TEAM CAPTAINS – RICCA, ROMANO, DELCORE, MUNDLE
Experiencing a season of turmoil, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School football team endured it all and rebounded to finish its season on a high note. The Raiders won their first game then were waylaid with coaching changes that sent the team reeling but managed to pick themselves back up and win their final two games in an impressive fashion to finish 3-7.
After shutting out the 5-6 Monroe Falcons, 25-0, in their season opener, the Raiders dropped a tough 21-12 decision to the 5-5 Colonia Patriots. The 9-1 St. Thomas Aquinas Trojans delivered a 35-0 shutout to the Raiders then a 27-12 loss to the Rahway Indians came next. The Raiders fell to the Westfield Blue Devils, 31-0, then lost to the 7-3 Summit Hilltoppers, 42-6. After another 42-6 setback to the Cranford Cougars, the Raiders were shutout, 35-0, by the 81-1 Montgomery Cougars.
Then came the rebound. In their final regular-season game, the Raiders turned up the juice and humbled the Iselin Kennedy Mustangs, 39-0. The Raiders went one better in their crossover game with South Plainfield and outran the 4-6 Tigers, 46-27.
The responsibility to bring the Raiders back to a competitive nature rested in the hands of senior captains – quarterback Anthony Romano, offensive/ defensive lineman Jason DelCore, tight end/defensive end Noah Ricca and junior co-captain/lineman Jeremiah Mundle.
Defensively, Ricca led the team in tackles, along with several sacks, and was a state contender in that category right to their final game. Mundle and DelCore made some key tackles, especially in the game against South Plainfield. Big men, senior Alex Salameh, juniors Shane Hickey and Joe Marranca, and freshman Tom Dowling plugged up the holes. Junior Cooper Tamase, senior Sean Harris and sophomores Callum Fynes and Jacob Handy were key in the defensive backfield.
In the opening victory over Monroe, Romano carried the ball 15 times for 149 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. He also completed five of six passes for 58 yards. Junior running back Jake Fezza carried 10 times for 58 yards, including a touchdown. Junior running back TJ Rasberry carried nine times for 79 yards, including a touchdown and Fynes had seven carries for 47 yards. Handy had two receptions for 47 yards. Ricca had a seven-yard reception and junior wide receiver Matteo Barcellona had a 15-yard reception. Fynes also had a pair of interceptions and five tackles. Ricca recorded six tackles.
The very tightly contested game against the Colonia Patriots had Romano completing nine of 14 passes for 81 yards and rushing 19 times for 110 yards, including a touchdown. Fezza had 36 yards on eight carries. Fynes carried three times for 14 yards, including a touchdown. Rasberry also had three carries for 14 yards. Junior running back John Boyle had three carries for nine yards. Handy had three receptions for 28 yards, Ricca had two for 30 yards, Boyle had a 16yard reception and senior Anthony Veglia had a seven-yard reception. Ricca had two sacks, forced a fumble and made five tackles. Harris had a fumble recovery.
Romano completed 10 of 23 passes for 108 yards and was intercepted once against Rahway. He also had 14 carries for 39 yards, including a touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Gilligan had three carries for nine yards and a touchdown. Rasberry had 10 carries for 30 yards, Tamase had four carries for 19 yards and Boyle had two carries for 11 yards. Junior wide receiver Art Levenson had four receptions for 46 yards. Harris had two receptions for 22 yards and Ricca had two receptions for 12 yards. Gilligan had a 21-yard catch and Rasberry had a seven-yard grab.
Getting down to the JFK-Iselin game, the Raiders amassed 295 rushing yards in the first half and finished with 369 total yards. The Mustangs had minus 12 yards rushing and were sacked five times. Romano had touchdown runs of 44, 16 and five yards and carried nine times for 104 yards. Running back Jayden Richardson carried 12 times for 140 yards, which included a 34-yard touchdown and a 16-yard touchdown. Boyle had four carries for 74 yards and Ricca had three carries for 20 yards, including a key fake punt maneuver. Defensively, Ricca recorded a 10-yard sack.
The season finale against South Plainfield was a classic as the Raiders amassed 478 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 41 carries. Richardson went wild with respective touchdown runs of six yards, 51 yards and five yards to finish with 184 yards on 18 carries. Rasberry carried three times for 85 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown sprint. Romano carried 15 times for 87 yards, including a touchdown. Ricca carried three times for 99 yards, which included a 79yard touchdown gallop. Ricca also recorded 15 tackles and a throw for a loss. Harris had a fumble recovery.
The elation from the huge wins against JFK-Iselin and South Plainfield could get the returning Raiders very excited for next year.