RAHWAY -- It was no easy task for Scotch Plains-Fanwood Friday night against a Rahway team featuring a lethal rushing game and a top defense led by five-star recruit Antonio Alfano.
SPF had little trouble running the ball and putting points on the board. However, Rahway ran wild over Raiders' defense and won, 64-24, at the new Rahway River Park Stadium.
The Raiders held a brief lead in the first quarter and played within a touchdown for most of the first half. The Indians gained momentum at halftime by scoring on a botched SPF punt with seconds to go before the break. In the second half, Rahway erupted for 28 points in the final 24 minutes.
“If we played better defensively, it would’ve been a different game,” Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Mark Ciccotelli said. “We felt we ran the ball, didn’t have a problem running the football. Tonight, when you get into a game, you snap the ball over and you go in [to halftime] and you’re down by three scores… But still, we moved the ball again.”
Rahway’s running game ultimately won the game. Of the Indians' 324 rushing yards, Zion Pendleton accounted for 160 of them with three touchdowns. In the air attack, Keyshawn Cummings caught two passes for 165 yards and two scores.
“He (Cummings) has explosive speed, and when he catches the ball, he sees the threat to go the whole way, all the time,” Rahway head coach Brian Russo said. “Had a good week at practice, and he came out focused and made some big plays.”
For the Raiders, Javin Scott, Alex Oslislo and Isaiah Stewart led the team’s suddenly dangerous rushing attack. Scott and Oslislo combined for 132 yards on the ground. Oslislo and Anthony Porter each had a running touchdown. In the air, Stewart hauled in 71 yards and a touchdown. The junior’s TD grab came on the Raiders’ first drive of the game and provided a brief lead. They were successful on a following 2-point conversion, which made the score 8-7 less than five minutes into the game.
In addition to throwing for 106 yards, quarterback Cooper Heisey ran for a season-high 50 yards in 12 attempts. In total, SPF gained 195 rushing yards and 301 total yards.
“Our offensive line did a great job and our receivers did a great job; I don’t think they [Rahway] ever stopped us,” Ciccotelli said. “We ran the ball on them and we threw the ball on them, we just couldn’t stop them — that’s what it comes down to. They didn’t stop us — not once.”
Entering the game, it appeared that one of the biggest struggles for Scotch Plains-Fanwood would be containing Rahway defensive tackle Alfano, playing in only the second game of his junior season as he had to sit out four games as a result of transferring from Bergen Catholic. Alfano is ranked by ESPN as the second-best junior in the state and fifth-best defensive tackle in the country. But for the most part, the Raiders held the 6’5”, 265-pound lineman in check, and Alfano, who holds over 20 NCAA Div. 1 offers, was impressed with Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s tactics.
“I give them [Scotch Plains] a lot of credit,” Alfano told TAPinto.net. “They have a great quarterback, and they just really had a good scheme going.”
The Alfano-led Rahway defense coaxed Scotch Plains-Fanwood to twice losing fumbles, but the Raiders gained 20 first downs on Rahway’s 'D.'
With two regular season games remaining, the Raiders will return home next weekend to host Somerville for Homecoming Day on Saturday. Rahway plays Summit next Friday.