SUMMIT, NJ - Big games are usually decided by big plays, big moments and -- often times -- big mistakes. Unfortunately for the Summit High School Varsity Football Team, they came out on the wrong end of all of those factors versus Rahway at Tatlock Park.
The combination of big plays from the Indians and five turnovers by the Hilltoppers added up to virtually all the big moments going the way of the visitors. The result was a game, the outcome of which looked to be a coin flip in the third quarter, evolving into what ended up being a decisive decision in favor of the visitors, with Rahway winning convincingly 41-23.
The rare home defeat leaves Summit with a 2-1 record on the season.
The operative numbers on the day were 5 and 3. Five being the afore-mentioned number of turnovers and three being the uniform number of Rahway running back Rashon Bradford, who scored four touchdowns on the day and whose quick elusive runs left a plethora of Maroon and White tacklers grabbing at air -- and in his wake -- during a host of long jaunts.
All told, Bradford gained 237 all-purpose yards, 166 of those coming on the ground and the remainder coming on a short pass he turned into a 71-yard touchdown.
For two plus quarters of action, the game took big strides toward earning the hallowed tag of a slobberknocker -- a hard-hitting, defensive-oriented tilt. One of those hits early on, however, forced Sam Roberts, Summit's senior starting quarterback, from the game. Roberts did not return was replaced by junior Austin Groce.
Summit scored with 1:03 left in the first quarter when Joe Lusardi dove into the end zone after a ground-oriented drive.
It took 37-seconds short of a full quarter of football before the next score arrived via Bradford's 71-yard masterpiece. Both teams made their two-point conversions, and the contest was tied 8-8.
The turnover bug bit Summit on their next series, a fumble giving the Indians the ball right back with great field position. When the Hilltopper defense held, the visitors were forced to settle for a Christopher Sosa 30-yard field goal with 30 seconds left in the half. The teams went to the break with Rahway ahead 11-8.
Summit unleashed a big play of its own to regain the lead at the 8:08 mark of the third quarter. Groce found Andre Campbell in the right flat and the senior rumbled 66-yards to The House. The point-after kick was blocked, and the Hilltoppers led 14-11.
Things were looking up for the home team when, after another defensive stop, junior Brock Froschauer drilled a 36-yard field goal to give Summit a 17-11 lead with 3:46 left in the third, but the celebrating fans could not have foreseen that Summit would get outscored 30-6 the rest of the way.
Bradford scored from 28-yards out and the game was tied at 17 with 2:21 to go. Then, Summit muffed the ensuing kick-off and Bradford found paydirt again 22-seconds later from four-yards and, after a successful PAT kick from Sosa, Rahway had regained the lead at 24-17.
In the fourth, a Sosa 22-yard field goal, a 66-yard jolt from Ashan Harris and the coup de grâce, a 62-yard there-he-goes-again run from Bradford were way too much for the Hilltoppers, who did get an 82-yard Groce to senior Matty Goldblatt touchdown pass but, by then, the outcome already seemed fated.
"We didn't take care of the football -- Rahway made [the] plays, and we did not," said Summit Head Coach Kevin Kostibos. "Our kids gave everything they had until the final whistle."
Summit stays at home but gets no respite from a rigorous schedule, next facing Somerville October 5 at Tatlock Park. Kick-off is set for 2 p.m.