After controlling the tempo for much of the first half, but only coming away with a 6-3 intermission advantage, the South Hunterdon High football team placed a large emphasis on its first second-half drive.
The Eagles took control on their opening possession, then their defense provided them all they’d need shortly thereafter.
Jake Whitaker rushed for two touchdowns, and the Eagles limited Pingry to just two field goals in a 20-6 win over the Big Blue on Saturday at Parsons Field.
“We knew we needed to come out and have a big second half,” Whitaker said. “We knew that we could beat them. We just fought back.”
Whitaker rushed for 129 yards and intercepted a pass, one of the three turnovers that led to 13 South Hunterdon points. The Eagles (2-0) will meet fellow-unbeaten and Hills Division-rival Roselle Park on Friday.
“They’re like us,” South Hunterdon coach Toby Jefferis said of Roselle Park. “They’ll run sweep at you, and they’ll run it until they stop you. We have to take that away from them.”
Pingry (0-2) managed just 125 offensive yards but managed to stay in the game thanks to strong first-half defense. The Big Blue held Troutman without a completion in the first half and, trailing 6-0, forced a late turnover that led to Jake Greenberg’s 35-yard field goal that cut the Eagles’ halftime lead to three.
“We were feeling pretty good,” Pingry coach Chris Shilts said. “We had answered the bell, but we had to crank it up one more.”
But it was the Eagles who cranked it up. After taking over at its own 24 to start the half, South Hunterdon went 76 yards in only seven plays– all runs– capped by Whitaker’s 7-yard run that made it 13-3.
“My line got a good push,” Whitaker said. “It was just good blocking.”
On the second play of Pingry’s subsequent drive, Troutman intercepted Pingry quarterback Austin Schmidt and returned it for 60 yards, the Eagles’ second score in 38 seconds.
“Our defense has been [ticked] off because they ranked us last in our conference,” Whitaker said. “We just came out and got stops and played well.”
“Any time we can get [an interception for a touchdown], those are good,” Jefferis said.
After a scoreless first quarter, South Hunterdon capitalized on the game’s first turnover, recovering a muffed punt at the Pingry 12. Two plays later, Whitaker bulled in from a yard out, giving South Hunterdon a 6-0 lead.
SH — Whitaker 1 run (kick failed)
P — Greenberg 35 FG
SH — Whitaker 7 run (Eisenbruch kick)
SH — Troutman 60 INT return (Eisenbruch kick)
P — Greenberg 31 FG
RUSHING: SH — Whitaker 22-129, Troutman- 8-49, Coleman 8-43, Myles Johnson 7-26; P — O’Reilly 12-35, Key 4-22, Schmidt- 5-2, Suzuki- 4-7, Walker 4-7, Hansen 5-1, Braverman 1 (-1)
PASSING: SH — Troutman 2-5-0-8; P — Schmidt 8-15-0-42, Suzuki 1-4-0-12
RECEIVING: SH — Frazee 1-5, Coleman 1-3; P — McDonald 3-12, Key 2-13, Leef 1-13, Hansen 1-10, Walker 2-6,