SUMMIT, NJ - Demonstrating the hallmark characteristics of a team Head Coach Kevin Kostibos predicted in pre-season will be "physically and mentally tough", the Summit Hilltoppers beat North Plainfield 35-12 at Investors Bank Field. Due to SAT testing held in the morning, some of Kostibos' athletes did not arrive until literally minutes prior to game time, and the coach admitted the day was "challenging" and that "everything was just a little off".
Nonetheless, there were many similarities to the Hilltoppers previous wins. A quick-strike, march down the filed offense, led by a balanced run and pass mix. A bend, don't break defense that held the opposition to essentially one score, North Plainfield's second touchdown occurred on the game's final play, stiffening in the Red Zone and on critical fourth-down plays. Building a significant first-half lead then grinding down the clock in the second half.
Charlie Terry threw two first-half scores to Chris Zanelli, Colm Dougherty ran for two others, and Caleb Sink had 96 of the Hilltoppers 254 rushing yards, as Summit improved to 4-0 prior to a tough road game against Rahway next Saturday. With SAT tests on the same day, and players justifiably focused on academics, it was not surprising execution wasn't exactly flawless.
Summit scored after a bad snap on a North Plainfield punt gave them a short field, Dougherty's 11-yard run capping the drive. North Plainfield responded with an impressive 13-play drive of their own and scored on a fourth-down, 1-yard run. The two-point conversion failed, it was 7-6 and it looked like a long, tough afternoon for the Hilltoppers. All Summit did next was control the game and reel off 28 straight points.
A big kickoff return by Andrew Masterfano, out to the 42-yard line, set the tone. Three running plays later, it was Dougherty again, this time from 12 yards out, and it was 14-6. Two second-quarter touchdowns from Terry to Zanelli, the last with less than 30 seconds to go in the half, made it 28-6 Hilltoppers. Analysis of the that late first-half score provides a lab slide of the Hilltoppers success this season. The defense stops North Plainfield on fourth down at the Summit 13-yard line with less than two minutes to go in the half. Charlie Terry hits Andrew Helmer for 53 yards down the left sideline. Several plays later, Summit is in the end zone, going 87 yards in less than 90 seconds.
Another staple of the Hilltoppers positive start to the season has been the ability to close out games. Against the Canucks, they did just that, with Zanelli returning the second-half kickoff to midfield. Caleb Sink broke off a 41-yard run, and capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown, making and it 35-6 and game over.
After the game, Kostibos said the script for the Hilltoppers has not changed, "The message is the same, we are focused on trying to get better each week." Allowing himself to look forward, the first-year Head Coach said, "We are going to face a tough, physical team in Rahway next week. We haven't peaked by any means, and we haven't played a perfect game yet. I can't wait for that, and I think it is coming."
Summit's October 12 game at Rahway is slated for a 1 p.m. kickoff.