Hillsborough’s 28-14 win Friday night at North Hunterdon will always be remembered for Andrew Zitel’s brilliant, clutch catch and Rob Nittolo Jr.’s arm.
A win, however, is not made by two players, but by many and the Raiders needed every one of them in Clinton on offense, defense and special teams.
Senior Tyler Murdock-Lennon was one of the cast who stood out, earning this week’s Courier News Football Player of the Week honor.
Though Hillsborough (4-4) never trailed or was tied, it wasn’t able to take a final collective sigh of relief until Victor Delrio’s 17-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds left in regulation.
Players like the 5-foot-9, 150-pound Murdock-Lennon made sure the Raiders never surrendered the emotional edge.
After a Hillsborough three-and-out on the game’s first series from its 15, Eddie Trimpert lined up in the end zone, driving a 35-yard punt. Murdock-Lennon, the team’s gunner, took off and dropped returner Matt Schaedel fora 3-yard loss at the North 47.
“If you miss (the tackle) you have to miss outside, you have to keep the returner in the middle of the field,” Murdock-Lennon said.
North, however, marched to the Raider 33, On a second-and-6, senior quarterback Marc Monks passed for 8 yards, but the ball was fumbled with Murdock-Lennon sliding in to recover at the Hillsborough 22.
“Tyler is extremely strong for his size and can really accelerate quickly,” Hillsborough coach Kevin Carty Jr. said. “That gives him some real explosion in both hitting and kick blocking.”
Murdock-Lennon finished with six tackles, one for a loss. He also caught a Nittolo pass for 9 yards.
“It’s not a job for everybody,” Murdock-Lennon said of his special teams role. “But it’s good to feel like you did something to help.”
He has been doing it all season, playing cornerback, coming in as a nickel back, outside linebacker. He has also played more as a wide receiver since senior Cedre Smalls has been out with injuries.
“He’s really come out of nowhere,” Carty said. “He played some special teams last year, but played mostly JV.
“When you add in his coverage ability, that makes him very versatile, which is so important against the multiple offenses we see,” Carty said.
Last week at Montgomery, Murdock-Lennon blocked a punt early in the fourth quarter, recovering the ball at the Cougar 9. Two plays later, Nittolo connected with Zitel on a touchdown pass, extending the lead to 31-10. Earlier this season, Murdock blocked what would have been a game-winning field goal to preserve the Raiders’ 12-10 win over Elizabeth.
“My motor keeps going and I try to do it 100 percent,” said Murdock-Lennon, one of 12 brothers and sisters. “I like to think that I bring a lot of emotion to the team.”
Murdock-Lennon’s mom, Caroline, was a Bridgewater-Raritan West cheerleader,. He is part of the athletic Murdock family that includes his cousin, former NBA guard, Providence and BR West great Eric Murdock. He is also the cousin of former Hillsborough tight end Tyshon Murdock, now playing at Rowan University.
“When you tell people you are a Murdock, a lot is expected, I’m glad to do my little part,” he said.
Hillsborough senior Andrew Zitel: Zitel’s 43-yard reception of Rob Nittolo Jr.’s pass on a third-and-16 Friday night set up a touchdown in a 28-14 win over North Hunterdon.
Ridge senior Conor Hughes: He scored 15 points in the Red Devils’ 27-13 win Friday night at Hunterdon Central. He rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown, passed for 92 yards and another score, kicked two field goals and converted three PATs as Ridge beat Central for the first time after eight losses.
Immaculata senior Chandler Vanderbeek: Vanderbeek rushed for 313 yards and five touchdowns Friday night in the 60-28 win over Montgomery.
North Plainfield senior Glenn Benson. Benson scored three touchdowns and converted a two-point conversion run Saturday afternoon in a 22-19 win at Governor Livingston. Benson caught a 54-yard scoring pass in the second quarter from quarterback Kyle Grant and put the Canucks up for good on a 1-yard run with 34 seconds left in regulation