RANDOLPH, NJ- Led by linebackers Justin Moreno and Derek Rooney, along with defensive tackle Luke Ruscher, the Randolph Rams football team pitched a 10-0 shutout over West Morris to move their record to 4-0 on the season.
Going into the game both teams knew it was going to be a Slugfest, and it played out just that way. After 58 minutes of back and forth play, the game came down to the wire when the score still showed 3-0 with just over two minutes to go.
“I told the kids when you play West Morris the first thing that comes to my mind is toughness,” said Rams coach Will Nahan. “This game certainly was a tough battle, an old fashion knock-em-down game and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The first quarter saw both teams gain some positive yardage, but it was mostly between the 30’s with no real scoring threats.
In the second quarter, the Rams turned to the ground game, using senior Matt Kuntz ( 17 carries for 99 yards on the game ) to march the ball down field, reaching the Wolfpack 5 yard line. The drive stalled there however, and they kicked a field goal for a 3-0 lead with seven minutes left in the half.
Senior QB Anthony Sofia led Randolph on another drive late in the second, completing a trio of passes to Dylan Glyncman for 9 yards, Jacob Flowers for 35, and Matt Kuntz for 15 to once again reach the 5-yard line with just 12 seconds left in the half.
However, the Wolfpack defense also came to play tonight, and a blitzing linebacker hit Sofia as he threw and forced an interception in the end zone to send the game into halftime at 3-0.
“At half time I challenged the kids,” said Nahan. “I said bottom line, if they don’t score we can’t lose, so let’s put it on us and on our defense.”
The Rams defense answered the bell, tightening up even more in the third quarter.
“Coach prepared us all week for what we would see tonight,” said Moreno. “We saw some of their counter-tray early, and on some of their formations we knew they were going to be runs. It was just a matter of seeing the read, and getting to the spot I needed to be in.”
Ruscher was a thorn in the Wolfpack side all night long, using his quickness and speed to constantly disrupt the offensive backfield, picking up a collection of sacks, tackles for losses, and QB pressures. Rooney, along with Jacob Flowers made key tackles at the second level, while Ryan Knox, and Mike Tahiri also created pressure up the middle on defense and collected a sack late in the game.
But Moreno was the star on defense, making key plays at critical times to spark his team. In the second half alone, Moreno broke up a third and nine pass, stuffed a fourth down and one attempt, and sacked the Wolfpack QB forcing them into a difficult third and nineteen late in the game. Moreno was also in on numerous other tackles.
“That kid has one speed, and he was sideline to sideline tonight,” said Nahan. “He was making plays all over tonight; I loved the game he played.”
Late in the game with just under two minutes left and Randolph trying to run out the clock, it appeared the Wolfpack would get one more chance to win as they had the Rams stuck in third and nine and were hoping to force a punt.
Sofia would have none of that however, as he took a QB keeper up the gut, broke a tackle and slipped outside, where he raced down the left sideline for a 47 yard TD run and a 10-0 lead that put the dagger in.
"We ran the play earlier in the game, a QB counter but they stopped us on it," said Sofia. "This time we showed them a different formation, and put a different man in motion. I got some good blocks and was able to get down the sideline and score."
Sofia finished with 11 carries for 117 yards, while completing 8 of 19 passes for 98 yards and two INT's.
The Rams record now stands at an impressive 4-0 mark, and the team's confidence and energy keeps climbing with each passing week.
“All week we busted our butts in practice, and it’s almost to the point where the team is leading itself,” said Rooney. “Different guys are stepping up every day and coming out of the woodwork, which is helping us get better and better.”
The Rams host a strong Mount Olive team next week at home.