SOMERVILLE, NJ -- The South Plainfield football team’s 2019 season opener against Immaculata went down to the wire on Saturday night and the game ended with Immaculata on top, 39-32.
Tied at 32-32 with just over seven minutes to go, the Spartans punted the football to the Tigers, but South Plainfield fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the kicking team at about the Immaculate 40-yard line.
A few minutes later, Spartans quarterback Pelton Esannason scored from a short distance on the ground and the PAT was good.
Behind its offensive line, South Plainfield led 12-7 at the end of the first quarter. Kyshon Hopkins punched in a 3-yard rushing touchdown after the game’s opening drive took eight minutes off the game clock.
After Immaculata’s Brandon Primus brought back the ensuing kickoff 92 yards to the house to give the home team a quick 7-6 lead, Tigers quarterback Sammy Nieves ran into the end zone for a 15-yard score with 45 seconds left in the first.
South Plainfield had the ball in the opening quarter for an astounding 11 minutes.
The Tigers would then force the Spartans to punt and Josiah Harvey rumbled in for a 6-yard touchdown to go up 19-7.
Immaculata came right back however as Esannason connected through the air to John Mallory for a 21-yard passing score to cut the deficit to 19-14.
With 45 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Nieves threw a 28-yard passing score to Austin Scott, one of the Greater Middlesex Conference’s top tight ends to extend the Tigers’ advantage to 26-14.
But, the Spartans wouldn’t end the opening half without a fight and then zoomed down the field and Tommy McGuire scooted in for a 2-yard rushing score with just two ticks left before the break to make it 26-21.
Immaculata used that momentum and Esannason found Patrick Dwyer for a 41-yard touchdown strike. McGuire ran into the end zone for the two-point conversion and gave his team a three-point, 29-26 lead with just under a minute gone in the third.
Almost five minutes later, Harvey scored on a 1-yard run to put the visitors back up at 32-29.
On the kickoff, South Plainfield recovered a fumble in enemy territory, but couldn’t do anything with the prime field position. That allowed Zach Helleis for Immaculata to kick a 27-yard field goal before the end of the frame to tie it up at 32-all.
South Plainfield would have more chances to tie or win after the Spartans went up by seven points late in the fourth quarter, but Niees was sacked on second-down. On fourth-and-4 near midfield, Nieves was hit again in the backfield and Immaculata took over on downs.
Esannason was 5-for-7 for 139 yards through the air and he also registered 78 yards rushing on 14 attempts. McGuire had 52 yards on 16 carries. Receiving wise, Mallory made three catches for 60 yards and Patrick had two receptions for 79 yards.
Next up, Immaculata is home to North Hunterdon next Friday while South Plainfield is away at Iselin Kennedy, also on Friday.