RAHWAY, NJ - The learning process continues for a very young Bernards varsity football team, which hung tough with a much faster Roselle squad for three quarters Friday night before the Rams pulled away.
Roselle scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the wraps on a 34-17 victory over Bernards at Rahway River Park.
All 17 of Bernards' points were scored by two sophomores and a freshman.
After an exchange of lost fumbles, Roselle scored the game's first touchdown with 4:47 left in the first quarter when a 2-yard quarterback sneak capped a nine-play, 84-yard drive.
But Bernards (0-2) showed impressive control of the line of scrimmage and a deft diversity of play-calling on its next possession. The Mountaineers drove 68 yards in eight plays, scoring on halfback Joey Billotti's 45-yard TD pass to sophomore Jackson Tantleff on an option play. Billotti, also a sophomore, took a handoff, ran right, then pulled up and lofted a perfect strike down the right sideline to a wide open Tantleff, as Bernards had drawn Roselle's defense away from the deep ball with five consecutive running plays. Freshman Steven Lopez' extra point gave Bernards a 7-6 lead with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
The teams again exchanged turnovers on their next respective possessions, with Roselle returning an interception 40 yards back to the Bernards 27-yard line early in the second quarter to set up a four-play drive capped by a 4-yard TD run and a two-point conversion that gave the Rams a 14-7 lead with 5:35 left in the first half.
The Mountaineers answered with a nine-play drive that began on their 39, featured a 25-yard run around left end by Billotti down to the Roselle 36, and which was capped by a 29-yard field goal by Lopez with 5:35 left to bring Bernards within 14-10.
Bernards, which scored on a TD pass from senior QB Lofton Hoover to sophomore Lucas Ritchie in the third quarter, was still within three, 20-17, before Roselle scored twice in the final period.