Immaculata had several chances to surrender Saturday afternoon before Brooks Field lights were turned on. Sophomore defensive back Alex Hoffman was one of those players who had an ideal chance for a pity party after dropping a possible game-winning interception since a pretty clear field lay in front of him.
Hoffman didn’t drop his second chance and the Spartans went on to win a 31-28 double-overtime contest over Mid-State 38 Delaware Division champ and previously-unbeaten Phillipsburg (7-1). Immaculata (6-3), winners of four straight, will play at Red Bank Catholic next weekend in an NJSIAA Non-Public III first-round game.
“It was like a roller coaster,” said senior Connor Vanderbeek.
Hoffman’s pick of quarterback Tyler Troxell’s pass on a third-and-10 on the third play of the second OT spurred it. Immaculata’s Aeden Szymanski kicked a 19-yard field goal on a fourth-and-goal from the one, sending the Spartans into a revelry they hadn’t been able to enjoy.
“In overtime I just saw the ball coming, and I was like, ‘ah, I’m going to drop it again’ ” said Clifford, adding he had also contributed to a Phillipsburg 60-yard pass completion by running into his own teammate. “All of a sudden, the ball was in my hands and I was like ‘I’m going to take this one.’ When I got it I just wanted to hug my teammates and I was like, ‘let’s go, let’s go, and now let’s give it to the offense.’ ”
Senior Chandler Vanderbeek, who ran for three touchdowns, went for 14 yards before twin brother Connor ran for one yard, then four. Chandler ran for five more before coach John Hack sent Szymanski out to end it.
“I wasn’t even considering it going for it, but I thought we had the first down in the first place, ” said Hack. “I looked at him and he said, ‘I got it. ‘ He’s not just a good kid, he’s also a very tough, good football player.”
The Vanderbeeks are two other tough kids. Chandler Vanderbeek scored on a 25-yard run off a pitch on the first play of the first overtime to give the Spartans their first lead of the day.
“There was one man between me and the end zone, I saw the hole, I put my head down and I got in, nothing was going to stop me,” he said. “”All game we were driving down the field and got stopped twice in the red zone, like we said, ‘you have to keep your heads up and forget about those plays and move on.’ You can’t think of the points you could have put on the board, but what’s ahead.”
He also scored on an eight-yard run with 1:07 left in overtime with Szymanski’s point after tying the game at 21, the third time the Spartans had rallied to knot it. The game meant a lot to the Vanderbeek twins, who were playing on a field named after their late grandfather Gus, a Somerville High grad.
“This was probably the last time I was going to be playing on this field, so there’s no way I was going to lose,” said Connor.
P — Troxell 1 run (O’Dowd kick)
I — Ch. Vanderbeek 5 run (Syzmanski kick)
P — Guarino 23 pass from Troxell (O’Dowd kick)
I — Bailey 8 pass from Sanders (Szymanski kick)
P — Guarino 51 punt return (O’Dowd kick)
I — Ch. Vanderbeek 8 run (Szymanski kick)
I — Ch. Vanderbeek 25 run (Szymanski kick)
P — Joe Maso 1 run (O’Dowd kick)
I — Szymanski 19 FG
RUSHING: P — Maso 27-140, Guarino 3-15, Troxell 2-(-7); I — Ch. Vanderbeek 19-162, Co. Vanderbeek 13-101; Syzmanski 4-30, Fama 2-11.
PASSING: P — Troxell 11-25-1-202; I — Sanders 12-19-0-100.
RECIVING: P — Trent 2-74, Guarino 2-41, Maso 3-39, Britton 1-3, Custodio 3-39; I — Riccadona 2-33, Fama 2-7, Nash 5-48, Sokalski 1-2, Co. Vanderbeek 1-3, Lynam 1-2.