SUMMIT, NJ - Chris Zanelli had a huge day on the ground, the Hilltopper defense was robust throughout, and the Summit High School Varsity Football Team opened their 2014 season with a 26-0 blanking of North Plainfield.  With the victory, Summit extended its winning streak to 27 consecutive games.

The Hilltoppers opened their new campaign in a manner somewhat reminiscent to how they concluded the 2013 season: with a triumph in the rain.  Those looking for a better comparison, however, should travel back in history a bit farther, harkening to last year's season opener against Somerville.

Both games were somewhat ragged, penalty-filled affairs that demonstrate that all of the practice, drills, and preparation simply cannot completely simulate game action versus an opponent.  Such was the case versus the Canucks, as Summit saw three touchdowns taken off the board, as well as several drives stunted, due to the omnipresent yellow flag.
 
 
The major standouts on the day were senior captain running back Zanelli, who carried the ball 23 times for 235 yards and two scores, and Defensive Coordinator Chet Parlavecchio's defensive unit, which limited North Plainfield to only one sustained drive.  And, on that occasion, defensive back Robby Faris intercepted a pass -- one of two picks he had on the day -- inside the Summit five yard line to snuff the threat.
 
Summit opened the scoring on their first drive, courtesy of an 8-yard touchdown pass from Pete McKinlay to Andrew Helmer.  The extra point failed, and the Hilltoppers led 6-0.  Much of the heavy lifting on the drive was done by Zanelli, who seemed all afternoon to be playing at a different, higher, RPM than the Canuck defenders.

 
It was 12-0 in the second quarter when quarterback Ryan Richson and Helmer connected on a 49-yard pass, the PAT again failing.  The Hilltoppers, due in part to Faris' interception, took that lead into halftime, despite struggling with execution and penalties throughout the first two quarters.
 
The lead grew to 19-0 in the third quarter when Zanelli rocketed 55-yards into the end zone, and Paulo Umana converted the PAT.  Late in that quarter, however, with the game's result essentially no longer in doubt, the Hilltoppers suffered two big losses.
 
Junior quarterback Richson was speared by a second defender while on the turf wrapped in the arms of the primary tackler.  The high hit dislodged his helmet and, although able to leave the field under his own power, he did not return to the game.
 
Several plays later, as Zanelli was rambling down field on another long touchdown run, the yellow flag again flew, this time signaling an infraction against Summit center Donovan Cahill.  Cahill was assessed a personal foul penalty and, in a bizarre decision, ejected from the game.  If Cahill's punishment stands, rules stipulate he is suspended from Summit's next game against Governor Livingston.
 
The fourth quarter saw sophomore Jake Froschauer handle the quarterback duties, and Zanelli dash 28-yards for his second touchdown of the game.  Umana tacked on the extra point.
 
After the game, Summit Head Coach Kevin Kostibos said, "It was just like Somerville last year, sloppy, filled with penalties.  We can't expect to win games giving up 21 points."  Kostibos chalked up the relatively disjointed performance to season-opening jitters and the learning curve of playing real-game action, saying, "We have a lot of new guys who were experiencing it for the first time, and it is tough to simulate that in practice."
 
Summit next travels to Governor Livingston September 20, with kick-off slated for 1 p.m.