntz returned the favor to the Lancers, fielding the punt just inside the 50 yard line and taking it 52 yards to the house to tie the game at 6-6 after a Rams failed extra point.
The Lancers next points again came from special teams, when a punt bounced off the back of a Randolph player and Livingston recovered on the 10 yard line. Randolph’s defense pushed them back to the 17 and a field goal gave Livingston a 9-6 lead.
With 20 seconds left before halftime, Randolph appeared to be running out the clock with the ball on their own 45. However, QB Justin Suarez dropped back and connected with Nick Wolmart on a 40 yard strike to put the Rams on the 15 with just two seconds left. A quick spike led to a Jacob Flowers field goal to tie the game 9-9 going into halftime.
We decided to take a shot on a backside post to Nick, and when I saw him go by the safety I just let it fly,” said Suarez. It was such a big play just before the half, one that got us all fired up and I think it helped us win the game.”
Randolph came right out of the locker room and used that momentum to methodically move down field on their first possession, picking up yardage on short runs from Dom Scali, Kuntz, and a few Lancer penalties. But the drive almost stalled when they faced a third and 15 from the Livingston 26.
Suarez dropped back and hit Ryan McDermott on a short post pattern 12 yards down field, and the small speedy back did the rest, making a few defenders miss before breaking a tackle at the two and diving in for a touchdown. Another failed extra point and the Rams were up 15-9.
“We drew up the play before the game because we knew that Trips left was a weakness of theirs,” said McDermott, who also had an interception in the first half. “It opened up as we hoped it would, I still had to make a few guys miss but I got to the end zone.”
McDermott earned high praise from his coach for his play in the win.
“McDerrmott, he’s old fashioned Randolph, you see the size of him and all of our backs, not one is over 165 pounds,” said Lyons. But we are tough, we are nasty, and that’s the way I like it.”
Once again, Livingstons special teams kept them in the game when the ensuing kickoff was returned 86 yards for a TD. Rams lineman Chandler Boykins blocked their extra point to keep the score tied at 15-15.
After Scali returned the kickoff 45 yards to midfield, a big third down and 10 pass from Suarez to Wolmart kept the Rams on the move. A few plays later Flowers kicked the go ahead 22 yard field goal for an 18-15 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
From there, the defense clamped down and kept the Lancers off the board the rest of the way, thanks in part to sacks from Wolmart, Boykins, Cimbol, and Nick Petruzziello.
“The defensive line made the linebackers and secondary’s jobs so easy, they got in the backfield, made sacks and disrupted everything,” said Fodali. We just dug our heels in the dirt and decided we were not giving them anything.”
Next up is an always strong Sparta team, Friday September 8, on Randolph’s Homecoming night.
“We have to get back to work on offense and keep working on defense,” said Fodali. “Sparta was our toughest game last year, so we have to come out strong.”