MOUNT OLIVE, N.J. — When Randolph QB Aden Koenigsberg connected with Thomas Colombaris on a 44-yard swing pass that set up a Jimmy Pepe bolt into the end zone during the third quarter, it appeared the Rams had finally found their groove.
As kicker Rikhil Amin drilled the point-after through the uprights to keep his perfect season intact, Randolph pulled back to a one-score deficit. But the Rams couldn't build on that, and couldn't stop the Mount Olive Marauders, who took a 21-7 victory on their home field in Friday evening’s affair. (Extra Photos in Link at end of story)
With the loss, Randolph shares the New Jersey Super Football Conference Freedom Blue divisional championship with Mount Olive and West Morris Central — all of which have a 6-1 overall record and went 4-1 in conference. A win Friday would have given the Rams the outright title.
“We just didn’t play our football,” said Koenigsberg, who converted 14 of 24 passes for 194 yards. “We just didn’t play like ourselves today.”
Randolph’s opening drive — which amassed nearly eight of the first quarter’s 12 minutes and included two fourth-down conversions — culminated with a lost fumble inside the red zone.
The Rams’ offense marched deep into Mount Olive territory on each of its first three drives, but the next two series concluded with a turnover on downs and a pick in the end zone. The interception was a bit controversial, as it appeared Randolph’s Justin Townsend had hauled in Koenigsberg’s pass at the two-yard line and fell into the endzone before the defender wrestled the ball away from him while on the ground.
Randolph continued to run the ball effectively, with Townsend and Jimmy Pepe combining for 100 yards on the ground. Both of those seniors are now just shy of 600 rushing yards on the season.
Midway through the second quarter, Mount Olive provided its first fireworks — literally, as Mount Olive ROTC students fired off a cannon behind the end zone after every Marauder's score — with a 63-yard touchdown pass to ignite a roar from the crowd at its state-of-the-art football facility.
The Marauders received the second-half kickoff and marched right down the field, finding the end zone on a 32-yard touchdown pass, preceding Randolph’s only score.
“If you keep focusing on momentum things, you can get really down,” head coach Will Nahan said. “I’m proud of these guys for not doing that, and you saw they competed until the clock said, ‘zero.’”
A Mount Olive third-down conversion midway through the fourth pushed the team across midfield and led to a touchdown grab with 2:48 left to seal the win.
The Rams hurt themselves with a few key penalties in the game, as two runs of 20-plus yards by Pepe were called back for holding.
As the Marauders dumped Gatorade on their head coach and jubilated around the turf, the Rams’ seniors grappled with the reality that they would never play an unbeaten season.
“I’ve been playing with these seniors for a long time,” said Colombaris, who totaled 62 receiving yards on three catches. “And our goal ever since we were little kids has just been — go undefeated and win a ring. It hurts, it just hurts.”
Despite the Rams’ offensive struggles, its defense kept them within one score for the majority of this game.
“They played their asses off,” Koenigsberg said about his defense. “They played really well — they gave us an opportunity.”
Randolph football has one more battle this season — a date with the 5-2 Sparta Spartans at 6 p.m. Wednesday evening in Sussex County.
“[We] don’t have the amount of days practice-wise that [we] want, but, you know what? There’s been adversity all season and these guys know how to handle that,” Nahan said. “I’m just excited that I get to coach these players for a few more days.”
Extra Game Photos CLICK HERE