CHESTER, NJ – For the second consecutive week, the Randolph varsity football team scored a late, potential game-tying touchdown; and for the second week in a row, a blocked extra point prevented them from them from doing so as the Rams lost in heartbreaking fashion, 16-15 on the road against the West Morris Central Wolfpack.
“We came in tonight and this was a battlefield,” explained Randolph head coach Mike Lyons. “We fought a very good team, tooth and nail and we just came up short. In the long run, it’s going to help us grow.”
Despite jumping out to an early 3-0 lead in the first quarter, the Rams lacked production from their offense for the better part of three and a half quarters, which resulted in them facing a late 16-3 deficit with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
Football, of course, is a four-quarter game and the Rams played hard every minute of it.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Rams broke through and got the spark that they needed to get back in the game when senior Anthony Fodali scooped up a blocked punt and returned it 56 yards for the score. The Wolfpack returned the favor and blocked Randolph’s extra point attempt, but it was now a one-score game with 5:11 left on the clock.
Randolph, which played a stout defense throughout the game, made a critical stop at mid-field and forced the Wolfpack to punt the ball again with about three and a half minutes left in the game. They were successful this time and pinned the Rams deep in their territory on their own 11-yard line.
Faced with the challenge of driving 89 yards with only one timeout, the Rams methodically drove down the field behind their no-huddle offense. Senior quarterback Justin Suarez made several key plays with both his arm and feet to keep the drive going.
Suarez converted a pass on 4th-and-long to Ryan McDermott to preserve the drive and the game.
Two plays later, Suarez connected on a 23-yard strike to Jacob Flowers in the corner of the end zone while beating double coverage with only 50 seconds left on the clock. The momentum, which had belonged to the Wolfpack all game was suddenly on the Rams’ side. All that was left was to make the extra point and the game was seemingly headed for overtime.
However, the Wolfpack broke through the line and blocked the extra point attempt. Instantly, the momentum swung back in the Wolfpack’s favor.
Out of ways to stop the clock and down by one point, Randolph was forced to try an onsides kick and when that failed, the game was all but over. After a few kneel downs, the Wolfpack held on to improve their record to 4-1 on the season. Meanwhile, the Rams dropped to 2-3 on the year.
“They’re a very tough defense and scouted us well,” Lyons added after the game. “We could have executed a little better on offense, but we didn’t. We started to pick it up late and (we didn’t win) because of lack of effort. We gave it all we had and I was very proud of our guys on all three sides of the ball.”
Next week, Randolph will take on the Mendham Minutemen (1-4) on the road on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. as they look to get back to their winning ways.