Summit Hilltoppers Stave Off Home Defeat to Johnson, 17-13

Mike Badgley and his teammates celebrate his interception on fourth and goal. Credits: Jose Ortiz
Summit head coach John Liberato meets with his team during a timeout. Credits: Jose Ortiz
Mike Badgley returns his interception. Credits: Jose Ortiz
A.J. Iarussi runs hard through the Johnson defense. Credits: Jose Ortiz
Tyler Carbone lets the ball fly downfield. Credits: Jose Ortiz
Kyre Negron delivers a stiff arm to the defender. Credits: Jose Ortiz
Summit's defense lines up for the play on first down. Credits: Jose Ortiz

SUMMIT, NJ - Summit's defense and special teams spent the better part of four quarters carrying its struggling offense on Saturday afternoon at home at Investor's Bank Field at the Tatlock Sports Complex. But with their backs pinned against their own end zone and trailing by three in the fourth quarter, Summit's offense finally got in gear, driving 98 yards in 3:11 for the eventual game-winning touchdown.

The Hilltopper defense stuffed Johnson on the ensuing drive, ending with a Nick Liberato quarterback sack and forced fumble, recovered by Joseph Lasaracino with under a minute left to play. Summit improved to 2-0, holding off a feisty Johnson team, 17-13.

"The whole defense knew we had to stop them, that was third and short," Liberato said of the sack. "Everyone penetrated their gaps, but I was just lucky enough to have the ball come over to me. I just did what I was coached to do and I was ready for the play."

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Mike Badgley, who should be called Mr. Everything after Saturday's performance, punched in the game winning touchdown from three yards out, following an impressive drive from A.J. Iarussi, who gained 54 yards on five carries on the final drive. Iarussi finished with 147 rushing yards on 18 carries for his second consecutive game breaking the century mark.

Badgley was responsible for every Summit point scored, breaking into the end zone twice, while knocking down two extra point kicks and a 30 yard field goal. He also had an interception in the game and 119 receiving yards.

"It all starts in the summer in the weight room and then I just work hard for these guys out here," Badgely said. "This was hugely rewarding. We're going to get everyone's best game this year and obviously Johnson came out with some fire, but we knew we were going to stick it to them."

"Mike Badgley is a super athlete," said Summit head coach John Liberato. "More than that, he's a fierce competitor and that's why he is going to be a great Division I kicker. He has the head for it, he has the moxie, he has the confidence."

After getting destroyed by the Hilltoppers a year ago, (63-20 on Oct. 7), Johnson came into Tatlock and gave Summit all they could handle. Summit took a 10-0 lead into the break, following a first quarter 73-yard touchdown strike from Tyler Carbone to Badgley and a second quarter field goal. Carbone threw an interception on the third play of the second half, setting up Johnson's first score, a 32-yard run up the right sideline by Anthony Travisano. A missed extra point made the score 10-6, with 9:01 left in the third quarter.

After Johnson got within four, the visiting team allowed just one Summit first down on the ensuing drive and got the ball back less than three minutes after scoring. The visitors were within nine yards of scoring, getting a first and goal at the nine on the next drive, but a false start, coupled with a botched snap, causing the loss of 10 yards, put Johnson at fourth and goal from the 18. Badgley intercepted the next throw, ending the scoring threat.

"We studied up hard on defense, we knew we were going to get their best game, we knew they were a big team up front, we knew they had some good guys in the backfield," Iarussi said. "We took them seriously on defense and we shut them down the best we could."

However, a fumbled Summit snap, recovered by Joe Francisco of the opposition and returned to the Hilltopper 35, put the visitors in position to take their first lead of the game. The Crusaders met the challenge, using a 12-yard screen pass from Lance Pecina to Travisano to give Johnson a 13-10 lead with 9:32 remaining.

Despite getting a 33-yard kick return from Badgley setting the locals up nearly at midfield, Summit was not able to get in the end zone, with the drive ending in another interception. But Summit's defense came up with a huge stop, forcing a punt with just over four minutes left to play. The punt travelled 75 yards and was downed at the two, setting up the epic game-winning drive.

"We've been in pressure situations before and we practice really hard for any scenario possible," Iarussi said. "We're ready for basically any situation, coach always keeps us calm, he always has the right play up his sleeve."

Summit was able to pull out the win despite a less than stellar offensive performance, with Carbone going 8-of-26 for 134 yards, 119 of which went to Badgley. Johnson held the locals to 299 total yards, but the three forced turnovers were the real story. Johnson was held to 264 total yards, getting 160 of those from Travisano.

"You have to give their defense the credit," Coach Liberato said. "Coach did a good job with their defense. They packed the box and they wanted to suffocate us and we had some answers for that. Unfortunately we had a lot of passes that were either overthrown or dropped and, again, that's football. ...We had a 98 yard drive, that shows the character of our kids."

While Johnson fell to 1-1 with the loss, Summit improved to 2-0 and will hit the road for the first time this fall, travelling to undefeated Cranford on Friday night.



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