HAZLET– On Halloween eve, the Raritan High School football team tried to win its game with a trick.
It turned out to be Rumson-Fair Haven’s treat.
After scoring a touchdown to pull within a point with 3:06 left in the fourth quarter, Raritan faked a point-after kick — its holder flipped a shovel pass to wide receiver Jordan Smith.
Rumson-Fair Haven strong safety Mike Murdock read the play beautifully, tackling Smith at the 1-yard line, and the Bulldogs held on by a score of 21-20 Friday night.
“I said (beforehand) if we were going to score late in the fourth quarter, we were going for the win,” Raritan coach Anthony Petruzzi said.
“Taking that team into overtime, I felt they had the advantage in the kicking game. I guess we didn’t surprise them at all. I’d like to see the film and see if we made the correct blocks.”
Credit Murdock, a junior, for being alert.
“It was a heck of a play by him,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Bryan Batchler said. “We left our defense out there. We thought they could go for a fake. I give Michael a lot of credit.”
The wild finish improved Rumson-Fair Haven to 6-1, while Raritan fell to 3-4.
“I like that we came out with a one-point win, but at the same time Raritan did a tremendous job,” Batchler said. “Sometimes the other team comes to play, too. They did. They outplayed us today.”
Quarterback Mike O’Connor helped the Bulldogs’ cause. The junior ran for 134 yards on 15 carries, including a 48-yard scoring scamper in the second quarter. In the air, he completed 10 of 16 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns, both to junior tight end Mike Ruane.
That second touchdown pass came on a play call almost as gutsy as Raritan’s fake. Facing fourth-and-2 from the Rockets’ 5 late in the third quarter, O’Connor hit Ruane for a 5-yard score. A subsequent 2-point play put the Bulldogs up 21-14.
“We just ran a little snag route out in the flat,” Batchler said. “We were confident in the play and confident in Michael O’Connor’s ability to make that throw. It was a big play.”
Two possessions later, Raritan responded with 38-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Marc Carnivale to Smith. That set up the decisive extra-point fake for the Rockets, who rallied from 13-0 down in the second quarter.
“That’s what our kids do — they give 48 minutes,” Petruzzi said. “It wasn’t a surprise that they came out swinging.”
Senior Derek Ernst, who was named homecoming king at halftime, finished with 111 yards and a touchdown on the 16 carries for Raritan. Carnivale completed 10 of 19 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown.
For Rumson-Fair Haven, junior Bryan Hess paced the rushing attack with 135 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
Key play: On fourth-and-2 from the 5, Rumson-Fair Haven quarterback Mike O’Connor hit junior tight end Mike Ruane for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs the lead with 1:13 left in the third quarter. They never relinquished it.
Offensive game ball: O’Connor passed for 129 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 134 yards and a touchdown.
Defensive game ball: Strong safety Mike Murdock’s tackle of Jordan Smith on Raritan’s go-for-the-win extra point fake sealed the victory for Rumson-Fair Haven.
Up next: Rumson-Fair Haven visits Holmdel Friday, while Raritan plays host to Monmouth Friday.
Staff writer Jerry Carino: email@example.com
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