SUMMIT, NJ - They were back in black, but it took them a while to get on track.
The Summit High School Varsity Football Team faced Governor Livingston (GL) in the traditional "Friday Night Lights" game at Investors Bank Field, donning the special black uniforms they debuted at the 2014 "FNL" contest.
The event is a rite of the impending fall season in the Hilltop City, a community gathering where residents aged three to 93 assemble to celebrate Summit and, specifically, Summit football.
The visiting Highlanders, however, were not in a celebratory mood, and their defensive scheme and effort stymied the Hilltoppers offense in the first half, not allowing a Summit first down until just prior to the midway point of the second quarter.
Gifted by a GL miscue, the Hilltoppers sputtering engine finally turned over, and Summit steadily pulled away from the Highlanders, winning comfortably 30-6, and improving to 2-0 on the season.
if one was a fan of defense, the first quarter was nirvana. Neither team could move the ball, and GL's loading up of the defensive front -- with seven or eight players on the line -- was daring Summit to throw the ball. The defense befuddled the Hilltoppers, who looked all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Summit's quarterback and punter, Jake Froschauer was, however, having success with his foot, booming punts, easily winning the kicking game, and giving the Hilltoppers the edge in the field position battle.
In the second quarter, Rhajon Venable and the Summit special teams did a great job downing one of Froschauer's punts inside the GL one yard line. After two attempts to grind out some space from which to work failed, the Highlanders were faced with a third-and-long from their own 2 yard line.
The subsequent snap was high and wide, and skipped out of the end zone for a safety. The Hilltoppers led 2-0 at the 8:52 mark, and the break seemed to give the Summit offense the spark it needed to get in gear.
After the ensuing kickoff from the GL 20 yard line gave Summit great field position, the Hilltoppers cashed in less than 90 seconds later.
Froschauer found Matt Newman on a 39-yard route down the left sideline. The PAT from Jack Johnson made it 9-0 Hilltoppers with 7:29 left before the half.
Summit found the end zone again with just 40.5 seconds left before the break. Froschauer hit Matt Murdock on a 11-yarder, and Johnson tacked on the extra point to make 16-0.
Murdock's second touchdown on the night, a two-yard plunge with 2:57 left in the third quarter, was set up by a long, 60-yard Sam Zanelli run down the left sideline. Johnson's PAT made it 23-0.
Despite having no passing game, GL made it tough on the Hilltoppers all night, and they broke through when Will Nicholson burst through the right side of the Summit line, then cut left and went 62 yards. The two-point conversion failed and, with 53.5 seconds left in the quarter, it was 23-6.
Summit closed out the scoring when Froschauer threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Newman. Johnson capped a perfect PAT night by drilling the kick through the uprights, and it was 30-6 Hilltoppers with 9:51 to play.
Afterwards, Summit Head Coach Kevin Kostibos attributed his team's early-game offensive struggles to the strong scheme and effort of their opponent. "Give Governor Livingston all the credit. They packed the box, and made us throw to beat them," he said. "it took us a while to get going, and we have a young team in terms of first-year starters. Our defense was outstanding tonight, and that gave us some time to put things together."
Next up for Summit is a tough trip to Warren Hills September 25. Kick off is set for 7 p.m.
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