Dunellen’s Tim Francisco glanced at the scoreboard when he took the field for kick return duty three minutes into the second half last evening with Metuchen holding a four-point advantage.
“I was like, I can’t believe this is happening right now, we have to turn it around somehow,” the senior co-captain recalled. “This is my chance to pick the team up.”
Metuchen’s lead held for all of 15 seconds as Francisco gathered in the kick at his eight yard line and burst upfield behind a well-executed wedge for a touchdown that returned the momentum and the lead to Dunellen for good.
Francisco’s return ignited a run of 28 unanswered points that lifted the Destroyers to 34-18 triumph and a fourth, consecutive season-opening win over Metuchen.
“I knew we needed a big drive but the big play helped,” Dunellen coach Dave DeNapoli said. “We’ll take it. And I think that gave us a little spark, that gave us the momentum.”
Francisco ran for two short touchdown runs in the fourth quarter but he was hardly the only Destroyer to have an impact. Nassan Anderson collected a game-high 134 yards on 16 carries and delivered the games first points on a 3-yard scamper with 1:43 left in the first quarter. David Johnson picked off two passes for Dunellen, while Bryce Mundy produced the other touchdown in the Destroyers’ second-half barrage with a 40-yard pick six.
Nonetheless, the outcome of this contest was clearly in doubt until Francisco’s breakaway run broke the game open.
“Very, very deceptive,” Metuchen coach Bob Ulmer said of the final outcome. “We were able to move the ball. We just have to learn not to make mistakes, we’re very, very young.”
With help from a couple of bad long snaps Dunellen held Metuchen to minus-7 rushing yards in the first half, but committed six penalties accounting for 70 yards. The Bulldogs’ lone scoring drive in the half was aided by a pair of 15-yard penalties before Anthony Mahoney’s 27-yard field goal halved the margin to 6-3 with 3:35 remaining in the second quarter.
That’s where the score remained until Metuchen began the second half with a 63-yard, seven-play march that ended with a 3-yard run by Stephen Walsh and the Bulldogs holding a 10-6 advantage.
D – Anderson 3 run (run failed)
M – Maloney FG 27
M – Walsh 3 run (Maloney kick)
D – Francisco 92 kick return ( Garcia kick)
D – Francisco 1 run (Garcia kick)
D – Mundy 40 int. return (Garcia kick)
D – Francisco 2 run (Garcia kick)
M – Collier 13 pass from Corvil ( Collier pass from Nicolaisin)
RUSHING: M – Walsh 12-48, Corvil 9-35, Powell 8-31, Stern 1-5, Lebovitz 1-(-7), Nicolaisin 3-(-26); D – Anderson 16-134, Johnson 8-52, Francisco 16-46, Mundy 3-18, Young 2-0.
PASSING: M – Nicolaisin 7-12-3-124, Corvil 1-1-0-13; D – Johnson 1-1-0-6, Anderson 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: M – Collier 3-48, Firgau 1-35, Verlaque 1-34, Walsh 1-12, Briggs 1-7, Powell 1-1; D – Appleton 1-6.