On a cold, raw, and blustery day at Investor's Bank Field, Rahway -- Summit's opponent -- did not look like a 1-5 team. For their part, the Hilltoppers bore just faint resemblance to a squad that came into the game with an impressive 6-1 mark.
Misfiring in multiple areas throughout the afternoon, Summit did what good teams do when they are not paying their best, namely, find a way to win. While never trailing on the day, the game was in doubt until just three minutes remained, when Peter McKinlay intercepted a pass and rambled 15 yards to the end zone, sealing the Summit High School Varsity Football Team's 30-20 win over the Indians,
Summit broke on top at the 6:39 mark of the first quarter when, operating deep in their own territory, Rahway quarterback Zahir Wilder had the ball snapped over his head, and pigskin kept rolling into the end zone. All Wilder could do is fall on the ball to prevent a Hilltoppers' touchdown, and the safety gave Summit a 2-0 lead.
After receiving the ensuing punt, Summit immediately struck to increase their lead. Chris Zanelli bolted to the end zone from 20 yards out, and Paulo Umana's PAT made it 9-0.
The rout was on, correct? Guess again.
Rahway drove down the field, and Wilder improvised on s scrambling, twisting, 26-yard scoring run to narrow the lead to 9-7 on the first play of the second quarter. The play showed the danger of Rahway who, like the Roselle team Summit had difficulty putting away a few weeks earlier, have some very talented athletes at skill positions.
Summit made it 16-7 when Zanelli went over from the one-yard line. The drive highlighted by a nice pass play from McKinlay to Drew Mulholland, and some power runs by McKinlay.
The team's traded interceptions, and it looked like the Hilltoppers would carry their double-digit lead into the half, but the Indians pulled off a big play with just over two minutes left in the quarter. Running back Jordan Scott broke through the right side and flashed 53 yards to put the ball deep into Hilltopper territory. Wilder finished the drive with a 10-yard run, and the margin was razor-thin at 16-14.
The third quarter was a grind for both teams, with neither offense threatening the end zone. Summit finally patched together a drive, and Zanelli scored his third touchdown of the day, punching it over from inside the one-yard line on fourth-and-goal. After the PAT from Umana, the Hilltoppers led 23-14.
Rahway refused to go away and, on a third-and-10 from the Summit 29-yard line, Scott again wiggled free, going the distance to the end zone. Hilltopper Captain Stevie Rainero bulldozed through the middle to block the PAT, and Summit's lead was just three points at 23-20.
Summit held the ball for the majority of the final quarter, but was forced to punt, and Rahway got the ball back with just over three minutes to go, inside their own 15. After Summit stuffed their first-down run attempt, Wilder was pressured in the pocket, scrambled left and lofted a short pass in the left flat, where McKinlay intercepted and ran un-touched to the end zone.
"You are never happy when you don't play well," said Summit Head Coach Kevin Kostibos. "But I would rather win ugly than lose pretty." Noting the team's lackluster performance against an under-rated opponent, Kostibos said, "You have to come ready to play every game. We have to keep getting better, but games like this build character and, ultimately, we found a way to win."
The 7-1 Hilltoppers conclude their regular season with a November 8 trip to Hillside. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m.