TDS – RICHARDSON, RICCA, ROMANO, RASBERRY, HANDY
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.” The Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School football team did just that in a big way by notching its second huge victory in a row when the Raiders hosted the South Plainfield Tigers on October 26. After shutting out the JFK Mustangs, 39-0, the week before, the Raiders romped over the 46 Tigers, 46-27, in their NJSIAA crossover game to complete their season in style.
The success of the ground game was the key for the 3-7 Raiders, who gobbled up 478 yards on 41 carries, including six touchdowns. Quarterback/ co-captain Anthony Romano, who rushed 15 times for 87 yards, including a touchdown, needed only to complete five of 12 passes for 68 yards. His primary receiver was Jacob Handy, who had five receptions for 44 yards. Junior wide receiver Cooper Tamase had a 15-yard reception and co-captain/tight end Noah Ricca had a nine-yard reception.
“I loved this game. It kept going back-and-forth and the offense needed to put it up and we kept doing it. Every time the defense let up a score, we kept scoring. The offense really showed us who we really are tonight,” Romano said.
“We turned on the offense and showed everyone that we could actually score. That’s the reason we won,” Ricca added.
Raider running back Jayden Richardson carried 18 times for 184 yards, including respective touchdown runs of six yards, 51 yards and five yards. Junior running back TJ Rasberry had three carries for 85 yards and one resulted in an 80-yard touchdown. John Boyle carried twice for 23 yards and Ricca carried three times for 99 yards, which included a breakthrough 79-yard sprint to the end zone.
The Tigers totaled 205 yards on the ground on 33 carries, including three touchdowns. Senior running back Pat Smith had all three of those touchdowns and finished with 188 yards on 24 carries. Dom Massaro had eight carries for 15 yards and also had a 75yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Dylan Oller had a two-yard carry. Junior tight end Al Parales had the only reception, good for 48 yards.
Despite the wide open offensive game presented by both teams, the Raider defense made some key plays. Ricca, chasing the state lead in tackles, finished with 15 tackles, including a throw for a loss (TFL). Sean Harris recovered a fumble. Tamase batted down a few passes. Sophomore Callum Fynes made a saving tackle and the big Raider interior linemen of Shane Hickey, Paul Boyle, co-captain Jeremiah Mundle and company limited Smith to low or no yards per carry. Mundle also made a key stop on fourth down at midfield to set up a Raider scoring drive. Co-captain Jason DelCore pulled off a key 2yard TFL to prevent the Tigers from scoring in the fourth quarter.
“It felt amazing. They were running the ball at me all day and they were getting more yards than I would like to admit they got but I knew I had to make a play. I was willing to do everything it took to make that play and I made it,” DelCore explained.
The Raiders’ offensive fluency at the beginning of the game seemed to be like water flowing out of a spigot. On their first series, Richardson and Romano alternated carrying the ball nine times to cover 72 yards and score when Richardson rolled right six yards into the end zone with 7:38 left in the first quarter. The conversion attempt failed. After the Tigers turned the ball over on downs at the Raider 49, Richardson slit off left tackle for a 51-yard touchdown with 3:38 on the clock. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
The Tigers’ offense decided to get into the flow also but it turned out to be more of a gush. Taking over at their own 35, after an incomplete pass, Smith blasted right through the middle of the Raider line and sprinted 65 yards for the touchdown with 3:20 left in the quarter. The successful point after made the score 12-7.
The suddenness of the gush may had startled the Raiders briefly and the Tigers rolled 92 yards on 12 plays to take a 14-12 lead with 5:36 left in the half when Smith scooted right 15 yards for the score and the point after split the uprights.
The Raiders regained their senses, however, and began their next drive at their own 14. After two runs put the ball at the 21, Ricca got a great block from Hickey the center and outran the rest for his 79-yard touchdown to put the Raiders on top, 18-14, with 4:29 left. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
“Shane Hickey! He got the snap off. That was it! No one knew that I had the ball,” Ricca explained.
The game really got wide open in the second half after the Tigers went three-and-out on their first series and punted into the end zone, giving the Raiders possession on the 20. On the first play, Rasberry found an opening and dashed 80 yards for the touchdown with 9:51 left in the quarter upping the lead to 24-14. The conversion attempt failed.
On the ensuing kickoff, Massaro got the ball at the 25 and made it the whole way to the end zone in just 14 seconds. The point after narrowed the margin to 24-21. However, Handy got the next kickoff at the 15-yard line and sprinted down the right sideline for his 85-yard touchdown. The successful point after by Santiago Beccera upped the lead to 32-21 with 9:26 left in the third quarter.
Mundle’s key stop came next and the Raiders took over at their own 48. Eight plays later, Romano slipped in for the one-yard touchdown with 3:08 left in the third. Beccara’s point after made the score 39-21. Tiger Massaro had another big return to the Raider 18. On the third play, Smith scored from seven yards out and the twopoint conversion made the score 3927 with 1:00 left in the third.
The Raiders took possession at the 28 and covered 72 yards on six plays when Richardson slanted five yards in for the score with 10:43 left in the game to add a 46-27 cushion. DelCore’s key tackle and Harris’ fumble recovery saw to it that the Tigers could no longer roar.
Reflecting on the Raiders’ ability to pick themselves up in such an impressive way, DelCore said, “That’s the mentality we had and I couldn’t have been able to do it without these group of guys right here. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anybody else.”
Mundle revealed, “I really love these seniors and being a junior on this captains squad is amazing and I never could have asked for another better squad. I come back next year and hopefully we will make the playoffs. I’m going to miss these guys!”
“This is the most fun game I’ve ever had in my whole life. Going back-and-forth, it was the best game to end it off on. I am going to remember that touchdown for the rest of my life,” Ricca expressed.
“The biggest thing that happened to us was that every person was pushing us down and these last two games really showed who we are. We got bad raps. I’m am really happy that I ended my career with two distinct wins,” Romano concluded.