Hughes sparks unbeaten Ridge to easy victory

Hughes sparks unbeaten Ridge to easy victory

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Hughes sparks unbeaten Ridge to easy victory

By

BERNARDS

Even with a band performance, homecoming festivities and the Class of 1967 reunion, the halftime show Friday night at Ridge High School could not match the show put on by the home team’s offense.

Dual-threat quarterback Conor Hughes compiled 180 yards of total offense and directed four touchdown drives during the first half alone as Ridge jumped out to a 27-point lead and cruised to a 34-0 victory against North Hunterdon to remain unbeaten.

“Everything starts with our offensive line and then we have good kids who handle the ball,” coach Billy Tracy said. “We haven’t really put it all together offensively yet, but tonight I felt good about our execution.”

Ridge, which is ranked atop the Courier News Top 10, broke a scoreless tie by scoring two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the first quarter.

The common theme between the two drives was big plays as the six of the 12 total plays needed went for at least 13 yards.

Hughes got the offense going through the air as he found Nick Franzese on back-to-back completions before delivering a 25-yard strike to Adam Walker in the back of the end zone off of a play-action fake.

A three-and-out put the ball back in the hands of Hughes, who scrambled for 26 yards on first down.

Franzese took a slot screen pass 23 yards as he weaved behind a series of downfield blocks to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Skea on a toss around the left side.

It was the first of two first-half touchdowns for Skea, who also showed a power running style by running between the tackles for a 1-yard score.

“Coach Tracy did a great job calling plays and our defense did a great job of getting us the ball back quickly so we could mix the run and the pass,” Hughes said.

“The defense didn’t know what was coming.”

The early 14-0 deficit seemed to rattle North Hunterdon, which abandoned the run and threw three straight incompletions deep in its own territory as less than 30 seconds came off the clock.

The Red Devils (5-0) upped their lead to 20-0 at the end of a 77-yard drive that included runs of 25 and 17 by Hughes.

The only pass among the eight plays was Hughes’ four-yard touchdown toss to Franzese, who later added an interception in the end zone at the end of the first half and protect a 27-0 lead.

“Five-and-0 is a great way to start the season,” Hughes said. “Going into each game undefeated, we’ve got the momentum.”

North Hunterdon, which came in on a two-game winning streak, picked up just four first downs, including one by penalty, compared to Ridge’s 16 in the first half.

North Hunterdon, which won six of the previous eight meetings dating back to 2004, was without starting two-way lineman Dylan Nemeth and lost leading tackler Mike Mastrobattista to an ankle injury in the first half.

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Hughes sparks unbeaten Ridge to easy victory
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