SUMMIT, NJ - What a difference a year makes. Better yet, what a difference a week makes.
Seven days removed from a soul-searching shellacking at the hands of Somerville, the Summit High School Varsity Football Team delivered a complete performance, dominating all three phases of the game -- and, not coincidentally, dominating their opponent throughout all four quarters -- as they put an good old-fashioned gridiron whooping on Colonia, winning in a rout 42-7 to open the NJSIAA North 2, Group 4 playoffs.
The victory reverses last year's playoff loss at Colonia and, while both teams are markedly different than in 2015, the victory provides some symmetrical closure against the team that knocked the Hilltoppers out of the playoffs just 12 months ago.
From the opening series of the game, Summit's first offensive series of the contest, The Maroon & White -- as a unit -- moved at a pace analogous to someone racing through the airport with five minutes to spare before their flight's gate closes -- which is to say they were hauling.
Their 'O Line' ripping open holes, Summit gobbled up chunks of yardage on the ground and mixed in some darts from sophomore quarterback Skyler Schluter to march down the field.
Less than three minutes into the contest, sophomore Jackson Tyler belted over from the 2-yard line, and it was 7-0 Hilltoppers after Jack Johnson's successful point after.
On the flip side, Summit's defense was having none of what Colonia was trying to accomplish, forcing the Patriots to punt. Summit took possession and executed a mirrored drive to their first, mixing runs and passes and moving the chains.
At the 5:27 mark, with Summit in the red zone, senior captain Matt Murdock too a hand-off, moved to his right and somehow emerged from a scrum at the 5-yard line to stay on his feet and reach pay dirt. The touchdown, from 17-yards out, was achieved despite a Colonia player's hands tugging on his facemask during the play. Johnson drilled the PAT, and it was 14-0.
Summit went ahead 21-0 when Tyler blasted over from 14-yards out less than two minutes into the second quarter, and it was pretty much game over later in the quarter when, as Colonia was set to punt deep in their own end, a low snap could not be collected and Summit took over inside the Patriots two-yard line.
Murdock did the honors and, with 4:45 left in the second quarter, the Hilltoppers were up 28-0. Colonia did manage to put together a nice drive and scored with 1:57 to go in the half, but the touchdown left Summit enough time to strike right back, and they did -- using a bit of style, no less.
Operating just inside the Patriots half of the field, Murdock took a pitch from Schluter and uncorked another 'Rahway Rainbow' -- the slot-back option pass he successfully piloted against the Indians in week eight -- again dropping the ball into Andrew Miller's hands who, like the first time they pulled it off, was wide open.
Strangely enough, the trickery was set for the play before, but an illegal procedure penalty halted the play just after the snap and the deception was to be launched. Undaunted, Summit called 'same play' and, 41-yards thereafter, it was Miller Time.
The only enemy for Summit in the second half could have been complacency, as they were up four scores and facing a team that made headway against them just once in the opening two quarters.
The third quarter was pedestrian until just past the halfway mark when Sam Zanelli broke through on the right side and galloped 25 yards to The House. Johnson's sixth PAT made it 42-7 at the 5:36 mark, triggering the 35-point lead, second-half, running clock rule, and the remainder of the game unfolded without consequence.
"it was incredibly important that we got off to a fast start," said Summit Head Coach Kevin Kostibos. "We wanted to come out, play fast, play quick, and do what we do. We didn't do anything differently than we have been doing, we just did it better."
Kostibos hailed the "outstanding" play of his defense on the day, and noted the "demeanor" of his senior-led offensive line, whom he said "took last week (against Somerville) personally."
Summit, the three-seed in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 4 bracket, advances to face number-two seed Middletown North on the road November 18. Game time has not been announced, but kick-off is likely to be set for 7 p.m.