So much hype surrounded Friday night’s Mid-State 38, Watchung Division tussle between Ridge High School and Immaculata that it was easy to forget how pivotal this early season divisional showdown actually was.
The aforementioned hype surrounded Immaculata’s new quarterback I’Zjaier Sanders, who was making his debut as the Spartans signal caller after an appeal to the NJSIAA was ruled in Sanders favor regarding his transferring from Franklin to the non-public power.
Someone must have forgot to tell the Red Devils, who quickly jumped out to an early first quarter advantage and parlayed its quick start into a thorough beating of Immaculata, 31-7, at Brooks Field in Somerville.
“They always get up for Immaculata,” Ridge coach Bill Tracy said about his players. “They had a tremendous week of practice. To Immaculata’s credit, down 17-0 after the first quarter, they really fought back hard, which we knew they would. It was great game. It’s always a great game when we get together.”
Ridge (2-0) took control right from get go, thanks to an 11-yard touchdown run from Nick Fanzese, culminating an 11-play, 62-yard drive which covered the games’ opening 4:14.
Following a thwarted fake punt attempt by Immaculata (1-1), the Red Devils tacked on a 34-yard field goal from Conor Hughes to extend its lead to 10-0.
Three plays later, the Red Devils intercepted Sanders on just his third pass attempt of the game courtesy of Thomas Chiriaco. The interception put Ridge on its own 39-yard line and six plays later Liam Derkasch scampered in from 11-yards out, putting Ridge ahead 17-0 late in the opening quarter.
The Red Devils did a terrific job on Sanders all evening, closing down running lanes and showing good discipline on the edges to contain the athletic Sanders at bay.
He finished the first half with only 63 yards of total offense and 171 yards passing for the game.
“We game planned for him,” Tracy said. “He’s a very good player and very good athlete. As he gets more familiar with their system, he’ll do fine. We have good speed on defense, we showed good containment all night and I’m proud of the way our defense performed.”
Sanders would finish the night with 10 yards rushing and 14-for-26 passing with 184 yards through the air, including a pair of interceptions.
Despite trailing 17-0 for most of the game, all the way until the start of the fourth quarter as a matter of fact, Immaculata cut into the Ridge lead with 9:07 to go in the game. Chandler Vanderbeek scored from 26-yards out to close the gap to 17-7 and all of a sudden it was a game again.
However, the Spartans defense, which bent all night long but refused to break, finally did so three plays later when Derkasch shot through a hole in the middle of the Immaculata defense and 55-yards later the Red Devils were back up by 17.
R – Franzese 11 run (Hughes kick)
R – Hughes 34 yard FG
R – Derkasch – 11 run (Hughes kick)
I – Ch. Vanderbeek 26 run (Szymanski kick)
R – Derkasch 55 run (Hughes kick)
R – Hughes 40 INT return (Hughes kick)
RUSHING: R – Derkasch 17-140, Soulas 7-30, Hughes 5-48, Franzese 7-18; I – Sanders 7-10, Fama 1-4, Co. Vanderbeek 11-100, Ch. Vanderbeek 6-51, Szymanski 3-1.
PASSING: R – Hughes 8-13-0-93; I – Sanders 14-26-171-2.
RECEIVING: R – Franzese 5-77, Bell 1-9, Soulas 1-4, Derkasch 1-5; I – Falgiano 3-40, Szymanski 4-74, Bailey 2-33, Co. Vanderbeek 2-9, Ch. Vanderbeek 1-9, Sokalski 1-5, Costantino 1-0.