SOMERVILLE — Akin Akinwunmi had yet attempt a varsity football field goal, but as time started to tick down in the fourth quarter of his team’s dogfight against Immaculata Friday night, he knew his chance might be coming soon.
His number was indeed called, and with the Raiders down a point and under a minute left, the junior put an entire school on his back.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood trailed, 21-20, with 4th-and-Goal at the Immaculata six and 25 seconds left. Akinwunmi booted a perfect kick through the uprights for the game-winning 23-yard field goal to give the Raiders a stressful but exhilarating 23-21 win over the Spartans Friday night.
“As soon as it reached the five-minute mark, I knew we would probably kick it,” Akinwunmi told TAPinto.net. “I started stretching out, running, and then we kicked it.”
“I was so happy,” he added. “I just thank this team because they helped me out.”
Scotch Plains-Fanwood was on the brink of disaster, having coughed up a 20-0 lead after Immaculata scored three straight touchdowns, the third of which came on Tommy McGuire’s three-yard plunge to give the Spartans their first lead, 21-20, with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
After the Raiders failed to convert on a fourth down on their ensuing drive, all hope appeared lost. But it was quickly regained when the Raiders recovered a fumble on Immaculata’s very next play, giving them the ball at the Spartan 33 with 2:14 remaining. The Raiders got as far as the 6 yard line before being forced to kick, and Akinwunmi converted it flawlessly.
“He’s a great kicker; I’m so proud of him,” Junion QB Hayden Widder said. “I was very nervous. I did not want him to miss that, and he didn’t.”
Immaculata had one last try and things actually got dicey when the Raiders were flagged for a questionable foul to push Immaculata past the 50 and allow the Spartans a final play. But the Immaculata Hail Mary was broken up at the goal line to secure the Raiders’ second win of the season.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood couldn’t have started out any hotter. The Raiders scored on their first three drives of the game to jump ahead, 20-0, late in the second quarter before Immaculata exchanged the favor of three straight touchdowns.
Hayden Widder’s two-yard keeper plunge gave the Raiders a 7-0 lead after the first drive. On the Raiders’ very next series, Widder rolled to his right and found Justin Clark for a 28-yard touchdown pass in the front right corner of the end zone to make it 13-0. Then on the Raiders’ third drive, Shawn Martin broke free on a sweep right and took it 50 yards for a touchdown.
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