Summit football tops Rahway in North 2, Group 3 state championship game; Hilltoppers will next play Ramapo in North, Group 3 Bowl Game at Met Life, Nov. 24

PHOTOS BY JR PARACHINI – Summit, at right, defeated Rahway 36-14 in the Nov. 18 North 2, Group 3 state championship game at Summit’s Tatlock Field.

SUMMIT – The visitors came back from a three-touchdown deficit and were on the verge of pulling even closer as the fourth quarter reached the midway point.
Suddenly the home team was on its heels a bit and needed a stop.
Having already done so in the first half Summit senior linebacker Jack Kelly was more than happy to deliver once more.
Rahway senior quarterback Jakir Robinson scrambled a bit, looking for an open receiver. His pass, intended to reach a target over the middle, was once again picked off.
Again it was Kelly who came up with the interception.
“I just read my keys and made a play on the ball,” Kelly said.
Three plays later senior teammate Max Jackson broke free for a 70-yard touchdown run down the left sideline.
Summit survived and then thrived in large part to a performance No. 5 will never forget. Kelly produced two interceptions, both leading to Summit touchdowns, and caused a fumble that led to the final Hilltopper score, which he made on a reception.
Kelly’s heroics sparked top-seeded Summit to decisive 36-14 victory over third-seeded Rahway in Sunday afternoon’s North 2, Group 3 state championship game at Tatlock Field.
Summit won its fifth straight to improve to 10-1, while Rahway had a nine-game winning streak snapped and fell to 9-2.
Summit won 10 games for the first time since its last state championship team finished 12-0 in 2013.
Junior running back Joe Lusardi turned in a three-touchdown effort, all scores coming in the first half – the first on a short run and the last two on receptions.
Senior quarterback Skyler Schluter threw three touchdown passes, including his final one while escaping the heavy pressure of two oncoming rushers.
Summit captured its ninth state championship in the playoff era and fifth in North 2, Group 3. Summit’s previous two state titles were in N2, G3 in 2012 and 2013.
For head coach Kevin Kostibos this was the second time he led the Hilltoppers to a state championship. The first was in his initial season at the helm in 2013.
Summit will next play North 1, Group 3 state champion Ramapo (12-0) in Saturday’s 10 a.m. Bowl Game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. I guess it will be called the North, Group 3 Bowl Game. Nobody knows for sure yet.
“For us it will be icing on the cake,” Kostibos said. “We’re going to enjoy this for awhile and then start to prepare.
“Our goals were to win our division and then a state championship and we accomplished both.”
Summit captured its second state championship at home and first since 1993. This was only the third state championship game played at Tatlock Field and the first since 1995.
For the first time Summit is a state champion before Thanksgiving.
“It feels great to win a state championship game and the Bowl Game should be bun,” Kelly said. “We’re all excited to be going to MetLife to play a game there.”
Summit scored on its first possession. Lusardi got loose for a 57-yard run down the left sideline. Two plays later he scored from one yard out to give Summit the lead for good.
“Joe’s done a nice job filling in for Jackson Tyler,” Kostibos said. “He’s a kid you have to have on the field.”
Lusardi carried the ball eight times for 89 yards.
Schluter hit Lusardi over the middle for a 12-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. That score was set up by Kelly’s first interception, which was also on a pass over the middle intended for Rahway senior running back Dashon Moore. On the ground Moore finished with 36 yards on eight carries.
Schluter and Lusardi hooked up again for a six-yard touchdown pass with four minutes and change to go before intermission. Lusardi’s second two-point run put the Hilltoppers in front 22-0.
Rahway answered with a touchdown drive the Indians had to have to stay in the game. Robinson reached freshman Mark Bails on a 20-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone to pull Rahway to within 22-6.
“We played bad football,” Rahway head coach Brian Russo said. “We played a bad first half. Credit Summit.”
Rahway began the second half in much better fashion, scoring the first time it had the ball. This time it was senior running back Zion Pendleton reaching the end zone on an eight-yard run to cap a 48-yard drive. His long kickoff return gave Rahway good field position to start at the Summit 48.
Because of a right leg injury he suffered on defense afterwards that was Pendleton’s last carry. He finished with 53 yards on 12 attempts.
Rahway’s defense continued to hold Summit in check to give the offense a chance to do further damage.
However, Kelly’s play on defense sparked a bend-but-not-break effort by that unit which was good enough to deliver Summit its first state championship in five years.
“He’s an absolute warrior,” Kostibos said of Kelly. “He’s been through two ACL surgeries and to be the guy, to make the interception that kind of sealed the victory, was just an outstanding performance.”
Jackson led all rushers with 177 yards on 25 carries. He had 96 on 20 before his 70-yard touchdown run.
“He’s honed his craft and the kid has really grown,” Kostibos said. “You like to see the evolution of your kids. He’s a man.”
Schluter completed seven-of-11 passes for 94 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Rahway senior Brandon Burnett came up with his third interception in the last two games.
On Schluter’s final completion he rolled right to escape two Rahway defenders out to sack him. Schluter led Kelly beautifully with a short pass that Kelly took with momentum the rest of the way.
“Skyler’s a hidden gem behind our ground attack,” Kostibos said. “To make that last pass to Jack took great athletic ability.”
Rahway will close a highly-successful season on Thanksgiving at Johnson (5-5) of Clark. It will be the final Thanksgiving Day game between the neighboring towns.
“We could have not played a worse first half, but still managed to have a chance,” Russo said. “We have one more game to go. We’ll make the best of it.”
Rahway is still one win away from reaching 10 victories for the first time since the 2008 team closed 10-2. That was Rahway’s last team that reached a state championship game before this year. Rahway last won a state title in 1984.

NORTH 2, GROUP 3 STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
3-Rahway (9-2) 00 06 08 00 – 14
1-Summit (10-1) 14 08 00 14 – 36

FIRST QUARTER:
Summit – Joe Lusardi 1 run, run failed (S 6-0)
5 plays, 74 yards, 1:32 used
Summit – Joe Lusardi 12 pass from Skyler Schluter, Joe Lusardi run
(S 14-0)
4 plays, 30 yards, 1:41 used
Summit capitalized on a turnover – an interception by Jack Kelly.

SECOND QUARTER:
Summit – Joe Lusardi 6 pass from Skyler Schluter, Joe Lusardi run
(S 22-0)
4 plays, 43 yards, 1:23 used
Rahway – Mark Bails 20 pass from Jakir Robinson, kick failed (S 22-6)
5 plays, 62 yards, 1:23 used

THIRD QUARTER:
Rahway – Zion Pendleton 8 run, Dashon Moore run (S 22-14)
8 plays, 48 yards, 4:40 used

FOURTH QUARTER:
Summit – Max Jackson 70 run, kick failed (S 28-14)
3 plays, 87 yards, :56 used
Summit capitalized on a turnover – an interception by Jack Kelly.
Summit – Jack Kelly 38 pass from Skyler Schluter, Skyler Schluter run
(S 36-14)
4 plays, 38 yards, 1:32 used
Summit capitalized on a turnover – a fumble recovery by Dominic Yorio,
after a strip of the ball by Jack Kelly.

SUMMIT HILLTOPPERS ARE NOW
9-4 IN STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES:

North 2, Group 3: (5-1)

North 2, Group 2: (4-3)

2018 North 2, Group 3: Summit 36, Rahway 14 – at Summit

2013 North 2, Group 3: Summit 16, Parsippany Hills 13 – at Kean

2012 North 2, Group 3: Summit 30, Palisades Park 0 – at Giants Stadium

2011 North 2, Group 2: Madison 47, Summit 7 – at Kean

2009 North 2, Group 2: Summit 28, Orange 19 – at Giants Stadium

1995 North 2, Group 2: Johnson 21, Summit 6 – at Summit

1994 North 2, Group 2: Summit 26, Mendham 8 – at Mendham

1993 North 2, Group 2: Summit 26, Mendham 21 – at Summit

1992 North 2, Group 2: Dover 22, Summit 0 – at Dover

1988 North 2, Group 2: Summit 12, Dover 6 (OT) – at Dover

1986 North 2, Group 3: Randolph 12, Summit 7 – at Randolph

1980 North 2, Group 3: Summit 10, Rahway 7 – at Giants Stadium

1976 North 2, Group 3: Summit 40, West Essex 0 – at West Essex

RAHWAY INDIANS ARE NOW
3-5 IN STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES:

North 2, Group 3: (3-5)

2018 North 2, Group 3: Summit 36, Rahway 14 – at Summit

2008 North 2, Group 3: Phillipsburg 20, Rahway 6 – at Rutgers

1999 North 2, Group 3: Morristown 46, Rahway 0 – at Giants Stadium

1984 North 2, Group 3: Rahway 8, Morris Hills 7 – at Rockaway

1981 North 2, Group 3: Caldwell 17, Rahway 6 – at Caldwell

1980 North 2, Group 3: Summit 10, Rahway 7 – at Giants Stadium

1979 North 2, Group 3: Rahway 14, Phillipsburg 6 – at Giants Stadium

1978 North 2, Group 3: Rahway 23, Phillipsburg 10 – at Phillipsburg

Summit vs. Rahway since the beginning of the
Mid-State Conference in 2009:

2009 and 2010: Did not play
2011: Summit 24, Rahway 14 – at Summit
2012: Summit 39, Rahway 20 – at Summit
2013: Summit 26, Rahway 20 – at Rahway
2014: Summit 30, Rahway 20 – at Summit
2015: Summit 13, Rahway 12 – at Rahway
2016: Summit 35, Rahway 20 – at Summit
2017: Summit 34, Rahway 14 – at Rahway
2017: Rahway 45, Summit 37 – at Summit: N2, G3 first round
2018: Summit 36, Rahway 14 – at Summit: N2, G3 final

Summit: 27 playoff seasons:
32-18 (.640)
9-4 in championship games
2nd most playoff wins in Union County (Union 34).

Rahway: 21 playoff seasons:
21-18 (.539)
3-5 in championship games

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