ROCKAWAY, NJ- The Randolph Rams walked onto the field at Morris Hills on Saturday Oct. 26, in what was expected to be a battle between two teams fighting to secure their spot in the state playoffs. However, it quickly turned into a lopsided affair, as Rams running back Jimmy Pepe ran wild with four TDs and QB Matt Kleiven ran for two more, leading Randolph to a 50-14 smack down of the Red Raiders.
“We just played our game today, every kid came out this week ready to work hard in practice and play hard today,” said Captain Alex Pernicaro. “Our O-Line just tried to move bodies and open holes for our backs, and they all did a great job today of following our blocks.”
Morris Hills came in at 5-2, sporting a strong running game, and holding the 15th spot out of 16 available for the NJSIAA State playoffs in North Group 4. A win would have secured their spot in the tournament. But the Scarlett Knights didn’t help themselves right off the bat when they attempted an on-sides kick to start the game, giving Randolph great field position at their own 40.
Two runs by Pepe and a defensive penalty put the Rams on the Hills 30-yard line. Pepe did the rest from there, taking a handoff around the right side before weaving his way back across the field. Dodging tacklers the whole way, Pepe stretched the ball over the end line just before going out of bounds in the left corner for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead.
The Scarlett Knights had some success running the ball on their first possession, collecting a few first downs. However, they continued to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties that pushed them right back again until they finally had to punt.
The Randolph offense went back to work, marching right back down the field to score again. Kleiven dropped back to pass at the 11-yard line, but then scrambled into the end zone himself for a TD. After Pepe ran the two-point conversion up the middle it was 14-0 Randolph.
“I saw a bunch of defenders coming over on the right side, so I stepped up in the pocket to avoid them,” said Kleiven. “Then I just saw green grass to the left side, so I took off and got to the end zone.”
After the Rams defense forced a 3-and-out, Pepe continued his assault on the Hills defense, ripping off a 30-yard run to the 15-yard line, and then taking the next handoff around the left side and into the end zone. Kleiven ran the 2-point conversion in for 22-0 lead.
At this point, the Randolph defense was stopping everything Hills tried to do, and when Hills attempted to pass, it was evident why they relied so heavily on their running game. The Scarlett Knights offense, averaging 31 points per game, would continue to be stonewalled for most of the rest of the game by the Rams aggressive defense.
On their next possession, and facing a fourth and five from their own 40-yard line, Randolph decided to go for it. Kleiven hit Dylan Glincman with a pass over the middle, down to the 12-yard line.
Two plays later Pepe took a counter right up the gut over center, and galloped 12-yards into the end zone for a 29-0 lead.
Hills finally got on their horse and moved the ball down field to the Rams 5-yard line, but the defense slammed the door when Tom O’Sullivan broke up a 4th down pass in the corner of the end zone.
With about three minutes left in the half, Randolph took it the length of the field on chunk plays to extend their lead. Kleiven ( 10-17 for 154 yards ) hit Justin Lawler down the left sideline, and Glincman twice over the middle on passes of over 20 yards each, to move deep into Scarlett Knights territory. Kleiven then took another keeper into the end zone for a 36-0 halftime lead.
After half, the running clock rule came into effect making for a quick third and fourth quarter. Pepe wasn’t finished with his big day yet however, as he added a 45-yard td run to push the lead to 43-0.
This was the game we needed to win to get into the playoffs, so we all knew what we needed to do,” said Pepe. “We did what we did today both offensively and defensively, because we prepared like crazy Monday through Friday. If you do your job and everyone does theirs, then you are going to win, and this was the outcome.”
Pepe finished with 10 carries for 185 yards and the 4 TDs, while Kleiven ran 7 times for 57 yards and the 2 TDs. Glincman hauled in 5 passes for 116 yards.
Morris Hills Drove the field and finally got their first points of the game early in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 43-8. A late TD run for the Rams by Dylan Gaudioso and a long TD pass with under a minute left for Hills made for the final points in the 50-14 win for Randolph.
“Morris Hills is a physical downhill running team, I told the guys last week that if this is going to be a physical running game, sign us up, you should be excited for this,” said coach Will Nahan. “One of our points of emphasis for today was to be extremely physical and stop the run. We also wanted to be a better tackling team because we missed some tacos last week and we definitely improve that today.”
The Rams finish out the season next Friday at home, where they will celebrate senior night against the undefeated Ramapo Raiders. Randolph entered the game sitting in the 12th spot out of 16 for the playoffs. After todays’ win, they now wait to see if they moved up at all in the seeding for the NJSIAA North Group 4 playoff bracket.