ELIZABETH – Receiving quality play from all three phases of its game, Elizabeth came out ready to go from the first snap against arch rival Linden.
Despite a lesser record, the Minutemen immediately proved to be one step faster than the visiting Tigers, setting the tone right away in the first quarter.
Elizabeth scored first on a long pass, then went up by two touchdowns after running in a botched Linden punt attempt and never trailed en route to producing a decisive 36-20 triumph Friday night in Mid-State 38 Conference-interdivision football action at Williams Field.
Elizabeth, right back in the thick of the North 2, Group 5 playoff picture, won its third straight to improve to 3-4 overall. Linden, also situated in N2, G5 this season, had a two-game winning streak snapped and fell to 3-3 following its bye week.
Elizabeth defeated Linden for the third year in a row and since 2000 is 13-3 against the Tigers, including 11-3 in the regular season and 2-0 in the North 2, Group 4 playoffs.
Linden remains 3-2 in the Watchung Division, while Elizabeth is 2-4 in the Delaware Division.
Linden gave up only 62 points in its first five games before facing Elizabeth and six of those came on special teams.
After punting on its first possession, Elizabeth scored touchdowns its next four drives, including its last three in the first half and first in the second.
Elizabeth junior quarterback Tyree Gutierrez completed five-of-six passes for 158 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers, including Devon Williams and Sir John Ragland in the first half and Keion Hunter in the second.
Gutierrez hit Willims in the middle of the field, with Williams slipping past two Linden defenders for a 61-yard touchdown pass that gave Elizabeth the lead for good in the first quarter.
Two minutes later, a bad snap resulted in Linden punter Corey Ampey trying to kick the ball away when it was on the ground. Hunter picked up the loose ball and ran it some 15 yards into the end zone.
Just like that Elizabeth, considered the underdog this time against Linden, was ahead 14-0.
Linden came back to close to within 14-6 early in the second quarter on a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dazzmen Johnson to Tykir West on a fourth-and-12 play.
However, Elizabeth came right back with another Gutierrez touchdown pass, this one a 43-yarder to Ragland, who caught the ball over the middle, beat single coverage and raced into the end zone.
“Ty did a great job managing our offense,” Elizabeth head coach John Quinn said.
Elizabeth closed the first-half scoring with a 26-yard field goal by Michael Costa. The senior placekicker also converted on three-of-four extra point kicks, with another attempt failing because of a bad snap.
Elizabeth held Linden to just nine yards rushing on 13 carries in the first half. Linden junior running back Juwan Dolbrice had seven carries for no yards in the first half, but bounced back to score Linden’s two second-half touchdowns. Dolbrice also had 70 yards in kickoff returns in the first half. Dolbrice finished with 10 yards rushing on 12 carries.
“We did some things well on defense and made some plays on special teams, although Dolbrice was able to run back some kicks,” Quinn said. “We were down 14-0 to a good Bridgewater-Raritan team last week and came back.
“We knew Linden was a good team and that we would have our hands full with the challenge they were going to present. I’m really proud of our kids because when people doubted us, they worked even harder. At 0-3 and 0-4 the kids were working really hard.”
In the beginning, it seemed like Linden was a step or two slower than Elizabeth. The Tigers simply could not catch up in any phase of the game.
“We had a bad, bad game, especially our execution,” Linden head coach Deon Candia said. “We just couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm.
“We knew Elizabeth was hitting its stride. We did some things on offense in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.”
Linden gave up nine touchdowns in its first five games and vs. Elizabeth gave up more than half of that – five.
“That was uncharacteristic for us the way we played defensively,” Candia said. “We’ll put this thing behind us and regroup. We have to get ready now for another tough team in Watchung Hills.”
Linden will host Watchung Hills next Friday night, while Elizabeth will take the trip to Phillipsburg the same day to face a 6-0 Stateliner team that has this weekend off.
“This was a total team effort,” Quinn said. “We now get the challenge of playing an undefeated team at their place.”
Ragland and junior back Marquise Leak, who rushed for a 15-yard touchdown in the second half and carried the ball nine times for 74 yards, proved to be an effective running tandem vs. Linden. Ragland carried nine times for 62 yards, all of his yardage but three on one carry coming in the second half.
“Sir John did a nice job filling in for Marquise, who is still banged up a bit,” Quinn said.
With Leak and Ragland running the ball and Gutierrez having targets such as Williams, Hunter and also Chistopher Solomon to throw to – Solomon caught a 35-yard pass in the first half – Elizabeth now has weapons. Those players continue to gain a great deal of confidence.
Defensively, junior lineman David Tobe had a solo quarterback sack and also recovered a fumble that led to Elizabeth’s final score.
Johnson completed four-of-six passes for 77 yards in the first half and eight-of-12 for 179 in the second. Junior Tymir Hinton caught six passes for 119 yards.
MID-STATE 38 CONFERENCE-INTERDIVISION GAME
LINDEN (3-3) 0 6 6 8 – 20
ELIZABETH (3-4) 14 9 7 6 – 36
ELIZABETH – Devon Williams 61 pass from Tyree Gutierrez,
Michael Costa kick (E 7-0)
5 plays, 80 yards, 2:44 used
ELIZABETH – Keion Hunter 15 fumble recovery,
Michael Costa kick (E 14-0)
LINDEN – Tykir West 26 pass from Dazzmen Johnson,
kick failed (E 14-6)
4 plays, 24 yards, 1:46 used
ELIZABETH – Sir John Ragland 43 pass from Tyree Gutierrez,
kick failed (E 20-6)
4 plays, 57 yards, 2:16 used
ELIZABETH – FG Michael Costa 26 (E 23-6)
10 plays, from own 29 to Linden 8, 4:39 used
LINDEN – Juwan Dolbrice 3 run,
pass failed (E 23-12)
5 plays, 57 yards, 3:11 used
ELIZABETH – Marquise Leak 15 run,
Michael Costa kick (E 30-12)
9 plays, 73 yards, 4:58 used
LINDEN – Juwan Dolbrice 1 run,
Juwan Dolbrice run (E 30-20)
8 plays, 40 yards, 2:48 used
ELIZABETH – Keion Hunter 8 pass from Tyree Gutierrez,
kick failed (E 36-20)
6 plays, 69 yards, 2:21 used
LINDEN VS. ELIZABETH SCORES SINCE 2000:
2013:Elizabeth 36, Linden 20 – at Elizabeth
2012:Elizabeth 42, Linden 0 – at Linden
2011:Elizabeth 27, Linden 14 – at Elizabeth
2010: Linden 49, Elizabeth 20 – at Linden
2009:Linden 26, Elizabeth 12 – at Elizabeth
2008:Elizabeth 26, Linden 0 – at Linden
2007:Elizabeth 42, Linden 14 – at Elizabeth
2006:Elizabeth 21, Linden 0 – at Elizabeth – N2, G4 semifinals
2006:Elizabeth 39, Linden 0 – at Linden
2005:Elizabeth 27, Linden 7 – at Elizabeth
2004:Elizabeth 23, Linden 0 – at Linden
2003:Elizabeth 40, Linden 15 – at Elizabeth
2002:Elizabeth 34, Linden 0 – at Elizabeth – N2, G4 quarterfinals
2002:Elizabeth 13, Linden 0 – at Linden
2001: Elizabeth 28, Linden 18 – at Elizabeth
2000:Linden 27, Elizabeth 6 – at Linden