SUMMIT, NJ - Faced with the reality of taking on a tough opponent without their starting quarterback -- which necessitated a simplified run first, run second, and run third offense -- the Summit High School Varsity Football team delivered a stellar team effort, convincingly defeating Immaculata 30-6 at Investors Bank Field.
Even a perfectionist would have to admit that it was a ideal fall day for football in the Hilltop City, with comfortable temps and a few clouds dotting the sky providing the backdrop. The real storm clouds for the Hilltoppers developed in the final days preceding the game, however, when they learned that their starting signal caller and captain, Jake Froschauer, would miss the game with an injury.
Without many reps in practice, and having never played quarterback in a varsity game, into the breach stepped sophomore Jackson Tyler to play quarterback. Tyler did everything he was asked and nothing more on the afternoon, the nothing more being the operative key as he put forth an error free performance, not trying to do too much and staying within himself and the offense.
Tyler's composure and maturity allowed his teammates to join with him and win the day, producing a bulldog of a defensive effort, a sparkling special teams display, and a couple of timely big plays on offense.
The first quarter was won by both teams' defenses, and became a bit of a punter's delight. Neither team even threatened the opposition's end of the field, and the trend carried into the midway point of the second quarter when, once again, the Spartans were forced to punt.
Busting through the line, Summit's Christian Fusco and Andrew Miller descended on the Immaculata punter at virtually the same time, both blocking the kick, which was eventually picked up by Peter Galuppo, who galloped 30 yards down to the Spartans three-yard line.
Three plays later, senior captain Matt Murdock crunched over from the two yards out, and Jack Johnson tacked on the PAT to give Summit a 7-0 lead.
After another defensive stop, Summit forced another punt, which they came within inches of also blocking. The short kick gave The Maroon & White great field position deep in Immaculata territory and, after a couple of runs, Summit had the ball at the Spartans six-yard line. But back-to-back illegal procedure penalties snuffed out the drive, and the Hilltoppers actually went backwards, losing big yardage on third down.
No problem, Johnson stepped up and crushed a 42-yard field goal, and it was 10-0.
On their final possession of the half, Immaculata finally got their offense in gear, thanks to the arm of quarterback Nate Barnett. The Spartans, unable to run against the Hilltopper defense, began to throw the pigskin around with some success and actually had the ball deep in Summit territory with 30 seconds left in the half.
However some less than immaculate clock management by the Spartans, and a big sack on the half's final play, meant the teams went to the locker room with Summit maintaining their 10-point cushion.
Immaculata did break through in the second half, and this time it was courtesy of Barnett's legs, as he cut left at the line of scrimmage and raced 49 yards to the end zone. The PAT failed, and Summit led 10-6.
On the next play from scrimmage, after the ensuing kickoff, senior captain Matt Murdock provided the lightning to Barnett's thunder, when he took a hand-off from Tyler and sling-shotted himself up the middle and never stopped, going 80 yards to 'The House.'
Coming a scant 21 game-clock seconds after Barnett's run, it was an 'OMG moment', the ideal counter-punch that took every single ounce of momentum back -- and then some -- from the Spartans.
Up 17-6 after Johnson's successful PAT, Johnson connected again -- after a Summit fumble recovery -- this time from 35 yards out, the ball ever-so-gently grazing off the left goalpost and sailing through the uprights.
The teams went to the final quarter with the Hilltoppers leading 20-6.
After Liam Dougherty, who was a force all day, recovered another Spartans fumble, Johnson drilled his third three-pointer of the day, from 25 yards, to make it 23-6.
The icing on the tasty home-opener cake was provided when, with just over five minutes left in the game, Tyler tossed a swing pass to Murdock on the left side and slot man bolted 43 yards virtually untouched. Johnson's PAT closed out the scoring, making it 30-6.
"This was one of the best wins in my tenure as a coach," said and obviously pumped-up Summit Head Coach Kevin Kostibos. "Immaculata is a fantastic program, and we did a phenomenal job -- especially our seniors -- rallying once our leader went down. Our defense said 'we'll take care of this', and I thought we dominated a very good football team today."
Summit, now 2-0 on the season, stays home to next take on Warren Hills September 24 at Investors Bank Field. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m.