Hillside football rebounds from loss, defeats Metuchen 28-7

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HILLSIDE, NJ – There was plenty to focus on in practice, coming off a double-digit, season-opening, home loss to non-division rival Bernards High School.

The host Comets felt the need to set the tone immediately against 1-0 Metuchen High School, and they did just that.

On the game’s second play, senior wide receiver Al-Jamir Davis took a screen pass left some 10 yards ahead of the line of scrimmage from junior quarterback Zion Risher and then raced the rest of the way down the sideline for a 63-yard score. On the play before, senior running back Chibugo Chigozie-Nwosu rushed for 17 yards and might have scored if he wasn’t knocked down accidentally by his own teammate.

Hillside High School took the lead for good inside of the game’s first minute. The Comets scored all four of their touchdowns in the first half.

Metuchen managed a score with less than three minutes left against Hillside’s reserves.

Hillside managed to avoid the program’s first 0-2 start since 2012 by easily handling Metuchen 28-7 in the Big Central Conference-Patriot Silver Division opener on Saturday, Sept. 9, at Hillside’s John Zappulla Field.

Hillside is now 1-1 overall and 1-0 in the Patriot Silver Division, while Metuchen is also 1-1 overall and 0-1 in the division.

Hillside next plays at Abraham Clark High School (0-2, 0-1) on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 1 p.m. at Roselle’s Arminio Field. Metuchen is scheduled to host Arthur L. Johnson High School (1-1, 0-0) on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 3 p.m.

On fourth-and-five from its own 32, Hillside scored again in the first quarter on a 68-yard run by junior running back Talibi Kaba. A hole was provided up the middle for Kaba to burst through and then he outran everyone down the right sideline and into the end zone for Hillside’s second score.

“We’re here to try to win games,” Hillside football head coach Barris Grant said. “We had a chance to get in a groove there. We weren’t thinking about punting.”

Hillside went ahead 20-0 when Davis took another screen pass from Risher and pushed his way past three tacklers en route to a 76-yard score. The play before saw a Hillside 69-yard touchdown run by Kaba negated because of a holding penalty.

A diving, two-handed interception by senior defensive back McNaully Erminal set up Hillside’s final score, which came on the very next play. It was a 20-yard pass from Risher to wide open sophomore wide receiver Kamari Robinson in the right corner of the end zone.

Hillside scored twice in each of the first two quarters. The first point-after failed because of a bad snap and the third one did not register because the kick was wide left. Two-point passes followed the second touchdown, to Davis, and the fourth, to senior wide receiver Davens Tunis.

Metuchen sophomore quarterback Kyle Mcpartlan scored on a four-yard run up the middle with 2:53 to go. Senior Daniel Cordes kicked the extra point.

Davis on Hillside’s offense: “Today, we wanted to be fast-paced. We knew we had a disadvantage on the corners. We went with short and simple routes.”

Erminal also made a fine play near the end of the first quarter, when he rushed in on a blitz to smother Mcpartlan for a solo sack that went for a 10-yard loss.

Erminal on Hillside’s defense: “I just love our defense. We worked real hard in practice this week. We always feel it’s not enough. We strive for more.”

Hillside had another touchdown called back in the third quarter. Risher dropped back and threw a beautiful pass, some 40 yards in the air, to Tunis, who caught it in stride over his shoulder for a 70-yard score. However, Hillside was called for holding.

Hillside committed 11 penalties for an even 100 yards.

“That pass we call ‘Moon Ball,’” Grant said. “It’s always good when you can work on something in practice and apply it in the game.

“We know we have to cut down on our penalties. We have to be more disciplined at times.”

Notes: Hillside rushed for 94 yards on six carries in the first half vs. Metuchen. The Bulldogs were held to just 27 on 16. Kaba gained 80 yards on four carries and one touchdown. Chigozie-Nwosu carried the ball twice for 14 yards,

Risher completed five-of-six passes for 167 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Davis had two receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson caught two passes for 24 yards and one touchdown. Tunis had one catch for four yards.

Hillside held Metuchen to just 28 passing yards on five completions in 11 attempts.

Erminal had the game’s only interception in the first half and it was the only turnover committed in the first two quarters of play.

Big Central Conference-Patriot Silver Division

Metuchen (1-1, 0-1) 00 00 00 07 – 07
Hillside (1-1, 1-0) 14 14 00 00 – 28

First quarter

Hillside – Al-Jamir Davis 63 pass from Zion Risher,
kick failed (H 6-0)
2 plays, 80 yards, :34 used
Hillside – Talibi Kaba 68 run, Al-Jamir Davis pass from Zion Risher,
(H 14-0)
5 plays, 84 yards, 2:52 used

Second quarter

Hillside – Al-Jamir Davis 76 pass from Zion Risher, kick failed
(H 20-0)
1 play, 69 yards, :34 used
Hillside – Kamari Robinson 20 pass from Zion Risher,
Darvens Tunis pass from Zion Risher
(H 28-0)
1 play, 20 yards, :10 used
Hillside capitalized on a turnover and interception by McNaully Erminal.

Fourth quarter

Metuchen – Kyle Mcpartlan 4 run, Daniel Cordes kick (H 28-7)

Photos by JR Parachini