RANDOLPH, NJ- When Covid-19 cancelled their game against Livingston Friday night, the Randolph Rams football team picked up a game for Saturday against Union City, a team who has seen a lot of success in recent years and came to Randolph boasting a massive offensive line and multiple Division I recruit’s.
These guys are a perennial power, and we knew they were a physical team so we told our guys to get ready for a slugfest,” said Rams coach Will Nahan.
Coming from far outside the Rams typical area of play, there was a lot of uncertainty on what to expect from this matchup, outside of the fact that it would be a good test for both teams.
“We had short notice that we were playing these guys, but we still had a great week of practice,” said Jimmy Pepe. “Trust and keeping focused were big things for us today, we knew that they were a talented team and we had to prepare and play good technique to beat them.”
It was a roller coaster of a game, one that saw the Rams shoot out of the gate to take a big lead, only to have Union City claw their way back in the third to make it a two-point game. But the Rams pulled away late for a 48-25 win.
Randolph received the opening kickoff and got their offense into high gear fast with a 50-yard screen pass on 3rd and 6 from QB Aden Koenigsberg to Townsend. Another Townsend run for 15 yards on a delayed handoff gave the Rams First and goal. Jimmy Pepe took it into the end zone on the next play for a 7-0 lead.
The Rams defense was fantastic at the start, forcing three and outs on Union City’s first three possessions. The Rams next possession saw Corey Neclario haul in two big passes from Koenigsberg, first a 40 yarder and then a 35 yarder for a TD and a 7-0 lead.
The Rams third scoring drive started with a 19 run by Pepe and was finished off by a fourth down scramble for 30 yards and a TD by Konigsberg. The PAT was no good, but the Rams were rolling at 20-0.
Finally, Union City found some success with a long, methodical 60-yard drive mostly running the ball, and after scoring they also missed the kick for a 20-6 score.
After trading possessions, a sack from Dillon Sheehan forced a Punt attempt, wihich was pressured by Dan Kleiven. The pressure forced a run attempt, and the Rams took over in great position. Randolph wasted no time scoring again, when Koenigsberg avoided the rush and hit Townsend in the flat. The big back scampered for a 30-yard TD and a 27-6 lead.
Just before half, after a Union City 10-yard TD pass, Connor McDermott blocked the extra point and the score was 27-12 at half.
Out of the half, the Rams faced some adversity. Union City drove the field for a score, again using multiple runs over the left side to slice the lead to 27-18. Randolph then fumbled on their first play, and Union City turned that into more points with another short TD run to make it anyone’s game at 27-25 with only two minutes left in the third.
Facing by far the biggest collection of linemen they have ever played against, the Rams offensive and defensive line was pivotal in earning the victory.
“We didn’t get scared at all when the game got tight,” said Rams two-way lineman Darian Ghahary. “We have dealt with this before in past years, so we just kept playing the way we know how. We kept our composure and played within our system, and today our O line and D line played amazing.
A late hit on Koenigsberg along the sidelines seemed to jump start the Rams, and from there they scored three straight TD’s to put the game away.
The first came on a third and one, Randolph went five wide and Koenigsberg ran a keeper up the middle for a 25yard score and a 33-25 lead. The next one came on a 55-yard run up the right sideline from Townsend for a 41-25 lead. Last, Pepe ground out two tackle breaking runs of 25 yards and 20 yards, before giving way to Townsend for a three-yard TD and the final points in the 48-25 win.
“This is one of the most special groups I have ever been a part of, we are so resilient, and nothing fazes us at all," said Koenigsberg. "We always say cool, calm and composed through it all. When it got down to a two-point game there was no doubt in my mind that we still had it.”
The win certainly was a good measuring stick for the Rams, as Union City has been a playoff team year in and year out.
“The biggest blessing that happened to us this week was getting to play this game, because all we have wanted was to prove ourselves against a top opponent,” said Captain Justin Townsend. We have the talent and skill to be a top team in the state, but we needed a game to show it. All week in practice, when we broke the huddle it was ‘statement on three’, and we feel like we did make a statement today.”