By Scott Stump – Shore Sports Network Contributor
HAZLET – Raritan’s 28-7 loss to Haddonfield in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 2 final on a crowded Joseph J. DeVirgilio pitch on Friday night was a frustrating illustration of how running in crucial places can be more important. than posting higher overall numbers when a championship is online.
The seeded Rockets (6-5) dominated the third seeded Bulldawgs 290-255 and recorded 17 first downs against 10 for Haddonfield, but the Bulldawgs (9-2) made all the pivotal plays at the most important moments to capture. their sixth section title in the past 11 years and rob Raritan of his first title since 2015.
Haddonfield senior quarterback Carson Wolff made just two assists in the game, but they were both third and long-term backbreakers who established touchdowns. Senior fullback Bobby Hahn made the most of his touches, averaging 9.9 yards per carry en route to a night of 138 yards and two touchdowns.
Whenever it looked like Raritan was going to come back into the game on his home turf, Haddonfield offered a big defensive save, a turnaround or a blow that blew the wind out of the crowd. The defense produced three turnovers and two crucial saves in fourth.
“They made plays when they needed them,” said Raritan head coach Anthony Petruzzi. “They came with the ball in all of these situations. It is to their credit. They are a lasting powerhouse. They live in this game, and I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff and their kids. They were the best team tonight. They made the games when they needed them, and we didn’t.
The Bulldawgs face South Jersey Group 2 champion Point Boro in one NJSIAA bowl game at a time and a neutral venue will be announced.
Haddonfield set the tone from the start after Raritan won the toss and opted to take the ball first with an offense that came from a 41-point effort in a semi-final victory over Hillside. The Rockets were on Haddonfield’s 23-yard line in five games thanks to the run of junior Kieran Falzon, who finished with a high of 143 yards on 22 carries to cap a brilliant season.
However, the Bulldawgs made three straight saves on running plays and then forced a failure on fourth base to stop any momentum Raritan had to start the game.
“It was huge because we know this team starts out strong and comes out on a sway, so getting a first save was huge,” Wolff said. “We knew that if we stopped on the first trip it would only be easier from there. “
After playing three goals, Haddonfield avoided disaster by hitting a punt right in front of the goal line despite a high slam over the head of the punter to avoid a flip that could have changed the whole feel of the game.
Once again, Raritan drove to the Haddonfield 25-yard line, but the Bulldawgs responded by forcing noncompletments on the third and fourth downs to leave the Rockets empty-handed.
That was pretty much all of Haddonfield after those two big saves, as the Bulldawgs took a 7-0 lead over a 1-yard quarterback guard by Wolff with 8:57 in the second quarter and never failed. looked back. The touchdown was set up with a 37-yard pass on third and 9, in which Wolff threw a rainbow into a thicket of players and junior wide receiver Carl Forebaugh hit it at the 7-line. Raritan yards.
The Haddonfield defense then forced a three-and-out, and the Bulldawgs made it 14-0 with a six-game, 95-yard practice that ended in a 42-yard flurry on the sideline. by Hahn with 4:29 left in the half.
The opening third quarter practice was important until Haddonfield, preventing Raritan from bringing the crowd back and starting a comeback. The Bulldawgs covered 66 yards in nine plays, including a massive 26-yard pass in the third and 17 yards in which Wolff unwound and found senior winger Dante Del Duca to keep the drive alive.
“I know I have a great chemistry with Dante Del Duca, and I trust him to catch some tough passes, and I trusted him there and he accepted it,” Wolff said.
“It’s always a change of momentum when teams convert on the third down, which is why finding ways to get off the pitch is so important,” said Petruzzi. “We weren’t in the right place, and it’s my turn.”
Wolff finished the run with a 17-yard touchdown run with 6:39 left in the third quarter for a 21-0 lead.
“We had a hell of a running back in Bobby Hahn so when he comes out on the left a lot of guys are with him so I was able to shoot him, keep him and only had green grass in front of me. Wolff said.
Raritan finally entered the board with an eight-play, 79-yard drive topped off with a 26-yard touchdown by Falzon to make it 21-7 with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
With Falzon having a big night out, Haddonfield neutralized the perimeter of slotbacks Joe Campanella and Dan Calicari in Raritan’s flexbone offense, who had been important playmakers in the title race, and forced the Rockets to throw the ball a lot more than they normally did. would have. The Rockets had just 18 rushing yards outside of Falzon’s reach.
“It’s a good tackling team, they play with their feet on the ground, and they see it and go for it,” said Petruzzi.
After Falzon’s touchdown, the Rockets forced a three-and-out and had a chance to make it a one-scoring game, but once again, Haddonfield came up with a huge play by recovering a fumble over stray ground at Raritan 21 -line of yards.
Two plays later, Hahn scored for 20 yards to make it 28-7 in the first play of the fourth quarter, then Del Duca virtually sealed the game with a 49-yard interception return to kill Raritan’s drive. that followed.
It was a disappointing end to an impressive run for the Rockets, who were 1-3 at one point in the season and rallied all the way home to reach their first State Final in six years.
Raritan returns Falzon, who finished with more than 1,500 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior, as well as Calicari, but will graduate Campanella, senior quarterback Ben Hutchins and a host of key seniors up front and down. defense.
“When you lose in a game like this it’s always bittersweet, but I’m going to remember where we were when we were sitting there at 1-3,” said Petruzzi. “I’m going to remember how these guys kept coming to work and fighting every day to get better. And I’m going to remember the persistence and how they fought through adversity to get us here.
The score of the box
Haddonfield 28, Raritan 7
First stockings 17 10
Rush-yards 34-161 25-192
Assists 10-32-2 2-6-0
Passing yards 129 63
Penalties 8-44 2-10
Fumbles lost 1-1 2-0
Haddonfield (9-2) 0 14 7 7 – 28
Raritan (6-5) 0 0 7 0 – 7
Summary of scores
H: Wolff’s 1-yard run (cut kick).
H: Hahn’s 42-yard run (Cutter kick).
H: Wolff’s 17-yard run (Cutter kick).
A: Falzon’s 26-yard run (Spengler kick).
H: Hahn’s 20-yard run (Cutter kick).
Rushing – R: Falzon 22-143, Calicari 3-11, Campanella 4-13, Hutchins 5 – (- 6). H: Hahn 14-138, Wolff 11-54.
Passes – D: Hutchins 10-32-2 129; (H) Wolff 2-6-0 63.
Reception – R: Falzon 2-25, Moser 3-37, Calicari 1-10, Campanella 2-26, Murphy 1-14, Scarola 1-17. H: Forebaugh 1-37, Del Duca 1-26.
Interceptions – M: Foley 1-5, Del Duca 1-49.