SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — No football game is decided in the first quarter.
That’s true, as long as the team that initially trails keeps its head up and continues to fight.
That was the predicament the Dayton Bulldogs faced after visiting Manville scored the first two times it had the ball on Saturday, Oct. 2.
Jonathan Dayton High School didn’t panic. The Bulldogs put together a drive in the second half and reached the end zone to pull to within six.
Dayton scored again to take the lead before the Manville Mustangs capitalized on a turnover to go up by six at intermission.
The Bulldogs came back again in the second half. This time, it was the team that scored on its first two drives to tie the game first and then take the lead again second.
Manville responded in the fourth quarter with an eight-minute drive that saw it reach the end zone for the fourth time.
The difference in the game as far as the scoreboard was concerned? Manville was a perfect four-for-four on its extra-point kicks. Although the Bulldogs ran in for two points once, it made just one of three.
Both Manville and Dayton, each 2-1 entering, scored four touchdowns. Edge Mustangs, however, for the way it executed all four extra-point kicks following the touchdowns.
Manville came back in the fourth quarter to edge Dayton 28-27 in Saturday afternoon’s Big Central Conference–Division 1B contest at Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School’s Tyson Field.
According to Dayton athletic director Lance Jacobs, Dayton’s field is still being worked on after the effects of Tropical Storm Ida last month. If Dayton does not host New Providence on Thursday, Oct. 7, at its home field, as originally scheduled, then Dayton will end up hosting New Providence on Saturday, Oct. 9, at Scotch Plains, according to Jacobs.
Manville improved to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in Division 1B. Dayton slipped to 2-2 overall and 2-2 in the same division. The Bulldogs, who also have a 13-7 division loss at South Hunterdon, are not too far away from being 4-0.
“We’re still learning,” second-year Dayton head coach Mike Abbate said. “No program is built with one win or one loss.”
Turning in a stellar performance for the Bulldogs was senior quarterback Logan Solomine. He carried the ball 11 times for 160 yards and three touchdowns, scoring Dayton’s first two touchdowns and also its final one.
On Dayton’s final drive, Solomine threw an accurate spiral down the right side of the field to wide receiver Lujuan Quinones that drew an important pass interference call with 1:33 to go.
“Logan threw three good passes on that drive that could have been caught,” Abbate said.
Solomine scored on a 1-yard run and then ran in the two-point conversion to pull Dayton to 14-8 in the second quarter. Later in the period, he broke containment for a 74-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 14-14. Brandyn Bernknopf’s extra point gave Dayton its first lead at 15-14.
On the touchdown run, Solomine juked two defenders just beyond the line of scrimmage and then raced free to the end zone.
Dayton then held Manville to a three-and-out and got the ball back on its own 25. On second down, however, the Bulldogs lost a fumble.
Manville took advantage of the miscue and scored three plays later, when quarterback Danny Wildgoose threw the second of his three touchdown passes, this one to tight end Alex Orzol from 9 yards out.
That put the Mustangs back in the lead at 21-15 heading into the third quarter.
Junior running back Shawn Purcell scored Manville’s first two touchdowns, both coming in the first quarter. He first scored on a 1-yard run to cap an impressive 13-play, 64-yard drive that used almost nine minutes to start the contest.
On Manville’s next possession, Purcell reeled in a short pass and then found plenty of real estate to race, untouched, to a 62-yard touchdown reception.
Dayton began the second half with a quick score. Just three plays in, Bernknopf got free on the right side and then sped down the sideline for a 57-yard score. His ensuing extra-point attempt sailed wide left.
“They got some pressure up the middle on that one,” Abbate said.
With the score tied for the first time at 21-21, Dayton again held Manville to a three-and-out. The Bulldogs followed up with what would be their final score.
On the fourth play, Solomine reached the end zone from 2 yards out. On the previous play, Solomine and Quinones hooked up for a 33-yard reception to the Manville 2-yard line.
Dayton’s fourth and final touchdown gave it a second lead of 27-21.
Solomine completed three of eight passes for 65 yards in the second half, after going 0-for-2 in the first half.
Manville mixed run and pass to reach the end zone for the final time and then kick the extra point that provided the difference. Wildgoose completed a screen pass that went for 22 yards to Purcell for the initial first down of the drive. In total, Wildgoose completed three passes on the drive, including the touchdown reception to Aleks Starzynski.
Brandon Flores, who kicked the four Manville extra points, led his team in rushing with 76 yards on 15 attempts. Purcell rushed for 33 yards on 12 carries and his one rushing touchdown.
Wildgoose completed six of 12 passes for 138 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Dayton’s defense was called for being offside when the Mustangs were back to punt on fourth-and-6 from the Dayton 49 on Manville’s initial possession. Then on fourth-and-1 from the Dayton 44, Wildgoose leaned forward to get the yard needed to extend the drive.
“That penalty and then the turnover right before the half really hurt us,” Abbate said. “We didn’t get off to a really good start. We have to get right back at it.”
Somewhat unusual was that Dayton actually had two leads and tied the game in between those advantages, after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter.
Manville got to two touchdowns and then three touchdowns first, while Dayton got to four touchdowns first.
Manville had a touchdown called back on its final scoring drive. The Mustangs were penalized for a block in the back, which was an 18-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass to Purcell.
Photos by JR Parachini