After a dominating victory one week ago, Immaculata head coach John Hack stressed how big of an upcoming week of practice his troops had ahead of them. After all, they were set to face-off against rival Hunterdon Central.
The much anticipated matchup lived up to the billing, a hard fought, physical defensive struggle between two of the area’s most consistent programs in recent memory.
Battered and bruised when the game came to a finish, it was a shame one of these programs had to come out with a loss.
At the conclusion of their Mid-State 38 crossover game, it was the Spartans topping the Red Devils in a come-from-behind, 16-13 victory, on Friday night at Somerville High School’s Brooks Field and moving their all-time record against Hunterdon Central to a perfect 7-0.
“Our kids showed a ton of heart coming back in this game,” said an emotional Hack after the game. “I’m so proud of them. This is all we talk about. We talk about character and showing heart all the time. Their character showed tonight. All we said when we got the ball late in the fourth quarter was that it was going to come down to heart. They answered the bell.”
After Hunterdon Central took a 13-9 lead on a 70-yard catch and run by Ryan Dunleavy from back-up quarterback James Mania in the early stages of the fourth quarter, Immaculata took over with 3:00 remaining at the Red Devil 43-yard line.
Quarterback Izzy Sanders started the drive with a 9-yard run down to the Hunterdon Central (5-2) 34-yard line. From there on, it was all left to running back Chandler Vanderbeek.
Vanderbeek carried the ball four straight times after the Sanders run and scored the game winning touchdown from 5-yards out with 1:39 remaining in regulation.
“We huddled up and said that we couldn’t give up,” Vanderbeek said after the game. “We told ourselves that we had to move on after those past few offensive possessions and just keep moving forward. You need to have those mindsets to win games.”
The Spartans (4-3) were able to move the ball for a good portion of the night. However, from the end of the third quarter until their game winning drive, the Spartan offense did nothing, accounting for three three-and-outs and a possession ending in an interception. But, it was better late than never when it was all said and done.
Playing without running back Jason Cabinda due to appendicitis and quarterback Michael Knight because of a broken leg, the Red Devils struggled to move the ball offensively for most of the night, racking up just 53 total yards of offense at halftime.
However, their defense kept them in the game.
Trailing 9-0 late in the third quarter, Mania connected with wide-out Walt Wynkoop on the first of their two biggest plays of the night. This one was a 67-yard touchdown pass that cut the lead to 9-7.
On the following possession, its defense held the Spartans to a three-and-out before eventually taking the lead on the Mania to Dunleavy 70-yarder.
|Hunterdon C. (5-2)||0||0||7||6||—||13|
I – Vanderbeek 1 run (run failed)
I – Szymanski 36 FG
H – Wynkoop 67 pass from Mania (Karr kick)
H – Dunleavy 70 pass from Mania (run failed)
I – Vanderbeek 5 run (Szymanski kick)