Updated at 5:05 p.m. Nov. 18
RIDGEWOOD, NJ — A state semi-final match up between Ridgewood and Westfield saw success early in the game for the opposition from Union County, but by the end of the game Ridgewood brought in a win.
The Blue Devils got an early 3-0 lead by halftime, a score that was eclipsed by a tremendous roaring back from the Maroons who scored 14 points in the second half to secure a 16-10 comeback victory over Westfield in the North 1 Group 5 State semifinal game in Ridgewood Friday.
“We didn’t score enough in the first half,” said Westfield head coach Jim DeSarno. “We had chances. We didn’t get the points we needed. We had a couple penalties and a couple bad calls on my part.”
In the first half, Westfield put up 130 yards of total offense compared with 30 from Ridgewood.
Westfield quarterback Hank Shapiro threw for 109 yards and completed 11 of 18 passes in that half and Griffin Rooney Westfield wide receiver caught 9 passes for 91 yards.
The challenging part for Westfield was they were not able to get touchdowns though they got close several times in the first half but a hodgepodge of penalties, a missed kick and a blocked kick nullified a very solid start and left them with 3 points at the end of the half.
In the third quarter, a safety happened when Westfield hiked the ball over the top of punter Henry Meiselman's head. He ended up collapsed on the ball in the end-zone giving Ridgewood its first two points of the game bringing the score to 3-2. The huge momentum shift began to take place as Ridgewood gained confidence.
Ridgewood quarterback Liam Tarleton really began to get the Ridgewood offense rolling. Tough, gritty runs were made by running back Gabe Santiago, who had a great second half with lots of tough yards that would set up big plays by receiver Tommy Bourque.
The cold air and frigid temperatures began to get warmer as the air attack went off in the second half for Ridgewood.
“The second half we found out their game plan and changed our whole mentality,” Santiago said. “Basically I'm not playing football in college. I wasn't going to let this be our last game.”
Ridgewood roared back in the second half for a captivating 16-10 comeback victory.
Ridgewood coach David Cord said his squad had a “bend don't break mentality” driven home by how they didn't let their lack of scoring early in the game deter them from a resounding comeback.
Santiago grounded out a number of tough gains including a scamper for a touchdown that left the score at 10-8. The score was almost tied but a passing play to receiver Reuben Pillai failed and left it a two-point margin.
“He's just a tough hard-nosed runner, he runs four yards and kicks up a cloud of dust,” Cord said.
Bourque would continue a scintillating send half, at one point garnering three straight big plays for upwards of 60 combined yards and the Maroon Ridgewood squad would get a Santiago run to punch into the end-zone for a 2-yard touchdown leaving the score at 14-10. Bourque would come up big late again when Ridgewood went for two points leaving the final score at 16-10.
Cord said this was a huge game on a big stage for him.
“Tommy's just an incredible kid. He comes out to practice and works hard. He's one of the best athletes on the football team. He thinks every ball in the air is his. That's his mindset. He single-handedly won the Old Tappan game for us but this was a bigger moment and bigger stage. I have nothing but respect for Westfield.”
The Herculean effort was bolstered by big throws by Liam Tarlton who Cord said, jokingly, “throws better in the cold.”
“Give them all the credit,” DeSarno said. “They hit the big plays, and we didn't get the stops.”
Cord said his team is focused on the sectional championship after winning tonight's semi-finals.
Westfield still has a game left on Thanksgiving. It was a disappointing finish but the team had a good year and remains at 6-4 overall.
Westfield receiver Trey Brown said his team played “pretty well.” But it wasn’t enough.
“We just didn't play our best today,” Brown said.