Bridgewater-Raritan mixed its staple offense with an early gadget play and added outstanding front line defense Saturday night to dispose of Union 27-13 at Basilone Field.
Panthers’ senior quarterback Mike Fair threw a 63-yard touchdown on his first varsity pass — the first Panthers’ play of the season — and sealed the game with 2:09 remaining with a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown in a Mid-State 38 Delaware Division clash.
“At that point it was the defense’s game to win, we didn’t have to get a pick, we needed a stop,” said Fair, a solid shortstop in the spring. “We just had great coverage all over the field.”
Fair, making his first varsity start as a quarterback, commenced the special evening on the Panthers’ opening play. He took the snap, tossed the ball to senior fullback Matt Eichhorn who tossed it to senior wideout Josh Robbins. Robbins returned the ball to Fair. Sophomore Ethan Christensen, appearing to prepare to block, took off and became wide open with Fair throwing a accurate pass, hitting him in stride.
“We wanted to do something to put them on their heels, do something they weren’t expecting, and Ethan was wide open and I threw it to him,” Fair said.
The “toss reverse pass” or “double reverse pass” finally paid very big dividends.
“We tried it on the first play in the playoffs last year against Piscataway (in the North 2 Group V semifinal) and the Basilone Bowl (Somerset County All-Star game June 28) and they were incomplete,” said B-R coach Scott Bray. “We didn’t even have it in the game plan (for Union), but when we got lightening the other night (Thursday) we decided we had to do something to energize them, so we said what the heck. And it worked.”
What didn’t work early for the Panthers was stopping Union’s fine senior back Jamauri Bogan, who ran for a 63-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage after the Panthers’ score to tie the game 6-6.
After a Panthers three-and-out, Bogan scored once again — this time from 46 yards and this time Lucas Dagnone hit the extra point to give the Farmers a 13-6 lead with 41 seconds left in the first quarter. Bridgewater-Raritan held firm, however, and Fair and Christiensen connected once again on a fourth-and-goal completion from the four with 2:09 left in the half. Anthony Balliro hit the extra point to tie it.
The teams hit intermission tied at 13 with Bogan carrying for 162 yards in the first 24 minutes. But he’d get only 35 in the second half as defensive end Chris Carter was moved inside. Carter and linebacker Jack Fanning were among the defenders to slow the shifty back down.
Bridgewater-Raritan came out in the second half, going 67 yards on seven plays to take the lead with Fair running for 21 yards — an additional 15 yards on his first carry because of a horse collar call on Union — and Eichhorn for 20 yards on four carries before junior Matt Kaiteris scored on a short run.
U – Bogan 48 run (kick failed)
BR – Christiensen 63 pass from Fair (kick failed)
U – Bogan 46 run (Dagnone kick)
BR – Christiensen 4 pass from Fair (Balliro kick)
BR – M. Kaitiris 3 run (Balliro kick)
BR – Fair 30 interception return (Balliro kick)
RUSHING — U: Bogan 29-185, D. Rios 6-(-5); Robertson 2-1; BR: Eichhorn 23-56, Fair 6-17, M. Kaitiris 3-4, Kolen 1-12
PASSING — U: D. Rios 4-15-2-34; BR: Fair 10-18-1-115
RECEIVING — U: G. Rios 2-18, Bogan 1-4, Dukes 1-12; BR: Christensen 3-75, Robbins 6-30, Eichhorn 1-10.