EAST RUTHERFORD – The mission is complete.
It was a 12-month march to glory by a Summit team that a year ago walked off the field at Kean University after having lost the title game it played in by 40 points.
Led by a senior class sparked by the likes of Mike Badgley, A.J. Iarussi, Andrew Oristanio and Nick Liberato, the Hilltoppers were not going to be denied in 2012, especially on Dec. 8.
Facing a Palisades Park-Leonia co-op team for the first time Saturday, Summit erased the misery of last Dec. 1 by putting together a complete effort, excelling on offense, defense and special teams.
Badgley scored twice – the second time on an interception return – and Iarussi, running the ball like Larry Csonka, rushed for two TDs, while Oristanio and Liberato led a bend-but-not break defensive performance to lift top-seeded Summit to a more-than-convincing 30-0 win over third-seeded Palisades Park in Saturday afternoon’s North 2, Group 3 championship game at MetLife Stadium.
“This is one of the happiest moments in my life,” said Iarussi, who led all rushers with 186 yards on 25 carries.
Summit lost last year’s North 2, Group 2 final to defending champion Madison 47-7. Both teams entered the game 11-0 and Summit was considered a slight favorite.
“Last year was heartbreaking, so we had to work extra hard to get back here and win,” said Iarussi, who with his barreling, straight-ahead running style even knocked down a referee while gaining yardage.
Summit won its seventh playoff championship in 11 games and third in N2, G3 in four tries. Summit previously won North 2, Group 3 in 1976 and 1980 and lost the final in 1986.
Palisades Park, which had a seven-game winning streak snapped, finished a fine season at 9-3. The Tigers were playing in only their second championship game and first since winning North 1, Group 1 in 1991. They defeated Union County foes Rahway at home and defending champion Cranford on the road in the first two rounds.
Not only did Summit win, but the Hilltoppers were also able to post their second shutout this year and second championship game shutout, while Badgley was also able to kick one more field goal. The next field goal he kicks might be at a high profile Division 1-A school.
Summit, with the win, became the first Union County school to finish 12-0 twice. The Hilltoppers are now 44-2 in their last 46 games dating back to the beginning of the 2009 season, which was the first year they finished 12-0 and their last championship season before this year.
In that span Summit has been to three title games, won two titles, is a perfect 36-0 in the regular season, is 8-2 in the playoffs and has won four Mid-State division crowns.
Summit will begin its 2013 season with a 36-game regular season winning streak – the Hilltoppers last lost a regular season game in Nov. of 2008 – and a Union County leading 12-game winning streak.
Saturday’s win was Summit’s ninth straight by double digits. A big reason for that was the Hilltopper defense limiting Palisades Park to only 32 yards rushing – 26 in the first half and just six in the second. The Tigers were held to just 137 yards of total offense.
“We had a great game plan going in,” Oristanio said. “We had to stop the run and we did.”
Liberato stepped up his game and made numerous key tackles, including a second-half quarterback sack, which was good for a nine-yard loss.
“This was a lot of hard work, discipline, trusting each other and trusting the game plan,” Oristanio said.
Badgley carried 17 times for 78 yards and scored points – 18 total – in all three phases – offense, defense and special teams.
Iarussi scored the only touchdown of the first half when he completed Summit’s third possession with a five-yard run.
Badgley’s first score was a one-yard TD run to cap Summit’s first second-half drive.
Badgley completed a 38-yard pass to senior Kyre Negron that set up Summit’s third score – a two-yard touchdown run by Iarussi.
In the fourth quarter, Badgley kicked a 29-yard field goal and returned an interception 40 yards for the game’s final points.
NOTES: Union County produced two state champions for the first time since 2006 when on a Friday night at Rutgers Elizabeth came back to defeat defending champion Phillipsburg 14-9 in the North 2, Group 4 final and then the next morning Brearley came back and then held on to beat Verona 21-20 in the North 2, Group 1 final at Giants Stadium. Elizabeth won its first title since 2000 and Brearley since 1991.
Union County has produced a state champion four straight seasons now, totaling five since 2009.
Union County produced two undefeated state champions for the first time since 1993 when Summit (North 2, Group 2) and Roselle Park (North 2, Group 1) won titles, both at 11-0.
Badgley has won a state championship the last three seasons, including ice hockey and lacrosse last year.
NORTH JERSEY, SECTION 2, GROUP 3 FINAL
AT METLIFE STADIUM, EAST RUTHERFORD
3-PALISADES PARK-LEONIA (9-3) 0 0 0 0 – 0
1-SUMMIT (12-0) 7 0 14 9 – 30
SUMMIT – A.J. Iarussi 5 run, Mike Badgley kick (S 7-0)
9 plays, 81 yards, 2:19 used
SUMMIT – Mike Badgley 1 run, Mike Badgley kick (S 14-0)
9 plays, 58 yards, 2:41 used
SUMMIT – A.J. Iarussi 2 run, Mike Badgley kick (S 21-0)
2 plays, 40 yards, :20 used
SUMMIT – FG Mike Badgely 29 (S 24-0)
13 plays, from own 5 to Palisades Park 12, 4:11 used
SUMMIT – Mike Badgley 40 interception return, kick failed (S 30-0)
The extra point that was wide left was kicked by sophomore Chris Zanelli.
SUMMIT HILLTOPPERS (12-0)
(H) Summit 41, Somerville 7
(H) Summit 17, Johnson 13
(A) Summit 30, Cranford 27
(A) Summit 31, North Plainfield 12
(H) Summit 39, Rahway 20
(A) Summit 27, Roselle 6
(H) Summit 41, Warren Hills 14
(A) Summit 35, Delaware Valley 21
(H) Summit 50, Hillside 0
(H) Summit 44, Newark West Side 6
(H) Summit 30, Parsippany Hills 13
(N) Summit 30, Palisades Park-Leonia 0
Head coach: John Liberato,
Section: North 2, Group 3
Conference: Mid-State 38
Division: Raritan 6-0, champions
Points for: 385
Points against: 126
SUMMIT HILLTOPPERS 7-4 IN CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES:
2012: Summit 30, Palisades Park-Leonia 0 – North 2, Group 3
at MetLife Stadium – head coach John Liberato
2011: Madison 47, Summit 7 – North 2, Group 2
at Kean University – head coach John Liberato
2009: Summit 28, Orange 19 – North 2, Group 2
at Giants Stadium – head coach John Liberato
1995: Johnson 21, Summit 6 – North 2, Group 2
at Summit –head coach Ray McCrann
1994: Summit 26, Mendham 8 – North 2, Group 2
at Mendham –head coach Ray McCrann
1993: Summit 26, Mendham 21 – North 2, Group 2
at Summit –head coach Jim Benedict
1992: Dover 22, Summit 0 – North 2, Group 2
at Dover –head coach Jim Benedict
1988: Summit 12, Dover 6 (OT) – North 2, Group 2
at Dover –head coach Jim Benedict
1986: Randolph 12, Summit 7 – North 2, Group 3
at Randolph– head coach Howie Anderson
1980: Summit 10, Rahway 7 – North 2, Group 3
at Giants Stadium – head coach Howie Anderson
1976: Summit 40, West Essex 0 – North 2, Group 3
at West Essex – head coach Howie Anderson