BRIDGEWATER, NJ – The Bridgewater-Raritan football team scored 21 unanswered points and used a massive second half to defeat rival Westfield, 27-14, at Basilone Memorial Field Friday night.
The Panthers, coming off a win over state-ranked Union, scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and outscored the 0-2 Blue Devils 21-0 in the second half.
“At halftime we were down a little but our leaders stepped up,” said Bridgewater-Raritan senior Bryce Myers, who hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Brady Kurdyla that gave B-R a 27-14 lead with 5:25 to go. “We came out of the half with a new attitude, and this was the result.”
Bridgewater-Raritan could not have asked for a better start. Miftar Hasanaj had a 23-yard fumble return for a touchdown just 1:41 into the game.
Westfield later capitalized on a defensive pass interference and worked the field, eventually scoring on a 5-yard TD run by senior quarterback Mack Prybylski that put the Blue Devils on top 7-6 with 57 seconds left in the first quarter.
The visitors looked strong and made adjustments following a tough season-opening home loss to St. Joseph of Metuchen.
A muffed punt gave Bridgewater-Raritan the ball in the second quarter, and the Panthers had a chance to go back on top, but a 25-yard field goal attempt was no good, and Westfield held on to a 7-6 lead with 8:35 remaining in the first half.
Behind Prybylski and aggressive senior running back Shane Carlin, Westfield continued to move the ball when on offense.
A 34-yard connection between Prybylski and senior Russell Korbin eventually set up the Blue Devils’ second score, a 2-yard TD run from Carlin that gave Westfield a 14-6 lead with 2:30 remaining in the half.
The second half was a much different story for a Panther team that continually refuses to quit.
Bridgewater-Raritan didn’t start off the second half on a strong note, as a first down catch on a 4th-and-4 ultimately resulted in a fumble and Westfield recovery.
Credit to the Panthers, the defense came through and forced punts when needed.
Both defenses were stout. One play shifted the momentum, however.
Following a punt, Bridgewater-Raritan senior running back Ryan McKinney capitalized on strong blocking up front and scored on a 60-yard run that cut Westfield’s lead to 14-12 after an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt with 3:09 remaining in the third quarter.
“That was incredible blocking,” McKinney said. “The hole opened up right in front of me and I just turned on the jets. At the end, with a little extra effort, it took a little out of me but I had to get it done and get us back in the game. I feel that turned the momentum going into the rest of the second half.”
“He’s the hardest worker on this team,” Myers said of McKinney and his pivotal TD run. “He never takes a play off for anything.”
Westfield continued to feed Carlin on the ground. On a 3rd-and-6 on the Blue Devil 45-yard line, Prybylski was intercepted by Bridgewater-Raritan sophomore defensive back C.J. Stevens.
“Way to step up,” Myers said of his sophomore teammates’ play.
On the next B-R drive, Kurdyla connected with Myers on a screen for 18 yards on a crucial 3rd-and-6 on the Panthers’ 41. Kurdyla later found junior Dylan Corsi and then McKinney ran for a first down to the Westfield 8.
From there, Kurdyla did the rest, as the quarterback willed his way into the end zone on a run where he simply refused to go down.
“I kind of banged up my leg last week against Union but the coach called my number on the goal line,” the quarterback said. “I said to myself that I’m going to suck it up and there was no way that I wasn’t going to get into this end zone for my team, for my town. Westfield is a big rival of ours, and we had to beat them.”
Myers converted the two-point conversion with an untouched run up the middle.
The boost on offense certainly gave the Panther defense energy. A three-and-out forced another Blue Devil punt, and Bridgewater-Raritan could see the finish line.
McKinney, who totaled 133 yards on the ground, had a strong run that put the Panthers into Westfield territory. On a key 3rd-and-8 play, a targeting penalty on a catch gave the home team a first down at the Blue Devil 13. Two plays later, Kurdyla found Myers in the end zone to seal the deal.
It was certainly a tale of two halves Friday night in Bridgewater.
“We buckled down and got the job done,” Kurdyla said. “This team is special. There is no quit in us.”
Westfield will search for its first win against Ridge when it returns home next Saturday afternoon. The Panthers travel to Elizabeth next Friday night.