SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. - It wasn’t quite two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning with bases loaded and down by three in the Game 7 of the World Series, but it felt like that under the lights at Frank R. Jost Field in South Plainfield Friday night.
Staring at a 4th-and-2 from the opponent's’ 2-yard line and down 12-7 with 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the South Plainfield High School football team saw themselves in a do-or-die moment against the Woodbridge Barrons. Would the Tigers be 2-1 or 3-0?
South Plainfield quarterback Charles Lovett took a shotgun snap and scrambled right. He had the option to throw it, but decided to keep it and play hero. The junior signal caller and first-year starter jumped over a pile of Barrons into the endzone for the touchdown with 31 ticks remaining .
After a 2-point conversion to put the Tigers up three points on a Deshai Smith pass to senior fullback Ben Lundy, the Barrons (1-2) couldn’t move down field on their ensuing possession as they ran out of time with no timeouts left to use. South Plainfield is 3-0 for the first time since 2013 when they started 4-0.
“I knew we had to get the ball into the endzone. I rolled out and I saw the endzone and I just went for it,” Lovett told TAPinto South Plainfield.
Things were looking bleak for the Tigers as they started their game-winning drive with 2:14 left on the clock at their own 25-yard line and a personal foul penalty that saw them beginning with a 1st-and-25. But, a few plays later, Lovett broke free with a 63-yard rush to bring his offense to the Woodbridge 9-yard line with 1:27 remaining. A few runs and an incomplete pass set up the intense moment that had everyone in attendance standing on their feet.
Lovett finished the game 7-for-13 passing for 60 yards and 110 yards on the ground on 19 carries and the score.
The Tigers started and finished the game on high notes. On the opening kickoff, South Plainfield’s 6-foot-3, 185-pound wide receiver Smith took the ball off the bounce and raced through a gap all the way down to the Barrons’ 14-yard line. Two plays later, running back Zach DelVecchio (16 carries for 90 yards), who got hurt during the game and can barely move his arm but stayed in the game, punched in it from three-yards out to put South Plainfield up 7-0 just 27 seconds into the game.
But Woodbridge responded as running back junior running back DaAvian Ellington took a sweep left and burst up field for a 71-yard touchdown run. But, Woodbridge missed the point after so the Tigers still led 7-6 with 11:09 left in the first.
Besides another long 84-yard touchdown run by the Barrons’ Daniels Messiah which put Woodbridge up 12-7 (two-point try was no good) the game was sloppy with bad snaps, fumbles, and both offenses struggling.
However, the defenses played tough making the plays that were presented in front of them.
Woodbridge’s last chance to pull ahead was a drive that started at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth after chunk run plays, but were forced to punt after they got into Tigers’ territory. The teams’ traded possessions most of the night, but the Tigers punched it in late.
“It’s good. We’re only as good as the last game you play but this was exciting,” South Plainfield head coach Gary Cassio said with a huge smile from ear to ear on his face, almost in shock that they won about being 3-0. “(Woodbridge) scored on two (long) plays. They didn’t sustain any drives. Our defense manned up. We shut them down in the second half. We weren’t moving the ball in the second half like we wanted to.
“But, I’m not going to single anybody out. You could say Charles, DelVecchio, (linebacker) Dillon (Harris), but that’s a team effort tonight. The offense buckled down. Defense locked it in. You know what, I love these boys.
“They had a little chip on their shoulders. They were motivated. But hats off to Woodbridge. Tough, tough, tough kids and I can’t stress that enough. What a game, huh?”
Through three games, South Plainfield has beaten three teams that are in a higher group than them in terms of playoffs, meaning they are bigger schools. The Central Group 3 member topped Perth Amboy (Central Group 5), J.P. Stevens (North 2, Group 5), and now Woodbridge (North 2, Group 4).
Now, they face another Central Group 5 opponent, North Brunswick (0-3), next Friday night in North Brunswick.
Besides practice, how are they going to prepare for the Raiders?
“Tomorrow we gotta go in for scout and for film,” Lovett said. “We’re going to watch film and see our mistakes and make them better and we’re going to do better next time.”