ROSELLE – If Roselle has designs on making another run in Central Jersey, Group 2 two months from now the Rams have a lot of work ahead of them.
The good news from Saturday’s season-opener against neighborhood rival Rahway was that Roselle came away with a 7-0 Mid-State 38 Conference-Mountain Division victory.
The bad news was that somehow the defending Mountain Division champion Rams won a game in which their turnover total – in this case seven – matched the number of points they scored.
Who would have predicted that when Roselle junior running back Isiah Byrd scored on an 18-yard sprint up the middle with 8:35 left in the first quarter that the ensuing extra point kick by Drew Stephens would be the game’s final point?
Simply put, Roselle did not play well at all. There were too many lost fumbles right at the line of scrimmage, too many penalties and too much confusion.
Visiting Rahway hung in there and had plenty of chances to tie the game. The Indians reached the Roselle 25 and then the 10 in the second quarter and in the second half moved the ball to the Roselle 37, the 49, the 7, and then finally the 25 before an interception by Roselle senior defensive back Rashad Pendleton at his own 13 clinched Roselle’s second straight win over Rahway. Last year in the season-opener for both, Roselle defeated Rahway 33-7 at Rahway with the Rams beating the Indians for the first time since 2001.
Rahway first-year head coach Brian Russo was proud of the way his kids hung in there.
“I’m not happy with the result, but I’m happy about the effort we gave,” Russo said. “We didn’t hang our heads.”
Rahway junior quarterback Zahir Wilder left the game with a shoulder injury and did not play in the second half. Russo inserted a lefty-throwing freshman by the name of Jakir Robinson and he played well under the circumstances.
“We were a bit limited offensively,” Russo said. “With our freshman quarterback there were a lot of positives.”
When Rahway reached the Roselle seven-yard line with just over a minute to play, Stephens broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone to thwart that scoring attempt.
“There was no quit in us,” Russo said. “I was happy with our defense and special teams, but we have to be much better in all three phrases. We have to be able to score points.”
Roselle’s seven turnovers included junior lefty-throwing quarterback Gerald Hairston III getting intercepted twice in the first half, with one of the picks by Wilder. The Rams lost five fumbles, two in the first half and three in the second, including two on bad snaps that were the first play of drives.
Rahway committed three turnovers, with Wilder throwing two interceptions in the first half – picks by Pendleton and Stephens – and Robinson one in the second half – the one to Pendleton at the very end.
At the half, Rahway had just 23 total yards – 26 on the ground and minus-three in the air – while Roselle had 114, but only 15 after its season-opening 99-yard scoring drive.
Players that stood out included Byrd for Roselle and junior lineman Marquis Muschett for Rahway.
Byrd carried 17 times for 166 yards and his touchdown. He had three carries for 91 yards in the first half – his first rush of the season went for 73 yards – and gained 75 yards on 14 attempts in the second half.
Twice he had big, first-down runs for Roselle after intermission, the first one a 27-yarder and the second one good for 18.
Muschett had two fumble recoveries in the second quarter in addition to being in on numerous tackles, many of them of the solo variety. He stopped Byrd for a six-yard loss late in the third quarter.
“Marquis has been dominant all year long for us so far,” Russo said. “He was dominant in the pre-season.
“Today he played with a motor. You will hear a lot about him this year.”
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-MOUNTAIN DIVISION GAME
RAHWAY (0-1, 0-1) 0 0 0 0 – 0
ROSELLE (1-0, 1-0) 7 0 0 0 – 7
ROSELLE – Isiah Byrd 18 run, Drew Stephens kick (R 7-0)
5 plays, 99 yards, 2:05 used