SUMMIT, NJ - Just your average, nearly 100-point high school football game.
After opening their season a month ago with a fairly heavy, 26-point defeat to Rahway, the Summit High School Varsity Football Team rebounded with two wins but next up was Somerville, a team that had subsequently dismantled that same Rahway squad by 34 points. Many prep pigskin pundits didn't give the Hiltoppers much of a chance Saturday at Tatlock Field.
Well, as elections have shown, pundits can get it wrong.
The Maroon and White went toe-to-toe with the Pioneers before Somerville pulled away to win a wild affair, 55-42. Summit was right there until Cookie Desiderio, Somerville's marquee running back, blasted 80-yards to paydirt with a screen pass for the eventual game-winning points.
Summit got more than 450 yards in offense from two players and still came up short on the scoreboard. Junior quarterback Charlie Schaffer threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns and senior captain Austin Groce ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Jake Raniero, sackmaster in last week's win versus South Plainfield, scooped up a fumble and rumbled 41 yards for six points, and junior Ellis Sorenson, junior Conor St.Amant and senior Ethan Engmann all caught touchdown passes. Sorenson had an even 100 yards receiving on the day.
Somerville opened the scoring on its initial possession of the game, a 25-yard touchdown pass followed by a failed two-point conversion. Summit answered right back when Schaffer found junior Bryce Lubin on a seam route on third-and-10 and Lubin rambled 71 yards to the Pioneer nine--yard line. Two plays later, Schaffer rolled right and found the end zone from five yards out. The two-point conversion came up short and the game was tied, 6-6.
Desiderio delivered the big play on the next series, pounding 26 yards to the Summit six before his cleat landed out of bounds. The quarterback draw did the trick for Somerville and it was 12-6 after another failed two-point conversion.
In the second quarter, Somerville was driving again but a sack by junior Mike Sereno and a sack by Raniero helped turn the ball back over to Summit on downs. The defensive stop sparked the offense as it took the Hilltoppers three pays to take the lead.
Schaffer ran for eight yards, Groce galloped for 13, and then Schaffer hit Sorenson on a 55-yard rainbow for six. After senior Brock Froschauer smacked the PAT, the home team led 13-12.
The Summit 'D' did it again on the next drive, blunting Somerville when Groce -- after a Somerville completion -- jarred the bal loose from the Pioneer receiver and junior Colin Beatty recovered the rolling rock.
After a Hiltopper three-and-out, Somerville executed and three-and-score drive. Quarterback Michael Miller taking the ball the final 15 yards for the touchdown. The PAT was good and the Pioneers were back on top, 19-13.
In this game of football Pong, Summit took two plays to score -- and get the lead back -- after the kick-off. On second-and-nine, Schaffer dropped back and found St.Amant on a fly pattern and, 64 yards later, the game was tied at 19. The PAT was blocked.
Happy Hilltopper days were there again on the next series when, on first-and-15 from the Somerville 41, Rainero picked up a loose ball and, escorted by Beatty most of the way, steamrolled to The House. The PAT was good, and Summit led 26-19.
Somerville volleyed back, however, using a mix of runs and passes to take the ball 80 yards for the score, Desiderio doing the honors from two yards out. The two-point PAT failed and Summit still led by a point, 26-25.
Starting the next series from their own 17-yard line, Summit began dubiously and finished famously.
First down was a false start, then Groce gained three yards. Beatty then lost a yard setting up a third-and-13 from the Summit 14-yard line. After Somerville called timeout to in an effort to stop the clock and squeeze one more possession out of the half, Groce shattered that strategy by taking the third down hand-off, breaking several tackles, then stiff arming a few Pioneers, cutting back across the field, and motoring 86 yards for a highlight reel touchdown in a spotlight moment.
Froschauer's PAT made it 33-25 and the teams -- and everybody within a few miles of Tatlock Park -- caught a much-needed halftime breather.
Aided by a puzzling too-many-players-on-the-field call against Summit on a fourth-and-10 from their own 20, Somerville got a second-chance at the second half's first possession and took advantage, converting twice more on fourth downs during the series and eventually finding the end zone. The two-point conversion was good and the game was tied at 33.
A three-and-out by Summit and the subsequent punt gave the Pioneers the ball back on the Hilltopper 46 and Miller found Ethan McNair on first down for the touchdown. Another successful two-point conversion put Somerville up 41-33.
A nice kick return by junior Matthew Loeloff to the Somerville 46-yard line gave Summit some nice field position and, two plays after Schaffer and Groce teamed-up on an 18-yard pass play for a key third down conversion, Schaffer hit Engmann for 18 yards and the score. The PAT was blocked again, and Summit still trailed, 41-39.
While there was still over a quarter to go, Somerville delivered an emotional dagger when, after a touchback on the ensuring kick-off, Miller tossed a screen pass to Desiderio and Cookie delivered a monster play. Eighty yards and a failed two-point conversion later, the Pioneers had extended their lead to 47-39.
Completing a drive that began in the third quarter and ended in the fourth, Summit took the ball all the way down to the Somerville 15-yard line but could go no farther. Froschauer booted a 30-yarder for three points to narrow the deficit to 47-42.
In a game where it seemed that whoever scored last might win, Somerville scored last.
Miller found McNair for a 50-yard gain, and McNair finished things off from four yards out. The two-point conversion was good and created the final points and final score of a game that earned the label of 'instant classic'.
Summit, now 2-2 on the season, next travels to Edison on October 30. Kick-off versus the Eagles is set for 7 p.m.