MORRISTOWN – Having already clinched a spot in the Non Public Group III playoffs, on paper, the Delbarton high school football team did not have anything to play for Saturday afternoon against a non-conference opponent in Poly Prep.
Trailing by two touchdowns with three minutes left in the game, the Green Wave could have packed it in, licked their wounds, try and get their injured players healthy, and then begin preparing for the playoffs next week.
None of those thoughts were going through the minds of the players or their coaches. For Delbarton, Saturday’s game meant as much as any other game this season.
In the final three minutes, Delbarton rallied for two touchdowns behind the passing of quarterback Matt Zebrowski. A 6-yard touchdown pass from Zebrowski to Matt Hartley brought Delbarton within one point, and Zebrowski then found Matt Ungar for the two point conversion to give Delbarton a 22-21 come-from-behind victory.
The two-point conversion to Ungar gave Delbarton its first lead of the game with 22.7 seconds left in the game. Junior Chris Colon sealed the victory for Delbarton when he recovered a fumbled lateral on the final play of the game, leading to a celebration at midfield at the end of the game.
“That was fun, holy cow that was good stuff,” Bowers said. “Who cares about power points. When you play in a football game like that, you don’t care about power points. You just want the thrill of the game, and this was awesome.”
Saturday’s victory avenged last season’s 29-7 loss to Poly Prep, that was Delbarton’s first loss of the 2014 season.
“Last year we did not play our game, and we got out-physicaled,” Bowers said. “Our message all week was to get physical and match their intensity.”
Beginning on their 36-yard line, Zebrowski shook off two incomplete passes, and then found Ungar for 21 yards to move the ball to the Poly Prep 43. Zebrowski then found Johnson for 27 more yards to move the ball to the 16. Zebrowski went back to Johnson one more time finding him in the corner of the end zone to bring Delbarton within a touchdown of Poly Prep at 21-14.
The Delbarton defense rose to the challenge forcing a three-and-out for Poly Prep led by Jonathan Catania. Catania, who was just moved to safety this week, first stopped Salim Turner-Muhammad for a three yard loss, and then on a blitz, batted down a pass attempt from Poly Prep quarterback Robert Deleon-Kollmer, forcing Poly Prep to punt, which gave Delbarton the ball at the Poly Prep 36 with 1:44 left in the game.
Zebrowski started the drive with an 8-yard pass to Matt Douglas. After being sacked on second down for a two-yard loss, Zebrowski looked downfield for Johnson who adjusted to a pass slightly behind him and made a one-handed catch at the 15-yard line. Two incomplete passes were followed by a screen pass to running back Brandon Gaceta who gained nine yards to the six-yard line. On fourth and one, Zebrowski took a short drop and rifled a pass to Kevin Hartley for the touchdown.
Bowers then called time out, consulted with his players and his coaches, and then sent the offense back out to go for two.
“I felt we had the momentum,” Bowers said in deciding to go for the win.
Ungar lined up inside on the line. The senior then came off the line and raced for the front corner of the end zone. Zebrowski took the snap, rolled to his right and found Ungar alone for the winning catch.
Zebrowski finished the afternoon 17 for 25 for 203 yards and three touchdowns.
“Even down 21-7, we never thought it was over,” Zebrowski said. “We knew we could put a drive together. The pressure was on, but I love that situation. I knew my guys would get open. Sammy Johnson made a great one handed catch. When the coach asked us if we wanted to go for two, we al said hell yes, and it worked to perfection. It was an unbelievable team effort. You can’t ask for anything else.”
Delbarton was again playing without starting running backs Andrew Sanders and Luca Tria who missed their second game each with ankle sprains. Sophomore Cole Kreshpane again stepped up for Delbarton, rushing for 116 yards on 19 carries. Brandon Gaceta also started Saturday and recovered a fumble. Dalton Smart and Michael Huston each had sacks.
“We have our best guys out, but we have a lot of depth on this team, and a lot of guys are stepping up and making plays,” Kreshpane said. “We rallied back, everybody played awesome, and we’re going to try to keep doing that.”
DELBARTON 22, POLY PREP 21
P-Elias Reynolds 34 pass from Salim Turner-Muhammad (Tegha Egbiri kick)
P-Salim Turner-Muhammad 38 pass from Robert Deleon-Kollmer (Tegha Egbiri kick)
D-Sam Johnson 15 run off lateral from Kevin Hartley from pass from Matt Zebrowski (Carter Massengill kick)
P-Salim Turner-Muhammad 52 run (Tegha Egbiri kick)
D-Sam Johnson 16 pass from Matt Zebrowski (Carter Massengill kick)
D-Kevin Hartley 6 pass from Matt Zebrowski (Matt Ungar pass from Matt Zebrowski)
Team Records: Delbarton 7-2, Poly Prep 5-4