RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph Rams football team knew they were in for a battle when a talented West Morris rolled into town on Friday Sept. 27. The Wolfpack didn’t disappoint, scoring three fourth quarter TD’s to blow open a close game and take a 29-13 victory.
The game was a slugfest at the start, especially on the defensive side of the ball. West Morris came in averaging 41 points a game with a senior heavy offense, but the Rams held them in check until the final 12 minutes.
“They just made plays when they had to, while we missed a few opportunities and gave them some second chances,” said Coach Will Nahan. “I think our effort was there all night, so I am proud of the team for that. The basis of our program is built on always competing, and we did that until the end.”
The Wolfpack tried to catch the Rams off guard early when they faked a punt at the 50-yard line. Randolph snuffed it out however, as Jimmy Pepe and Pat Schimmenger combined to make the tackle and take the ball back for the Rams on downs.
Randolph made them pay on the next possession, using alternating runs from Pepe and Justin Townsend to move 50-yards in just four plays. The final one was a tackle-breaking run from Townsend, as he shed multiple defenders and rumbled into the end zone for a 25-yard TD and a 7-0 lead.
The Randolph defense in 2019 has played a “bend don’t break” game, and that showed again in the first half. They allowed the Wolfpack to move downfield on the next possession, but stopped them from scoring on downs at the 7-yard line.
But, late in the second the Wolfpack broke through and evened the score. After ripping off a 50-yard run to get into the red zone, they scored three plays later to tie it up at 7-7 with two minutes left in the half.
In the Homeconing ceremony at halftime, Seniors Adriana Kolic and Alex Pernicaro were announced as Kang and Queen. However, since Pernicaro was in the locker room with the team, another Alex - Senior Alex Eglitis - filled in and walked out onto the field with a cardboard poster of Pernicaro's face to the delight of the crowd.
The Rams took some penalties that hurt them in the contest, particularly in the second half. After receiving the third quarter kick-off they were on the move after QB Matt Kleiven fired a laser to Pepe for 25-yards and then connected with Dylan Glincman on 3rd And 10 for another first down. But, penalties pushed them back and stalled the drive forcing a punt.
The Wolfpack turned to their ground game and methodically moved the ball for large chunks of time in the second half, largely up the middle of the Rams defense. But their first drive of the half was stopped when Anthony Raiello recovered a fumble after they had moved to the Rams 20-yard line.
However, West Morris had found a formula that worked, and they rode that to a big fourth quarter.
“They were battling up front and worked harder than us,” said captain Alex Pernicaro. “We didn’t come out in the second half ready to go. I told the team after the game that we had an eye-opening day today, and we need to come back ready to play next week.”
Early in the fourth, one of those long drives ended in a score for a 14-7 lead. But, the Rams answered right back with a monster run from Townsend.
The junior running back took a handoff from Kleiven, and cut inside the left tackle. After lowering his head and planting a defender flat on his back, Townsend turned on the jets and flew down the sideline for a 50- yard TD run.
The point after was missed, and the game was 14-13 Wolfpack with just over seven minutes left.
Unfortunately for the Rams, the “bend don’t break” defense continued to both bent and break, as the Wolfpack drove the length of the field for another score with 2 minutes left and a 21-13 lead.
After another penalty on the kick return, the Rams started at their own 8-yard line, the third time in the game they started inside their own 10. They coughed the ball up on downs, and West Morris converted again in the final minute with the short field for the final 29-13 score.
“We just have to play within our system, we didn’t really play the way we wanted to today,” said Townsend. “They were tough and it was a tough game. But we will bounce back.”
The Rams record now stands at 3-1, as they prepare to hit the road for games against Mount Olive and Roxbury the next two Fridays.
“I told the team, this is a little adversity, and I want to see how they respond right now,” said Nahan. “We have week five coming up, and we get to play a game next Friday, so we are going to come back tomorrow, get to work, and right the ship.”