It was a victory almost two years in the making but, for Raritan, it was well worth the wait.
The Rockets pulled away in the second half Friday night for an entertaining 31-16 Class A Central victory over Monmouth Regional for its first victory since Thanksgiving Day of 2011 when it defeated Holmdel. And, in doing so, perhaps provided a springboard for the rest of their season.
“What it’s going to do for us will be determined by what we do at practice,” said Raritan coach Anthony Petruzzi. “Winning is a habit, and hopefully we build from this.”
Raritan’s second-half rally was fueled by two third quarter touchdown passes from Riley Sullivan to fellow junior Dylan Dewysockie – the second a 99-yard strike in the fourth quarter. The two connections enabled the Rockets (1-4, 1-2) to overcome two kickoff returns for touchdowns by Monmouth senior Michael Reardon.
Reardon’s second touchdown return – an 85-yarder – opened the second half and snapped a 10-10 tie. But Raritan moved 50 yards on five plays later in the quarter to take the lead for good. Sullivan’s eight-yard toss to Dewysockie with 5:44 left in the third gave the Rockets the lead for good.
But Raritan dropped the hammer with seven seconds left in the third. On third-and-13 from its own one and having narrowly avoided a safety on the previous play, Raritan decided to roll the dice and called for Sullivan to throw a long pass down the left sideline to Dewysockie, who hauled it in at his own 35 and raced untouched for the score.
“They were loading the box,” Petruzzi said. “We couldn’t run it there. We figured we liked the matchup with our receiver and Riley threw a perfect pass.”
Jared Collins’ 20-yard run with 1:04 left in the game provided the game’s final touchdown.
Sullivan finished the night with 12 completions in 24 tries and three touchdowns, including his 10-yard strike to James Wines with 6:27 left in the opening quarter for Raritan’s first touchdown. The score was set up when Dewysockie blocked a Monmouth punt that was recovered at the Falcon five by Colby Jones.
Reardon immediately brought Monmouth (2-2, 1-1) even by returning the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. But a 61-yard Raritan drive on its next possession culminated in a 27-yard field goal from Tom Pulcine for a 10-7 lead a minute into the second period.
“We started to build some confidence last week against Red Bank Catholic,” Petruzzi said. “We did some good things against an elite team, then carried that over tonight against a tough Monmouth team.
“We tell the kids every day about what they have to do to be successful and we start to sound like a broken record. It’s good that they finally can see some results from the work they’ve put in.”