RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph football team had no intentions of backing down to Sparta, even though the mighty Spartans rolled into Bauer Stadium with a 5-1 record averaging 39.5 points per game. The Rams answered everything Sparta threw at them and even had the ball and a chance to win with two minutes left, before an unfortunate bounce effectively sealed the game.
“That is a very tough and talented team over there in Sparta,” said coach Will Nahan. Our kids made it a game because they know how to compete, and they know how to fight. I am proud of the way my kids battled.”
The Sparta offense lived up to all expectations, moving the ball right down the field on their first drive to grab a quick 7-0 lead.
Randolph responded right back, when Jimmy Pepe took a handoff on third and one and ripped off a 60-yard TD run to tie the game at 7-7
Sparta again marched down the field for a score, but Randolph would answer again when QB Matt Kleiven found Pepe for a 40-yard TD pass to tie it up at 14-14.
After Sparta took a third straight trip down the field for a 21-14 lead, they then capitalized on a Rams mistake when they turned a fumble recovery into another TD for a 28-14 lead with just over 2 minutes left in the half.
But Pepe sparked his team again, taking the kickoff back 45-yards into Spartan territory. A few play later, Kleiven found Justin Lawler at the five-yard line, and the junior adjusted to the ball to haul in a 25-yard TD pass cutting the lead to 28-21 going into halftime.
Early in the third Sparta extended their lead with a 30-yard TD run, but Dylan Glincman blocked the point after to keep the score at 34-21.
Justin Townsend then decided it was his turn to get some points for the Rams when he took a handoff around the right tackle, cut back to the middle of the field, and burst into the end zone for a 15-yard TD run to cut the lead to 34-28.
Sparta extended their lead with another TD but missed the two point attempt, and the scoreboard had them up 40-28.
The back and forth scoring continued, as Kleiven then found Glincman for a 35-yard TD pass to make it 40-35 with 7:30 left.
The Rams finally mounted a defensive stand at a critical moment, when Townsend shot into the backfield for a 4th and 1 stop to give his team the ball back on their own 30 yard line with 2:30 left.
A 10-yard pass to Glincman and a 25-yard pass to Pepe put Randolph in position to grab a last minute win. But on the next play, a deflected pass found its way into the hands of a falling Spartan defender, which stopped the threat and allowed Sparta to run out the clock.
“The offense overall did a great job tonight, we put up a lot of points,” said Nahan. “One of our points of emphasis this week was to score points and start fast, and our O-Coordinator did a great job of preparing the guys this past week.”
There were not a lot of big defensive stops for either side, but Jake Blumenthal had one for the Rams when he picked up an interception late in the first half.
“We knew that this would be one of the biggest weeks of the year because Sparta is a great team; they always are every year,” said Townsend. “We wanted to come out and show what we are made of, and show that we can compete with these guys.”
Randolph plays away at Morris Hills next week, on Saturday, Oct. 26