North Plainfield assumed possession with 7:32 remaining at its own 35, staring down a five-point deficit with a ton of confidence.
“We had no doubt at all,” offered Canuck quarterback Kyle Grant. “We were driving the ball the whole second half. We never had any doubt.”
Grant’s confidence was justified when Glenn Benson’s third touchdown, a 1-yard run with 30 seconds to play, and his own two-point conversion rallied North Plainfield to a 22-19 decision over Gov. Livingston Saturday.
The Canucks’ game-winning, 65-yard drive required 13 plays and consumed seven minutes, leaving Gov. Livingston just 25 seconds to try to score from its 41. The game ended as Patrick Mahoney’s attempt at a game-tying, 56-yard field goal ricocheted off the helmet of North Plainfield’s J.T. Valley.
Grant accumulated 235 yards of total offense as he ran 22 times for 143 yards, 132 of those coming in the second half, and completed five of eight passes for 93 yards, 91 of those coming in the first half. Benson ran 11 times for 50 yards and caught two passes fore 73 as the Canucks snapped a three-game losing streak.
“We were playing hard but we weren’t playing well,” North Plainfield coach Robert Lake stated. “Our kids came out and they really, really fought hard, offense, defense, in every facet of the game, we really fought. Their kids did, too.”
Gov. Livingston forged a 13-6 advantage at the break after limiting North Plainfeld to just 27 yards on the ground in the first half. The Canucks made a personnel switch and an adjustment to its blocking scheme and just plain executed better up front in the second half, amassing an even 200 yards on the ground on 29 rushes.
The Highlanders came in having won three of their last outings and promptly took the opening kickoff and marched 65 yards in 11 plays before Alex Boyd scored from 13 yards out midway through the quarter.
North Plainfield produced its first score on its third possession as Grant found Benson down the right sideline for a 52-yard touchdown pass with 4:25 left in the half. The Canucks’ bid to take the lead with a two-point conversion was denied when Gov. Livingston’s Jensen Butler forced Stefaun Harris out of bounds one step from the goal line.
Gov. Livingston extended its lead with 24.8 seconds left in the half when Ryan Jennings, who carried 16 times for an even 100 yards, finished a 73-yard, 11-play march with a 1-yard dive.
The Canucks looked like a different team when it opened the second half by marching 80 yards on eight plays, all on the ground, nearly three times its rushing total from the first half. That march ended with North Plainfield holding its first lead at 14-13 following a 2-yard run by Benson and a two-point run by Grant.
“That was our best drive of the season,” said Lake, before correcting himself. “Before the last one.”
Gov. Livingston took the lead for the last time after a 68-yard drive that began on the last play of the third quarter and ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Jennings. The Highlanders led, 19-14, with 7:40 to play.
Which, apparently, is right where Kyle Grant and North Plainfield wanted them.
“It was a tremendous win, everybody played their part really well near the end,” Grant said. “We came back at halftime and did our thing.”