SUMMIT, NJ - Allowing a series of big plays, the Summit High School Varsity Football Team lost to Somerville 30-24, suffering their third defeat in three weeks, and seeing their record fall to 3-3 on the season.
For a team that looked flat and emotionally drained the past two weeks against Cranford and Roselle, the game against the Pioneers was a massive step forward. Playing hard, with energy that was palpable, the Hilltoppers jumped out early and took a solid 21-10 lead to the locker room at halftime.
The second half was pretty much all Somerville, however, as Summit kept putting their opponent in the tough situations -- such as third-and-long -- only to see the Pioneers convert or, even worse, find pay dirt.
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It all started well for Summit, who came out wearing their black uniforms, which had previously only been worn at home for the "Friday Night Lights" game. The Hilltoppers jumped to a 14-0 first quarter lead, on the strength of the legs and arm of quarterback Jake Froschauer.
At the 10:15 mark, on the opening drive of the game, Froschauer ran right for an 8-yard score. The drive was set up by the prototype of a start to the game from a Summit perspective, as Matt Newman returned the opening kick-off 51 yards deep into Pioneer territory.
Summit doubled their advantage when Froschauer found Garrett Cahill down the left sideline for a 27-yard touchdown. Jack Johnson's second PAT of the game made it 14-0. The Hilltoppers put themselves in scoring position courtesy of some trickery, namely a fake punt, Froschauer to Matt Newman pass play on fourth down.
Somerville, however, answered quickly with an 81-yard, catch and run at the 2:02 mark, the score taking the shine of an otherwise superlative quarter for the Hilltoppers. It was the first big play Summit would yield but, unfortunately, it would not be the last.
Somerville narrowed the lead to 14-10 with a short field goal at 5:58 of the second quarter, but the Hilltoppers responded with a one-yard plunge from Froschauer on fourth-and-goal. Johnson's PAT made it 21-10.
The combination of Senior Night and Homecoming created a halftime that, length-wise, was Super Bowl worthy. On the kickoff to start the second half, the Pioneers got a play that was just plain super.
Jeremiah Lynch received the kick inside his own 20-yard line, broke to his right and was gone. While the touchdown did not put Somerville ahead, and there were essentially two full quarters left in the contest, one got the feeling it was the turning point of the game.
Almost four minutes later to the second, the Pioneers struck again, this time on a 31-yard strike down the middle on third-and-10. Somerville led 24-21 and all of Summit's first half efforts were wiped out in less than five minutes of third quarter football.
The Hilltoppers responded to falling behind, however, with a nice drive of their own. The push stalled however, in the red zone, and they settled for a Jack Johnson field goal to tie the game. Heading to the fourth quarter, it was all even at 24-24.
The Pioneers had the ball for the near entirety of the fourth quarter, Summit's "D" bending a bit, but not breaking. And, it looked the Hilltoppers had finally held inside their 40-yard line after Somerville gained no yards on three plays and faced fourth-and-10.
Eschewing a punt the Pioneers -- who landed a series of big-play haymakers all night long -- got the knockout punch with a touchdown pass over the top of Summit's defense with 5:46 to go. The PAT was blocked, but the Hilltoppers were again behind at 30-24.
A Summit three-and-out followed the ensuing kick-off, the Hilltoppers punted, and never saw the ball again.
"I feel for our kids, they are very emotional right now, and I thought we fought hard tonight," said Summit Assistant Coach Tim Simo, who handled the head coaching duties as Head Coach Kevin Kostibos was attending to a personal matter. "We had them in the situations we wanted and put ourselves in a position to win, but we just couldn't make the plays when we needed them, and they did."
Summit returns home to Investors Bank Field October 24 to face Voorhees. Kick-off is set for 2 p.m.