Parsippany Hills football falls to Summit

Parsippany Hills football falls to Summit


Parsippany Hills football falls to Summit



There are losses — and there are losses.

The Parsippany Hills football team suffered the latter Friday night — suffered being the operative word.

The Vikings were on the verge of coming back from a 16-point deficit against Summit but couldn’t finish late in the game.

The Hilltoppers held on for a soggy 16-13 victory in the North 2, Group III championship game at a rain-soaked Kean University — and the Vikings will be left to ponder the what-ifs for a long, long time.

What if they came out with a better defensive effort in the first half? What if they were able to get a single yard on a fourth-and-1 at a critical point in the game? What if they hadn’t allowed a sack with under two minutes left?

Indeed, it was an agonizing, bitter loss for Par Hills, which trailed 16-0 midway in the second quarter but managed to cut the deficit to 16-13 after Brandon Katzenberger completed long touchdown passes of 51 yards to Evan Smith late in the second quarter and 75 yards to Tommy Bluj early in the third.

After that, with the state championship on the line, the Vikings couldn’t come up with that one big play to finish what would have completed the first state title in school history.

“I couldn’t be prouder as a coach of a team than I am of this team,” coach Dave Albano said. “I’m so proud of what they have done. They have nothing to be ashamed of. We took a great team like Summit down to the wire and fell a little short.”

A little short is exactly how close the Vikings came to keeping a drive alive midway in the fourth quarter.

It was one of two golden opportunities to win it in the fourth quarter.

With 7:02 left, Par Hills had a fourth-and-1 at the Summit 14 but Summit stopped Katzenberger short of the first down on a running play. The Vikings came thisclose to getting the first down and keeping their momentum going.

“It was very close,” Bluj said. “They just made a good defensive play on that.”

“Not even six inches,” Albano added.

A short time later, the Vikings forced a punt and took over on the Summit 29 after a short punt.

Then, with 1:45 left in the game and a fourth-and-11, Summit’s Andrew Masterfano intercepted a Katzenberger pass in the end zone intended for Bluj.

On the play before the final interception, Katzenberger was sacked by Summit’s Mac Weisner on a third-and-5 for a 6-yard loss.

“That sack killed us,” Albano said. “We were gonna kick it (Katzenberger would have been brought on for a 27-yard field goal), but I didn’t want to put that much pressure on a kid (having Katzenberger kick from 33). I just didn’t know if we’d make that. We went to Tommy, who has been our go-to guy all season.”

Summit ran out the clock after that and began celebrating the school’s eighth state championship and first under first-year head coach Kevin Kostibos, a former player at Hanover Park.

Par Hills, meanwhile, dropped to 0-4 in state championship games.

When it was over, many Vikings were too numb to even move. Some tried consoling others, but that was nearly impossible. Others wanted to shake hands with Summit and then get back on the bus as soon as possible.

“This will hurt for a few days, but in a few weeks, they’ll realize what they have done,” Albano said. “We took this town by storm.”

But in the first half, they were taken by storm by Summit.

“We had butterflies in the first half,” Bluj explained. “We got rid of the butterflies and we came back.”

Summit dominated much of the first half and scored the game’s first 16 points on the way to a 16-6 halftime lead.

The Hilltoppers out of Union County took the opening kickoff and went 74 yards and scored when Colm Dougherty caught a middle screen from quarterback Charlie Terry and went 23 yards for a touchdown on the drive’s ninth play.

Earlier in the drive, Dougherty ran for 35 yards to put the ball at the Vikings 15.

Immediately after that, Dougherty fell on his own fumble for a 4-yard loss and then threw an incompletion, setting up a third-and-19 and the touchdown pass for a 6-0 lead when freshman kicker Jack Johnson’s PAT was short.

Summit was not through, however. The Hilltoppers, using a Double Wing-T, added to their lead early in the second quarter by going 87 yards in eight plays and scoring when Terry completed a 28-yard touchdown pass across the middle to a wide-open Chris Zanelli.

Terry had a 19-yard run during the drive and also completed a 34-yard pass to Dan Childers during the march. Johnson made the PAT for a 13-0 lead.

Johnson would later boot a 27-yard field goal after Summit intercepted a Katzenberger pass at the Vikings 40.

The Vikings offense, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going. Early in the second quarter, Par Hills managed to reach the Summit 13 but came away empty.

Taking over on their own 23, the Vikings accumulated four first downs but came away empty when Katzenberger threw two incompletions to Bluj, his favorite receiver.

Katzenberger and Bluj did connect for a 17-yard completion midway through the drive to put the ball at the Summit 49.

Two plays later, Katzenberger was sacked for a 4-yard loss, but the Hilltoppers were whistled for holding, giving the Vikings a first down on the Summit 35. Angelo Gallego followed with a an 8-yard run followed by a 14-yard run to the Summit 14. Katzenberger rushed for a yard, but the Vikings could get no closer.

When it appeared on the verge of getting blown out in the first half, Par Hills came to life late in the first half when Katzenberger threw a bubble screen pass to Smith that resulted in a 53-yard touchdown to cut the Vikings deficit to 16-6.

After a Par Hills timeout, Albano chose to go for two and Katzenberger threw an incomplete pass in the end zone intended for Bluj.

Parsippany Hills 0 6 7 0 13
Summit 6 10 0 0 16

S — Colm Dougherty 23 pass from Charlie Terry (kick failed).

S — Chris Zanelli 28 pass from Terry (Jack Johnson kick).

S — Johnson 27 field goal

P — Evan Smith 51 pass from Brandon Katzenberger (pass failed).

P — Tommy Bluj 75 pass from Katzenberger (Katzenberger kick).


More USA TODAY High School Sports