SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD — For most of the season, Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s passing attack has just fallen short of winning games. Saturday against North Hunterdon, it was the Raiders’ running game that excelled, but it could not match the Lions’ high-powered offense. Despite accumulating a season-high 163 rushing yards, the Raiders fell to 0-6 with a 49-27 loss to undefeated North Hunterdon.
North Hunterdon jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and struck for two more touchdowns in the second to take a 28-6 lead into halftime. The Lions’ offensive dominance over the Raiders’ defense continued in a 21-point second half, but the Raiders matched that 21-point mark in the final 24 minutes.
“They’re 5-0, but we accepted the challenge,” Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Mark Ciccotelli told TAPinto.net. “What, do we want to play someone that’s 1-4? We wanted to play North Hunterdon. It’s a chance for us to gain some respect and get our reputation back in order.”
Despite the 22-point margin of defeat, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s showing was certainly respectable — especially its running game.
Javin Scott had a breakout performance, rushing for two touchdowns and 67 yards on 11 carries. Quarterback Cooper Heisey, who has had record-setting passing performances this season, became a dual-threat, as he collected 68 yards on the ground and averaged 6.8 yards-per-carry in addition to throwing for 151 yards. By out-rushing North Hunterdon, 163-148, it marked the first time the Raiders have topped an opponent in that category.
“It really did feel good [running],” Scott said. “They [North Hunterdon] were 5-0 — now 6-0 — and to be able to run the ball on them like that… it’s a statement.”
Scott’s first TD run was for 15 yards and came on the Raiders’ first drive of the second quarter. The senior later jumped over North Hunterdon’s goal line stand early in the third quarter for a two-yard TD pickup. The Raiders also found the end zone via the air, with Heisey connecting to Dwight Laylor and Jakob Robles on scoring passes in the second half. Robles’ TD was the first of his high school career.
While Scotch Plains-Fanwood continued to put up exceptional offensive numbers, the team struggled to contain the explosive playmakers that North Hunterdon possessed. The Lions’ Luke Wain ran wild, rushing for 137 yards and two touchdowns. On special teams, Griffin Honthy and Connor McMahon each returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Quarterbacks Matt Busher and Anthony Hale each threw a touchdown pass, as well.
“I think we played with an edge; I just think it was a game that got away from us,” Ciccotelli said. “Some kickoff returns, and next thing you know, you’re out of the game plan and down by a bunch of scores. We were running the ball, doing what we wanted to do coming in, game plan-wise. Sometimes, it just happens: The game gets away from you a little bit and you find yourself out of your game plan.”
Football is a game of emotion, and that was displayed many times throughout Saturday’s game. In multiple instances, tempers ran hot and personal foul calls — mostly against North Hunterdon — became frequent.
“They [North Hunterdon] were throwing some comments out at the end when I was getting hi-fives,” said Robles. “A few penalties this game to what I thought were clean shots, but apparently they weren’t and they called me a ‘targeter’."
“They were talking a lot of trash during the game,” the senior added, “but we just let it roll off our shoulders and kept our heads held high.”
As each game this season has marked progress of some sorts for Scotch Plains-Fanwood, a team under construction as a program, the Raiders feel as though Saturday’s game was yet another step in the developmental process: “Guys here are slowly but surely starting to grow up — physically and mentally. They’re starting to understand what we expect from them, and it’s starting to show on the field,” stated Ciccotelli.
Despite the positive improvements made so far this fall, the Raiders’ record fell to 0-6 Saturday. The team will look to put all the pieces together and slide into the win column on Friday, when they travel to take on county foe Rahway to 7 p.m.
“Unfortunately, we fell up short today,” Robles said. “We’re just trying to get it together and just try to do what we got to do to get a W.”