ELIZABETH The start of Friday night’s battle between the undefeated Bridgewater-Raritan and Elizabeth High School football teams was delayed for an hour and a half due to some pre-game lightning strikes.
The Panthers saved the biggest pyrotechnics for just after halftime, clicking for a 57-yard touchdown pass on a double-reverse flea-flicker from Eric Nickel to Ricky Tate on the first play of the second half. That bomb provided Bridgewater-Raritan with its first lead of the contest, an edge it never relinquished as the Panthers held off a late Elizabeth threat to post a 20-14 victory.
Bridgewater-Raritan ran its record to 5-0 for the first time since the township merged high schools in 1991, and the victory gives the Panthers a huge boost in its bid for the school’s first divisional title since 1993.
Both teams scored on their opening possessions, Elizabeth driving 80 yards in six plays ending with a 31-yard touchdown run by Kyron Paige just two and a half minutes into the contest. Bridgewater-Raritan answered with a 13-play, 62-yard march culminating with a 6-yard keeper by Eric Nickel to knot the score six minutes later.
Elizabeth regained the lead on its second possession, using a 50-yard run by Jahmin Muse to set up a 21-yard scoring pass from Pernell Williams to Muse.
But Elizabeth would not score again as the Panthers shut out the explosive Minutemen over the games final 35 minutes.
Bridgewater-Raritan threatened to tie the score on a 15-play journey at the end of the half but settled for 21-yard field goal by Justin Davidovicz to narrow the gap to 14-10 at the break.
The Panthers came out swinging on the first play of the second half with a double reverse that found itself back in the hands of Nickel, who connected with an open Tate in the middle of the field to take the lead for good just 20 seconds into the third quarter.
Davidovicz added a 38-yard field goal on Bridgewater-Raritan’s next possession and the Panthers limited Elizabeth to just two first downs in the second half before the Minutemen’s final possession.
Elizabeth took over at its 25 with 2:27 remaining and recorded four first downs to get the ball to the Panthers’ 20 with 10 seconds remaining. Bridgewater-Raritan’s defense forced two interceptions, and the Panthers could boast of a 5-0 record for the first time in the school’s history.