DENVILLE, NJ- Senior Jacob Flowers scored a defensive touchdown, an offensive touchdown, and a two-point conversion to spark the Randolph football team to a 29-6 win over Morris Knolls.
"It is always a battle with Knolls, they are always a good disciplined team, and the last few years they got us in some close games,” said Rams coach Will Nahan. “I told our team it is their choice if they want a different outcome. We worked hard the entire week, and today they came out and everyone did their job.”
After a listless start from both squads, Knolls established some offense and put together a long drive down to the Rams 15-yard line. On the first play of the second quarter however, Randolph's Ryan Knox and Ryan McDermott collectively hit the Golden Eagles QB on an option play, forcing a fumble.
Flowers scooped up the loose ball at the 12 yard line and raced 88 yards down the left sideline to give Randolph a 7-0 lead.
“They were driving, we had to make a stop, and I saw the ball on the ground and was able to make a play,” said Flowers. “One play can spark anything, and we needed a spark at that time. The whole team stepped up after that.”
The ensuing kickoff however, was almost the spark Knolls needed and could have gone the distance if not for a TD saving tackle at the 50 yard line by Mike Fodali.
The Golden Eagles offense then moved the ball again to the Randolph 15, where they missed a field goal on fourth down.
Randolph took over, and saw their offense finally come to life, marching down the field on an 85-yard touchdown drive. Quarterback Anthony Sofia completed passes of 20 yards to both Jimmy Pepe and McDermott on the drive, while scrambling for a 12 yard run of his own in between.
They reached the 8-yard line, where Sophia fired a bullet to flowers on a quick inside slant for a 14-0 Randolph lead.
The Rams defense then came to life, stuffing Knolls on the next drive and forcing a punt. When the snap was bobbled, the Golden Eagles punter was tackled before he could kick by Jimmy Pepe and Fodali, giving Randolph the ball on the Knolls 45-yard line.
A few plays later, a 15-yard reception by McDermitt put the ball on the 7-yard line. Sofia then tossed a floater to McDermott on a post pattern in the left corner of the end zone, putting Randolph up 21-0 just before half.
Coming into the third, Randolph looked to establish a ball control game and eat up some clock. They turned to senior Derek Rooney, and the captain set the tone for the second half with a number of physical runs in which he punished the Golden Eagles tacklers and methodically moved the ball down field.
However a penalty and a sack stalled the drive and the Rams gave the ball back on downs.
Knolls then got on the board on their first drive of the the fourth, when their QB decided to keep the ball on a few consecutive option runs, and took his team down inside the five. Randolph’s defense didn’t make it easy, stopping the next two attempts, however the Golden Eagles finally pushed the ball across the goal line for a score of 21-6 after a missed PAT.
Randolph quickly dashed any hopes Knolls had of making a comeback on their next possession. Sofia found Pepe in the middle of the field for a 15-yard completion, where the shifty sophomore slipped a tackle, picked up a block, and raced to pay dirt for a 40-yard touchdown.
On the PAT, Randolph ran an option and Sofia pitched to Flowers who ran into the end zone on the right side for a 29-6 lead.
As the Golden Eagles desperately tried to make a late push for more points, the Rams defense would budge no more. Sophomore Luke Rusher had a sack and a tackle for a loss on two consecutive plays to give Randolph the ball back with three minutes to go, and the Rams ran out the clock.
“We are winning with a full team effort, and it really is a great feeling to be 3-0,” said Sofia. The offense we run is a spread look where we try to take advantage of what the defense gives us, which helps get everyone involved.”
While the Rams have put up big point totals in their first three games, they know there will be more tough football ahead, starting with a road game next week at West Morris.
I tell these guys, the season is like a boxing match where everyone is fresh and has a lot of energy in the first few rounds – or games,” said Nahan. “As the season goes on it all gets more intense. We have a really tough opponent coming up in round four with West Morris, and we have to make sure we prepare.”
Randolph plays next at West Morris Friday Sept. 21