RAHWAY – In order to beat a quality, state-championship caliber team – which was the way Rahway head coach Gary Mobley put it – playing for just 36 minutes is not going to cut it.
The home team Indians found that out the hard way Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 spectators at Veterans Field.
In a battle of the final two undefeated teams in Union County, Summit came back in the fourth quarter with three touchdowns – two by senior running back Colm Dougherty, including the winning one with just 36 seconds left – to stun Rahway 26-20.
Summit, which leads the Mid-State 38 Conference’s Raritan Division at 4-0, improved to 5-0 overall and won its Union County-best 17th straight game. The Hilltoppers, after being held to less than 50 yards of total offense in the first half, outscored the Indians 20-0 in the all-important fourth quarter.
Rahway, which leads the Mid-State 38 Conference’s Mountain Division at 3-0, fell to 4-1 overall.
Summit also extended its regular season winning streak to 41 games and its winning streak over Rahway to 14. Rahway’s last win over Summit came in 1981, one year after Summit defeated Rahway in the 1980 North 2, Group 3 championship game.
Later on this season when the playoffs begin, Summit will be seeking to repeat as North 2, Group 3 champions, having won the section last year for the first time since that 1980 season.
Rahway will be seeking to capture Central Jersey, Group 2 for the first time. No Union County team has won a playoff championship in a Central Jersey section since the NJSIAA went to re-classification in 2003. Rahway’s last state championship came in 1984.
Summit, which still has not lost a regular season game as a member of the Mid-State Conference and one altogether in almost exactly five years, overcame deficits of 13-0 and 20-6 for its first comeback win of the season.
Rahway, which received all three touchdowns on the ground from senior quarterback Jeffery Bost, scored the first two times it had the ball. At that point you might have thought that the 35-point blowout rule was a possibility and that Summit’s long, regular season winning streak was coming to an end.
Rahway still led by two touchdowns at 20-6 heading into the final 12 minutes.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, the snap went over Rahway punter Tyler West’s head. However, he went back and got the ball and still managed to get off a decent kick.
The ball even bounced off a Summit player. Unfortunately for the Indians, they could not recover the loose ball. Summit managed to fall on it and began its next drive on the Rahway 42.
Three plays later, Dougherty was in the end zone for the first time, scoring on a 24-yard run. The momentum was beginning to change as the visiting Hilltoppers, even though they missed the extra point, pulled to within one touchdown.
“This was one of the most amazing comebacks,” first-year Summit head coach Kevin Kostibos told his team after the game. “For the first three quarters we didn’t have a pulse.
“We were sloppy and committing too many penalties, but we were able to find a way. That’s what it takes to be No. 1.
“Gentlemen, you’re now No. 1!”
Rahway was sparked on defense by senior linebacker Dante Raymond, who had two sacks and numerous tackles, making his presence felt all four quarters.
However, the Indians lost their spiritual leader with 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter when standout two-way lineman Stephan Watkis-Davis left the game after injuring his left knee. He did not return.
Summit ended up scoring touchdowns the final three times it had the ball, the last two after Watkis-Davis was sidelined.
After holding Rahway to a three-and-out, Summit took over at its own 39. After a 12-yard gain up the middle by Dougherty, who finished with more than 100 yards rushing after being held to just 10 in the first half, senior quarterback Charlie Terry rain for a 22-yard gain, with a 15-yard Rahway personal foul penalty tacked on.
The refs kept on throwing flags all game long, including 15 that were not declined in the first half and another 10 in the second. It seemed like a lot more.
After getting to the Rahway 13 for a first down, Summit reached the Rahway one-yard line on fourth-and-one from the four when Dougherty got low to the ground for a three-yard gain.
Two plays later, Summit senior backup quarterback Caleb Sink scored from one yard out to pull the Hilltoppers to within two. Dougherty was then just able to escape from the clutches of West and find his way into the end zone for the two-point conversion that tied the game at 20-20 with 7:17 remaining.
On Rahway’s next possession the Indians were able to gain one first down, with senior running back Gabril Gross carrying three times on the drive for a modest total of 10 yards. Gross carried 14 times for a game-high 68 yards in the first half but kept out of the end zone.
Rahway was forced to punt again, with the kick by West getting to the Summit 35 for a fair catch. The Hilltopper offense came back on the field with 4:32 to go, seeking to take their first lead.
Again Dougherty got things going with a 12-yard run as his offensive line provided him with running room up the middle time and time again. Dougherty followed with gains of eight, 12 and nine yards.
A three-yard run by Dougherty gave Summit a first down at the Rahway 21. Two plays later, Terry completed a big pass over the middle to junior running back Chris Zanelli for a 14-yard gain and another first down to the Rahway three-yard line.
Dougherty got to the one-yard line on first down, with a Rahway timeout stopping the clock with 40 seconds left. On the next play, Dougherty continued to follow his blockers up the middle and sneaked in the end zone for the game-winning points. Summit’s extra point kick fell well short, with the score remaining 26-20 in favor of the Hilltoppers.
Summit then decided to squib the ensuing kickoff, with the ball bouncing off a Rahway player and into the arms of one from Summit. The comeback was complete.
This was a battle of 4-0 teams using this non-division game as a measuring stick on a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon. This was not a do-or-die playoff game, but there was definitely a playoff-type atmosphere.
“For the spectators this was one of the best football games,” Kostibos said. “For me and Gary (Mobley) you had to take the sharp objects away from us.”
Here’s what Kostibos thought was the difference: “Our kids looked at each other and said that they believed they could do it. We made some adjustments at halftime to try to figure out what Rahway was doing and how to manipulate it.
“In the third quarter we were still in shock a bit, but then our captains (Eric Lyman, Dougherty, Andrew Masterfano-who scored Summit’s first touchdown on an eight-yard reception and Terry) were able to bring the team together.”
Here’s what Mobley thought was the difference: “We saw a state championship-caliber team raise their intensity and they got the best of us up front. That’s why they’ve won 41 games in a row.
“We have to learn to execute better in the fourth quarter in order to beat good teams. The ills of our past came back to haunt us such as a lack of fundamentals and being off sides and things like that. We have to correct them.”
Rahway kept up with Summit’s no-huddle offense and, in turn, ran one itself, scoring off it twice in the first quarter.
“We tried to go back to it, to hurry up,” Mobley said. “It just wasn’t there.”
Rahway will try to bounce back at home against Warren Hills next Saturday, with the Blue Streaks coming in at 2-1 in the division and 2-3 overall.
Summit will return home to face Roselle next Saturday, with the Rams defeating Johnson 20-13 at home Saturday for the initial win as a head coach for first-year mentor James Williams.
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-INTERDIVISION GAME
SUMMIT (5-0) 0 6 0 20 – 26
RAHWAY (4-1) 13 7 0 0 – 20
RAHWAY – Jeffery Bost 22 run, Jonathan Torres kick (R 7-0)
5 plays, 46 yards, 1:18 used
RAHWAY – Jeffery Bost 2 run, kick failed (R 13-0)
7 plays, 30 yards, 2:18 used
SUMMIT – Andrew Masterfano 8 pass from Charlie Terry,
kick failed (R 13-6)
5 plays, 25 yards, 1:57 used
RAHWAY – Jeffery Bost 4 run, Jonathan Torres kick (R 20-6)
10 plays, 51 yards, 5:33 used
SUMMIT – Colm Dougherty 24 run, kick failed (R 20-12)
3 plays, 42 yards, :31 used
SUMMIT – Caleb Sink 1 run, Colm Dougherty run (20-20)
8 plays, 61 yards, 2:28 used
SUMMIT – Colm Dougherty 1 run, kick failed (S 26-20)
12 plays, 65 yards, 3:54 used
HERE’S A LOOK AT SUMMIT’S 14-GAME WINNING STREAK
OVER RAHWAY AND RAHWAY’S LAST WIN IN THE SERIES:
2013: Summit 26, Rahway 20 – at Rahway
2012: Summit 39, Rahway 20 – at Summit
2011: Summit 24, Rahway 14 – at Summit
2010: Summit 30, Rahway 7 – at Rahway
1995: Summit 35, Rahway 0
1994: Summit 41, Rahway 0
1993: Summit 27, Rahway 0
1992: Summit 13, Rahway 8
1991: Summit 22, Rahway 21
1990: Summit 28, Rahway 7
1989: Summit 14, Rahway 10
1988: Summit 14, Rahway 7
1987: Summit 23, Rahway 20
1986: Summit 35, Rahway 6
1981: Rahway 27, Summit 22